Making Writing Matter

Composition in the Engaged University

By Ann M. Feldman

Subjects: Curriculum
Paperback : 9780791473825, 236 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791473818, 236 pages, March 2008

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Table of contents

Making Writing Matter
What Is Engaged Scholarship?
Making Writing Matter for First-Year Students
Writing for Civic Engagement
How I Came to Write This Book
The Organization of This Book
Part I: The Place of Writing in the University

1. Engaged Scholarship at the University
Changing The Kind of Thing We Do Around Here
Important Work, But Not University Partnership
How Discourse Drives Engagement
The New Learner Writes
Educating Citizens to Write
When Students “Walk” the City
2. Writing as Participation
The Purloined Petition
Institution, Genre, and Social Action
This Container Isn’t Big Enough
Writing About What Others Have Written
Writing for Participation
Revision or Social Action
Writing in a Community of Practice
3. Telling Tales Out of School
When Is a Diary Not a Diary?
Down the Elevator
Both Ends Against the Middle
The University in Ruins
What’s a Writing Program For?
The Mountain Makes It’s Own Weather
Learning to Spell Rescission
The Grammar Sessions
Getting What You Wish For
Reflecting on Experience?
Part II: Designing Instruction to Make Writing Matter
4. Rethinking Reflection in Community-Based Writing
A New Space for Teaching and Learning
Tales of Becoming a Writer
Performing in Writing
The Memoir and Its Truth or Consequences
On Not Assigning Literacy Narratives
Against Reflection
Recruiting Students for CCLCP
Developing Community-Based Partnerships
Designing a First-Year Curriculum for CCLCP
Recapping the Argument
5.   Assessing Writing and Learning in Community-Based Courses (with Candice Rai and Megan Marie)
Entering a New Situation
Situated Writing and Learning
Complicating Assessment
Developing an Assessment Matrix
Conducting Assessment
6. Teaching the Teachers
Writing About Essays
The Syllabus as Genre
Against First-Year Writing
The Paradox of Transferability
Designing Situated Writing Projects
A Manifesto for First-Year Writing
Works Cited

Challenging more limited approaches to service learning, this book examines writing instruction in the context of universities fully engaged in community partnerships.


In Making Writing Matter, Ann M. Feldman explores how changing scholarship at engaged metropolitan universities offers an opportunity to redesign first-year writing classes in ways that make students better writers. An engaged university commits to a relationship with its surrounding metropolitan area, with faculty members undertaking collaborative research with community partners. The more vibrant, participatory role of an engaged university allows students to link their academic studies to important public issues and gain real-world writing experience, such as writing press releases and letters to organizations. This newly focused and contextualized research and scholarship at engaged universities shows students how discourse and writing matter in new ways.

Ann M. Feldman is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Writing and Learning in the Disciplines and the coauthor (with Ellen McManus and Nancy Downs) of In Context: Reading and Writing in Cultural Conversations, Second Edition.


"Offering personal narratives and excerpts from students' work, [Feldman] illuminates what an engaged, participatory first-year writing class might look like. Particularly beneficial … is the final chapter, which describes sample writing projects and syllabi that ask students in writing courses to view themselves as participant-writers in their own communities. " — CHOICE

"Ann Feldman's work is always original and contributory; in this case she is on the cutting edge with the new engaged university and the writing instruction that it warrants. " — Susan Miller, author of Trust in Texts: A Different History of Rhetoric

"Feldman does a wonderful job of complicating matters so that composition is tied to community and becomes not just ordinary writing, but writing with real social purpose. " — Victor Villanueva, editor of Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader, Second Edition