Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Post-process pedagogy

Post-process pedagoy is a reaction to process pedagogy that was founded to get away from product pedagogy, but ultimately ended up focusing on the end-product as well. Post-process pedagogy offers a variety of assignments to cater to students' different learning styles. It is hard to put into a pedagogy because it wants to get away from structured styles, with its emphasis that writing "cannot be taught."

An example of post-process pedagogy is Dr. Rickly and Dr. Rice's assignment which allowed students to write a term paper or create a media project. The goals of the assignment are the same in the end, in terms of what they're looking for, but the methods or the means are optioned for the students. Another example is Dr. Whitlark's mid-terms assignment. He left the project open ended in terms of content requirements, as long as the students adequately proved to him what they had learned this semester. Finally, at Angelo State, I took a class that allowed students to take different forms of a test, either short answer to several objective questions, or one long essay to one all-encompassing question, or multiple choice and true/false questions. All of these assignments allow for variety in the classroom.

In my classroom, I'd like to try to create a variety of assignments, so that students aren't just reading texts and taking tests. I want to mix up the assignments with projects, presentations, papers, etc. Also, in terms of the composing process, I want to be able to offer them variety. For example, if I have my students brainstorm for an assignment, I won't make them "brainstorm" in a specific way. They can free write, draw clusters, draw outlines, write a draft of a paragraph or two, or they can think. The assessment for the assignment will be their ability to prove to me (verbally or written) that they have thought about the assignment and begun planning how to write their drafts.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The cracked clay pot

On Tuesday night, my mom called and asked if my sister and I would like to come to their house for dinner. My sister and I live together in a little rent house, not too far from my parents. We try not to over-indulge in the blessings of “mom’s cooking” (or free meals, for that matter), but when the invitation is straight from mom herself, who can refuse? Especially when pot roast, baked potatoes, and cream corn are involved. So, we went over there just as the food was almost ready. We all chatted in the kitchen, my sister and I helping to set the table. When the food was ready, we gathered around the island to fix our plates, particularly the baked potato. Then one by one, we made our way to the table to sit. Most of the conversation revolved around our days. My sister’s stories from work, my stories from class or papers I’d graded. Bits of news and gossip we had heard throughout the day. As we finished eating, we took our plates to the sink, one by one, each returning to the table. The conversation continuing. Eventually, my mom started to put the food up, and my dad began to wash the dishes. My sister and I started cleaning the table and counters. Within minutes the kitchen was clean again, and my sister and I went home.

Seems like a relatively normal dinner setting. And for our family, it is perfectly normal and routine. However, (and mostly for the sake of this assignment), I started to think and reflect on the situation in a different way. I never noticed how we share responsibilities so much. There’s no “formality.” Even in terms of “seating,” we don’t have assigned seats. I have sat in every seat at our dining room table. I think most families can’t say that. No one has a particular seat they always sit in. We all just sort of sit down wherever and by whomever. Also, usually my mom does the cooking, but we all help in some way. In terms of cleaning, sometimes I do the dishes, sometimes my dad does them. My sister and my mom usually put the food away. But what’s most peculiar about it all is that there’s no “delegating” or “commanding.” We just did it all, in the most natural sort of way.

I know that my family is extremely close. We are unified together, and probably stronger than most families because of it. Usually when someone says their family is “close,” it implies an unhealthy, over-involvement on the parents’ part (usually the mom’s). But that’s not the implication for our family. My parents have always given us the room to fail. I think that’s the best way to say it. The problem with “close” families, usually, is that the parents’ won’t let their children fail—or make decisions for that matter. My parents taught us important life-principles…and then stepped back. My siblings and I have always been open in our communication with them, but not from their being pushy about it. I think it’s because we have the freedom to be honest with them about anything we’ve done (good or bad) and we’re able to make our own decisions, that their opinions and respect become more important. I know that I’ve been truly blessed to have a good family. Most people can’t say that. Certainly we’re not perfect. We each have our own values and annoyances. But I feel like we’ve aged well together. If I were to describe our family as a clay pot, we’re not perfectly formed and painted. We would more likely have cracks and holes. In some places, the paint would be faded or stripped altogether. But we’re beautiful in our own way because of the things we’ve been through and overcome. I believe we reflect the reality of life, which is hardly ever picture perfect.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What a glorious day....

