Tying writing to course goals will only motivate students if they accept the value of the course. Generally, this means seeing a connection between the course and the â€œreal world.â€� A well-designed writing assignment is one of the most effective tools instructors can use to connect course goals to the world at large. The rhetorical context of a writing assignment can demonstrate practical applications of course content and of skills developed through course activities, including writing. Our challenge is to design rhetorical contexts for writing assignments that reflect the outside world. Here are some examples of rhetorical contexts that connect various academic disciplines to the world at large:
For an engineering course, have students write a proposal, a userâ€™s manual, or an advertisement for a new product, targeting an audience of general users or a funding committee with only a basic understanding of design principles.
For a political science course, have students write a paper analyzing a political campaign for a particular group of voters—say, college-aged voters who will read this report in a nationally syndicated column published in campus newspapers.
For a philosophy course, have students write an opinion paper that will be read in a court case regarding an issue stemming from philosophical differences—privacy rights or intellectual property, for example.
For a physical science course, have students write an article explaining an area of current research to readers of a general interest magazine such as Newsweek or Life.
For a literature course, have students write a report to academic and public librarians explaining the worldview and cultural aspects informing a particular book and suggesting displays and programs that might help librarians promote and lead discussions about the book.
For a visual arts course, have students write a visitorâ€™s guide to a museum display of works by a particular artist, from a certain period, or representing a particular culture or movement.