Writing in the Discipline: Relationship to the Ways of Knowing and Doing

8 August 2016

Writing in the discipline is founded on a relationship between knowing, doing, and writing. It is important that we understand the two categories creating disciplines: domains of knowledge and the ways of knowing. The domains of knowledge suggest declarative or conceptual knowledge and the knowing infers procedural or process knowledge. Michael Carter addresses this relationship in his article Ways of Doing, Knowing, and Writing in the Disciplines. Carter emphasizes that “writing is a way of knowing in the discipline”, meaning there is a link between the knowing inside our discipline and the ways of writing.

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He is not incorrect in his argument that the ways of knowing and doing affect the ways of writing in the disciplines, but it can also be argued that the ways of writing and doing influence the knowing in the discipline. Based on that idea we must view the ways of writing writing as a chronological process involving the knowing and the doing as influencing the ways of writing. Rather, we must understand how they are interconnected within our disciplines. For example, Carter argues that the knowledge and ways of knowing in the science metadiscipline influence the ways of doing a lab and writing the lab report.

My argument is that this relationship can also function in the opposite direction. The way of doing the lab and writing the lab report can influence the knowing in the discipline of science. The purpose of this piece will be to develop an understanding of how the ways of doing bridge the gap between the ways of knowing and writing inside or across disciplines. The University of Maine’s Persuasive and Analytical Writing course has been redesigned to emphasize this relationship between the ways of knowing, doing, and writing inside and across disciplines using a curriculum based on the concept of genres.

The ENG 212 Syllabus helps us to understand that genres are “not simply ways of classifying types of cultural products; they are “social actions” (Miller 1984): recurrent textual forms that organize, shape, and transact activities: academic, professional, civic, and personal”. Professors of ENG 212 understood teaching the traditional essay wasn’t sufficient and created a curriculum focused on how specific genres of writing are not limited to the intended communities or disciplines. This concept of genres is useful for students not only because it establishes aconnection between writing, doing, and knowing but because it points to ways of doing across disciplines. Crowley and Stancliff explained this focus of genre choice amongst disciplines in their book, Critical Situations. “As individuals research, read, and write, they learn about the possibilities open to them as communicators, about the parameters of public discourse surrounding their chosen project focus, the most persuasive arguments circulating, and the history of the situation itself”(Crowley, Stancliff, 1).

This idea emphasizes the argument that the ways of doing and writing influence the new possibilities of the knowing. Crowley and Stancliff also recognize that our commitments to our communities influence our genre choice. The commitment and community involvement represents the knowing and doing in the disciplines which initiates the ways of writing. ENG 212 teaches students that there is a connection between the ways we do, the knowledge we have, and the way we write.

It is critical to recognize individual disciplines do impact the knowing, doing, and writing inside and outside disciplines, but also not one genre of writing is mandatory and various genres can effectively fulfill a goal across disciplines. As stated earlier, Carter emphasizes that the ways of doing connects the knowing the ways of writing in the discipline. His argument that the doing plays a central role in the conception of writing in the disciplines and that the disciplinary ways of doing is closely connected to the ways of knowing and writing.

A concrete example within a discipline is an effective way to understand this connection. For example, a common exercise as a Civil Engineering major is a material testing lab. The material testing exercise is designed to engage engineering students in a procedural way of doing by which students understand the declarative knowledge, while also applying process practices. Thus, material testing is a way of doing that is aimed at a way of knowing. The way of doing is aimed at the knowing, but it is not until writing the lab report that it becomes knowing.

This exemplifies the relationship among the ways of knowing and writing as a result of the ways of doing. Writing has a way of forming a better understanding or knowing of a discipline. This reinforces Carter’s argument that the doing connects the ways of writing and knowing in and across disciplines. The way of doing impacts the ways of writing in a discipline, and the writing forces us to ponder the doing which creates the knowing. The disciplines or communities individuals participate in create a specific way of doing.

After interviewing Phil Dunn, director of the Engineering Technologies programs, I recognized that engineering students learn a set of skills that forces its student to use a procedural way of doing. This step by step mindset of the doing is established as a result of the requirements of our discipline. This way of doing in the disciplines also has a major influence on the ways of writing and knowing outside the discipline. The doing establishes a relationship that impacts both the writing and knowing in and across disciplines.

Also, the knowing has an impact on the ways of doing and writing. These concepts are interchangeable; one influences the other depending on the situations individuals are faced with. Critical situations arise and individuals chose their ways of doing and writing based on the knowing. This relationship among knowing, doing, and writing is largely impacted by the conceptual knowledge and procedural knowledge of the discipline. The way of doing seems to be the common link between the knowing and writing in the disciplines.

The crucial link to understanding the disciplines as a way of knowing, doing, and writing is to understand the ways of doing that characterizes the discipline. We now understand that the ways of doing, knowing, and writing are all interconnected whether inside or outside the discipline. The discipline or community individuals are a part of will influence the ways of doing across disciplines. The major argument is that the ways of writing or the choice in genre does not have to be specific within specific disciplines.

Surely, there are genres common to disciplines but the discipline is not limited to only those genres. Based on the situation at hand, genre choices will change based on the doing, the knowing, and the commitments. Therefore, it is not the discipline that affects our choice in writing, rather it is the ways of doing and in part the ways of knowing that influence the writing. In conclusion, “the ties of writing, doing, and knowing should not be emphasized as writing in or out of the disciplines but as writing of the disciplines. ” (Carter, 415)

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