This posting is partly for Brenda's benefit, because she couldn't linger after class today, but mostly for my own benefit. For Brenda: we talked about keeping the attending-a-teaching-and-learning-lecture post as a component of the mandatory "electronic dialogue". However, since the blog seems not to be working so well, we'd post it to the discussion board instead. We also talked about posting, in any format, in general, and our experiences as new-ish students, or, in Amanda's case, as new-ish teachers.
Now comes the part for me: how do I make posting electronically less scary for me, right now, or for my students in the future? I think that my reluctance to post stems only partly from the small size of our class and the high degree of interaction we already enjoy with each other. I think that a lot of it has to do with my own insecurity as a writer and as a new grad student. There is something about posting that feels too visible, too watched. Perhaps my undergraduate students would feel less reservations about claiming a blog space as their own. But for me, I feel watched. Graded. Not necessarily by my teachers but by my peers as well. And, as Anthony said today, precedents with new technology get set early and sometimes in other classes. What happens on the 8011 blog affects what happens on the 5531 blog and vice versa because all of us are in both classes and we're trying out/on new technologies and new ways of learning in both.
My suggestion? We lighten up. I lighten up. I hereby give myself, and whomever else wants it, permission to post words both long and short, profound and shallow. It isn't always about how many polysyllables or theorists we can conjure into a post. We're already here, we're already in graduate school. The point for me now is not to prove how big my vocabulary is or how complex my syntax, but to learn stuff that's really going to matter to me and to my future students. Sometimes that stuff comes in small, unassuming, monosyllabic packages.
Trying out a quick, informal blog posting (!) here. I'm also feeling my way around rhetoric in general and grad school in particular. This is new again to me-hitting the books and theorizing. After the first week, I was considering chucking it in. But I've decided to give it (me) more of a chance. I think I had a lot of expectations of what it would be like and how my day-job would fit nicely into my coursework (not so much, so far!). Looking ahead in the 8011 syllabus, I think I'm going to enjoy that class more as it goes along. For instance, actually drafting a research project. As for rhetoric's vagueness as a discipline, I guess this is one of the things I most like about it - that there seems so much scope in which to operate. My interests are bound to fit in somewhere!
Being a pedagogy course, I once took a Buddhism course and had a chance to teach a little on Buddha's teaching for another class so I typed up 2 problems of teaching Buddhism. Hope you find them fun to ponder...
• “My path goes against the grain; it is profound and hard to see; those blinded by passion will not see it—it is pointless to teach it.
Beings have fallen into desires and are carried away in the current; I attained this laboriously—it is pointless to teach it.”
-Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha)
• A buddha ought to be passionless and non-conceptual, but how and why would such a being teach?
• “For many Buddhists the ignorance that drives the world finds its expression in concepts, for conceptual thought is considered to be fundamentally distorted in that it falsely attributes ultimate essences to its objects. So too, the afflictive mental states that arise from ignorance are frequently epitomized by desire or “passion,” for it is passion that binds one to the world of suffering. But without concepts and passion, a buddha’s relation to the world, especially as a teacher, becomes problematic.”
-John Dunne, “Thoughtless Buddha, Passioinate Buddha.”
I feel your pain... but I have two suggestions. The first comes from a very good source, and a person for whom I have tremendous respect, and also a person who went through this program and was its first PhD recipient. She's now a professor at Carnegie Mellon, and she gave some very direct advice about teaching and going to grad shool. She said to always remember that you are here as a student first and a teacher second. You are here to do two jobs, the first is to engage yourself, and challenge yourself in, and outside of your classes, get as much out of them as you can, and finish with your PhD sometime before the next decade:) The second job you have is to teach classes and help the youngsters along in their development. That's not to say that you should shirk your responsibilities in the classroom, but always keep the perspective that you are a student first and foremost... I can say all this because 1) I think she's right, and 2) I don't teach until next semester:)
As for the research methods class... hmmmm not too sure about that one yet. I agree that I'm getting a lot more out of this class and Art's class, than I am out of the methods class... but the old adage holds - as with any class - you get out of it what you put into it! As for rheotirc in general, it seems that at first the whole field is a fog. Getting started is like old fashioned football... three yards and a cloud of dust. You plow through and then get crushed and have to huddle up and do it all over again. But eventually, if you have a good offensive line leading the way (faculty, classmates) and a good vision of how you're going to make it to the touchdown, a vision of where you're going from your coach (advisor), then you will eventually see the goal-line on the horizon and things will become more clear as you hone in on your destination. I'm sorry for this terrible football analogy, but since Marv used the coach thing in his idea map, I thought it would be appropriate. This is my second full year of nothing but rhetoric and I still think things are a hazy, but I'm starting to see some connections, and you're right in that one of the great things about this discilpline is that opportunities that it creates.
