Revolution Lullabye

May 1, 2009

Elbow and Belanoff, Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams

Elbow, Peter and Pat Belanoff. “Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams.” CCC 37 (1986): 336-339. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 97-101.

Elbow and Belanoff describe the process and the benefits of the portfolio evaluation system they piloted at Stony Brook University. Instead of focusing on scoring and ranking essays, the portfolio system they put in place, which is a pass/fail (C or not) from the student’s teacher and another instructor, is mastery- and competency-based. The focus of the assessment and the course turns to comments, feedback, advice, and revision as well as collaboration among teachers. Students see the portfolio assessment (which has a dry run mid-semester) as a hurdle to overcome. Elbow and Belanoff argue that even though the assessment process leads to much debate among teachers during the assessment, this disagreement and chaos is key to learning and the development of community standards and values.


April 9, 2009

Elbow, Writing Without Teachers

Elbow, Peter. Writing Without Teachers. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.

First edition 1973.

The book is divided between Elbow’s five practical chapters about how to write more fluidly and construct a teacherless writing class and his appendix, which articulates his theory behind his teacherless pedagogy, a theory about how ideas are found and tested through two different methods: the believing game and the doubting game. Academia favors the doubting game (critiquing writing and arguments to find and weed out errors) over the believing game (coming up with different scenarios and hypothesis to test the validity of a given argument, to suspend disbelief and step in the writer’s shoes.) Elbow argues that there needs to be a balance between the two, and the believing game, so often dismissed, offers a valuable way to productively understand and make meaning through metaphor and relationships.

Elbow explains his pedagogy using two different metaphors: growing and cooking. Good writing grows, beginning with a lot of freewriting, then heading towards chaos, then organizing into centers of gravity, and then reforming through ferocious revision. Good writing also cooks, involving a number of competing and conflicting elements (ideas, arguments, words, metaphors, modes) which are forced to interact with each other. Noninteraction comes from an absence of conflict (static agreement) or from constant, unproductive conflict (deadlock and stalemate.) He advocates multiple, quick drafts, attacking the writing as a whole, not through parts, and unleashing energy and words through constrained, 10-minute frequent freewrites. Writing, Elbow argues, cannot be fully completed unless it is done in interaction with others, and thus he argues for a teacherless writing class, one in which a core number of writers commit to writing and responding to a draft once a week. He sets up guidelines for responding readers and writers in Chapter 4 and 5.

Quotable Quotes

“Make writing a global task, not a piecemeal one.” (72)

“Our conception of intellectual process is so dominated by critical thinking” (xxv)

Notable Notes

2nd edition begins with an introduction in which Elbow calls attention to his appendixed theory (doubting and believing games) and invites further response to it.

Believing game is what Quakers, juries have to do; it is what happens during a paradigm shift (Thomas Kuhn)

many fast drafts instead of one slow one

it’s better in responding to be honestly subjective (share the movie in your mind) than trying to be objective

human beings are most of the time not in communication with each other – people passively listen, nod, agree – that’s why a genuine teacherless writing group is so invigorating

his pedagogy is backed by his theory, specifically of the importance of the believing game to the intellectual enterprise.

the believing game allows for multiple gestalts, multiple meanings, requires waiting, patience, and a commitment to the importance of experience

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.

January 24, 2009

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”

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