Part One: Picturing Research and Planning for Careers
Are great writers born, or made? Scholars who study the writing process tell us that it can be taught and strengthened, even as they acknowledge that writing–truly beautiful writing–is a mysterious phenomenon that manifests in a feel for language, in the ear, in the voice, through what Sondra Perl calls “felt sense.”1 When we think about what writing is, how we learn it, and how we might teach it, we are met with contradictions. In Fall 2018, students in English 318: “Teaching Composition” wrestled with these contradictions by engaging with theories of rhetoric and writing and by creating research projects that will feed into their careers as teachers and writers. Given the digital context in which we write and learn to write, I wanted to ask the students in “Teaching Composition” to create multimodal texts–ones that incorporate images, sound, digital media, or movement in addition to written text. For their first major research project, students in “Teaching Composition” worked in pairs to create infographics about writing.
In the spirit of the project, I gave students the assignment in the form of an infographic. Students worked in pairs and developed their own research topic, which was designed with a specific audience in mind–like other English majors or high school English teachers. I offered possible avenues for research, but ultimately let the groups define their projects. Two groups focused on teaching writing as a process, not a product: one group created their infographic for fellow teachers, and one created their infographic for their future students. Another group translated one of our theoretical readings, about the role of metaphor in the writing process, into an infographic format, with future undergraduate students in mind for their audience. The fourth group–featured in this post–also addressed their peers, creating an infographic that would show undergraduates the many career paths available to English majors. In a series of posts, I will share these infographics along with their creators’ explanation of how–and why–they translated their research into this visual, digital format.
First up, this post features a project created by Eva Bruno and Matt Oyer, who wanted to research career paths for English majors. In addition to its less-tangible benefits–reading and thinking deeply, finding your own voice as a writer–the English major prepares students for a wide variety of careers.
As Matt and Eva show in their infographic, even students interested in careers in the sciences can benefit from majoring in English. Here’s how Matt and Eva described their project:
Most people, including those of us in close interaction with the English department, tend to default to teaching or becoming an author as the only paths beyond graduation for an English major. Our partnership in this project was what specifically drove us to create an infographic on the topic of potential careers for English majors because, although one of us is pursuing a teaching certification (Eva), the other (Matt) is not. We wanted students, especially undergrads who have not declared a major, to know that even if they don’t want to teach, there are still options for them if they are interested in the various aspects of English. All too often, people fail to realize the versatility of an English degree, resulting in the skepticism we frequently face (“But what are you going to DO with that degree?!”) when asked about our area of study. Our infographic explores a few lesser known options and will hopefully spark interest in readers to help our department grow.
- Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, Dec. 1980, pp. 363-369. JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/356586. Accessed 2 Dec. 2018.