Blog Prompt: Does "voice" that resonates compete with or enhance "academic voice"? How can we write successfully as "academics" and still have voice?

The quick answers are yes, and I don’t know. Yes, my real voice competes with my academic voice. How do I fix that? I’m not sure, but I do think it’s possible. I still remember the first time a professor really challenged me to find my voice. I’ve shared this story in class before. It was my senior year of college. I had spent my entire academic writing career (if high school and such can count as part of that “career”) writing with the “formula.” Seven to ten sentences for a paragraph. Never begin a sentence with “and” or “but.” No contractions. No fragments, not even for emphasis. When it came to sources, my words were buried between indirect and direct quotations. My professor looked at me and looked at my paper and said, “Where are you in all this?” I couldn’t answer him. I had no idea. It was a good paper, in terms of grammar and mechanics. Clear thesis, concise, but valid arguments with supporting statements. But it lacked passion. It lacked voice. Particularly my voice. I write all the time. It’s something I’ve loved doing for as long as I can remember. When I read my journals or prose writings, I can hear myself. Others who read my work have a clear portrait of who I am. How do I make that transfer?

When we read Harris’ chapter on Voice, I remember thinking that his voice was so distinct. Even before he mentioned the editing that had gone into that chapter (in terms of “real voice” being in quotes so often), I had noticed his voice among the voices he was citing. Elbow’s article on voice was similar in that way. Both are scholarly, academic articles with individual, non-academic voice. I mean, of course, they’re writing on voice, so one would expect their words to have personality. But how do they do it?

My theory? I think we have to learn the formulaic writing first. We learn to write in an academic voice that’s not our own. We read levels that are higher than our ability to produce them, and so we aspire to imitate that kind of writing. I think that’s pretty common. So my theory is this… When we master the formula, we learn how to break the rules. In theory, I will eventually become confident in my academic writing. When this confidence takes place, I will learn how to be more assertive about what I think. My opinion. As a result, my voice will start to dominate the other academic voices in my paper (i.e. my sources). I’ll feel less constrained to follow the academic rules of the text. I will know them and mostly abide by them, but now I will have power over them. I will have the power to freely express, freely choose my words, my form, my structure.

What a glorious day…

Sunday, October 14, 2007

To Teach or Not To Teach?

What is teaching? This almost seems like a loaded question! Teaching in itself implies so many different things. I guess at its basic definition it means to give or impart knowledge to someone. However, the act of teaching is synonymous with other crucial words like to coach, to train, to educate, to tutor, etc. Teaching is so much more than a lecture. It’s more than standing in front of the class and talking. And it’s more than just what you talk about. It makes me think of what Francis of Assisi said about the Gospel of Jesus: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” That’s how I feel about teaching. Teaching doesn’t always require “explaining.” Knowledge can be imparted through modeling. Knowledge can also be “learned” through experience.

I guess my definition of teaching sort of runs into my teaching philosophy as well. I don’t mean to belittle the importance of explaining information. Certainly, I plan to do some of that in my classroom. =) But, I fully believe in helping students teach themselves. I suppose that group work, peer editing, and group/class discussions will be an important part of my teaching philosophy. I believe in fostering students’ learning. Experience through failures and successes. Lessons learned by challenge, by critical thinking. I remember the first teacher I had who forced me to think. Really think. He didn’t give me the answers all the time. He showed me how to find the answers myself, and it was the best gift he could have given. That’s what I want to do for my students. I want to help them problem solve and think critically—those are the skills to “teach” because those are the skills they can use and transfer to any situation.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Questions to ponder...

What I love about this class is how much it gets me thinking, especially in those futuristic terms of “when I have my class…” But at the same time, this class has raised so many questions, some of which might not be answerable necessarily.

Writing has always been something I love doing—literally my whole life. I have been writing stories and journaling about my day for as long as I can remember. My parents tell me that even before I could actually write words or make coherent sentences, I used to write “stories” that I would read to them. I knew exactly what was in my head, and I knew exactly how I wanted to write it down. Ever since I started school, English has always been my favorite subject. I didn’t come to love reading or writing because of a teacher. I just always loved it. There have certainly been teachers that could have quenched that passion in me, but for the most part, I have never encountered an English class that I didn’t (eventually) get something out of. (I say eventually, because sometimes I didn’t appreciate the work I learned in a class until it was over.) How do I give/make/offer someone that same passion? More importantly, how do I teach a skill that I find mostly inherent? And it gets even more complicated considering 99% of the students I will someday stand before in Eng 1301 do not even want/care to write. How do I make it important to them? Is it possible to love English too much to be able to teach it?

