National Writing Project

Genre Awareness, Academic Argument, and Transferability

By: Irene L. Clark, Andrea Hernandez
Publication: The WAC Journal
Date: July 17, 2012

Summary: Can first-year writing classes help students in other disciplines? Authors Irene L. Clark and Andrea Hernandez delve into this question by examining the results of a pilot study designed to help students acquire "genre awareness" and write effectively across different courses.



The nature and purpose of the first year writing course continues to generate scholarly debate, and current administrative pressures concerning assessment and accountability raise questions about what content areas should be emphasized. At present, considerable discussion focuses on the question of "transfer," a term that refers to the extent to which the writing taught in the first year writing class can or should help students write more effectively in other courses and disciplines. Given increased understanding of differences in writing needs across disciplines, can the writing that is taught in a Freshman Writing course, which is often a form of academic argument, help students approach writing tasks in various disciplines with greater insight?

In this essay, we discuss the results of a pilot study derived from a project titled "Academic Argument and Disciplinary Transfer: Fostering Genre Awareness in First Year Writing Students," a study that raises important questions and possible new directions for understanding the issue of transfer. The goal of the project was to develop a curriculum aimed at helping students acquire what is referred to as "genre awareness," the idea being that a metacognitive understanding of genre can help students make connections between the type of writing assigned in the Composition course—that is, academic argument—and the writing genres they encounter in other disciplines. The basis of the project was that when students understand writing as a genre, when they learn to view a text in terms of its rhetorical and social purpose, when they are able to abstract principles and concepts from one rhetorical situation and apply them to another, they will not only write more effectively in their composition course, but will also acquire the tools they need to address new writing situations. Our goal was to construct a curricular direction that would teach students to examine texts for what Perkins and Salomon refer to as transfer cues, so that they would be able to apply what they know to other writing genres they might encounter in other courses.

Copyright © 2011 Plymouth State University. Reprinted with permission.
Clark, Irene L. and Andrea Hernandez. 2011. "Genre Awareness, Academic Argument, and Transferability." The WAC Journal 22: 65–78.

Read more articles from this issue of The WAC Journal.

About the Authors
Irene L. Clark is professor of English and director of Composition at California State University Northridge, where she is also in charge of the Master's degree in Rhetoric and Composition option. She is currently working on a book titled Genres of Academic Writing: Theoretical Insights, Pedagogical Opportunities.
Andrea Hernandez received her M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where she currently teaches first-year and developmental Composition and is a faculty writing consultant for CSUN's Writing Center.

Download the Article

PDF Download "Genre Awareness, Academic Argument, and Transferability"

Related Resource Topics

© 2023 National Writing Project