Composition Theory in Practice: Piloting a Mixed Mode Writing Clinic at the Durban University of Technology

By Dee Pratt.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A mixed mode Writing Clinic was introduced as a teaching and learning development project at the Durban University of Technology in 2006. The theory underpinning the Writing Clinic was developed in doctoral research on written composition within a critical realist orientation, and took the form of theoretical and applied models of written composition. The composition theory thus developed informed the design of a process-based writing tutor program which could be customised by the user to suit various contexts. The theory also offered insight into how/why other interventions (e.g. conferencing) operated, and formed the basis for the inclusion of discussion forums and other online (and offline) resources. This paper will carry out a critical reflection on the process of applying composition theory in actual practice at a recently merged UoT, showing how, in spite of institutional constraints, the modus operandi employed in this project could be seen to cater for composition instruction needs at various levels (i.e. from first year to master’s and even doctoral level). It will also be suggested that the mixed mode Writing Clinic works best when supplemented by a “live” help desk, and will show how the Faculty of Arts & Design at DUT is providing for this facility. It is hoped that reflecting on the operation of this project will offer insights into the practical application of composition theory in order to meet instructional needs of a diverse staff and student body at a multicultural university of technology.

Keywords: Composition, Mixed Mode, Courseware, E-Learning, Academic Literacy

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp.169-184. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.180MB).

Prof. Dee Pratt

Research Co-ordinator, Faculty of Arts & Design, Durban University of Technology, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Dr. Pratt is Research Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Arts & Design at the Durban University of Technology. Her teaching and research are multidisciplinary, involving linguistics, education, the media and computer-mediated learning, focusing in particular on the changes in communication practices brought about by rapid advances in computer technology and expanding worldwide use of hypermedia. She is involved in both web-based learning and courseware design, and is currently testing out a writing tutor program developed in her doctoral research. Her research orientation is critical realism, an anti-positivist philosophy which works sensitively towards social transformation by exploring the complex system of social and natural forces underpinning everyday social functioning. However, her supervision includes approaches such as constructivism and phenomenology. She uses a scaffolded constructivist approach in her teaching, and has developed an original integrated language learning approach which has been implemented in the Department of Media, Language & Communication. She was Faculty Quality Co- ordinator in 2006-7. Her present post as Research Co-ordinator includes designing and running online Research Modules and Forums. She is currently supervising nine doctoral students in Language Practice, and four masters students in e-Learning, Graphic Design and Chiropractic. Her BTech supervision is in the fields of Television and Journalism.

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