Students enter college, assuming that every course they take is beneficial to their future career. To our disadvantage, the intent of courses like first-year composition FYC is to teach a “universal language” that does not exist. Requiring students to take the same structured course causes negative results on professors and students. Therefore, the course should be reconstructed so that its curriculum benefits the student in his or her choice of major. If students obtain writing skill that can be applied to their major, it would be beneficial and worth taking.
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In today’s English composition course, the goals are to “acquire basic professional skills in writing, editing, and proofreading, to learn the fundamentals of linguistics, and to gain a thorough knowledge of literature written in English” (Lehman College website). The English department gives students one year/ two semesters to obtain these skills. Since English composition is separated into two sections, students generally take English Composition I first, and then upon successful completion, enroll in English Composition II.
Usually English I is taught on a fundamental level of general English like grammar, citation, and understanding the basic writing formats, whereas English II develops our analyzing skills for literature. “…The required introductory course teaches grammar, spelling, punctuation, and organization; they view composition faculty as literacy gatekeepers rather than as intellectuals and teachers” (Crowley). Crowley states that because of boundaries, professors are not able to teach to their full potential. For every major, there is a different style of writing; this very fact is what inhibits professors from teaching something beneficial to the students. This then leaves students unprepared for what is to come.
English composition professors and students face the greatest challenges. Students enter the classroom, thinking negatively, and the sizes of these classes are large. The material taught often makes students feel like high school scholars again. “The required status of the introductory composition course causes resentment on the part of some of its students. The required course feels like high school, and so students employ high-school resistance tactics on their professors” (Crowley). English composition courses reinforce high-school material, and many students may feel that their wasting time and money. Also, the writing style taught may or may not help students write for their preferred major. “… A one-year-academic writing course will not prepare students to write in all fields, and evidence suggests limitations on the transfer of skills ”(Miles et al. 503). Different majors require different styles of writing; this “basic format” of writing is not transferable to all majors, and style cannot be taught in a horizontal format. A horizontal curriculum is taught at a single level; this may not be the best format of learning because not much is taught over one semester.
Reconstructing the course rather than removal is a realistic alternative, As Miles et al. suggest, teaching vertically is a more effective way of building skill and ensuring that concepts are reinforced rather than repressed. “…Each learning outcome of our major is carefully sequenced to be introduced, reinforced, and extended over time” (Miles et al. 506). The English department should think vertically, with multiple levels linked in a sequence, one building up on the other. This allows students to learn the basics from the 100 levels and get more detailed in their examination of writing style for their major in the higher levels. Different majors require different styles of writing; for example, lab reports differ greatly from case studies for political science. English courses must provide suitable material for students to learn these skills. Another way to improve English composition is to insure smaller class sizes because bigger classes make effective communication impossible. For a student to improve in writing, it takes time and individual attention from the professor to the student.
My personal experience with FYC has not been pleasant; in my first semester; I did not learn anything to strengthen my writing. It was very disappointing because I was expecting to enhance my writing and vocabulary through writing assessments, from the professor’s judgment on my work, and via reading challenging literature. So far, in my second semester, I have learned the proper way to cite and MLA formation. I am excited to see what else is in store for me this semester.
English is a broad subject with various styles and ways to teach it. The English department should consider changing the format of the course. With the vertical system, students would get a better understanding of the English language as a whole. It will also benefit the student and the professor if the curriculum.