The Challenge of WAC/WID

0 0 974

In this series I’m looking at some of the features and readings we’ve added to the third edition of Emerging as well as thinking about some ways to approach teaching with it. In this post, I wanted to focus on a new feature we’ve introduced that might be useful for anyone interested in Writing Across the Curriculum / Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID).

It’s always seemed to me that the fundamental challenge for any reader focused on WAC/WID is the fact that writing in the disciplines is usually also writing for the disciplines. That is, a reading from biology would use terminology that would only make sense to biologists. How then do we incorporate disciplinary writing into the FYC classroom?

Quickly perusing some WAC/WID texts from different publishers, it seems that the answer to that question is 1) talk more generally about how writing happens in terms of genre or disciplinary conventions; 2) use readings that emerge from but are not for a discipline; or 3) both. For example, one text I looked at included Barbara Ehrenreich for Business and Economics and Mahatma Gandhi for Government and Political Science. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that either author was writing for either economists or political scientists. But what each author does is communicate disciplinary issues to a wider audience. And that’s a very good thing. After all, once students enter their disciplines and then their careers they will be called on to communicate issues from their field to other audiences all the time: clients, managers, marketers, grant committees, and more. I don’t know that the FYC classroom will ever be a perfect place to teach students how to write in their disciplines, since we’re compositionists and not physicists or sociologists or architects. But the FYC classroom is a great place to teach students that disciplines write in certain ways (and to have them think about how and why) and it’s a super great place to have them practice communicating complex ideas to a general audience.

That sense of communicating complex ideas to a general audience is very much at the heart of Emerging. And for that reason we always thought the book would be useful in some WAC/WID contexts. But of course that’s not immediately apparent when looking at the table of contents of Emerging, particularly since we chose to go with an alphabetical listing of authors. The text has always included a number of alternate means of thinking about, connecting, and organizing the readings—through tags and paired readings and a thematic table of contents—but in this edition we’re making the WAC/WID connection explicit with a table of contents that groups all of the readings into a series of disciplinary conversations, so that you can quickly see all of the readings that are from or deal with issues in a particular discipline.

Here’s a snapshot from the book:

Disciplinary Conversations_1-13-16.PNG

I was actually wonderfully surprised to see the range of disciplines we cover in the book, especially since we didn’t set out to make anything like a WAC/WID reader. And yet we have series of readings from Art, Education, the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, and more. We end up representing a broad spectrum of disciplines. Of course, none of the readings is writing in the disciplines in the strictest sense, which is really to say writing for those in the discipline. But if you subscribe to a more generalized approach to WAC/WID, one in which you try to introduce students to conversations within disciplines and in which you give them practice joining those conversations and their attendant modes of thinking, then you might find Emerging useful. If nothing else, it’s another tool for thinking about how to organize the readings and your assignments. Of all the features we’ve added to the apparatus this time around, it’s one of my favorites. I hope you will enjoy it.

Want to offer feedback, comments, and suggestions on this post? Join the Macmillan Community to get involved (it’s free, quick, and easy)!

About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.