Rafoth and Pagnucci Present Papers at Taipei Conference

Posted on 12/22/2008 2:15:36 PM

Two faculty members in the Graduate Program in Composition and TESOL, Drs. Ben Rafoth and Gian Pagnucci, were featured speakers at the International Conference on Second Language Writing at Tamkang University in Taipei, Taiwan. The conference included speakers from Taiwan and the United States, including one C&T alumnus, Dr. Theresa Jinling Tseng, who now teaches in Taiwan.

The conference took place on the Tamkang campus Nov. 30–Dec. 1, 2008, and opened with an address by the university president and a keynote speech by Dr. Ilona Leki.

Rafoth and Pagnucci were invited to speak at the conference by Dr. Peter I-min Huang, chair of the Tamkang University English Department. Excerpts from Rafoth and Pagnucci’s presentations appear below.

IUP enjoys an exchange program with Tamkang University and hosts a number of undergraduate Taiwanese students each year. Tamkang has a strong reputation in Asia for preparing excellent teachers of English. Each year, Tamkang students join IUP’s Graduate Program in Composition and TESOL.

An excerpt from the presentations by Rafoth and Pagnucci:

The training of teachers is a divided enterprise. On the one hand, we expect teachers to learn their subjects through formal and extensive study. On the other hand, we expect them to become good teachers without giving them much preparation. In other words, once teachers have mastered their subjects, we assume they are well qualified to teach, even though we all know from our experience as students that someone who knows a subject well is not necessarily good at teaching the subject to others. In the United States and other countries, curricula devoted to training teachers—the curriculum of pedagogy—is concentrated in Education Departments and methods courses. Even licensing and certification exams tend to be divided into separate sections for subject matter and for teaching.

The division between mastery of a subject and the ability to teach this subject is not a balanced division. Instead, mastery of the subject is considered by many people to be all that is necessary for someone to be a good teacher. We see this mistake occurring in many disciplines. We will turn our full attention to the field of Second Language Writing in a moment, but first, we want to make our point clear in a general way. In Mathematics, for example, it is sometimes assumed that knowledge of mathematical procedures and formulas is sufficient to teach the subject. And indeed, teachers are often hired on the basis of little more than their knowledge of mathematical procedures and formulas. In many countries, this practice occurs in most academic disciplines where newly minted Ph.D.s are hired with little or no formal training in pedagogy or curriculum development. The vast majority of doctoral curricula, including those that are closely aligned with the field of second language writing, require no course work at all in teaching methods or theories. This creates a problem in which people become experts in content matter knowledge without developing adequate pedagogical or curricular knowledge.

What we wish to offer here is a new vision of knowledge which can be used by academic leaders for whom the effective teaching of second language writing is a high priority—faculty members, department chairs, curriculum committees, program coordinators, and administrators. We want to explore a way of understanding knowledge itself which does not fall into the trap of subject isolation identified by Dewey so long ago. In this article, we describe three components of a comprehensive vision that brings coherence and clarity to the challenge of preparing to teach and learn second language writing. Each component refers to a domain of knowledge: Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Curricular Knowledge. Altogether, these three domains answer the question, What must one know in order to become an effective teacher of second language writing?