September 16, 2005
DIRECTED STUDY WEEK TWO
already i can see the anthropological links between my research questions and some of the theoretical figures hatch describes.
if--by taylor for example--religious institutions are irrational then it could be said the office of faith based initiatives directly contradicts the purpose of its project, to encourage spiritual communitites. by understanding each community as a means to rational and productive ends (getting people clean, fed etc.) the office denies the 'irrational' or sacred role in these bodies that comprises their essential function in society. the ritual of alms or charitable giving for example is not ~merely~ a site of utility but efficacy. when hatch describes taylor's theories as one where institutions 'are consciously created to serve practical ends, and therefore their utility or usefulness is one of their primary functions,' i am reminded of a scripture passage in i chronicles:
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building thee a house for thy holy name comes from thy hand and is all thy own.
here king david essentially denies the notion that the people of god should consider their giving derives from a utilitarian or even individual origin. how do these ideas effect the office of faith based initiatives: does it--for example--set up a new hierarchy in which ritual alms now serves the state instead of the religious community who participates in it? can the two services be collapsed without an undesirable interpenetration (in both the religious and secular space of society)? ill keep these questions in mind as i continue to read.
September 15, 2005
BRANISLAV POST HERE
hey branislav: just wanted to see if this was working or not.
April 19, 2005
week fourteen: sommers
In 'responding to student writing,' Nancy Sommers discusses the prevalent traps instructors encounter when steering student writers through the revision process. Like Peter Elbow, Sommers claims that all writers crave positive feedback from their readers (232). Unfortunately, many comments instructors give students seem arbitrary and idiosyncratic, misdirecting students from the purpose of revision. In other words, many comments students receive address the writer not the writing and lead to contradictory messages before the revision process. To counter this trend, Sommers suggests prioritizing the tasks teachers set forth for their students in order to elicit revisions that are text-specific. According to Sommers, this technique will also safeguard against the temptation to give writing--not rule--based comments that inspire more complex or sophisticated re-writing from students.
Sommers clearly articulates the problems that many instructors--novice and veteran--face when commenting on student writing. However, the length of her essay does not provide adequate space for the author to specifically describe her exact measures for alleviating these problems. Indeed, Sommers introduces the highly charged issue of rules as canon on page 237 but does not ever address its impact or role on the student's revision process. At the risk of being facetious, one might almost claim that Sommers should follow her own advice and 'develop' her paper to a deeper degree before positing it as potential advice for her discourse community.
April 12, 2005
week thirteen: williams
in 'grammar and usage,' james d. williams questions the primacy of grammar and its relationship to composition pedagogy. williams beings by invoking the conclusions of the braddock, lloyd-jones and schoer study that revealed grammar instruction has a negligible effect on improving student writing. implicit in williams' claim is the notion that complex or correct writing does not always make good writing. williams also notes that many english teacher themselves never receive formal training in grammar and these teachers often confuse grammar with good writing because of ignorance and a dependency on handbooks written by authors that also do not possess any formal training in linguistics. western linguistics and grammar are an inherently tiered system for williams based on correctness but not always value. indeed, williams asserts that though grammar is a system of sorts it is not equal to fixed modalities such as mathematics. in order to circumvent the temptation to teach grammar as a fundamental building block to good writing, williams recommends always situating correct usage in reading and practical application.
although williams provides a basis for integrating grammar with efficacy in the composition classroom, he offers no concrete examples for the form such integration might take. this fact signifies the article's single greatest site of confusion and liberation. to put it another way, the lack of example on williams' part leaves the reader with significant questions as to how to integrate grammar into course readings. however, not providing concrete examples affords the reader the opportunity to design their systems of integration. regardless, the lack of concrete example shows that the integration of grammar and its overall role in composition pedagogy is an ongoing--not static--site of pedagogy.
