The Changing Role of Writing Composition: A Call for Essays Proposal

"Daisy Pink Breeze" by Jennifer Riaz; photograph with Photoshop and and Lightroom, edited by author. License available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

"Daisy Pink Breeze" by Jennifer Riaz; photograph with Photoshop and and Lightroom, edited by author. License available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

We here at Praxis enjoy promoting other work in the writing center world, and that democratic spirit has resulted in today's Axis post, in which we share a Call for Essay Proposals that looked particularly exciting: https://www.mla.org/Publications/Book-Publications/MLA-Book-Series/New-Nonseries-Volumes-in-Development/Call-for-Essay-Proposals-for-a-Volume-on-the-Changing-Role-of-Writing-in-Composition

You can follow the link above to the CFP and if you are interested in submitting a proposal, feel free to contact Pegeen Reichert Powell (pmrp@att.net), but we thought we would reproduce some of the highlights here. In particular, the CFP is looking for work that considers: 

  • What genres, styles, and conventions of writing should we abandon in our teaching in the context of multimodality, if any? What genres, styles, and conventions of writing—new, old, and evolving—are most relevant and useful for students in the twenty-first century?

  • How, why, and to what extent might writing programs, writing centers, and writing-across-the-curriculum and writing-in-the-disciplines programs change in the context of multimodality? And how should they stay the same?

  • How is writing changing in the light of the turn toward multimodality?

For the purposes of this blog, I am especially interested in the second prompt that I've reproduced, but these three prompts seemed especially interrelated. As composition pedagogy turns to the digital for new method of composing, we might ask how writing centers can engage with multimodal projects in ways that are most productive for our students. Multimodal work will become more widespread in the classroom, and writing centers will necessarily have to begin to adapt everything from the kinds of services and resources they offer to the ways they train their consultants. Where writing consultants once had to be proficient largely in the grammar and structure of written texts, will we now have to become proficient in guiding our students through using certain kinds of programs effectively, and, most exciting, other kinds of grammars and structures (e.g. how text and video, for instance, or text and images need to work together)? The answer seems to be a resounding "yes," and these are thrilling times to be teaching composition. 

As a writing center consultant and graduate student assistant instructor who has worked with multimodal projects in his classes, I have some experience with assisting students with multimodal projects and feel reasonably confident in doing so, but how will a turn toward multimodal composition affect how we train our undergraduate consultants who might have less familiarity with the form? Our undergraduate consultants are generally trained to be proficient in a few standard genres of writing, but these questions of multimodality further expand the skill set necessary for writing center consultants to prove effective in helping their peers. What ways of thinking about composing, as the first prompt asks, will need to fall away, and what will writing centers need to begin to adopt to best serve our clients? These are important questions with which our writing center directors and faculty will have to continue to wrestle.

Though much of my own work is in some ways fusty and still happens largely through digging for books in the library stacks (more on that in the next couple of weeks...), I'm also something of a technology geek, and I'm excited to see how the use of technology in the classroom has grown from merely a medium of production (we have computers available on which our students can write) to being an integral part of the composition process. Without trying to read the tea leaves too much, I hope, I feel reasonably secure in saying that the work being done by this collection is invaluable for how writing centers will develop and grow in the very near future, and I for one would love to see a piece or two specifically on writing centers make its way into this collection. 

Even if you don't submit an abstract to this CFP, let us know what you think in the comments--how have multimodal writing assignments begun to affect your practices as either a writing center director or consultant?