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Rhetoric & composition.

Debate as a Critical Thinking Carnival: Tis to Laugh! Denise Heikinen, Michigan Technological University, Department of Humanities, Houghton, MI 49931-1295

In my paper I take a fresh look at how formal debate can work as a process leading to critical thinking in the classroom. Some object to classroom debates for fear of they encourage too much of a competitive spirit where the loudest voice and the quickest wit wins out over genuine and disinterested exploration of a topic. Concerns about gender issues cause anxiety as well. However, I suggest we begin with a re-definition of the Greek rhetorical term agon as a "gathering" of struggle rather than the struggle itself, as some contend is its original meaning. This enables us to think of debate as a gathering that fosters a carnilvalesque process of critical thought, rather than an endgame itself. Bakhtin's carnival theory can help us further appreciate debate's ability to be critical if we emphasize its comical elements. Assigning students to unfamiliar roles allows carnival's topsy-turvy effect to free them to consider the possibility of change. They begin to explore ideas their personal ideologies might otherwise reject. Debate can also prepare passive students to experience what an opinion feels like. And a carefully planned debate helps create an atmosphere of collaboration that persists throughout the term.

(Mis)Uses of Argument: The Limits of the Toulmin Model for Ethical Research and Community Building in First-Year Composition. Rick L. Hunter, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Program in Composition and Rhetoric, Department of English, Madison, WI 53706

Until recently, the UW-Madison's first-year writing program taught a stripped-down version of Stephen Toulmin's argument theory as an entry into larger academic discourses. While this approach is successful in many ways, the presenter believes that by failing to attend to qualifiers and rebuttals this act de-emphasizes the ethical responsibilities of researchers, for as students are beginning to write and analyze arguments, they often practice the "human tendency to fix or reify one's beliefs" (Cintron, 2003, pg. 6) in a way that writing becomes a solipsistic venture. Working from Elbow's "Believing Game" and Rogerian Rhetoric, the presentation examines the limits of the abridged Toulmin model for developing ethical arguments as well as building community in the writing classroom. To this end, I investigate the following question: In what ways might we redefine argument such that the first-year writing classroom and the texts created within it become more than agonistic spaces? This paper proposes that Elbow's "believing game" (1973) and Rogerian Rhetoric create a space in which conflicts can be acknowledged and transformed, and through role-playing and perspective-taking, students become capable of generating new understandings by truly embracing differences.

Our Sense of Community, Our Sense of Ecology: Rethinking Service Learning through Eco-composition. Heidi Stevenson, Northern Michigan University, Department of English, Marquette, MI 49855

Many composition instructors hope that service learning will encourage a mutually beneficial relationship between student writer and community site, but students and site contacts often misunderstand the idea of service learning, in particular, the word "service," to be problematically one-sided. Service learning, historically, has also tended to focus almost solely on social activism. While this is worthwhile work, it can create several problems, including a tendency to oversimplify students' definitions of community and environment. To truly explore these concepts and the place of their writing in them, students need to productively complicate these definitions. While service learning is a potentially troubled pedagogy without a fitting name, eco-composition is nearly the opposite--a theory without a pedagogy. No clear set of practices has yet been laid forth. Service learning pedagogy can give our students an opportunity to address issues of gender, race, spirituality, etc. in the messy, multi-layered, even contradictory ways we all encounter them, in line with Sidney Dobrin and Christian Weisser's current definitions of eco-composition. This ecological lens can help to combat limiting definitions of community and environment.

In Their Own Voice: Women Undergraduates on the Topic of Moral and Ethical Development Through Writing. Donna Scheidt, University of Michigan, Joint Program in English and Education, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Social science research in higher education has examined various curricular interventions for promoting moral and ethical development among undergraduates--the presentation of dilemmas, explicit instruction on methods of analysis, developmental psychology content, and service learning. Yet research is sparse with respect to the role of course-sponsored writing assignments and the practices and written productions they generate. To the extent such research exists, it tends to be framed by Lawrence Kohlberg's model student development, a model challenged by later scholars such as Carol Gilligan for its gender bias. Such research also favors quantitative methodologies informed by Kohlberg's work. This paper employs a qualitative approach, analyzing data from interviews with three University of Michigan women undergraduates on their conceptions of morality and ethics and the role of course-sponsored writing in their moral and ethical development. The paper specifically examines the role of perspective-taking in student writing, identified by the interviewees as central to their complex consideration of moral and ethical concerns. The paper further theorizes the students' notion of perspective-taking within the existing developmental literature and suggests its implications for the design and evaluation of course-sponsored writing assignments.

