Revolution Lullabye

October 14, 2013

McLaughlin and Moore, Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing

McLaughlin, Frost and Miriam Moore. “Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 40.2 (December 2012): 145-162.

McLaughlin and Moore explain their study of how to assess critical thinking in college student essays. They developed a writing rubric intended to assess student writing across the disciplines, and then asked participants at the March 2011 Symposium on Thinking and Writing at the College Level to use the rubric to evaluate two student papers (both essays were written in response to a prompt that asked the student to define a term.) The results of the assessment surprised McLaughlin and Moore, as they assumed that one of the student essays was markedly stronger than the other. What they found was that the evaluators (80% of whom taught first-year writing in a variety of contexts) valued different attributes in student writing. McLaughlin and Moore argue that it is simpler to assess student writing based on attributes like “correctness” or “voice” instead of characteristics that point to critical thinking, like thoughtfulness, logical development, and consideration of alternative perspectives. They contend that the writing tasks students are given in K-12, which emphasize creative writing and the development of a strong, emotive voice, are distinctly different from the careful, reasoned academic writing (a very specific voice) that is hallmark of “college-level writing” and which is expected in first-year composition writing tasks.

Notable Notes

based the construction of their critical thinking in writing rubric (CTWR) on other rubrics designed by other institutions (Washington State University) and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (147)

categories of the CTWR: Focus, Logic (both of these first two categories contain language that incorporates elements of critical thinking), Content, Style, Correctness, Research (150).

keywords that point to critical thinking in these first two rubric categories: thoughtful, interpret evidence, draws warranted conclusions, analyzes alternative perspectives, evaluates when appropriate (150).

overemphasis on the construction of voice (155) – emotional voice (pathos) can mislead a reader where there is no logical, critical thought

college-level writing is mostly expository – requires a “drier” academic voice (156).

personal narrative v. critical analysis – writing tasks students are given in high school, college

the difficulty of capturing elements of critical thinking in a rubric – rubrics simplify writing, often assess what’s easy to assess instead of what’s the most important element (146-147).

Quotable Quotes

“College-level writing, it seems, values the well-reasoned point over its dramatic rendering. Perhaps reasoning, then, is a salient feature of college-level writing. Whether it is as important in high school writing is certainly worth examining in greater detail in the future” (157).

“In conclusion, the assessment of critical thinking takes time and often complicates the act of writing assessment.  Sometimes the most highly detalied and interesting student writing is not the product of complicated thinking but rather of strong feeling. Yet voice is not a substitute for thinking, though it can certainly enhance the expression of thought” (157).

“Without open-minded thinking as a basis of approaching the writing task – the thinking that prompts the writer to consider alternative approaches and possible outcomes – the writer may not achieve the level of reasoning that we expect in freshman writing. This thoughtful, fair-minded approach with its resulting careful reasoning, often expressed in a clear but neutral tone, may well be one of the distinguishing features of ‘college-level’ thinking and writing” (158).

 

October 11, 2013

Bernhardt, Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics

Bernhardt, Stephen A. “Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 704-720. Print.

Bernhardt briefly summarizes and reviews five recently-published edited collections and single-authored monographs in the field that explore the recriprocal interaction between rhetoric and technology. Each book he reviews explores how different technologies – both “old world” technologies like the typewriter and new media technologies – have impacted how we understand rhetorical theory, analysis, and practice.

The five books included in the review:

Borrowman, Shane, ed. On the Blunt Edge: Technology in Composition’s History and Pedagogy. Anderson: Parlor P, 2012. Print.

The chapters included in Borrowman’s collection look at a wide range of technologies and their impact on the field and how we understand writing, rhetorical education, and rhetorical identity. Some of the technologies include Athenian graffiti (RIchard Enos), handwriting and penmenship, typewriters, moveable type, audiovisual aids, and codes and hidden messages. Though the collection does not specifically focus on new media technologies, its understanding of how specific technologies impact rhetoric and how we think about and express meaning offer one perspective through which to explore new digital technologies.

Kimme Hea, Amy C., ed. Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Scholars. Cresskill: Hampton P, 2009. Print.

Kimme Hea’s collection explores the impact wireless computing and our constantly connected, multi-tasking lives on our students, classrooms, communities, pedagogies, and understanding of communication, writing and rhetoric.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

McCorkle, through a large historical review, argues for a reconsideration of the rhetorical canon of delivery. His chapters look at ancient oratory practice, medieval preaching, the 19th-century elocutionary movement, and then look forward to how new media technologies might change the reciprocal relationship between speech and writing, a central theme of his book. Bernhardt labels his argument as “conservative,” and argues that it lacks some theoretical coherence and overlooks a possible connection to the canons of arrangmeent and memory (711).

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

Bernhardt lauds Rice’s cross-disciplinary text that brings together rhetoric and network studies to investigate how we can experience and understand the multiple dimensions of Detroit. Rice relies on association, network, juxtaposition, and contradiction to build and recover narratives that challenge the dominant understanding of Detroit as a place of urban decay and hopelessness.

“Rice’s networking of Detroit purposefully embodies the confusion, indeterminacy, and mixed messages of a heavily trafficked and overloaded web of connections. Detroit is more like the buzzing, blooming confusion of the Web than it is a resolved, understood, and constantly signifying city” (713).

Delagrange, Susan H. Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan: Utah State UP, 2011. Web.

