Inkshedding selections - Session 8

On Jamie MacKinnon's "Resisting Courses, Embracing Teaching: Maintaining a rhetorically sound writing training program in the workplace"

This is in many ways the ideal teaching situation -- access to motivated people over time in context -- working from the inside with real knowledge of the details of the writing environment

The point made about the difficulty to sustain writing teaching in the workplace -- not as a course, but as a part of the everyday practices -- helps me to understand how the "container" model of coursework diagnostic-clinic metaphor runs through writing pedagogies.

About courses vs. consultations -- A lot of what goes on in the courses I teach to experienced workplace writers happens in peer to peer consultations. If I were just to consult with individuals, I would miss the dynamic interchanges that occur in workshops. Many participants have noted in their evaluations that they learned a lot from one another. Also, it doesn't necessarily follow that class theory must be general or idealized.

I'm always so glad to have perspectives like the ones provided this time by Anne and Jamie. It saves us from (over)generalizing about writing (and the development of writing abilities) from a narrow set of post-secondary education situations. More coaching, more rhetorical perspective and audience analyses, and -- with a difference -- more "grammar"!

It seems to me that writing as theory and practice faces similar struggles for status and recognition within academe and workplaces. The question is -- why? What is it about WRITING that touches all these nerves?

What I found most valuable in Jamie's presentation was the course/coach distinction and the notion that courses are useful because they're so consumable.

The calling into question of the idea of "course" is very important and very salutary, because it's one of those concepts that rue take so deeply for granted that questioning is seismic. It disturbs foundations.

My own experience is that writing tutorials are far more effective -- and efficient -- than courses, which tend to create generic and less urgent situations for students/clients.

On Wendy Strachan's "Resisting Teaching in Non-traditional Genres: Is This a Good Idea?"

I have a problem with the notion that these genroids can be taught at all. The "introductions" the students were writing weren't actually introducing anything to anybody: there simply is no rhetorical exigency. The exigency is behavioral, not rhetorical, and so you're enjoined to produce textoids -- that is, fake utterances. You presumably can set up algorithms for producing textoids, and sew the limbs together, but it won't get up and walk.

-- Russ

It's not surprising to me that the markers fell back into their "traditional" mindsets while grading non-traditional assignments -- because the fact that students mere writing for school was the REAL rhetorical situation. The gambit to write for other audiences is a pretext, with no way for people to make real decisions based on it.

It is impossible to rid instructors of biases even if we try hard. But if you allow the students to experiment and get feedback prior to the big essay, the students get the sense of where the instructors stand.

Most instructor commentary is very bad writing . . . . This presentation demonstrates one more way in which commentary can miss its mark by ignoring the writing context (even when, ironically, it's defined here by the teacher herself).

The problem of any non-traditional assignment is precisely that the instructor must imagine herself as a different audience -- work against the real rhetorical situation. No wonder it's hard to make it work -- grids, lists of desired features, etc. aside.

I think all paper really does open up the old metaphor of the "hidden curriculum" that students always encounter -- the idea that students can "hear" the contradiction between what is asked for -- but what is assumed -- so the non-traditional genres are used but evaluated as if they mere the standard products -- the default products.

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