Composition Pedagogy

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I've been asked if I'm interested in teaching the SEAM section of Rhetoric 1101, with the theme of Identity and Multiculturalism. I taught it last Fall and loved it, but didn't know if the College would want me to teach it again. Knowing that they do makes my day. :D

Pedagogical Bliss

So often I find myself getting all cock-a-hoop over my students. They give me permagrin. Take yesterday, for example: Right now they're working on group presentations, and the assignment is to do a collaborative rhetorical analysis of a famous speech and present the results of the analysis to the class. Yesterday, I gave them time in class to do brainstorming. I was very pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm they brought to discussing the effectiveness of speeches. I was afraid they'd think the assignment was dry, but WOW--one group has chosen to analyze the Michael Moore Oscar speech. They were excitedly talking about the rhetorical situation--Moore was supposed to give an epideictic speech, but we knew he wouldn't, since it's Michael Moore. They instantly understood all the implications of the situation, the way Moore deviated from the genre and decorum and the audience's reaction to that, what can and can't be said in a given rhetorical situation, etc. They rock! (Not just that group, to be sure. All of them.)

Negotiating Expectations: A Response

Dennis posted recently about students and assignment expectations, and Mikael responds with some pretty provocative thoughts:

What do you want us to write? (It bears pointing out that most of my students are juniors and seniors; FY classes really are a different beast.) I'm always a little taken aback by the question, particularly as I take pains to discuss with them that the assignments are in the book, in black & white. I tell them, on day one, that one challenge of the text I use for my Advanced Expository Writing classes is that part of the assignment is figuring out how best to design and execute the assignment. The implications here are both profound and elementary: it's an acknowledgement that each reader creates & locates meaning in text differently; each student's experiences and epistemological tendencies lead them along slightly different paths. The interesting thing is how the students negotiate the places where their individual patterns of understanding and ideas about how they go from the reading to a writing project that's an extension of the project started by "the expert", the "professional", the "academic" intersect with and diverge from those of their peers, instructor, even the original author.

Mike might say that this "What do you want?" tendency is a representation of our economic system--students see their work as having an exchange value; do this and you get a C, do that and you get an A. I admit that when I saw Mikael's post, I wondered how he demystifies his evaluation process for his students. What does he tell them, exactly? Then I read on:

New Listserv on Blogs

Late one night (early one morning) at 4Cs, Charlie started a listserv for bloggers and blog enthusiasts to plan a special interest group for next year's 4Cs. I've copied his post from Kairosnews here:

This past 4C's, there were a lot of events to related to blogging, among which was the special interest group event, “Calling All Bloggers: Academic Bloggers Sharing Strategies and Resources.” At that meeting, attendees decided to create the CCCC Blogging SIG listserv ( "a list of comp/rhet/lit folk devoted to exploring the personal and professional applications of weblogs and wikis in teaching, writing, and research." The list is currently being used to share our blogsites with each other, discuss possible panel presentations on blogging for 4C's 2005, and work out future goals for the SIG and the list. But we also hope to initiate many other conversations about blogging and share other resources. Everyone is invited to come participate in the existing conversations as well as to start their own.

And don't be discouraged if you are new to weblogs and/or don't keep your own weblog. One of the many reasons for forming the list was to create a community for supporting teachers in their efforts to learn about and begin blogging.

You can subscribe to the list online through the list information page. Once subscribed, post your messages to the list at

Things I Need to Do *NOW*

I'm planning on taking my prelims in July. Shouldn't I already have submitted my customized reading lists in rhetorical theory, tech comm research and theory, and feminism and technology to my committee and gotten them approved?! Yeah. I thought so. It will be done no later than Friday, I'll tell ya that right now!

I also feel a need to brag on my students. We had the first round of persuasive presentations yesterday, and they all just hit it out of the park. I have seen a steady, significant improvement in all aspects of their public speaking skills, including but not limited to: introductions, transitions, emphasis statements, addressing and refuting opposing arguments, conclusions, vocal pace and inflection, eye contact, gestures, everything. I'm extremely lucky to have each of them in my class.

Lecture v. Discussion at Invisible Adjunct

I'm a little surprised at what's being said on IA about lecturing and discussion. I'll admit that I didn't like discussion classes while in college because most of the time, the discussions devolved into pandering to the lowest common denominator, and I was left frustrated, spinning my wheels. Anyway...people over at that thread are also talking about how some students perceive discussion days as days on which the instructor wants to slack off and not have to do anything. I admit having had those thoughts too. I'm following the pedagogical tensions here with interest.

UPDATE: The Little Professor has a good response.

Computers and Composition Blog

The journal Computers and Composition now has a blog! They're even using Drupal, which is now in its third year. I don't intend for this post to be so cheerleader-y; I'm not simply saying, "They have a blog! Yay!" I'm serious here: If this blog is updated often, linked to, and posted to by all the other rhetoricians and compositionists who blog or have more static web sites, that might take us closer to a new model of scholarly publishing--a true knowledge community, without the considerable lag time involved in most scholarly publishing. Peer review will still take place, of course, but it won't be blind (we'll see more accountability, and the notion of ethos will become more significant, I think), it will be more interactive, and we'll see ideas as they form and are refined by communal criticism.

In addition...I can't be the only one who's amused by the irony that C&C is published by Elsevier, yet they went open-source for their blog. A harbinger if I ever saw one--but I don't want to jinx it. :-)

Assessment of one's own teaching

AKMA posted some observations about teachers and teaching that have been making me look at myself. He says that teachers will very often--almost always, in fact--say that they are excellent teachers. Few will "cop to being a mediocre teacher." I believe I am slightly better than mediocre, but only slightly, and it took an enormous amount of work just to get to mediocre. My first semester teaching was an unmitigated disaster; I was lucky to get through it in one piece. The evaluations, which ranged from excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor, averaged out to be "fair," and I can't believe I even got that.

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