This past Tuesday we invited Professor Ellen Rockmore from Dartmouth's Institute of Writing and Rhetoric to have a conversation with our faculty as part of our ongoing focus on the teaching and practice of writing. Specifically, we have been curious about what kind of writing colleges expect our students to be prepared for when they graduate from Dublin. We want to know what kind of writing colleges are teaching and how they are teaching it. We want to add to our already deepening quiver of ideas for teaching writing. I first heard of Professor Rockmore when I read her terrific Op-Ed in the New York Times titled How Texas Teaches History. The Op-Ed struck a chord with me since I spent a number of years studying how textbooks teach history, particularly the history of slavery, while teaching history classes earlier in my career. After researching Professor Rockmore's background and experience and exchanging emails with her I thought she would the perfect person to speak to us about writing.
I found our conversation with Professor Rockmore both reassuring and thought provoking. Reassuring in that Dartmouth expects their freshmen to learn how to read, recognize, and identify arguments in nonfiction essays. They want their students to be able to read a fictional story, go beyond providing a simple plot summary, and truly engage with an author's perspective and point of view. Professor Rockmore expressed her enthusiasm for the types of writing assignments our faculty are assigning and pointed out that our classes are built around discussing an author's argument and point of view. Her talk was thought provoking in that she provided a number of excellent methods and approaches for teaching students how to write a thesis, support their claim with evidence, and analyze their evidence. At Dartmouth they have students write multiple drafts of papers and teach their students that great writers spend more time on their writing than lesser writers.
We learned about the "claim driven" paragraph, the emphasis on teaching students how to combine independent clauses using conjunctive adverbs, about looking for the rejected argument in the author's larger claim, and about the power of using rubrics to focus students on their writing and not just on their grade. It was a great day for our faculty and we feel even more committed to helping our students express themselves through writing. Many thanks to Professor Rockmore for her wonderful visit.
Link to Professor Rockmore's Op-Ed Piece: http://nyti.ms/1knjDR9