What I Hope Will Transfer

Most people who are paying attention to the field of rhetoric and writing are aware that knowledge transfer is a highly fashionable research area right now and has been for a while. See this work by Kathleen Blake Yancey and colleagues and this work by Mary Jo Reiff and Jenn Fishman, for starters.

It's certainly an important topic; the consensus according to various universities' assessments and lore is that students do not take what we teach them in one class and apply it in the next class. I know that in my own interactions with students, when I've encouraged them to write a paper for my class about something they're doing in another class, they've balked immediately, as though it were out of the question, preposterous. It was as if they thought that was something only an overzealous nerd would do; doing that kind of integration and cross-boundary transfer would constitute an engagement that was too close, and the (socially, culturally?) appropriate thing to do is to keep one's mind at a tasteful distance from one's coursework. Or maybe they've thought it was cheating, somehow, to cross the boundaries. At any rate, there has always been strong resistance on students' part to that kind of encouragement from me. I see all this as a problem of a cultural cynicism of higher education and of anti-intellectualism, not a fault of students themselves.

So, transfer. I want them to do the transferring. I'm still tooling my assignments and course materials to try to get there, but one thing I'm trying this semester is a really simple "What I Hope Will Transfer" handout that I'll be giving them sometime between now and the last day of classes. Completely weak? Probably, but I will give it a shot and see how they respond.