Johnson County Community College, Kansas 66210 USA
What is college-level writing and how should it be taught? This year-long qualitative study applied transcendental phenomenology to explore the perceptions of six American community college professors across disciplines about the characteristics of college-level writing in English and about alternative discourses allowed within their disciplines. Six faculty members from biology, economics, English, and mathematics were included. Each faculty member was interviewed for up to two hours, interviews were audio recorded, interviews were typed into transcripts, and transcripts were analysed using principles of transcendental phenomenology, a form of qualitative research. Results found that faculty members differed greatly in their perceptions of qualities of college-level writing both within and between disciplines. Moreover, faculty members outside of English—biology, economics, and mathematics— expressed more openness to innovative forms of college-level writing. Faculty members in biology and mathematics advocated for the acceptance of mathematical symbols, mathematical formulas, and scientific notations as a form of college-level writing that deserves to be recognized and accepted as legitimate. Faculty members from English were more traditional and consistent in their perspectives about the qualities of college-level writing. Nevertheless, important differences in perceptions among English faculty members were discovered, particularly with regard to the amount of formal style required in written papers. These qualitative research results are important because they problematize the concept of collegelevel writing in English across disciplines. The results underscore the need to view collegelevel writing in English as a diverse, localized activity. The author of this paper argues for dialogue among faculty members within and across disciplines about important principles of college-level writing and for greater flexibility in accepting college-level writing in its diversity. In English writing classes, students need to be challenged to adjust their writing to satisfy the wide range of expectations of readers within various college communities.
college-level writing, transcendental phenomenology, American community colleges