Why the “Research Paper” Isn’t Working
By Barbara Fister
I enjoyed the article by Fister. Fister begins by discussing her return from the 4Cs and makes the statement that composition teachers and librarians are trying to instill skills students will need after college, however she questions if we are simply trying to “get them through college”. She also references the severity of correct citations, asking: “Is the whole point to get students to confess what they don’t know?” (Fister) This part particularly got me thinking about other articles we read this semester regarding students catering to the teacher. How when the teacher asks questions, it’s for the student to answer accordingly based off of the teacher’s preconceived idea of what the answer should be.
She also discusses how the research paper is supposed to original and creative, yet students need research and other people to back up their ideas as evidence. As a middle school teacher, we require our students to write a Thesis Research paper as a culmination of their middle school experience. I also find that I struggle with pulling out the creativity in student’s writing. They are so concerned about plagiarizing, that they cite everything. I also find that they take the lazy approach and use the evidence as their ideas. They almost forget that they need ideas of their own and the evidence only supports that. Fister also states, “The other and, sadly, more frequent reference desk winch-making moment involves a student needing help finding sources for a paper he’s already written” (Fister). This is another problem I encounter with my students. They do not see the value in using evidence to form their opinions, they only view it as a criteria to include in their paper. I also agree with her sentiment that clearly what we have been doing has not been working. It’s time for a change to figure out what that change should be. Can we get our students these skills in a more meaningful way?
The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist)
By: Mark Wiley
Wily begins by stating that he discuss, with high school teachers, what colleges expect of writers and states, “While I enjoy these conversations, I am disturbed that too many teachers are looking for quick fixes for students’ writing problems.” I find this to be ironic since he then launches into an explanation of the Jane Schaffer approach to writing, which is formulaic and appears to be a “quick fix” if I’ve ever seen one. Shaffer’s approach also appears to be one in which the students are dependent on the evidence. Even though she discusses commenting on the evidence, it sounds as if the students are just required to explain it, rather than be creative. While I disagree with the formulaic approach presented here, I understand that it is not the ONLY strategy and that there are others to be explored. I also agree that as a teacher, it is enticing to have a set of materials at the ready to use to teach writing.
I also agree that structure is important. I cannot remember writing classes I took in undergrad, so I cannot draw on my experience writing papers there. However, I can relate to how I teach in the middle school. As much as I rebelled against Shaffer’s approach, I do believe that students, in the early grades, need to learn structure in order to gain the liberty to deviate from it. We use a formula called RACE in order to structure each body paragraph. The students must restate their idea in support of their claim, “answer” a.k.a. Explain your ideas, cite evidence to support your ideas, and elaborate on how your evidence proves your idea. I find that this structure allows students the opportunity to express their ideas and then use evidence. However, I still find that students focus too much and just supplying evidence to have it for their grade rather than using it correctly. This ties into Fister’s ideas about finding other methods to incorporate structure into our writing classrooms.