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?


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