Revolution Lullabye

January 26, 2009

Bartholomae, “The Study of Error”

Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 338-352.

Instead of dismissing the writing of basic writers as illogical and/or meaningless, Bartholomae argues for using the linguistic strategy of error analysis (often used by second language learners research) to learn the patterns of langauge use that basic writers rely on to think and compose so that composition teachers can track their progress and know better how to help them with their writing. Error analysis isn’t a perfect fit for composition, however, because it was intended for speaking exercises, and many basic writers’ errors come from the actual physical work of writing, the performance of composition rather than the conceptualization of arguments and ideas. However, the technique, which involves students reading back and consciously correcting their own prose, has three positive outcomes for composition instructors: it can help diagnose the problems a student writer is having, it can teach students a method for reading and self-correcting their errors, and it can help teachers see how their students, over the course of a semester, are growing and developing as academic writers.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to refine our teaching to take into account the high percentage of error in written composition that is rooted in the difficultly of performance rather than in problems of general linguistic competence” (349).

Errors that come from the “physical and conceptual demands of writing” and “the requirements of manipulating the print code” (351).

Errors are “stylistic features, information about this writer and this language” (342).

“When a basic writer violates our expectations, however, there is a tendancy to dismiss the text as non-writing, as meaningless or imperfect writing” (339).

“We have read, rather, as policemen, examiners, gate-keepers” (339)

We need to “treat the language of basic writing as language and assume, as we do when writers violate our expectations in more conventional ways, that the unconventional features in the writing are evidence of intention and that they are, therefore, meaningful, then we can chart systematic choices, individual strategies, and characteristic processes of thought” (340)

Notable Notes

All language use is idiosyncratic. The distance between a text and the accepted convention is just greater with a basic writer.

interlanguage/ intermediate system

have a writer read his own text to see what the maning is.

problem with error analysis: people learn correct written English not just aurally, but also visually. Also, the difficulty of intention: written error analysis asks for interpretation and analysis of the reason behind the error. The analyst has to first interpret the text, not just describe what’s there.

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Rose, “Remedial Writing Courses”

Rose, Mike. “Remedial Writing Courses: A Critique and a Proposal.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 353-369.

Mike Rose points out five problems of the typical remedial writing course and suggests how basic writing courses can be changed to better serve the students in them. First, they are self-contained courses, not connected to larger writing contexts students will encounter at the university. Second, they rely on assignments based on simple, unmotivating topics that don’t produce academic prose. Third, they are not grounded in the writing process, rather focusing almost exclusively on error avoidance. Fourth, they do not expand their scope to include reading and thinking heuristics in conjunction with writing assignments. Finally, they stay in the realm of personal writing, never challenging students to write academic prose. Instead of this model of a remedial writing course, teachers need to give students real discourse patterns to write with and in, grounded in meaningful context. Those patterns should be taught as strategies, not structures, and be sequenced to build to more and more complex writing situations and assignments.

Quotable Quotes

We need to start “conceiving of composition as a highly complex thinking/learning/reading/writing skill that demands holistic, not neatly segmented and encapsulated, pedagogies” (362).

“The reflexive, exploratory possibilities of engaging in academic (vs. personal) topics are not exploited, and instruction in more complex patterns of discourse is delayed or soft-pedaled” (362).

“The nature of our programs is nearly synchronized with the narror reality created for them by our institutions” (369).

Notable Notes

reflexive writing tied to Emig

January 25, 2009

Horvath, “The Components of Written Response”

Horvath, Brooke K. “The Components of Written Response: A Practical Synthesis of Current Views.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 207-223.

This review and synthesis of the research in response to student writing highlights the scholarship done in how writing teachers engage in formative evaluation in the hopes of sketching out a theory of response and evaluation. Many of the findings are presented today as tried-and-true maxims: avoid negativity, treat student texts as unfinished works-in-progress, move from global to local concerns, and act as a more experienced writing coach with students. Horvath ends by pointing out that response happens beyond the instructor’s written comments, such as responses during oral conferences, peer editing sessions, and class discussions, and includes a bibliography of scholarship in response to student writing.

Larson, “The ‘Research Paper’ in the Writing Course”

Larson, Richard L. “The ‘Research Paper’ in the Writing Course.” In The Writing Teachers Sourcebook. 180-185.

The ambiguous, often-assigned ‘research paper’ has three fundamental problems for writing teachers and composition. First, real research has no one recognizable genre, so the emphasis on teaching the 10-to-12-page research paper is misguided. Second, the research paper assignment overrelies on the use of library, book-based research rather than exploring other quantitative or qualititative discipline-specific research methods. Third, there are such a variety of research methods in the disciplines that instructors can’t possibly prepare all their students, who hail from all different disciplines, to do research in their field. Instead of assigning the research paper, then, Larson argues that we should teach students the multiple ways of seeking out information they need through inquiry and research.

