• Sarah posted a new page, on the site English 130 3 years, 4 months ago

    Come to class every day (barring rare emergencies) ready to discuss the day’s reading.
    If you must miss a class, please notify me ahead of time and contact a classmate to find out what you missed, e […]

  • In the last 24 hours, I have been struggling to reconcile what I had imagined “Situating ourselves in English departments” to be about and how the readings approached that question.  I do not mean to critique the […]

    • Hey Sarah,

      I’m really glad you raised the point. These articles work to situate composition in the rich (and sometimes interesting) history of its function in the American university. However, I struggled with these articles in a similar way that you have; while the history can’t be ignored, it can’t be considered accurate for the current state of the departments. Rhetoric began in Harvard, crafted for the education of the rich, English-speaking, white male. Now, it must be more inclusive; it must be able to reach people’s of all classes, nationalities, races, and genders. That being said, I do appreciate Jean Ferguson Carr and Douglass Hesse’s attempts at grappling with what composition in a contemporary classroom looks like, and I think part of the reason it’s hard to fully recognize their versions of the English classroom because it’s evolving at a rapidly changing rate. I think Hesse’s ability to acknowledge that composition is no longer just about writing a 10 page academic essay (like it seemed to be years ago), but also writing arguments and ideas into a variety of genres. This seems to echo QC’s goals for composition, as well as some of what we have discussed in class.

      I guess, going from here, I want to question where are we situated within the “current” classroom? What does it look like? What is our role in it? And, more importantly, what are students getting from it?

    • As per Sarah’s comment, I was surprised at how directly the readings spoke to the focus of my response paper. Briefly, I’m considering whether creative writing and composition might offer different, but complementary, insights into our students’ aptitudes, interests, and areas of academic need. I think the idea of “inventing the university” is a useful catchall, but I wonder whether it obscures our role in the process—that is, inventing an accurate perception of the people we’re charged to instruct. Writing classes, as Carr points out, seem a point of exchange between academics and what she somewhat amusingly describes as the “ambient situation” of students lives. There’s a lot of potential here, I think, in terms of refining pedagogy, as this dynamic interaction complicates the expectations of scholarly “discipline.” Obviously, if we afford students a degree of agency in the classroom, we’re more likely to understand where they’re coming from.

      In this light, Carr and Hesse point to an irony in writing instruction—what was once a means for departments to assert their power has become both a vantage point for considering the fluidity of academic discourse and among the more vital venues for navigating that innocuous enough but deceptively oppressive assumption: what we think students should know. There’s plenty to talk about regarding creative writing and composition, the differences in the fields, and the degrees to which they extend from the conditions Hesse describes, but perhaps that’s best saved for class. I’m also interested in discussing practical approaches to what I suppose you could call pedagogical listening. It’s tough to genuinely listen to students and also tell them what they need to know—perhaps we can address this issue in light of Carr’s ideas about the relevancy of writing studies.

    • Hi Sarah – this week’s readings got me thinking, again, about the difference between writing/composition here and in Europe.

      A couple of weeks ago you mentioned that “the essay, from a young age is taught as thesis-antithesis-synthesis”, making it a discursive rather than persuasive format. Instead of focusing on the dialectics/the structure of this model of argumentation itself, I’d like to put emphasis on the fact that learning how to write takes place in high school, rather than in college.

      As part of my communication minor I had to attend a “writing lab”, which was mandatory for those of us who had not attended a classical lyceum (the only secondary education track that allowed a student access to any kind of Italian university until the 1970s). That class was mostly focused on style/grammar, rather than rhetoric. Widely speaking, writing classes are not mandatory for most major/minor tracks, both because professors rarely rely on writing assignments for evaluations, and because it is taken for granted that students enter college with an adequate preparation – although the kind of writing practiced in high school does not cover the formalities of academic writing – and, as I said before, the academic writing classes I took during my time as a graduate student did help me improve my general writing skills.

      While being aware of the history of the field is stimulating and can help us contextualize what it is that we are doing – I wonder if, as Kristi wrote, that can be “considered accurate for the current state of the departments” and personally does not address my biggest concern about teaching a composition class: the feeling that we are trying and pack in a semester a learning process that should gradually take place over a number of years.

  • Responding primarily to Kristi and Giselle —

    I am also glad that you, Giselle, have returned to a fact you’ve previously brought up in discussion: that teaching high school in New York is necessarily geared toward the Regent’s Exam. If I, as a teacher, or my institution were evaluated based on this, then I imagine I would also teach in this…[Read more]

  • Teaching to the Text Message (Sophie’s post)

    There were two strains of thought in Selsberg’s NYT op-ed that I want to pull out: the impact of concise writing on the student, and its impact on the t […]

  • Hi Stefano,
    You’ve certainly covered a lot of ground, so I’ll try to respond to a few pieces and also present a response to Gee in the form of questions–it seems like the densest and potentially most controversial reading of the week, so it makes sense to open it for more discussion.

