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Thoughts on Research Interests August 31, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5363, 5364, Kemp, Research Interests, Rickly, TCR, Writing.
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On the first day of school, I recited – many times – subjects that interest me as possible research topics. They include hypertext, social media, online communities, rhet. comp., writing instruction, and rhetoric of blogging.

While reading chapters one and three of Mary Sue MacNealy’s book Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing, two thoughts permeated my mind:

1) Race. Where are African Americans (or any minorities) within the technical communication realm? Are we there? And if so, where are we, and why do we choose to be there? If we’re not there, why not, and what can we do to bridge the cultural gap within TC? This thought, actually, has been twirling a bit in my mind for about a week now. Why, you might ask? It’s not odd in the least for me to walk into a classroom and be the only or one of a few African Americans in a classroom. It happened when I pursued my MA in mass comm., and it happened when I pursued my MA/MFA degrees. I’ve been told by professors and administrators that being African American and a woman would work for me in the fields that interest me because, unfortunately, there are not many of “me” out there in those fields. I’m new to TC, so I’m not sure what the cultural landscape looks like, but I’m interested in finding out.

2) High School Writing Instruction. In teaching freshman composition and remedial writing for the last eight years, I have bemoaned (to self) and commiserated with other teachers on the herculean tasks of college instructors and professors to reverse what 12 years of public education failed to do: educate students effectively on how to write. This is something that’s echoed in MacNealy’s book and also in Dr. Kemp’s 5364 notes on rhetoric, especially in regards to how institutions treat remedial writing (and its students).

For a while now, I have been worried about freshman composition and how we can use technology in order to prepare students better to be effective writers. And though I’m still on that track, I wonder if it’s just reinventing the wheel for failure because the question will still remain, “How can you teach students who are years behind in writing skills?” How do we make up what they should have learned before coming to college?

My ideas shifted toward looking at high school English (grades 9 – 12). Now, let’s remember I am VERY new to all of this, so I don’t know what’s already been done, if my ideas are played-out because five brilliant people already conducted research on them. I thought it might be interesting to look at high school English curriculum in the highest and lowest rated states educationally to see what’s being taught, how the teaching differs, how technology plays (or doesn’t play) a role, how much writing is being done, how writing assignments are evaluated…and on and on. Perhaps seeing the gap between the writing haves and have-nots and seeing what causes the gap can bring forth implementation of strategies to foster growth in writing.