I'll take this to be a very general question about graduate school in general, a little like Zoe did.
Hmmm.....good question. The answer varies daily. Most of the time it seems like I have a good handle on things, and then every so often I manage to drop several things all at once. I seem to spend more time on the class I'm teaching than the ones I'm taking as a student. This probably isn't a great thing and possibly even backwards of what some people would suggest, but in the end I would rather let one person down (me) instead of 34 (my students) when it comes to energy allotment. This is a personal, pervasive nuerosis that is probably incurable at this point in my mental development, so such is life. It doesn't help that the classes I'm taking this semester both revolve around teaching, making me want to constantly modify my plans for my poor undergraduate guinea pigs.
Zoe brought up a point about the rhetoric field always justifying its own importance and application. I've discovered that its becoming increasingly difficult to articulate that importance and application as I become more indoctrinated into the field. I guess I was secretly hoping it would become easier, but the longer I'm here, the more intuitive it all seems so I'm tempted to blurt out something along the lines of "of course this stuff is important to your life--how can you possibly function without it?!" Well, I'm afraid this musing is turning into a true blue ramble instead....please forgive.
Over the past 3 weeks I have run the gamut on 3 words—rhetoric, scientific, and technical—in my 2 rhetoric courses. I have heard lots, but outside of Bernadette’s “Spurious Coin” I have felt more pain than promise. I have learned more about research in my Geography course on Environmental Policy than I have in my research methods course. I will be making my first in-depth presentation this afternoon in my Public Affairs class not my pedagogy course. Perhaps it’s the pain of indoctrination, a boot camp for academics if you will. Perhaps it’s the return to my love-hate relationship with the field of rhetoric, a field that allows you to do so much yet can fall flat on its face as it tries to assert its importance, its history, and its rigor. Rhetoric never was any of these to me and that was probably a key part of its appeal to me.
Judging from research literature and discussion groups, student passivity is alive and well in classrooms across the country. In light of this, how do we, as teachers, motivate students to claim responsibility for their own learning? How do we foster an environment of active learning where students are engaged and focused on the learning process instead of passively encountering course material with one’s grade foremost in mind?
In some instances, it may be a matter of addressing individuals’ learning styles, recognizing that students have different ways of learning and therefore respond differently to new material. We’ve seen this in our own learning styles inventories. Encouraging students to examine their learning styles may result in developing better learning strategies. (For instance, Felder and Soloman’s inventory offers specific strategies for active learning aimed at passive, or reflective, learners.)
Certain teaching methods are better geared for active learning, too. While a passive learner tends to be more comfortable with lectures, where information is presented and interaction is minimal, classroom discussion, in contrast, is a “preferred method . . . for promoting critical thinking, problem-solving ability, higher level cognitive learning, attitude change, moral development, and communication skill development.” (Vangelisti, p. 360) A teacher should be encouraging to passive learners in this situation, perhaps by using positive body language (non-verbal immediacy) or posing questions of various levels to draw out a potential response. (Of course, ultimately, the method must be chosen with the specific learning objective in mind. There will be times when a lecture is appropriate, for instance.)
While these considerations may be useful in fostering active learning in individual students, we should also look at the broader context. Barbara Mezeske, in her article Shifting Paradigms? Don’t Forget to Tell Your Students, http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tp/index.html, states that a paradigm shift has occurred in education, from teacher-centered teaching to learner-centered teaching. She writes, “In learner-centered teaching, the balance of power in the classroom is shared by the teacher and her students; content becomes not the end, but a means to promote learning; teachers become guides rather than experts; the responsibility for learning is shifted to the students; and evaluation is used to promote learning, not merely to generate rules.” She cautions that some students may still be operating under a teacher-centered paradigm and that it is up to their teachers to “guide” them through this change.
I wonder if we are already comfortable with this model. It’s interesting to note that everyone in class had chosen a “guide-like” metaphor as teacher for themselves. Other points raised by Mezeske have also been brought up in class—for instance, shared learning between teacher and students and a critical use of content.
And finally, Mezeske offers some guidelines in promoting an active learning environment: use reflective logs (as we are, just now!); solicit and share feedback often; reinforce that the course is about learning; and be flexible, accepting that any group of learners will have unique needs.
Welcome to Pedagogically Speaking, a blog site for the Rhetoric 5531 class. This is the section where people can post musings on anything they want... within the bounds of school decorum of course.