English 521:
Composition Theory and Pedagogy

No Title

by Stephanie A. Hassan

      By no means is my career as a writer as extensive as I would like for it to be. I do have some experience under my belt, but hardly enough to allow myself the privilege of being called an experienced writer. I feel that I am able to write adequately and am constantly thinking of new ways to improve my own writing. However, in terms of researching the writing process and becoming familiar with various theories and techniques which are applicable to composition theory, my knowledge is limited. Currently, I am in the process of learning more about Composition Theory, which would help me tremendously in attaining my career goals. I would like to help college students to find their "voice" as writers and build more confidence and faith in their writing. My goal is to inspire students to actually value their writings, such that they would look for ways to improve them; becoming more independent as writers. Through applying my prior experience and the information that I am obtaining now, and future experiences within the field, I should be able to attain these goals.

     During the early stages of my writing career, I was able to grasp the basic concepts, such as sentence structure and the uses of grammar and punctuation. Later, I learned how to arrive at a thesis and how to arrange paragraphs within an essay. Vocabulary wasn't something that my early instructors focused on; they were simply happy that we were able to put together sentences by following a pattern. All of the writing that we did followed a pattern - a very simple pattern. Our essays were to consist of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The intro consisted of one paragraph and explained your thesis and how you were going to attempt to prove it. The body consisted of three paragraphs, each containing one piece of evidence to support the thesis. Also, each paragraph contained 3-4 sentences. Finally, the conclusion consisted of one paragraph which basically restated what was already stated. This method did not leave any room for "voice," or creativity. It was only later, towards the end of my high school career, that I began to think that there was something more to writing than what I had been predisposed to.

     I was enrolled in an AP English class, during my senior year oh High School, which required more from the students writings than simply regurgitations of facts; our instructor wanted to us to find our voice in writing. Through answering various open-ended questions, the students in my class were stimulated to write fluently about various topics. The instructor wanted the students to think about issues in literature while exploring the creative aspect of writing. Questions, such as, "What do you think about... ?" or "How do you feel about...?" gave the students an avenue to express themselves, while remaining within the literary context to support their claims. In other courses, such opportunities were unheard of. But there, students were given more freedom to express themselves through their writings.

     When I entered college, writing was not my main focus, being an Engineering student. I aced my freshman level courses using the regurgitation method, putting little or none of myself into my writing. But later, when I wrote for a student organized magazine, I found that if I wanted the editor to print any of my writing, then that writing had to have substance. I became very interested in learning how to put more of myself into my writing. I spoke with one of my professors and she advised me to take a course called Teaching Writing By Tutoring. The course guided students on how to best assist students with their writing while simultaneously giving the tutors insight to various writing styles. This makes the tutor more versatile as a writer. It also makes the tutor become more critical of their own writing. The readings for the class were very helpful, and the other students in the class also gave insight to their own experiences as writers and tutors which help to make everyone better writers and tutors in the long run. The actual tutoring of the students was experience within itself, allowing us to put into practice all of the theories of teaching writing. I had an opportunity to accept certain practices and reject others based on my personal experience of tutoring. During that time, I worked with a wide array of students from various social and economic backgrounds and I've learned something about the writing process from each individual that I assisted. One aspect of tutoring that will remain with me forever is that each individual has a unique approach to the writing process. That being the case, I've learned to approach each student with an open mind; utilizing their past experiences in deciphering how to best accomplish my task. I've learned that nothing can be taken for granted - we cannot assume that every individual has been predisposed to the same basic concepts or rudiments to writing.

     Currently, in graduate school, I am seeking to explore the various avenues to writing processes that have yet to be discovered by me. I would also like to research different topics associated with those processes and formulate theories of my own to apply to the students that I plan to assist. I already have some thoughts about effects of stress on the writing process. I think that individuals perform better when they are in a comfortable environment; they are able to think clearer and perform more efficiently, and I think this is because they are more secure. Thus, when students are out of their comfort zone, they may not perform as well as they may have in a more relaxed environment. So, I think that there is a psychological element involved in the writing process. There are other concerns that would also like to research that I think may have to potential to have a large impact on Composition Theory. I believe that this field is highly under-represented and under-rated in terms of its value. Since most people, especially in higher education, communicate their knowledge and ideas through the written discourse, it is vital that students are armed with the proper know-how to complete such tasks. Communication via writing is an area of academic study that should be embedded in students early in their academic careers. It is not enough to regurgitate information; students need to be able to expose their voices and be understood. Ultimately, that's what I would like to help students to do. I would like to provide students with the proper tools so that they would be able to help themselves to become better writers. I believe that writing is a process that is never ending in terms of there being room for improvement. I think that the greatest writers can always find room for improvement. I'd like to help students find that room in their own writing and improve upon it.

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