Saturday, June 2, 2007

Shoulda, coulda, woulda: What you should teach about writing in FRINQ

Question: What writing topics or skills should be covered in Freshman Inquiry?

Answer: I don’t know.

BUT, I do have some ideas, based on the expectations of the writing program at PSU, requirements for classes at local community colleges, as well as conversations with FRINQ faculty. Following, find a list of “shoulds” and “mights” of writing for freshman courses.


Most importantly, students should understand writing as a process.

This means that instructors don’t assign a series of only formal papers and expect that the students are learning to write. Students need to recognize that there are many steps to shaping a piece of writing. The best way to get this concept across is to incorporate informal writing assignments that lead up to formal written pieces and to “teach” revision. For example, students might be assigned freewrites, brainstorms, reading journals, or heuristics to explore ideas for a formal paper. After the first draft of their paper, they might be assigned a reverse outline, a peer review, or other revision exercise and set goals for how to write a second draft. As an writer, you might consider your own process and think of ways to “assign” some of the steps you take before and as write and polish a published piece.

Students should recognize that each discipline has its own set of writing conventions. Audience, values and assumptions, citation methods, forms, types of evidence, types of sources, diction, etc. are governed by “rules” of each discipline. Students should practice noticing and writing using these different conventions. Because FRINQ is multidisciplinary, it is particularly well suited to addressing this concept. Students can approach texts not only for content – what is said – but can analyze conventions – how it is said and why.


You might want to have students practice these different “modes of discourse” taught in traditional composition courses. Community colleges require all of these be taught in their sequenced writing courses (required for transfer credits into Oregon universities).
Research/Thesis based writing

Citation Formats (see Conventions)
Copy-editing techniques
Notetaking techniques
Paragraph and Essay Development/Organization
Research (see Conventions)
Style (see Conventions)
Voice (see Conventions)
Paraphrasing and Quoting

This "should" be an ongoing discussion, and, like the courses we teach, it will probably evolve. Please share your shoulds and mights for teaching freshman. Respond with questions or comments to this blog or contact me at

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