As I have been pondering what it means to publish student writing with my colleagues, Chelsea Lonsdale and Jana Rosinski, while continuing to think about it after my last post here. I have been thinking about what it really does mean to publish student writing, and how the student’s work evolves from conception through publication and why.
More specifically, how does audience factor into a piece of student writing from a first-year writing program? How is asking students to write for publication different from asking them to write an essay in our classroom where we, the instructors, are (usually) the sole audience? In a sense, there is a “layered” effect that happens when students write for their instructors, but are then asked to write for an “unknown” audience within the constraints of the assignment originally given in preparation for publication. What does this mean as we consider assignments for our students to consider writing to an “authentic” audience?
The extra challenge of the “layered” audience that is often happening with student publications exemplifies the challenge with helping students write to a specific audience and helping them to identify one that is “authentic.” First, the audience is the teacher/instructor (well, really FIRST, it is often a peer for peer review, with the expectation of the instructor audience). Then, the audience is the reviews or editors of the journal. Then, the audience is an “audience” who may be unknown even by the publishers of a student journal. If the student realizes that their paper will be read by other students, faculty, and others, do they then revise to fit the needs of this new “pool” of audience members? And are any of these “actual” audiences ever really the “intended” audience?
In addition, I wonder if what is publish is then an “accurate” representation of our students’ writing? Do the readers REALLY understand the context with which this paper was originally constructed? If there are no other measures of writing to “compare” this one particular piece of the student’s writing at one particular point in their process, and some look at students work as poor, is that an “accurate” portrayal of the student and their writing? Or, is this just a snapshot in time? And, does the audience consider it “good” enough to have been published?
In addition to these questions, more discussion will be raised about:
– If it is my goal in a writing classroom to help my students to identify an “authentic” audience while writing, what are the implications of publishing student work after the work is complete and the audience has already been established?
– At what point could/should we explore the journal’s audience as “authentic” audience members?
– How does an editor of a student publication factor in as an audience member?
– Unpacking what “authentic” means.