Revolution Lullabye

January 7, 2013

Gere, Review Essay: Making Our Brains

Gere, Anne Ruggles. “Review Essay: Making Our Brains.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 214-219.

Review of three texts:

Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2012. Print.

Malabou, Catherine. What Should We Do with Our Brain? Trans Sebastian Rand. New York: Fordham UP, 2008. Print.

Gere reviews three recently published books, targeted to both scholarly and popular audiences, that address the relationship between the development and functioning of the brain and emerging digital technologies.  All three texts Gere reviews rest on the assumption that the brain is plastic, not hardwired: that the brain can adapt and transform to meet shifting environmental circumstances, like the widespread adoption and use of digital tools.

Gere argues that WPAs and those in writing studies need to pay attention to this research because emerging cognitive research has implications for teaching, learning, and the assessment of writing (like machine-scored tests.)  She also contends that digital technologies don’t have to have a negative effect on teaching and learning, a claim made by many popular and scholarly texts recently published.  Instead, Gere points out (through the arguments made especially by Davidson) that WPAs and writing teachers can help students manage digital tools positively – that current cognitive research suggests that people can take a proactive, conscious approach in remaking and transforming how they think and process information.

Notable Notes

technogenesis – N. Katherine Hayles – “the idea that humans and machines are co-evolving.” (215) That evolution is happening even more rapidly with digital tools.

building “cognitive reserves” – Cathy N. Davidson – “neural pathways developed by learning” which can be used to build new pathways if the brain is injured (216).

Quotable Quotes

“Most of the books published by the popular press frame the relationship between brain plasticity and digital technologies in negative terms, and together they can serve as a caution against seeing digital technologies as the solution to any number of teaching and learning challenges” (217).

“Plasticity is sometimes erroneously equated with flexibilty, but it is important to maintain a distinctiion between the two because flexibility connotes acquiescence and adaptation while plasticity – in its developmental, modulational, and reparative manifestations – refers to transformative ability. In Malabou’s view, we need to become more self-conscious about our own roles in ‘making’ our brains, and in recognizing their transformative capacities. Sounds like an agenda for WPAs” (218).

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June 16, 2009

Norman, Emotional Design

Norman, Donald. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Designers must account for people’s emotional and cognitive responses to three aspects or levels inherent in  any design: visceral (immediate, automatic, appearance-based); behavioral (function, pleasure and effectiveness of use); and reflective (personal satisfaction through memories, self-image, intellectualization.) The things we like act as symbols to us and have meaning in our lives. Norman describes and shows many examples of designs that successfully tap into a person’s affect – their subconscious value judgments that translate into emotions. Good designs are also rhetorical: they fit a particular context, culture, location, and audience, so no one design can be univerally appealing. Good designers are those who are able to keenly observe people’s behaviors and tap into people’s unarticulated needs, seeing the product not as a decontextualized thing but something that is used by someone.

Quotable Quotes

William Morris: If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  (“The Beauty of Life” 1880)

“The emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements” (5)

Notable Notes

cupholders as an unarticulated consumer need

personalization and customization

good designs seduce people – Csikszentmihalyi’s flow

success at the reflective level can outweigh the other two aspects – visceral and behavioral

February 8, 2009

Mutnick, On the Academic Margins

Mutnick, Deborah. “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy.” 183-202.

How to teach and understand basic writers has developed from studying them through their errors (Shaugnessy), to in-depth cognitive research to understand how their thinking and writing practices, to finally seeing them in the larger political and social context, analyzing how they learn to appropriate and use academic language, and how academic language affects their home language and culture. Basic writing pedagogy is interested in how students from diverse cultures and backgrounds come into and work in the university, the relationship between language and meaning, linguistic theories of error, and the writing and learning processes of adults. New pushes in basic writing pedagogy include mainstreaming basic writers in “regular” first-year composition classrooms and developing competency requirements that aren’t tied to a particular university course.

Notable Notes

First forays: Mina Shaughnessy – CUNY Open Admissions; Horner “Discoursing Basic Writing”

Cognitive process studies: Perl “Unskilled”; Sommers; Lunsford “What We Know” – showed problems in analysis and synthesis

Social and rhetorical theories: Bartholomae Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts and “Inventing”; Gilyard Voices of the Self; Students’ Right to Their Own Language; Bizzell biculturalism; Tom Fox “Standards and Access”; Alice Horning “Teaching Writing as a Second Lanuage”

students on the social margins change through education but must develop their own consciousness, the new discourses they learn affect their home ones. Basic writing courses can transform the students, teachers, administration, and institutions

February 6, 2009

Burnham, Expressive Pedagogy

Burnham, Christopher. “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice.” 19-35.

Often coupled with process pedagogy, expressive pedagogy concerns itself with the individual writer and his development of a writerly voice or ethos. Stemming in the 1960s and 1970s from the same practicioners as process pedagogy (Elbow, Murray, Macrorie), expressivism opposes the reductive current-traditional model of writing education that devalues the writer, thus creating an arhetorical view of reality because the writer – the individual maker of meaning – is stripped of all authority. The first proponents of expressivism argued through narratives, but later scholars and teachers relied on theories from linguistics, cognitive and developmental psychology, phenomenology, and existential philosophy to show that writing is a way of making meaning, creating and developing knowledge that moves from the individual private sphere to be shared with the world. In this sense, the social conclusion that all writing comes to, answers the critiques of expressivism (Berlin and Faigley), which state that it is not critical, is romantic, rejects social and political problems, and is over-concerned with the voice of the individual. The most recent scholarship on expressivism have attempted to make it more critical, placing theorists such as Bakhtin, Ong, Gibson, and Dewey at the center of the pedagogy, arguing that expressivism explores relations between language, meaning-making, and self-development, forming individual and social identities.

