CRHS Represented at UConn Writing Conference

The following article is a personal account by guest reporter and CRHS senior Christian Alberico.

On Friday, March 27, fellow UConn English student Amelia Bianchi and I, along with English Department Chair Dr. Kris Nystrom, attended the 10th Annual Conference on the Teaching of Writing, organized by professors of the First-Year Writing Program at the University of Connecticut. The theme of this conference was “Writing as Translation,” referring not only to literal translations from language to language but also to translations within the scope of the English language.

Dr. Nystrom, Amelia and I presented a paper titled “Translating Argumentative Writing as a Constructivist Activity.” The paper’s thesis claimed that students and teachers are being influenced by popular and social media that promote argument as if it were argumentative writing and discourse. Although traditional argumentative writing was long understood to be about supporting and exploring an idea, much instruction and writing now focuses heavily on winning an argument. “That is not the aim of academic inquiry,” Dr. Nystrom wrote in the presentation abstract.

The paper suggested it may be time to consider a new direction teaching writing as a constructive activity, which emphasizes building off others’ ideas. We described initial evidence indicating student writing and discussion were improved following constructivist instructional models. I also find that at the end of our UConn class, nobody is angry with anyone anymore.

Amelia was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the conference. She detailed her responsibilities as “focusing on finding various pieces of news and social media in which reporters used poor argumentative tactics in order to exemplify the disjoint between argument and argumentative discourse.”

My portion of the presentation consisted of a case study in which I analyzed how the UConn English class’s opinions changed over the course of the school year after having been exposed to the main ideas presented in the paper.

Dr. Nystrom was excited to include students in the writing and presenting of a scholarly paper. “This was a fantastic opportunity to expose these two to circumstances that they may face in college,” he said. “It gave them a taste of typical research procedures and potential challenges that come with writing a research paper.” Dr. Nystrom plans to revise and publish the paper in an academic journal this spring.

Shortly after the presentation, we were contacted by Dr. Laurie Wolfley, Professor of English and Teaching Development Specialist at UConn, Avery Point. She emphasized that this specific paper demonstrated the goal of UConn Early College Experience by promoting college-level curriculum and experience. She hopes to pursue a special piece that furthers the ideas presented in the paper and details the process that Amelia and I took to write the paper.

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