American University of Beirut

The Fifth Annual Symposium on the Teaching of Writing: an AUB – USEK collaboration

​​​Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,

The Fifth Annual Symposium on the Teaching of Writing was held at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK). The event was organized by the Communication Skills Program in the English Department at AUB in collaboration with USEK. Around 150 teachers of writing from private and public universities and high schools around Lebanon attended the event to discuss numerous topics related to the theme of the symposium, “Writing Across the Curriculum and Technology,” as well as to participate in several hands-on activities and poster presentations.

Since its inception, this annual inter-institutional gathering has served as a venue for teachers of writing from different universities as well as high schools to share knowledge and experiences and to discuss best practices.  It aims at developing into a community of practice or even a collaborative research community on the teaching of writing in Lebanon.

The symposium is traditionally hosted in a different institution every year, where the symposium core committee collaborates with the hosting university in organizing the event.

The first symposium event was held at AUB in 2014 with the goal of creating a collaborative community and starting a conversation about writing among teachers of writing in Lebanese institutions of higher learning. To continue this conversation in this multilingual context and to promote inter-institutional collaboration, the AUB symposium team, which mainly consisted of faculty members of the Communication Skills Program, worked with colleagues from Notre Dame University (NDU) in 2015 and from the University of Balamand (UOB) in 2016 to hold the Second Annual Symposium in NDU–Louaize campus,  the third in UOB–Koura campus, the fourth in LAU¬–Beirut,  the fifth in USEK–Kaslik. 

During the opening ceremony of this year’s event, Dr. Rosie Ghannage, professor in English Language and Literature Department at USEK’s Faculty of Letters, spoke saying, “They say in this digital age it is the time for learning how to learn, for knowing how to command and control technologies, it is the time for the learner to know how to solve problems not only mathematical problems but problems that he/she may face in life. We live in an era where the learner has to be a decision maker, to be open for innovations and creativity, to be a good planner, to know how to manage self and others, and most of all to know the value of team work and to communicate successfully for different purposes.”

Professor Nicole Chalhoub, dean of the Faculty of Letters at USEK, considered that “one of the most important things to take into consideration when teaching writing is that writing is a process. Because writing is above all thinking, brainstorming, exploring, collecting ideas and information, comparing, deliberating, deciding, prewriting and, then, writing. And, in this wake, one of the most beautiful and precious gift you, teachers, can offer to your learners, is the ability to write in all the complexity of the process, through different methods and with diversified tools, so they can make their thoughts travel to others and impact them positively.”

Dr. Erin Zimmerman, director of the Writing Center and Writing in the Disciplines Program at AUB, spoke of the importance of exchanging ideas and experiences among teachers, which broadens the scope of knowledge and develops methods of teaching of writing through university curricula. She also gave a historical overview of the development of teaching of writing through university curricula in the United States. Zimmerman then touched on the sequence of educational levels from the freshmen to advanced writing, across disciplines, in order to help college students communicate successfully in their areas of interest through writing.

Topics discussed during the event included digital storytelling across the curriculum; assessment and rubrics: integrating technology, involving students and instructors to assess writing in the content area; sharing and collaborating through web tools to develop writing in the content areas; and writing through the 4Cs in the content areas:  integrating creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

The event ended with a sharing session where various participants reported on their work throughout the day and discussed the upcoming symposium.

Malaki Khoury, chair of the symposium core committee at AUB, described the event as a success, “because it is drawing in more people, institutions of higher learning and has spiked the interest of high schools to take this opportunity to learn from each other and share their experiences in writing.” 

Rima Shadid, member of the symposium core committee at AUB, commented on this year’s event saying, “It was a pleasure being hosted this year on USEK's campus with the large turnout and enlightening talks and discussions. From symposium to symposium interest is growing, and collaboration on writing amongst various universities is a rewarding give-and-take experience.”

Since the symposium has roamed parts of Lebanon from Beirut to the North, the organizers are planning to take it next to a new campus in a new part of the country, with an initial agreement to hold the Sixth Annual Symposium on the Teaching of Writing in collaboration with Rafik Hariri University (RHU).  The symposium core team at AUB would also like to bring the symposium back to AUB, probably in 2020.

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