I also wonder about other areas, which are more quantitative. I think even as a DI, I wonder what emphasis to put on “correctness.” I love grammar. And by love, I mean I literally love everything about it. I love the structure, the rules, the prescriptive, the descriptive. I love diagramming sentences and memorizing grammatical formulas. I love it all. But I also recognize that I am probably one of 10 people who love grammar so much. I think the most recent thing I’ve learned about “correctness,” in terms of what will probably become part of my teaching philosophy, is the importance of revision. My expectations for a first draft, second draft, third draft, or final draft will probably vary greatly. But when grammar does become more important, how do I teach it? Given the knowledge I now have—that students don’t learn grammar 2 or 4—what is the point of teaching it at all? How much does it matter? I still stand firm that it does matter. But how much? A little? A lot? I don’t know.

I think that I’ve raised enough questions for today. So, that’s all for now.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The end of composition as we know it!

The “End of Composition” has implications that composition class in general is no longer necessary. Instead, students would learn the writing skills they need directly from the specific context they will need it in. A chemistry major or a biology major would never need to know how to write a literary analysis paper; therefore, they would take chemistry writing classes instead of English writing classes. In this way, they’re learning to write with the skills they need. The problem with this is: how do students develop writing skills in all their classes, cross-majors, in order to graduate (regardless of the degree emphasis they choose)? Isn’t this what composition teaches them? They learn how to write for different genres.

The “End of Composition” can also have to do with being able to teach students how to transfer their writing skills from writing in an English class to writing in other disciplines. Based on the “Transfer” article we read, we, as teachers, need to teach students how to transfer skills they learn in a composition class to other more practical areas. It’s strange to think about, but basically it would mean that we no longer teach them how to write for the “composition” genres. Instead, it would be teaching them skills for other contexts and how to use those skills when they’re writing for that context (i.e. a chemistry lab report, or a history analysis paper, or a business memo, etc). Sadly, even if students are able to grasp an ability to write correctly for the style in an English class, they are often not able to apply those skills in other contexts or genres.

The skill we need to teach students for this “transfer” is somehow helping them see the similarities between what they’ve already been taught and what they will need to do in future writings. In theory, this sounds nice, but I’m not exactly sure what this looks like in practical terms. Isn’t this what 1302 is supposed to do here at Tech?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Teaching Philosophies

I think that a philosophy of teaching and a philosophy of composition could be two different things altogether. A philosophy of teaching concerns your teaching style in any classroom while the philosophy of composition is concerned only with how you teach in the writing classroom. Both deal with how you think students should be taught in the classroom setting.

Certainly there are different types of philosophies. I am not familiar with the correct terminology for a teaching philosophy—this seems like an education major’s jargon. However, I do know some of the philosophies I’ve experienced. For example, some teachers believe in active learning, such as stimulating group discussions or classroom question and answer set-ups. The questions could be over the reading assignment or whatever the students had for homework the night before. Another style of teaching is smaller group work, in which students “teach” students what they learned from the assignment or the homework, etc. I think peer editing groups fall into this category. Finally, some teachers prefer to lecture, using either personal notes or power points. This is, perhaps, the most common teaching style.