week twelve: shaughnessy
in 'errors and expectations,' mina shaughnessy discusses the implications and role of general education in the university system. according the shaughnessy, the three groups which many incoming students can be classified into are traditional, secondary survivors and the unprepared (2). the inability for some of these students to adapt to existing models of composition courses created the need for what shaughnessy calls 'basic writing, a relatively new terrain of pedagogy at the time of the book's publication. shaughnessy claims that basic writing (bw) students are not necessarily inferior to traditional students but beginners to the academic discourse they have been thrust into; bw programs address the needs of these beginners. shaughnessy also states that the purpose of the bw classroom is not to teach 'how to be right' (mechanics etc.) but how to write, a process rather than product emphasis. crucial to this modality of teaching is the idea that conventional composition courses do not offer students the interaction and negotiation spoken language gives individuals. this lack of dialogue in the composition process creates anxiety in many students--non-traditional and otherwise--so that some writers 'produce but a few lines an hour or keep trying to begin (7).' shaughnessy overtly states that the task of the bw teacher is asserting that good writing should not be conflated with correct writing and that dispelling this confusion among beginning writers is the first step to their journey as mature writers.
though shaughnessy's project may seem dated by contemporary standards, the problems she addresses and the form in which her possible solutions manifest signify an ongoing debate in composition pedagogy. what intrigued me about shaughnessy's claims was that--like bw's detractors--she understands there is a 'right' and 'wrong' way to address bw student needs whether or not she claims she has found the superlative to that way or not. in other words, the debate over what form composition pedagogy should take is not merely a dialectical struggle between the batholomaes and elbows of the academic discourse community since each party is comparing the existing positions to a third non-present form that has not manifested yet. by definition this makes the ongoing discussion of composition pedagogy not just an ethical site of contention but a moral humanist one as well.
March 29, 2005
week eleven: brannon and knoblauch
in 'on student's rights to their own texts,' lil brannon and c. h. knoblauch articulate that readers outside of the classroom typically concede the writer's authority and conveyance of material. according to the authors, this process breaks down in the teacher-student relationship because instructors as readers exercise inherent control over the conveyance of material and usually have a 'conception of what the devloping text 'ought' to look like or 'ought' to do (214).' this relationship diminishes the commitment of the student to their writing and incentive to revise their work and for branner and knoblauch 'incentive is vital to improvement and also that is linked crucially to the belief that one's writing will be read earnestly (214).' the authors also say that the teacher usually reads each student's work not as a typical audience but as a parent; paternalism (either conservative or liberal) thus bolsters its own position (and hence authority) regardless of the text or its context. brannon and knoblauch assert that in order for this phenomena to be deterred, the student-writer must be encouraged to take control of their own composition; that the role of the instructor should be articulating how effective or ineffective the student has applied logic to substantiate their claims. in other words, the instructor must become a sounding board instead of a parent. ideally, the interaction between student and teacher would change into negotiation that forces the writer to reassert control over their own writing. this process compels the student towards revision without sacrificing incentive. moreover, the student's final evaluation are standardized by their effecicacy and communication instead of the unsubstantiated, paternalistic ideal of the instructor.
brannon and knoblauch seem to be advocating the same modality many theorists have argued this semester. within their thought construction is a visible strain of guide on the side classroom management that seeks to empower the student writer before formally introducing him/her into a discourse community. thus it is no suprise that criticism of brannon and knoblauch may emerge from the fact that the article does not clearly explain how the student can ultimately inculcate themselves into a larger body of like minded thinkers. in other words, when the student writes who is he/she writing for? although a paternal reader is highly undesirable it is perhaps more desirable than no author at all.