Discussing Bodies Within and Beyond the Classroom: How Writers Negotiate Issues of Audience, Purpose and Identity. Staci Shultz and Heather Thomson, University of Michigan, Joint Program in English & Education, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

What are the implications of discussing eating disorders and the body within the college classroom? How do students enter into these discussions? As instructors, we may be anxious about working with these emotionally complex essays, yet we cannot ignore their presence. Speaker One will discuss how instructors and students engage in discussions of bodies, and the implications of addressing--or not addressing--a social pressure that threatens our students. Speaker Two will explore how bodies get discussed outside the classroom--specifically, in chat rooms on the Internet. Questions that will guide our discussion include: How do these discussions call upon the instructor to participate? How do writers' strategies change when there is no instructor involved? How does each rhetorical space inform students' dialogue? How do students negotiate the "rules" of each space? How do students construct identities through their writing? How do notions of public and private get disrupted? What motivates students to discuss eating disorders? In addition to speaking from our own experiences, we will include contemporary scholars' discussions of performance, writing and bodies. The conversations within these rhetorical spaces where women write about their relationships to their bodies and to suffering cannot be ignored.

E-Preaching: Can Homiletics be taught Over the Internet? Angela K. Zimmann, Bowling Green State University, Department of English, Rhetoric and Writing, Bowling Green, OH 43403

Although "technology" is commonly associated with the late twentieth-century apparatus of the computer, its use in the composing process, and the debates surrounding that use, date to the time of Plato. Today, compositionists join in the debate: should writing be taught with pencil only? With classrooms that are aided by the use of computers? Or can composition be taught strictly online? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches? At the same time, seminaries and theological institutions are facing the same questions related to teaching practices. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in particular, the declining seminary enrollments are resulting in empty pulpits and closing congregations. Is it possible that online education in seminaries might enable an influx of students, particularly in the mainline denominations such as the ELCA? This paper will examine these possibilities, with a specific focus on how homiletic-the ancient art of rhetoric known as preaching-can be taught successfully in an online environment. Examples of techniques that can aid in online teaching-not simply in homiletics courses, but in cross-disciplinary contexts as well-will be addressed.

Encouraging Students to Explore Text-Image Interplay. Daniel Godston and Jonn Salovaaraicago, Columbia College Chicago, Department of English, Chicago, IL 60647

How can we help students to think about how images interplay with texts? How do texts support or diverge from images, and vice versa? How can we facilitate projects whereby students create works that combine texts and images? How can different kinds of text-image explorations help students improve their composition writing skills? We plan to discuss text-image projects our Composition students have developed, which have included: works inspired by Rene Magritte paintings, Joseph Cornell boxes, and Saul Steinberg and Roz Chast cartoons; short stories that knit together invented narratives based on photos viewed at the Museum of Contemporary Photography; Arcimboldo-inspired self-portraits with accompanying texts; and collaborative works with classmates, such as Rube Goldberg-inspired inventions with accompanying sets of "imaginative" instructions. We will also discuss how our students have used their experiences with the aforementioned projects as preparation for essay writing assignments.