    I, too, have struggled with blogs–this semester and other…[Read more]

  • In your response, Frankie, as you unpack patchwriting within your framework and within the theoretical framework of the readings, you bring up the idea that the key reason for patchwriting is an insufficient understanding of the source material. As I was reading the Howard, et al. article, I squared and starred those moments in which they…[Read more]

  • I think you’ve both identified in yourselves and in a broader context the resistance to grammar instruction or correction, also highlighted in the readings. However, Allison, you make and have been making a really relevant point, that I think Micciche also makes — that teaching grammar and sentence construction is foundation to teaching clarity…[Read more]

  • I think, Stefano, that you raise a really important issue in your post about “Risky Business.” I have spent a lot of time since beginning the PhD process considering how to position myself within the English discipline and within and in relation to the increasingly corporate structures of “Western” universities. However, I also struggle with th…[Read more]

  • Hey all.  The link on the calendar went dead, but I found the PDF through the GC library.


    Horner, et al.

  • It seems to me you both, Frankie and Nick, have drawn out a really important tension between the Elbow reading’s emphasis on evaluation and the labour question addressed to some extent in the Bernard-Donals piece. (I think this is also in between the lines of Kristi’s post as well.) Frankie, it sounds also like you’re struggling as a new…[Read more]

  • My time is a bit tight tomorrow, so I just thought I’d post a generalized comment to be sure to contribute, even if I can’t organize a comment in direct response to a post.


    This week, I’ve really been […]

    • I agree. I definitely struggled with the idea of the exceptional student. Take the video we watched. The idea of having them turn in the paper and then a week later make them do in class revisions and have them edit it is great, but super unrealistic. Workshopping is becoming unrealistic for me. I guess after grading my first batch of essays; I’m feeling very unoptimistic. I gave them detailed comments drafts. I talked to them one on one. They did a workshop two weeks before the paper was due so they had time to think and edit. I had papers that looked exactly the same as when I commented on the draft. So, I guess, my question stemming from your equal frustration is, how are we supposed to take these methods that are suggested and apply them to students who do want to do the work or who don’t care to do the work?

    • Hi Sarah – I find myself on the same boat as you. We spent an entire class session doing peer review under my supervision and I invested an entire day going through their drafts one more time and providing them individualized feedback. In one of my classes, the majority of the students did not take my feedback (nor that of their peers) as seriously as I hoped – six out of nineteen students did not change a single word between their draft and the final version on their first essay. Although I am not sure the issue lies in a lack of understanding of my notes on their part (I provided each of them with a bullet list of tips to improve their work, I doubt those six students did not understand any of the points that I made) in the future I will try and encourage some form of dialogue with the students about their writing, as suggested by Sommers. I am somewhat hopeful that asking them to come up with a revision plan, and/or to provide me feedback on my notes will encourage them to pay some more attention to the revision process.

  • I want to frame my response to this week’s readings with an idea that has recurred in our class discussion, the idea that we, as writing instructors (of various types) are teaching tools more than we are t […]

    • I’m interested in the idea of “life skills,” especially in terms of how we frame the academic experience. In the case of Gaipa last week, the aim seemed to be to draw students into scholarship—to demonstrate that the classroom is part of the real world and that ideas are interconnected. In Sarah’s post, meanwhile, there’s the question of how this endeavor can then be refracted back out again, showing students the ultimate use value of the highly specified work they’ve done.

      It’s hard to know how clearly to articulate the “skills” being developed: On the one hand there’s the risk that transparency will create easy categories that will undermine the rigors of the learning process. Critical thinking, say, means less as a concept than it does as a practice, and it may not help students to see this as a goal before they have a sense of what it entails. Also in this light, focusing on practical dividends may make academic work seem all the more remote, encouraging students to view it as a means to an end, rather than a chance to engage unfamiliar material. On the other hand, however, and where I’m on board with Sarah’s deliberate idealism, the notion of “life skills” can offer an anchor when an assignment starts to seem too arcane. Likewise, if the goal is to make academia seem “real”—that is, connected to issues students can relate to—then it makes sense to model the broader relevancy of papers, readings, and the like. While this conversation strikes me as especially knotty, I’m intrigued by the formula it suggests: that college is poised as a fulcrum, where experiences, ideas, and expectations are transformed in the service of a life beyond the institution. That may fall in with the adage of “preparing students for life,” but I wonder especially about the points of intersection between humanistic learning-for-the-sake-of-learning and the perhaps more earthbound notion of responsible citizenship.