Reid identifies two groups of non-native English speakers who study at U.S. universities: U.S. residents and international students. She identifies the mistakes that are common in the writing of each group and gives suggestions for working with each group of students.
U.S. resident non-native speakers have typically had some schooling in the United States. Reid says that these students tend to be orally very fluent, but that they may have difficulty with accuracy in writing. She talks about native language transfer and ear-learning as two possible causes for the errors that these students tend to make.
International students also struggle with writing in English. Reid acknowledges that stduents from different countries have different experience in learning English, but points out that many of them have done years and years of sentence-level grammar exercises. They can often explain grammatical rules, but they have difficulty producing accurate sentences in their writing. Reid mentions first language transfer as one cause for their mistakes; she also notes that they are often unfamiliar with idioms.
Reid says that in dealing with NNS writing, instructors should focus on errors that impede meaning first. She says that familiarity with students' backgrounds is important because it can help instructors choose which errors to address and how to address them; knowing their backgrounds is also useful when it comes to advising students about the outside help they can access.
She reminds instfuctors that writing in a second language is extremely challenging and calls for patience and understanding when working with non-native speakers.
Rooted in Bruffee's suggestion that "How we teach . . . is what we teach" (442), Trimbur's essay argues that collaborative learning can help students find the dissensus in a discourse. Trimbur focuses on two criticisms of collaborative learning. The conservative criticism equates collaborative learning with "group think" and suggests that it undermines a student's individuality. The liberal criticism suggests that collaborative learning's emphasis on coming to a consensus is mistaken as it ignores power inequality in the construction of a consensus; in other words, it ignores the voices that are excluded or marginalized when a group comes to a consensus. Trimbur responds to the conservative criticism by noting that it suggests a mistaken understanding of the individual (one that sees the individual as not socially constructed). He also argues that instead of liberating the individual, conservative teaching styles actually keep students isolated from one another and thereby deprive them of the community necessary to empower them. Trimbur then mounts a defense of the liberal criticism of collaborative learning by discussing a problem with Richard Rorty's conception of "conversation." Rorty's vision of intellectual conversation freed from "reference to metaphysical foundations" (444) is flawed by a romantic account of "abnormal discourse." Rorty imagines "the genius, the rebel, the fool" (445) who occasionally intervenes and reinvigorates intellectual conversation when it becomes stagnant. According to Trimbur, liberal critics worry that by emphasizing the presence of dissent in conversation, Rorty ignores "the discourses silenced or unheard in the conversation" (446). In contrast to Rorty's account of collaborative conversation, Trimbur proposes a model of learning that privileges dissensus. Instead of asking students to come to "collective agreements," we should ask them to come to "collective explanations of how people differ, where their differences come from, and whether they can live and work together with these differences" (448). Trimbur thinks that collaborative learning should call into question the status of college professors (among others) as "experts" because the university system "prevents the formation of consensus by shrinking the public sphere and excluding the majority of the population from the conversation" (450). Drawing on Jurgen Habermas's ideas, Trimbur suggests that we adopt a model of consensus that is "utopian," not because consensus is a state that we could actually achieve once we removed "relations of domination and systematic distortion" (454), but because a utopian model of consensus allows students "a critical measure to identify the relations of power in the formation of expert judgment" (452). While Trimbur notes that "collaborative learning can[not] constitute more than momentarily an alternative to the present asymmetrical relations of power and distribution of knowledge," he hopes that creating a class with "a heterotopia of voices" may allow students "to imagine alternative worlds and transformation of social life and labor" (455).
Kenneth Bruffee proposes Collaborative Learning (CL) as a way to explore new conceptual biases in learning. Indeed changes in the philosophic conception of knowledge create a different rationale for CL. Bruffee outlines this by means of these four key elements:
1. Conversation, thought, and knowledge: In this view, intellectual activity usually takes the structure of dialogue. Thought is not an essential attribute of human beings but rather, â€śan artifact created by social interactionâ€? p. 398. In simpler terms, â€śthought is internalized conversationâ€? (p.399). Consequently writing is conceptualized as the re-externalization of internalized conversation, with a sequence: â€śWe converse, we internalize conversation as a thought; and then by writing, we re-immerse conversation in its external, social mediumâ€? (p.400)
2. Normal discourse (ND): ND applies to conversation in a community of agreeing peers: â€śa group of people who accept, and whose work is guided by, the same paradigms and the same code of values and assumptionsâ€? (p.401). In Bruffeeâ€™s conception, when students work collaboratively, they actually â€śconverseâ€? and, as a result, are provided with the social context, common ground, and the kind of community in which ND can happen.
3. Authority of knowledge: Knowledge is the consequence of challenging beliefs and negotiating paradigms through conversation thus CL is a valuable opportunity that allows students to â€śnegotiate their way into that conversationâ€? (p.406).
4. New knowledge, abnormal discourse, and authority:
CL challenges the traditional structure of the classroom and thereby the authority of teachers: they are no longer defined as people in touch with privileged sources of knowledge, but â€śthose members of a knowledge community who accept the responsibility for inducting members into the communityâ€? and, as a result, students have access to the â€śconversation of mankindâ€? (p.410).
Additionally, abnormal discourse occurs when consensus no longer exists in the community of knowledge. If the disruption of normal discourse is successful, it is considered â€śrevolutionary,â€? if not it is considered as â€śkookyâ€? discourse. However, while teachers can only work with tools of ND, abnormal discourse is a device of creativity that could challenge â€śreliance on the canonical conventions and vocabulary of normal discourseâ€? (p.408). The implication for writing instruction â€śinvolves demonstrating to students that they know something only when they can explain it in writing to the satisfaction of the community of their knowledgeable peersâ€? (p.412).