A Project-based Approach to First Year Writing

Project-Based Learning Beyond Dewey: Individual Project-based Methods for the First Year Writing Classroom

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The project method itself is not new to education. In 1921, William Heard Killpatrick, a student and colleague of John Dewey, pioneered the project-based method. Later Kenneth Adderley examined the project-based method as a viable approach for post-secondary work in his 1975 monograph, “Project Methods for Higher Education.” Adderley’s contribution is well noted in current works exploring project-based learning, and his work continues to be useful and referred to often (Helle et al., Holt). Building on both Kilpatrick’s and Adderley’s work, the project method as applied to the teaching of writing

  • asks students to focus on a topic of particular interest to them and establish and identify problems relevant to the
  • requires initiative by the student and necessitates a variety of research and writing activities, which recursively build on and inform one
  • requires that the student draw on his or her experience and interests and build upon previously acquired knowledge and skill, transferring this knowledge to
  • results in an end product or deliverable (e.g., formal proposals, videos, short theses, public service announcements, brochures, events, and models).
  • includes the possibility for work that often goes on for a considerable length of time, sometimes extending beyond the length of the course and the purview of the current

A project methods course in writing lends itself to any number of curricular designs. However, what is core to any project-based curriculum designed for the postcomposition writing classroom is the belief that what is important about writing is not its capacity to represent ideas, but rather its capacity to generate them.

What Student Have To Say:

Innovations in FYW Curriculum:  Writing About the Write Project

In line with a project-based models emphasis on teaching writing in the contexts that matter to students is a belief that programs need to offer increased opportunities for students to pursue writing in the context of projects that are of interest to them, increased opportunities to discuss readings and engage with others about how to write within particular communities of practice.

The project-based classroom can take on many forms, some of which lend themselves specifically to the Writing About Writing initiatives of Doug Downs and Elizabeth Wardle. Alternative models to teaching a more generalized course, are courses more focused on a writing theme of sorts as seen here in the Writing About the Write Project curriculum. Syllabuses for these courses take a project based approach and are rooted in the concept of writing as assemblage, but focus narrowly on a particular aspect of writing. This may include writing in the disciplines, writing across the curriculum, writing genres, research and writing, writing in the arts, and more.

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