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CTL Faculty E-Newsletter

Writing in the Disciplines:

An Interview with Felipe Rezende
by Caitlin Caron

In an effort to enhance the Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing In the Disciplines work that we do on campus, the CTL Writing Fellows (WFs) embarked on a project to create a series of discipline-specific resources that address common writing concerns and conventions within different disciplines.  Based on usage patterns of the Writing Fellows, we piloted this project with the economics and philosophy departments this past fall.  In order to complete this project, we are using a multi-step approach:

  1. WFs identified core issues around writing to examine.
  2. WFs conducted preliminary outside research on these core issues.
  3. WFs created questions in preparation for faculty interviews based on their external research.
  4. WFs interviewed faculty to further understand how these core issues inform writing at HWS.

The information from their interviews was then compiled with WFs’ initial research to create a comprehensive document about writing in these two disciplines.

Felipe Rezende, Assistant Professor of Economics, participated in the process of creating this resource.  Recently, I interviewed him about the ways he plans to use it and how such disciplinary writing resources could impact writing at HWS.  I would like to thank Felipe for his participation, encouragement, excitement, time, and generosity throughout this process.   

How do you plan to integrate this resource into your courses?

I plan on posting it on Blackboard and in the syllabi for core courses and upper level classes as a resource on writing for students.  I will encourage students to read it and point them to the CTL Writing Fellows as another resource for economics writing, just as the Teaching Fellows help with economics content.

How do you see this resource being valuable for economics students and their experiences writing in economics classes?

I think that in order to succeed and enjoy in college, students need techniques and skills for studying, reading, and writing. In my class, I try to set clear expectations to make sure that students take responsibility for their own learning and education. I try to acknowledge that I know this is hard work and that it is okay to read things several times before you understand it. The sections in this resource, like the "Types of Essays" and "Ways to Read" are sort of like "how to prepare for class" sections. Students need to understand how to take notes, write summaries, and thesis statements and Writing Fellows can help students develop these skills.

There is a hierarchy of courses in this department and expectations definitely change as students move through the major.  The types of reading and types of essays change.  For example, students in 100-level courses do more introductory writing because they are learning what different concepts and theories are.  Students in 300-level classes, however, need to be able to synthesize multiple theories and explain how they are different.  This writing resource, as well as examples of what students are being asked to write, will help students develop as writers at all levels.

What do you think is valuable about the process that Writing Fellows engaged in to create this resource?

The process is fundamental and an important step forward in connecting CTL with specific courses.  Often students don’t know what services exist (like Writing Fellows, Teaching Fellows, Study Mentors, Study Tables) and things that connect their courses with available resources help students know what exists.  When I took students on the New York Finance trip and they heard from Wall Street executives that writing well is such an important part of the business world, it seemed to stick for some of them that writing is something they need to know how to do.  Students need to understand the importance of writing in the job market; it isn’t just something that they do for their classes.

How might other departments/programs benefit from having a resource like this?

Students need to know how to read and write well to navigate through any major.  From conversations I have had with my colleagues in other departments, we are all using similar techniques, assignments, exams, etc. to teach writing.  I think if they knew that a resource like this was available for them, it would trigger broader discussions about writing.

Did this process help you better understand the kind of writing support available in the CTL?

As the faculty liaison for the Economics Teaching Fellows, I know a fair bit about the support CTL offers.  However, I will make sure that Economics TFs are using this resource and will make sure that it is on Canvas with other resources.  The important this is making sure that resources like this are accessible and available.

This semester, Writing Fellows are creating a resource for writing in Chemistry and hope to continue creating these resources for other disciplines on campus.  If your department is interested in participating in this project or if you have any questions or suggestions about this project, please contact Caitlin Caron at caron@hws.edu.

The economics and philosophy resources that were created in the fall 2012 semester can be found here: economics (pdf), philosophy (pdf)