March 22, 2005
week ten: bruffee
in 'collaborative learning and the conversation of mankind,' kenneth a. bruffee articulates the increasing importance of collaborative learning models in the classroom. bruffee's essay attempts to assuage the predominant concerns of practicing collaboration in the classroom, especially in curriculums that do not currently require this modality of teaching. one of the chief problems instructors encounter in facilitating collaborative learning spaces is that students do not respond to this opportunity unless it is an 'alternative to traditional classroom teaching (396).' bruffee nominates peer tutoring as example of an effective and affective classroom collaboration strategy since it removes the traditional authority of the teacher from dialogue or conversation. for bruffee, conversation always retains a public aspect, even when it occurs internally for each individual. thus, thought itself is a conversational act whether the individual is aware or not and this fact makes writing an internalized dialogue made public again (400). according to bruffee, peer tasks (the assignment of projects to be conducted by a group of students working together) make students aware of this aspect of thinking and thus provide the revelation that writing is a social artifact. bruffee also intimates that the project of teaching is to introduce the student to the normal discourse (a community that presumes similar paradigms, values and assumptions) of the academy by first allowing them to participate in the formation of their own discursive relationships. however, bruffee recognizes that this modality may seem counterintuitive to many instructors since discussion in the academic sphere is typically defined by adversarial relationships. ultimately though the use of collaborative strategies shows the student all knowledge is generated and subject to negotiation within a given community and that the rules of knowledge (rhetoric, science etc.) are learned and used principally so they can be discarded at the appropriate time. thus, the student becomes both a conservator of knowledge and the agent that changes that knowledge; that person which articulates the inescapable is also the correct (411).
bruffee's article appears to be advocating a more democratic model of knoweldge creation in the classroom community. but within this modality emerges the question of whether de-centralizing the authority of an instructor in favor of mutual assent assists students in understanding the macro-cosmic structures of discourse at the risk of sacrificing cogence and coherence. in other words, mastery of course materials is more likely for a structure that adheres to centralized authority (i.e. teachers) than a set of mutually assenting agents. nevertheless, bruffee's claims are more than timely in a period where more than half of all high school students claim the first ammendment is not as valuable as safety and comfort.
March 8, 2005
week eight: sommers
in 'revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers,' nancy sommers describes the lack of emphasis on revision in composition pedagogy and its relationship to student writing development. sommers says that revision is rendered 'superfluous' and 'redundant' since composition pedagogy follows a linear speech form that makes change of utterance impossible (131). she also distinguished student and experienced writers as not only those individuals who have had more oppurtunities to develop their writing but also those that recognize the need for revision throughout the composition process. sommers identifies revision as deletion and substitution, addition and reordering and claims these operations help the writer distinguish between lexical (language or words) and conceptual (idea) problems in writing. sommers states that many student writers are not accustomed to using heuristic revising strategies and thus mire their writing with concerns of word choice that do not ultimately improve their ideas or claims (135). she concludes by recognizing that experienced writers constantly revise their work as a way of problematizing--creating dissonance--their thoughts 'in order to find' their 'lines of argument' (136). this strategy is not actively taught to many student writiers and thus compromises their ability to adapt, change and improve not only their work but their thinking.
although sommers addresses her claims with substantial evidence and well developed thoughts, it has been my experience that students engage with the lexical characteristics of their writing because it signifies a controllable aspect of their composition. in other words, language is obervable and changeable while conceptual aspects of writing are more difficult to engage in the revision process. also, students change their words without understanding the consequences of how this might alter their claims often because their claims are not sufficiently developed. this poses a question for sommers: where can revision begin? at what point should a student writer 'look back' and delete, add, reorder or substitute when it would be more beneficial to the student to simply change their ideas altogether, regardless of how those ideas are represented in their writing?
March 1, 2005
week seven: marsella etc.
joy marsella, thomas l. hilgers and clemence mclaren use 'how students handle writing assignments: a study of eighteen responses in six disciplines' to articulate the differences between instructor expectations for the student writing process and how students actually compose and potential causes for these 'gaps'. marsella et tal states explicitly that the gaps between what instructors expect and even prescribe and how students really write are often significant and that the majority of student-writers usually compose based on prior rather than immediate experience (178). according to marsella et tal, the method each student takes in using existing writing strategies or adopting a new one is based on the specifications of the assignment at hand, prior success and--perhaps most important for the authors' study--competing priorities with other responsibilities like work, other courses and family. to this end, marsella et tal suggests that non-traditional students and traditional students signify the greatest demographic difference in writing strategies--even more so than ethnic diversity (187). the authors continue by suggesting that adopting new writing strategies can appear as 'luxury' to students that have more significant obligations outside of the classroom, especially when these same students already posess a usable writing process. other differences that marsella et tal recognize are the discordance between value-centered writing and the dispassionate strategies many instructors encourage students to use or (in some cases) utilize.