Seeing the Future of Communication: Using Tarot Cards to Foster Visual and Written Composition. Casey J. Rudkin, Michigan Technological University, Department of Rhetoric & Technical Communication, Houghton, MI 49931-1295

At Michigan Technological University, we have a Sophomore-level composition course titled, "Revisions." In it, we emphasize oral, visual and written communication. To foster students' visual and written composition skills, as well as to underscore the importance of the intertwined nature of the two areas, I developed an exercise using Tarot cards. In my paper, I outline the parameters of the assignments, including the goals students can expect to achieve in the process of completing these projects. I will also include some examples of student work, showing the value of the assignment, as well as examples of student reactions to the project. While completing this month-long arc of Tarot assignments, students strengthened their skills in visual rhetorical analysis, written composition and visual composition. Furthermore, I found that students enjoyed the assignments, a key to motivation and engagement. As part of my presentation, I will bring materials that other teachers can use in the teaching of composition or visual rhetoric, so they are able to run these assignments, if they so choose. It is my hope that members of the audience for my presentation will come to understand the positive pedagogical implications and visual elements inherent in a Tarot deck.

Writing into the University: A Study of High School Students' Perceptions of Accessing Higher Education. Lorie Jacobs, University of Nevada, Reno, Department of English, Reno, NV 89557

As members of academia, we are well aware that writing and composition play an essential role in learning and critical thinking. Perhaps this explains why so much of the college application is written: forms, entrance essays, placement essays, standardized tests, letters of intent, etc. David Bartholomae suggests in "Inventing the University," students must appropriate academic discourse, must "take on the role of privilege" and "establish authority." The paradox is that we ask novices to act like experts, in order to prove themselves worthy of college instruction. There is a call for institutions of higher learning to increase diversity on campus and build bridges for under-represented groups. Yet the college application is still geared to the privileged few, experienced writers. How do urban students, who attend schools with fewer writing opportunities and fewer advanced classes, face the challenge of applying for higher education? Does perceived writing ability play a role in the decision to apply? This speaker will present the results of a research study which investigates underrepresented high school students' perceptions of writing and literacy in accessing the university. The results of the study will suggest how we, as teachers of writing, can build in-roads for challenged students.

Expand the Audience: Excellence in L2 Writing. Susan Ruellan, Madonna University, Department of Arts and Humanities, Livonia, MI 48150; and Marian Woyciehowicz Gonsior, University of Detroit Mercy, American Language and Culture Program, Detroit, MI 48221

This paper begins with a look at the traditional role writing textbooks assign to audience in student writing, with examples from both L1 and L2 texts. In addition, some traditional techniques to help students notice this aspect of writing with strategies such as RAFT and FAT-P are presented. Possible explanations as to why students may resist moving from writer- to reader-base prose, in which the importance of the audience is recognized, are explored. Such resistance, for example, might be based on a lack of writing experience or more difficult to overcome cultural factors such as those investigated in contrastive rhetoric studies. Next, the authors consider reasons why the audience should be enlarged. Compared to a traditional EAP audience relationship, which is usually restricted to teacher and student, an expanded audience model is proposed. It is suggested that creating a broader readership benefits both student and teacher. The development of voice, sense of authorship, purpose and the creation of a larger discourse community contribute to a sense of accomplishment and improved quality in student writing. To conclude, suggestions to encourage excellence in L2 writing in the classroom and beyond are offered, some of which include peer newsletters, presentations, and public readings.

Abstract: Grammar(s) in the Context of Writing a Personal Narrative. Erin Knoche Laverick, University of Findlay, Intensive English Language Program, Findlay, Ohio 45840-3695

The Intensive English Language Program (IELP) at The University of Findlay offers two undergraduate level writing courses that prepare students for the required freshman composition course offered through the English department. These bridge courses follow the English department's curriculum but focus on second language writing strategies. The second more advanced bridge course introduces students to three different genres of writing: summary/reaction, narrative, and persuasion. In the narrative unit, several grammatical and syntactical lessons are implemented to help improve students' abilities to analyze and correct fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices. A major skill in learning English as a second language is recognizing grammatical errors, analyzing the mistakes, and properly correcting them. This presentation will, therefore, focus on how to use error analysis to help students improve grammatical skills in the context of writing a narrative.

