There is an incredible wealth of writing resources available for free on the internet.
Aside from the ability to earn credentials (certificates, degrees, etc.), what do college ESL writing classes offer that is more valuable than the freebies?
Here are three strengths of in-person writing courses, such as ones I’ve taught and assistant-taught at various community colleges:
- other students at approximately the same level going through the same difficult class provide cameraderie
- people to brainstorm, develop ideas, and debate with
- peer review exposes students to each other’s styles and scaffolds self-editing and metacognition in writing
A Teacher Who Knows You
- teacher provides direction, assignments, accountability
- teacher available during (and usually after) classes for in-person questions, plus emails
- teacher provides individualized feedback on assignments
“Free” Services From The College
- writing centers
- tutoring centers
- libraries with access to hundreds of electronic databases and full of academic librarians to help with research, citation, etc.
I was a decently successful college student. This was due in part to my fluent English, and also my strong academic background, with some luck and some sleepless nights thrown in. It really had nothing to do with my intelligently using course and college resources, including all of the ones listed above. That wasn’t even on my radar.
From casual observation of many students over the years, it doesn’t look like these elements of the class are on their radars, either. But of course, our students aren’t fluent, often have interrupted educational background, and have not enough luck and way too many sleepless nights as it is. As a group, they really need support.
So I think that we as the leaders and assistant leaders of the classroom should make sure that this support is front and center.
Including it on the syllabus and mentioning it in passing on the first day is not sufficient.
Some specific action items coming up on Thursday.