I completed my Master’s degree in the US in a somewhat writing-heavy environment, and upon reading the essays of my friends and classmates who have had some training in writing, I have come to realize the importance and impact of effective writing. This realization of the need to be able to understand the audience, use the best lexicon in the environment, critically analyze and write persuasive essays led me to the English composition course on the EdX platform.
As per its syllabus, the course has four outcomes in the themes of Rhetorical knowledge, critical thinking, reading and composing, the process of writing, and knowledge of conventions. The course also reminds us of some habits for success; practices such as Curiosity, Openness, Engagement, Creativity, Persistence, Responsibility, Flexibility, and Metacognition. Although it seems like these habits and learning outcomes are apparent, it is surprising that we tend to take these habits for granted when we write. In my opinion, our writing quite often are driven by our biases and lack of objectivity in a particular topic, further reinforcing our inflexibility. It requires a great deal of effort to dissect oneself from our subjective opinions and analyze an issue with a new perspective.
In the same theme of being objective in writing, the critical feature I find in strong academic writing is presenting suitable evidence and conclusion, untethered by our biases. On the contrary, blogs or columns can just be representations of our opinions with one-sided examples. Perhaps academic writing is the best form of learning about a topic, but readers must remember the difference while reading and analyzing the article at hand.
Additionally, one area that I think is important for discussion is “knowledge of conventions.” Individuals from different learning backgrounds have a different perception of a convention. For example, even in the best educational environment, an individual coming from a British English background would have a different understanding of a word than an individual with an American English background. Recently, when I was writing to a friend I realized that the word “homely” means simple, cozy and comfortable in British English, and an unattractive person in North American English. While it is essential to develop the knowledge of conventions, as readers and life-long learners, it is also important to remember that “conventions” in the same language might be very different from one region to another.
While each of these learning outcomes is essential to write a compelling essay, one additional result that I seek to achieve through this course is to develop a method for information retention. On a daily basis, we come across so much of information on the web. When I read and analyze the information at hand, I tend to remember the fundamental concepts, but quite often I tuck away other’s opinions in a remote part of my brain that I cannot access in the future. This is not to say that I am forgetful. But, this is to comment about the plethora of information available and the number and diversity of opinions – some perspectives useful now and some later. So, in addition to all the learning outcomes, I would also like to practice a method to retain viewpoints shared through comments and opinions on a topic, and accordingly implement these perspectives to write compelling essays on a given topic, now and in the future.