To better prepare students for undergraduate humanities courses, first year composition instructors can:
- Assign genres that allow students to practice literary, art, and film analysis, such as book reviews, conference papers, research proposals, etc.
- Encourage students to explore topics that broaden their understanding of local and international cultures as well as elements of difference.
- Practice summary skills through homework assignments and informal oral presentations to improve written and verbal succinctness and clarity.
- Develop meta-level genre analysis skills that students can apply to all genres.
- Help students to develop new interpretations of texts, films, etc. rather than repeating an interpretation they have heard or read.
To help students perform better on these assignments, humanities instructors can:
- Assign specific writing genres (book review, conference paper, grant proposal, etc.) instead of modes-based papers with generic names (“research,” “analysis,” “comparison”), which mean different things in different courses.
- Specify which research methods and humanistic approaches that they wish for students to take in their writing assignments (evidence of experience, feminist, American Studies, etc.).
- Demonstrate how a research method (such as close reading) works within a specific genre.
Most of these goals are shared by first year composition instructors, albeit not always in the context of humanities assignments. To encourage transfer of skills, then, instructors can:
- Identify and discuss various humanistic research methods that students might be required to use in future humanities courses (historical, archival, etc.).
- Specify the difference between writing a thesis and making an argument, since this terminology is often used interchangeably in humanities courses. Instructors might also detail the kinds of evidence that are significant in the humanities, such as quotes from a text, historical evidence, etc.
- Look up writing genres in possible career paths for humanities majors and consider teaching those genres. For instance, women’s studies majors might go on to work for nonprofit organizations, for which they will write program reports, create marketing materials for fundraising campaigns, design websites, write grant proposals, etc., so instructors might choose to assign one or more of these or other professional writing genres.
- Assign multimodal genres such as websites, infographics, etc. to allow students to analyze literature, art, and films in a variety of contexts.