Reflection on Composition and Teaching of Writing: An Indonesian Perspective

This article is one of my works in studying Teaching of Writing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. It is only one of the works that I have written so far. It’s just for an introduction. This writing might need some improvements but you could give feedback if you like. I publish this writing as a way for me to share what I have written to my friends and students who might find this writing useful for them after reading this article. Note: Please do not plagiarize this article. If you do, you will have to pay me with thousands of dollars! Thank you.

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Response for Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s Ideas on Composition and Teaching Writing

Getting involved as a lecturer of English at College of Teacher Training and Education in Padang makes me thinking about developing ways of how to teach writing in effective and efficient way without sacrificing too much times reading students’ papers and grading them. Usually, I got used to applying the system of rubrics. Later in the second year of my teaching experience, I realized that this system had consumed much of my times until I could not have times to read other textbooks to adjust my understanding beyond materials that I usually teach. Since I was teaching Writing I and Writing II, or, let’s say, Composition 101 and 102 at the college, I found that teaching writing needs specific method which is applicable in the classroom setting. After reading Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s Ideas on Composition and Teaching Writing, I found that teaching writing should not be as hard as I had experienced. In my case, which is absolutely different from the case happening in the United States, English is not the first language that my students use in their daily life; however, they have to know this language, especially its written system in order to enable them in reaching their career paths in the future as teachers of English at senior high school. At this point, Chase’s ideas are relevant. As Chase points out, “composition seeks to help students develop skills and abilities that will enable them to be more successful as they take courses in their academic programs” (14); it means that, at this time, I reflect myself as a lecturer who is professionally involved in the process of guiding them in terms of developing their writing skills although writing itself is commonly known as “sophisticated” skill by a large number of my students. Therefore, I admit that the knowledge that I learn in composition studies so far would be highly useful in the process of teaching writing to my students. My students will have an ability to make use of their writing skill so that they can be academically successful in the discipline that they study. In the same time, they will have skill that they need later in the next scene of their life, which is commonly known as applying for a job.

In relation to teaching, the concept of what Chase has mentioned is applicable as well at the college in which I am professionally involved. “Teaching is fundamentally about community, about the relationships between individuals and the larger groups of which they are a part. In terms of composition, this means helping students write more effectively so that they become more fully contributing members of the communities in which they live and work” (Chase 15). After knowing this concept, I say myself that teaching means, analogically, functioning as a bridge. This bridge connects students and their community. Connecting students to their community through the aspect of writing would be a high involvement of what teachers of writing should do. I would be a part of the community, too. Therefore, what I can think of as an instructor of writing at this time is that the usability of the students in their community in terms of the students’ writing skill would be the best outcome that teachers of writing could have fulfilled and realized.

In this respect, Bartholomae states that “…the goal of writing instruction might be to teach an act of criticism that would enable a writer to interrogate his or her own text in relationship to the problem of writing and the problems of disciplinary knowledge” (17). This idea seems framing my thought that “the relationship” of writing and the “disciplinary knowledge” is crucial thing to be considered by teachers of writing. Since I am teaching Cross Culture Understanding at the College as well, I assume that the instruction that I give to them should be designed thoroughly as a way for me to expand the students’ writing skill, while the content is derived from materials taught in the Cross Culture Understanding subject. I predict that this method would be a great step in designing writing assignment in the classroom. The reason is that in one side, the students would learn how to write well and in the other side; they also could have an ability to express their “thought” through the content that they have learned.

Regarding the process of teaching writing – as a teacher of writing – one needs to view this profession as a medium to collaborate with other teachers. “Being a teacher means working with other teachers. It means connecting what we do day by day to the outcomes for our own classes and for the curriculum as a whole” (Chase 16). In this point of view, it seems clear that the teacher needs to improve his or her teaching style. The way how to do this is by collaborating with other teachers and by sharing the teaching experiences in improving curriculum. One teacher might find or have useful technique in teaching; meanwhile, the other teacher would still be in the process of finding which technique that is useful and suitable for him or her personally. Therefore, what I can comprehend in this way is that the writing teachers could advantage themselves whenever they do the discussion or the sharing activities in teaching writing within their peers.

