The past few days I have been reading about writing composition with some interest as a synthesis of my interests since I last wrote. Writing composition seems the happy compromise between argumentative writing and analytical essays. Much of my current curriculum focuses upon paragraph and word level analysis, perhaps at the open expense of whole-text composition. Indeed, the term ‘writing composition’ is not one I see often used on the TES or on the TeamEnglish twitter feeds.
The research I have read today suggests that writing composition has a bad name. It is associated with generic tasks that deprioritise literacy (word and sentence level). It also suffers from the continual issues when judging the quality of student writing. I also think that judging writing composition is tremendously difficult: it is far easier to teach neutral writing skills and to judge these in isolation.
Today I was especially interested in a brutally honest essay by Joseph Heller on teaching writing composition. He says the teaching of knowledge and of cultural capital is essential if writing composition is to be effective. This squares with me. However, he also (rightly) says that it is simply not possible in the tiny time teachers have students to overcome deficits in cultural capital. Of course, some responses in the comments to the article are acerbic, stating it is offensive to talk about cultural capital deficits. Ultimately, though, the promotion of teaching knowledge and ways of putting that knowledge together is surely functionally and socially empowering, and a worthwhile pursuit in my classroom.
So I am refocusing my MA towards better improving, or at least understanding, analytical writing. However, narrative and creative writing is a close cousin. While I am moving away from analysing creative writing, I feel teaching functionally useful composition writing will be a worthwhile endeavour in my MA. And, more to the point, my future classroom.