Proceedings of the Symposium on
Academic Writing and Critical Thinking
Academic Writing in a Liberal Arts Curriculum in Asia: Culture and Criteria
Chris Carl Hale
Western-heritage academic writing—which presents an argument with logical reasoning and supporting evidence within particular rhetorical forms—has for centuries been an integral part of liberal arts education in North America and Western Europe. In Asia, where liberal arts education and its concomitant emphasis on critical thinking is gaining momentum at the university level, there are significant challenges in implementing a pedagogical and curricular model so fundamentally different from the students' secondary school experience. At International Christian University, the first liberal arts university in Japan, students are guided through this paradigmatic and cognitive shift from what could be loosely called the Confucian-style transmission model to the Socratic argumentative model in their first-year English program. In this paper the authors—writing teachers and liberal arts educators—argue that clear and coherent rubrics for evaluating writing are an invaluable aid in helping students make this transition: Explicit criteria make the cultural and educational assumptions of students' new context more transparent and help them understand and internalize the principles of good academic writing. This paper introduces two problematic rubrics used in their English for Liberal Arts curriculum and contrasts them with a third that they recommend be used—due to its simplicity and focus—across courses and curricula (with individual adaptation) in a liberal arts setting. In the main, the authors argue against excessive emphasis on discrete grammar-related language usage in assessing writing and providing feedback and instead for an emphasis on the ideas presented and their logical, critical, and creative exposition.
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