Dealing with composition, composition programs are somehow new for department of English in Indonesia. Even though the Department of English is already available in almost all Indonesian universities and colleges, it seems that the distinction of this department into Composition studies will create new dynamics in the movement of teaching English in that country, especially in the dynamic of teaching writing. In general, the most well-known concentration within English department in Indonesia is Linguistics. This field of study develops into TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages), as in the Applied Linguistics, which is now known as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Meanwhile, the concentration of Composition and Rhetoric for English department graduate students seems to be unavailable in Indonesia. In this respect, Gilles emphasizes three reasons of why composition programs are important. The reasons are “service mission”, “literal arts mission”, and “working collaboratively” (2-8). This would seem to be able to answer such phenomenon above. By looking at these three important reasons, as explained by Gilles, it is clear to say that Composition Studies could be placed and developed as a discipline within the English department that is available in Indonesia. In a holistic point of view, I think that the purpose of improving democracy in Indonesia would be positively reached because students will learn that the concept of learning writing is not learning how to write per se, but more on how to be able to express their thought in a way that contributes positively into the democratic society.

Besides, by establishing Composition Studies as concentration in the graduate level within English department in Indonesia, Indonesia will, in the long run, have candidates of writing teachers who will positively contribute to the education of student writers whose thought would be needed for the development of Indonesia. As Gilles mentions, “Indeed, the ability to use standard written English effectively creates options for students; it gives them freedom in choosing lives and career” (6). It means that it is a job opportunity for the students. They will have chances as well as opportunities to go global. In terms of lives, the students have their own freedom in expressing themselves as long as the writings that they produce are informative, critical, thoughtful, factual, useful or beneficial for the community in which they are involved. Moreover, by having a degree in Composition Studies, the students will have core concept in viewing the importance of writing and the value lies within the process of writing production. This skill can help them grow better as a qualified person for the country. “It is, rather, a set of problems produced by a wider, more diffuse set of practices and desires, usually brought into play by instances of language change or variety (or by the possibility that writing might change or be various)” (Bartholomae 11). This idea stresses that writing itself is developing, especially its content. The content could be from everything that is happening around the students. Then, the students could elaborate the “content” that they see from daily life into meaningful texts that can be read, evaluated, or even used by every interested readers.

Above all, what I conclude from Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s ideas is that the best way I could do as a lecturer is to engage with the students in the classroom setting and to understand their way of thinking through the mutual interaction so that I could play a role either as a teacher but also as a facilitator. As Gilles points out, “Guided practice in writing is what developing students need most, and some students need more time to develop than others. (6). Chase also mentions the same thing. Chase states that “teaching writing has the power to be an intellectually transformative experience, but transformation will occur only if we are prepared to engage our students on the one hand and to engage with our colleagues around issues of curriculum on the other” (Chase 16). Through their ideas, it is obvious to say that the role of me, as the writing teacher of my students, or, possibly as the lecturer of writing, would be to make the students engaged with things within and beyond classroom. In the same time, working collaboratively with other lecturers who are working in the same department as I do is also a good thing to do, especially in developing the capacity of mine as a lecturer whose one of his professional tasks is designing and developing curriculum for teaching writing to the students.

Works cited

Bartholomae, David. “What is Composition (if you know what that is) Why Do We Teach It?”. Composition in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Deiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996, 11-28.

Chase, Geoffrey. “Composition, Community, and Curriculum: A Letter to New Composition Teachers”. Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Ed. Duane Roen, Veronica Pantoja, Lauren Yena, Susan K. Miller, and Eric Waggoner. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002, 14-16.

Gilles, Roger. “The Departmental Perspective”. Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Ed. Duane Roen, Veronica Pantoja, Lauren Yena, Susan K. Miller, and Eric Waggoner. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002, 2-8.

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Thanks to my Professor, Dr. Henderson. The class discussion empowers me even more as a student, especially as an active listener and thinker.

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