Quotable Quotes

Every discipline “works from distinctive assumptions and follows distinctive patterns of inquiry” (184).

Research itself is “the subject – the substance – of no distinctly identifiable kind of writing” (182). It is the foundation of most.

Reither, “Writing and Knowing”

Reither, James A. “Writing and Knowing: Toward Redefining the Writing Process.” The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 162-169.

In order to have students write from a discourse community, Reither argues, they must learn how to belong to that discourse community’s knowledge community. Good writing depends on learning how to acquire information through research and inquiry, and writing teachers need to make reading and thinking heuristics more central in their teaching and highlight the social nature of knowledge-making, acting as a co-investigator with their students.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to bring curiosity, the ability to conduct productive inquiry, and an obligation for substantive knowing into our model of the process of writing. To do that, we need to find ways to immerse writing students in academic knowledge/discourse communities so they can write from within those communities” (166).

“Academic writing, reading, and inquiry are inspearably linked” (166)

“Because we routinely put our students in arhetorical situations in which they can only write out of ignorance” (167).

Writing is not “a self-contained process that evolves essentially out of a relationship between writers and their emerging texts” (163).

“Writing is, in fact, one of those processes which, in its use, creates and constitutes its own contexts” (163).

Notable Notes

calls for the return of statis theory

knowledge community and discourse community

WAC can immerse students in a discipline and a discourse community, learn scholarship and literature

curiosity and productive inquiry

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.

January 23, 2009

Shaughnessy, “Diving In”

Shaughnessy, Mina P. “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, 3rd ed. 321-326.

Citing that it is the teachers of basic writing, not the students, who need to change in order to succeed in the academy, Shaughnessy outlines four stages teachers of basic writing progress through in learning about basic writers and accepting the challenge of teaching them. The four stages, as Shaughnessy describes them, are Guarding the Tower (exclusionary policies and attitudes); Converting the Natives (trying old pedagogical techniques to help a few students who seem promising); Sounding the Depths (confronting the contradictions in the expectations of students’ many discourse communities); and finally, Diving In (committing to study and change teaching practices to answer the challenges of the new student populations.)

Quotable Quotes

“Are they aware, for example, after years of right/wrong testing, after the ACTs and the GEDs and the OATs, after straining to memorize what they read but never learning to doubt it, after “psyching out” answers rather than discovering them, are they aware that the rules have changed and that the rewards now go to those who can sustain a play of mind upon ideas – teasing out the contradictions and ambiguities and frailities of statements?” (324)

“The greatest barrier to our work with [basic writing students] is our ignorance of them and the very subject we have contracted to teach” (325)

“Diving in is simply deciding that teaching them to write well is not only suitable but challenging work for those who would be teachers and scholars in a democracy” (326)

“By underestimating the sophistication of our students and by ignoring the complexity of the tasks we set before them, we have failed to locate in precise ways where to begin and what follows what” (325).

Notable Notes

medical terminology used to describe basic writers

put onus on teachers, not students, to find the solutions.

Ohmann, “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language”

Ohmann, Richard. “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. 310-318.

Ohmann’s essay argues against the writing handbook maxim (specifically Strunk & White) repeated in his title, claiming that the move to push students to replace abstract words and phrases with specific, often sensory details, limits their ability to tackle complex, abstract ideas, which require students to operate in generalities. Students may not easily or clearly write in abstractions, Ohmann writes, but steering them away from this difficult, intelligent work in the writing classroom deprives them of the chance to mature as analytical, abstract thinkers and writers. Ohmann uses examples from three popular current writing handbooks (all published in 1978), pointing out five common consequences of asking students to load their writing with specific adjectives and nouns: ahistoricism (emphasis on the present moment), empiricism (reliance on sensory information), fragmentation (ignorance of social and historical context or relationships), solipism (emphasis on the individual writer’s feelings and experiences), and denial of conflict (absence of questioning or things left up to the reader’s interpretation.)

Quotable Quotes

The maxim to use definite, specific, and concrete language will “push the student writer always to toward the langauge that most nearly reproduces the immediate experience and away from the language that might be used to understand it, transform it, and relate it to everything else” (317).

A student who takes the maxim to the extreme “will lose the thread of any analysis in a barrage of sensory impressions, irrelevant details, and personalized or random responses” (314).

“Abstract nouns refer to the world in a way quite different from concrete nouns” (315) They form chains of relationships in meaning

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