Delagrange’s eBook – a free, downloadable PDF file, rich with images, embedded links, and videos, and designed with an Adobe interface – embodies digital technology in its deliver. Her central argument is that the visual and the embodied need to be considered viable alternatives to the printed, written word. She uses an extended metaphor of the Wunderkammer (the wonder cabinet, the cabinet of curiosities). Bernhardt critiques Delagrange’s argument as a little passé, arguing that there already is acceptance of scholarship as visual, embodied, and performative at the academy and within composition and rhetoric (719). He also points out that although her book argues for an alternative to logocentric arguments, her book relies on the verbal, not the visual, to make its claims.

August 2, 2012

Brent, Rogerian Rhetoric: An Alternative to Traditional Rhetoric

Brent, Douglas. “Rogerian Argument: An Alternative to Traditional Argument.” In  Argument Revisited, Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition Classroom. Eds. Barabara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Beborah Tenny. Sage, 1996. 73-96. Web. http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dabrent/art/rogchap.html

Brent argues that Rogerian argument, a way to structure and conceive of argument based on psychiatrist Carl Rogers’ theories, is most beneficial for students not because of its form but because it introduces them to principles of invention and inquiry that help them construct more effective and ethical arguments. Rogerian argument asks students to read and argue with empathy, considering how alternative perspectives from their own may be valid and then constructing their arguments to account for their validity in a larger, holistic context.

Brent surveys Carl Rogers’ theories (grounded by his research in psychology) and the history of Rogerian argument’s adoption (and criticism) by the field of composition and rhetoric. Rogerian argument rejects the traditional adversarial and even evaluative approaches to argument. Instead, the theory is connected to the psychiatric principle of “saying back”: of restating the situation and sides of the position. It is not really argument – it is more of a method of communication that underlines the importance of understanding all perspectives on an issue as a tool for reaching a consensus. Scholars, though, have criticized Rogerian arugment for being manipulative, idealistic, detached from emotion, or not emphasizing understanding of the self.

Rogerian argument was introduced to the field by Young, Becker, and Pike, and it has been useful in negotiations about highly charged and emotional issues (Camp David, Northern Ireland.) It is based on the principle that reducing threat or vulnerability is critical in having conversation and encouraging sides to listen to one another.

Brent explains how he uses principles of Rogerian argument in his classroom to give students a new way to see how their arguments are situated in a larger context. Argument isn’t a straightforward statement of claims and evidence; it has to address the slippery grayness of human issues. Rogerian argument principles help students uncover assumptions under their arguments and the perspectives they might be arguing against.

 

Notable Notes

big difference between rebuttal and genuine re-stating of the opposition’s viewpoint.

 

Quotable Quotes

“But we certainly cannot make informed ethical choices without being able to explore other points of view.”

 

“Rogerian rhetoric is a broad rubric for a way of seeing, not just a specific technique for structuring a text.”

 

“It is still possible for students to learn how to apply a form of Rogerian principles in writing. To do so, they must learn how to imagine with empathy and how to read with empathy.”

 

“The challenge for the composition teacher, of course, is how to teach students to put Rogerian principles into practice. Rogerian rhetoric is often tried and dismissed as impractical, too difficult for students to use, too difficult to teach, or too easy for students to misinterpret as a particularly sly form of manipulation.

I believe that some of these problems stem from a failure to recognize just what Rogerian rhetoric really is. The basic model of Rogerian argument, particularly when abstracted from the rich context of heuristic techniques in which Young, Becker and Pike originally embedded it, looks like a form of arrangement: a recipe for what to say first. But arrangement is only part of the business of any rhetorical system. Logically prior to arrangement–and as I will argue, embedded in the process of arrangement, not separate from it–is the process of invention. In Rogerian terms, this means exploring an opposing point of view in sufficiently rich complexity that it is possible to reflect it back convincingly to an audience”

May 25, 2011

Greenbaum, Talmudic Rhetoric

Greenbaum, Andrea  “Talmudic rhetoric: Explorations for writing, reading, and teaching.”  In Judaic perspectives in rhetoric and composition studies. Greenbaum, Andrea; Deborah Holdstein (Eds.), Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press (2009).  151-169.

Greenbaum explains some key features of Talmudic rhetoric (which has Greek influences) and points to ways Talmudic rhetoric can be used by teachers of writing as an alternative mode of rhetorical instruction in the writing classroom. Talmudic rhetoric points to deep philosophical and religious beliefs in the Judaic tradition – it is a cultural rhetoric.

Notes and Quotes

Rhetorical devices it uses: heteroglossia, metaphor, polysemy, dialogic discourse, discursive critique, imagistic narrative, juxtaposition, associative logic, nonlinearity, social consciousness

The Talmud has no page one – you begin in the middle (in media res) – which contrasts traditional linear Aristotiliean rhetoric. That has a rhetorical purpose – the discussion and studying of the Talmud has not beginning or ending, everyone who does it is part of the conversation.

Heteroglossia: Commentaries on the text are on the page, in the margins – multiple points of view on one page; multiple languages (Hebrew and Aramaic primarily, but influences with Greek, French, German) that gives the Talmud a complex cultural and linguistic identity

Highlights the contrast between faith and reason: it is rich in metaphor, stories, tales, advice, medical cures, philosophy and history. It has to be interpreted on a variety of levels.

“Judaic hermeneutics emphasizes what cannot be seen” as opposed to the highly visible ideas and rhetorics (and idea of God) in Christian or Greek rhetoric. (158)

The power of language – words do things (Let there be light), people change their names to reflect new identities, concept of “nomancy” – “the ability to create an alternative reality and identity through language” (161)

Talmudic rhetoric is not utilitarian – its purpose is to seek the truth (162) It has connections to Aristotle’s mythos

“Acts of kindness are inherently related to literacy” (167)

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

Blog at WordPress.com.