Supporting Non-Traditional Students
The Write Stuff 2.1 (1991)
Writing, because of its potential to generate ideas as well as communicate them, should be the "in" to the academic community for all students; instead, for the non-traditional student, writing often seems emblematic of all that makes her feel like an outsider.
For those re-entering school after a significant absence, Freshman Composition seems a long way off. Their sentence-level skills may be superior to those of traditional students, but that is small consolation when trying to juggle real-world writing experiences with the expectations of academia. But often the major interferences to the returning student using writing effectively are broader than the academic process itself:
Academic factors play a role too. The class setting with its younger students, possibly a younger professor, and 1990s' protocols may confound a returning student. Comfortable with job-specific writing, he may be confused by the academic audience and discipline-specific conventions, including formatting, usage, and vocabulary. Rusty study and library skills further threaten confidence, while technological innovations can inhibit both writing and information gathering. And he may have to face these interferences in isolation, since non-traditional students tend to lack academic networks.
Pressured by these constraints, returning students may initially view writing as a product and punishment rather than as a functional tool. Instructors can help these students--and the traditional ones in the process--become comfortable with writing by:
Polson, Cheryl J. Responding to the Adult Learner in the Classroom. KCRCHE Workshop. Johnson County Community College, September 24, 1991.