A Writing Assignment for Developing Student Skills in Synthesizing Arguments. Rob Sulewski, University of Michigan, Program in Technical Communication, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2101

The ability to evaluate sources and to synthesize an argument from them is crucial to composition and paramount in technical writing. The strength of an argument is directly related to the credibility of the sources and the arguments they offer. A take-home writing assignment for first-year engineering students gives practice in these skills. Each student is asked to assume the role of a supervising engineer at a chemical firm. The scenario centers on a lab accident in which a technician was slightly injured while the engineer was out of the lab. The report must include what happened, who or what is responsible, and any recommendations to prevent incidents of this kind. The sources and evidence are also provided, but have differing levels of credibility. Proper evaluation of the evidence leads to clear solutions to the questions the report is supposed to answer. Experience shows that the assignment is complex, and the students need some shepherding through the process. This enhances their use of office hours. While by no means the only challenging assignment in this critical area, it is one that can be used early in the term, especially if students will evaluate sources related to a larger, term-long project.

Composing Workplace Rhetoric: Negotiating the Shared Authority of Interpretive Communities. Lew Caccia, Kent State University, Department of English, Kent, OH 44242

How does white-collar management at a Fortune 500 automotive manufacturing plant construct safety documents that are both of and for production-floor employees? What clues might be inferred from the holistic distribution of discourse features across a corpus of such documents? What clues might be inferred from an extended analysis of selected excerpts? I explore these questions through content analysis (Titscher, Meyer, Wodak, & Vetter, 2000) of Communications Toolkits and observational data gathered at the plant. The categorical framework supporting the analysis adapts the model offered by Stillar (1998), who argues that the complexity and consequences of everyday texts deserve more careful examination. This presentation argues that the Communications Toolkits, distinctive for its "supervisor's necktie" design template, function in ways that both complement yet complicate the corporation's "team concept." The results of the content analysis suggest the Toolkits exemplify how everyday texts can function as both social and symbolic acts. As a social act, the written text is sequentially embedded within a chain of workplace activity. The text thus rhetorically responds to past occupational events and rhetorically anticipates future possibilities. As a symbolic act, the written text represents a socially configured system of institutional rules, relations, and resources.

A Class Exercise for Developing Student Skills in Writing Overviews. Rob Sulewski, University of Michigan, Program in Technical Communication, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2101

In technical report writing, the Overview constitutes the context and kernel of the argument. It is plausibly the most important part. In-class exercises often ask the students to solve some technical problem before writing the Overview, leaving little time for writing and in-class evaluation. One in-class exercise aids students in practicing an Overview and the audience considerations that drive it. Making use of class design teams formed to develop a term project, students are given a written scenario in which the teams assume the role of a staff engineer who has been asked by his/her manager to evaluate and correct a legitimate customer complaint. The students then write the Overview, much as they would in a real report, on transparencies for class presentation. The exercise is especially challenging because the manager receiving the report is both ornery and responsible for the problem the staff engineer must correct. Students have no trouble completing the exercise, but, because the Overview is to be read by someone who is difficult and the source of the issue, the students must negotiate a delicate rhetorical situation. In discussion, I treat this and various writing aspects, such Overview essentials and their proper order.

Teaching and Learning Revision: History, Theory and Practice. Catherine Haar, Anne Becker, Jeanie Robertson, Kasia Kietlinska, Alice Horning, David Calonne, Robert Lamphear and, Cathleen Breidenbach, Oakland University, Department of Rhetoric, Rochester, MI 48309

As students revise--the best scenario--they learn from each other. As the students' writing improves, the student community gains confidence, discussions pick up, reworked essays are passed around, and a general sense of shared inquiry starts to build. In this panel, we will draw on our work as authors of Revision: History, Theory and Practice, to explore how students reach this point by examining the teaching and learning of revising from a variety of different perspectives. The first of eight brief segments will examine definitions of revision; then we will move to (2) theories of revision, (3) how basic writers see revision, (4) ESL and second language writers' challenges in revising their writing, (5) professional writers' approaches as they contrast with the approaches of student writers and (6) creative writers' thoughts and strategies for revising prose and poetry. Finally, speaker 7 will discuss revision as it is presented in current composition handbooks and rhetoric, and speaker 8 will provide a set of practical guidelines for assignment design, drafting and classroom work, gleaned from scholars and classroom teachers. The session will then be open for questions and discussion among all participants.
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Publication:Michigan Academician
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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