i chose this article to summarize and critique specifically because it reflects my own perpetual challenges in the classroom to get non-traditional students (many of which are older than i am) to use or even try new writing strategies. these students already come with a working modality for reading and writing that--though workable--does not allow them to benefit fully from my course or its curricula. moreover, i have become increasingly aware of students' reluctance to surrender their own values or beliefs--some of which significantly effect their abaility to undertsand course materials--in their writing. my personal relationships to this article's material however also underlines my principal critique of it: namely that marsella et tal identifies when new strategies work and when they don't but offer little suggestion as to how to amend the latter experience. the naturalistic ethnography this article uses captures the problem but does not give any means to confront or address the issues it raises.
February 24, 2005
week six: profile of disciplinary discourse
The discourse community of academic theatre and performance studies is heavily informed (and to an extent determined) by the post-structural and postmodern literary and cultural semiotic theories of the twentieth-century that pervade several disciplines in higher education humanities. Where the application of this material is distinct in theatre is the prescription of these theories as an ethical modality in producing performance; ethical not altruistic since what constitutes fair sometimes clashes with what the audience wants, especially in regards to the capitalist system of exchange that the post-structural project locates itself in opposition towards; modality not method because as the post-structural project signifies a body of scholars and artists with like-minded goals and rules of solvency.
The purpose of this project--metaphorically--is not to view the forest from the trees or vice versa but instead to locate and articulate the space between the trees--the limen--and thus to draw implications about relationships between these trees and by proxy the forest as a whole. to this extent, the project relies on the shifting of existing meaning or semantics--specifically terms or words--in order to describe new phenomena (or at least invisible) in social relations. Thus precision is valued in the technical language of theatre (scenery, script analysis, acting pedagogy) as well as the critical language that relates these performance apparatus to the ideas of the post-structural project. In short, the language of post-structural theatre studies is not driven by 'smartening' itself but in articulating new thoughts through new words. for example, it would be inaccurate in a post-structural discourse community to say 'commodity fetishism teaches the social relations in the capitalist system of exchange'; better would be 'commodity fetishism reifies...' since the latter describes the obfuscating mechanism of the sentence subject not implied by using teaching (and of course 'reifies' reveals the limen or space between the trees so to speak). Any scholar or proselyte capable of using these terms and their ideas with facility and felicity to substantiate, challenge or significantly alter the trajectory of the post-structural project is informally invited into the discourse community and usually given voice. Note, however, that agreement is not a requirement for communal acceptance. As part of the post-structural ideology, scholars in theatre studies and other post-modern humanity-based disciplines typically view identity or definition as an act of freezing--a methodological sophistry. Thus is it acceptable and in some cases even encouraged for existing or new members of the community to engage in a dialectical or dialogic process that can at times significantly change the course of the discipline and even its goals.
Typical genres of theatre studies also distinguish it from other post-structural disciplines. Foremost, the play is regarded as the basic unit of critical, theoretical and pragmatic of analysis. Further, the play is divided into the text as text, text as site of potential performance and text as performance. With limited exception, this series is viewed as a hierarchy for critical and interpretative engagement. Constituent to the play are articles, reviews, manifestos, books and theoretical works that either inform or comment on the performance or text and their relationship to the formation of social relations inside and outside the theatre. indeed, it may be reasonable claimed that any document that substantiates a scholars claims can be regarded as credible so long as it contains ample historicity and/or rhetorical competence; by historicity is meant verified by a reasonable number of reliable primary sources; by rhetorical competence is meant void of internal or external intellectual contradiction. Also of distinction is the division in theatre studies between the audience proper (performance) and the audience as discourse community. Implied in this claim is the fact that performances based on the theoretical contributions of post-structural thinkers may not be read in totality by the audience proper--that there may be an esoteric function in certain performances that is intended to say more to the discourse community than the remainder of the audience. Whether or not this is an excluding device is a judgment and outside the scope of this profile.