Is teaching writing in community colleges different?

There’s been a couple of interesting things on some of the blogs I frequent about teaching in community colleges. There’s this post and this post from John “A Writing Teacher’s Blog” Lovas. John has a certain “street cred” here because he teaches in a community college and he has a long-standing scholarly record in the comp/rhet community. Then there’s this smart post from Jeff Rice, and also this smart post from Derek “Earth Wide Moth” Mueller. Derek wasn’t talking about community college stuff originally, but it went that way in the comments.

This talk about the difference (if there is one) between writing pedagogy in four year colleges and universities versus community colleges comes at an interesting time for me because my colleagues and I have been talking casually about how our MA program has been changing and how we might need to change, too. It used to be that about 70% or so of the students enrolled in our “Teaching of Writing” program were practicing junior high and high school teachers. I don’t know what the numbers are now, but there are significantly fewer of these secondary teachers now then there used to be. Conversely, we have a lot more students who are interested in pursuing PhDs in composition and rhetoric and/or who are interested in teaching at community colleges.

So maybe what we need to do in our program is to figure out a way to address some of the issues of teaching in community colleges. We have a “topics in” series of courses, and I was kind of thinking that a “topics in teaching in the community college” might be interesting. Of course, one of the problems (besides the fact that, as the above links suggest, it is debatable if there really are a lot of differences in writing pedagogy in universities and community colleges) is that all of the folks who might teach a class like that have little or no experience in actually working in community colleges. That’s not to say we can’t learn, but it isn’t something we can do on the fly, either.

I have more than enough on my plate right now, but I think it’d be an interesting class to explore and research. We’ll see….

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