2005 Winner: Parag Budhecha

Writing the Academy Inside Out: The Rhetoric of Institutions of Higher Education and Their Role in the Community

Composition theory explains that our writing comes from many places at once and is acted upon by a myriad of complex and conflicting influences; a course about academic writing should give students ways to interpret and manage these influences. Central to my pedagogy is the belief that academic writing does not have to reside solely in the academy; it can be a habit of mind, a set of strategies, ways of reading, critiquing, writing, and re-writing that take students (and that students take) into their other (even non-writing) courses and into their lives outside the academy. It is the adaptability of academic writing that most intrigues me and inspires me as a teacher.  

The central issues and questions that motivate my teaching are thus formed in part by the goal of making visible the adaptability of academic writing. And so I ask myself these questions as I design a course:

Does the course invite students to define themselves as academic writers? Does the course encourage students to read others' texts as sources of information and knowledge and also to see their own readings as participating in a larger discourse?; that is, does the course invite students to see themselves as participants in that discourse? Does the course invite students to see themselves as writers in that discourse? Does the course give writers the ability to make sound rhetorical choices that help them usefully interpret their writing situation--in my class, in other classes, in their lives outside of the academy? Do the assignments effectively help students practice those strategies that will make them more successful readers and writers? Do the assignments and course activities encourage students to reflect on their reading and writing habits and processes? Do the assignments help students to see their writing as a process of reading and revision and not only of invention?  

I highlight the adaptability of academic writing by defining writing as an "event," as I do near the beginning of the course syllabus: "writing effectively and powerfully...requires a critical understanding of the 'event' of writing: the historical context of the situation; the people involved; how they position themselves in relation to one another; how they 'read' and interact with one another; what their motivations are; and how you, as the writer, perceive and analyze the situation and your role in it." These rhetorical moves, though they are characteristic of academic writing, are not exclusive to the kind of writing that happens in the classroom. My goal is for students to adapt what they learn about writing in my course to other writing situations.

The term that I believe best describes my work as a teacher is progression. The challenge as a teacher and as a writer is to consciously, purposefully, and reflectively construct a progression of assignments and classroom events that help students move toward more purposeful and reflective writing habits and practices. I invoke the metaphor of progression here on many levels and for different ends: the progression in an essay to a significant conclusion; the progression of a set of assignments to a major project; the progression of a course from simpler to more complex and meaningful tasks; the progression of courses in a student's college career; the progression of courses in a teacher's career; the progression for both students and teachers from college to the "outside world."

These are my goals as a teacher of writing, in addition to my aim of helping students become more aware and reflective about their writing processes and progress. Within the writing class, I work to build a logical, progressive sequence of assignments that make the writing process more conscious and visible.  

And so I present "Writing the Academy Inside Out: The Rhetoric of Institutions of Higher Education and Their Role in the Community," a course that in both subject matter and pedagogical framework defines academic writing as that which happens both inside and outside the academy.