Quotable Quotes

“Expressivism’s strength is its insistence that all concerns, whether individual, social, or political, must originate in personal experience and be documented in the student’s own language” (31)

Expressive pedagogy is “engaged pedagogy, holistic teaching” (31)

Notable Notes

Theory for expressivism draws heavily on Britton (Language and Learning, Development of Writing Abilities 11-18) and Kinneavy (A Theory of Discourse.) Britton talks about expressive function in language and creates a developmental taxonomy of writing, arguing that writing is a process of discovering meaning and learning (puts his theory at center of National Writing Projects and whole language movements.) In Langauge and Learning, he explains the participant and spectator roles in writing, says that expressive writing involves both. Kinneavy talks about expressive discourse and uses Sarte to talk about how writing is used to explain individual meaning-making to a larger audience, analyzes the Declaration of Independence and shows how it is not a persuasive text but rather an expressive text that is forming a new nationanl identity.

Crowley, The Methodical Message; Macrorie, Telling Writing; Elbow, Writing without Teachers and Writing with Power; Murray, A Writer Teaches Writing; Britton, Language and Learning; Kinneavy, A Theory of Discourse; Sherrie Graden, Romancing Rhetorics; Vygotsky; Bruner; Chomsky; Sarte; Thomas Merton, Learning to Live; bell hooks Sisters of the Yam

expressivism is concerned with developing individual responsibility and ethics (Socrates)

critiques include: ahistorical, atheoretical, arhetorical, anti-intellectual, standard-less, relativistic

uses freewriting, journals, reflective writing, small response groups

Tobin, Process Pedagogy

Tate, Gary, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick, eds. A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

After reading this entire collection, I will pick 3-4 pedagogies to focus on, and using the essays’ bibliographies as a starting point, I will read the underlying theories that speak to the particular pedagogies and the debates in the field about the pedagogies. The essays (so far) have been extremely dense with historic and bibliographic information, so most of my note entires will have extensive keywords and phrases. 

Table of Contents:
Lad Tobin, “Process Pedagogy”
Christopher Burnham, “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice”
William A. Covino, “Rhetorical Pedagogy”
Rebecca Moore Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy”
Diana George and John Trimbur, “Cultural Studies and Composition”
Ann George, “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy”
Susan Jarratt, “Feminist Pedagogy”
Laura Julier, “Community-Service Pedagogy”
Susan McLeod, “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum”
Eric Hobson, “Writing Center Pedagogy”
Deborah Mutnick, “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy”
Charles Moran, “Technology and the Teaching of Writing”

So – here goes.

Tobin, Lad. “Process Pedagogy.” 1-18.

Process pedagogy is a pedagogy that believes students should be treated like real writers, and so a course designed with process pedagogy is centered around the production of student texts, emphasizing in-class workshops, conferencing, peer review, invention and revision heuristics, and reading that supports these goals. The text of a process pedagogy classroom is the students’ own writing. Process pedagogy developed in the early 1970s and is a backlash against current-traditionalist pedagogy. In the 1980s, compositionists studied writers writing in all contexts and turned to cognitive science and developmental psychology to articulate theoretical foundation to support process pedagogy. Scholarship with process headed in four different directions: basic writers, processes of novice vs. skilled writers; writing as a cognitive act; social nature of composing. There are several critiques of process pedagogy: 1. it, too, has become just as rule-driven as current-traditionalist pedagogy by teaching a single “writing process”; 2. it does not explicitly teach students writing skills, grammar, or a content; 3. it does not critically look at differences in writing due to race, class, and gender; 4. it does not emphasize context (more internally-driven than externally-driven.) Such critiques have led to the post-process movement, which argues that process pedagogy, though valuable in the 1970s, does not answer students’ needs today because it’s devoid of content, complication, and context, things that are better taught through cultural studies.

Quotable Quotes

“I was now reading not for error and assessment but for nuance, possibility, gaps, potential. For the first time, I realized that student essays were texts to be interpreted, discussed, marveled at, and that writing students were, amazingly enough, writers.” (6)

“It may be enormously useful for a student writer (or any writer for that matter) to believe at certain moments and stages of the process that she actually has agency, authority, an authentic voice, and a unified self.” (15)

Notable Notes

Murray, Learning by Teaching; Elbow, Writing without Teaching and Writing with Power; Berthoff; Macrorie, Telling Writing and Writing to Be Read; Emig, The Web of Meaning; Hairston, Winds of Change; Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work; Atwell, In the Middle; Britton, The Development of Writing Abilities 11-18; Faigley; Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations; Flower and Hayes, Writing as a cognitive act; Britton, Writing to Learn; LeFevre, Invention; Gere, Writing Groups; Newkirk, Performance of Self in Student Writing, Flower Reader-based/Writer-based.

Change in teacher role from evaluator to co-discoverer, mentor, coach, etc.

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