Revolution Lullabye

January 24, 2009

Murray, “The Listening Eye”

Murray, Donald M. “The Listening Eye: Reflections on the Writing Conference.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 96-101.

In this essay, Murray reflects on the writing conference, a particular pedagogical technique he developed at the University of New Hampshire, where instead of holding formal classes, he meets weekly with his students in conferences, where students come to discuss their writing, talking about what they learned from their drafts and their plans for their next drafts and projects. He admits to feeling like he’s doing less teaching than when he lectured, but he believes – and he’s told and shown by his students – that his students are learning more and writing better when he takes this non-directive, writer-to-writer approach. Now, instead of telling them what they need to know, they discover it, and Murray then points out to them what they just learned and discovered.

Quotable Quotes

“I expect them to write writing worth reading, and they do – to their surprise, not mine” (99).

“I’m really teaching my student to react to thier own work in such a way that they write increasingly effective drafts” (99).

“I began to learn something about teaching a non-content writing course, about under-teaching, about not teaching what my students already know” (97)

Notable Notes

the conferences are writer-to-writer, generative, full of comments, and lead to more drafts

the subject of the composition class is the students’ own drafts

narrative style of writing by Murray and Elbow (and focus on the art of teaching) isn’t prevelent in current composition reasearch

conference questions are generative and open-ended: What did you learn from this draft? Where’s this taking you? What will you do next? What surprised you? What do you like best? What questions do you have?


Elbow, “Embracing Contraries in the Teaching Process”

Elbow, Peter. “Embracing Contraries in the Teaching Process.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 65-76.

A good composition teacher (or really any teacher in general) must be simultaneously for the students (their advocate and coach, helping them improve as students and writers) and for society (upholding high disciplinary standards.) Elbow argues that it is possible to be both, citing that a similar contradiction is a necessary element of the writing process: a writer begins by opening up possibilities in invention and early drafting, and then polishes the piece according to standard writing conventions.

Quotable Quotes

“In order to teach well we must find some way to be loyal both to students and to knowledge or society” (75).

“underlying structure of contrasting mentalities” (76).

Notable Notes

points at Socrates and Christ as model teachers who embraced this contrary. Oxford and Cambridge have a tutor and examining committee model.

For students, we must treat them as smart and capable, act as their advocates, show them we are on their side and are ourselves still engaged in learning, individuals with “our doubts, ambivalences, and biases” (70).

For society, we must hold high standards, critically evaluate student work, don’t get too attached to individual students

In a course – set high standards at the beginning and then work with the students to help them achieve those goals.

Comments on drafts show “this is how you can do it better”

Park, “The Meanings of Audience”

Park, Douglas P. “The Meanings of Audience.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 233-242.

Park argues that the concept of an audience is complex and asks for students to understand more than who they’re planning to “write to”: they must have an understanding of the context of the piece, see themselves both as writing to and constructing an audience, and have a conception of discourse conventions and genre. Park uses the same binary that Lunsford and Ede base their essay on (an audience addressed (real people) and an audience invoked (one created by the writer who’s anticipating reader expectations.) When teaching writing, then, instructors need to see audience as a metaphor of sorts and focus on the concerns of context and convention as an intregal part of helping their students write meaningful, appropriate pieces.

Quotable Quotes

“The truth is that we demand from students – often without making it clear to them or to ourselves – a considerable rhetorical virtuosity in dealing with and inventing audience contexts” (241).

Understanding audience stems from “a clear understanding of the kinds of discourse to be served and their purpose in society” (242).

“‘Audience’ is a rough way of pointing at that whole set of contexts” (237)

“Powerful the idea of audience is, it may block thought to the extent that it presents as unified, single, locatable, something that, in fact, involves many different contexts dispersed through a text” (237).

Notable Notes

teachers need to be aware of the multiple meanings of the term “audience”

doesn’t use the term genre, but the discussion around context and conventions points to it.

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