For me, I think I want to use a combination of teaching philosophies. I know that I want my students to be actively involved in the learning process. I had an English teacher my junior year of college who wrote every students’ name on a note card. During class, she would ask a question about the literature assignment (a book we were reading or a poem), and then she would call out the name on top of her stack. That student had to answer the question. Eventually, she would move through the stack of names, though not every student answered a question every day. She rarely gave quizzes over the reading assignments, but every student read. It was usually obvious if you didn’t know the answer to a question because you hadn’t read. However, she was also very gracious about answering the question for the student if he or she could demonstrate knowledge that they read, but weren’t sure of the answer. The whole class participated, and we learned from our peers. I always enjoyed seeing what the other classmates felt about the reading instead of just being told how to analyze it by the teacher. I definitely want to incorporate something like this into my classroom if I ever teach a literature class. I would also like to have group discussions that are more flexible, meaning that any student could answer or contribute. Either way, I want my students to quickly learn how to analyze for themselves instead of expecting me to give them the answers. I want them to learn how to think critically and develop their own opinions. Finally, I realize I will probably have to lecture as well. There are aspects of teaching that require me to impart my knowledge about the subject to the students. Even in these class settings, though, I still want my students to feel engaged and a part of my lecture. I want them to be free to ask questions or make comments at any times. For composition classes, which I do think require a different or adjusted teaching philosophy, I want to use free writing or journal writing as a warm-up exercise. I also like the idea of peer editing for composition classes. Mostly, I want them to write as much as possible rather than just learn about writing. However, even in these settings, lectures are necessary. At some point, I need to explain how to cite sources, or how to organize a paper based on its genre, etc. I still want my students to feel free to ask questions and engage in the writing process even as I am teaching about it.

Well, I think I have thoroughly exhausted this question. So, that’s all for now.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More than just a grader...

My approach to ICON is from a Document Instructor’s point of view. When I first learned that I would be a Document Instructor, I figured it was more like just grading than actual instructing. However, since I’ve actually begun to grade papers, I have a different outlook on my job. I am doing more than just slapping a grade on a paper. I have the opportunity to help my students learn through their mistakes. Maybe I am an optimist, but I guess a part of me wants to believe that the student looks at my commentary and works through his or her mistakes. I take the time to do more than just point out errors. I try to show them how to fix their mistakes. I also want to explain the reason behind the rules. Instead of just writing “comma here” or something, I try to explain the purpose and logic behind the comma. I think it helps them learn how to write correctly for future papers.

In this way, I think I am a part of the facilitators on ICON. Within our grading group, we have the opportunity to work together to communicate with students. We work with our CIs, so that we are on the same level with our standards for grading as well as what parts of the assignment we want to emphasize. Our purpose is not necessarily to make our jobs easier. Instead, we’re trying to be consistent with the students, so that they get the best learning opportunity they can.

I worked in the writing center during my undergrad at Angelo State. As a result, I feel prepared or equipped to be a DI this semester. At the writing center, we looked at each student’s paper with them. We only had a limited amount of time to help the student, so we started with the most important elements first. In our writing center, we called it “global” issues and “local” issues. We were trained to completely ignore “local” issues (i.e. grammar, syntax, mechanics, etc) until the “global” issues were correct or at least on track. Global issues can range from organization and structure to if the paper meets the objectives of the assignment in general. Basically, we looked at content above all: what the student wrote, rather than how they wrote it.

I think what we do in ICON is similar. We can only spend so much time on a paper. The key is to hit the most important elements. I try to help the students with the global issues as well as the local issues. The logic behind this type of approach is that a student can only take in so much information at once. The idea is to help the student with the big stuff at first. As his or her writing progresses, then the instructor can begin to help with the smaller stuff. What makes this easier in a writing center and harder on ICON is the difference in the number of students. At least for now, it’s hard to know each of the students I’m grading for beyond just a student ID number. So, in some ways, I have to help with the small stuff and the big stuff at once. However, the principle still works in terms of the student’s growth in writing between now and the end of the semester.

I believe the students will have an equal opportunity to grow in their writing this semester. I also believe that each of my students can succeed in becoming a better writer. I truly hope that I will be proud to see that type of growth across the board as the semester ends. Maybe I am being extremely optimistic. =)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Shutting up

Now that I am taking this composition class, I have started thinking more seriously about my teaching philosophy. Thursday’s discussion was particularly effective for me in that it caused me to think about specific teaching methods I would use in the classroom and more specifically, about teaching first year composition.

I think the most important thing I want to implement is sharing authority within the classroom. Lunsford and Glenn discuss the importance of letting students’ voices be heard in order to develop their learning abilities. From the Take 20 video, I believe one teacher referred to it as the teacher “shutting up” sometimes. Writing is something that is nearly impossible to simply lecture and expect someone to learn. It must be hands on activity, and that activity must be shared. I believe fully in the value to be found when students begin to learn how to learn. As we discussed in class, it begins with challenging teachers who are willing to let students struggle through an assignment in order to develop their own abilities to think critically.

In addition, I think it is important to know the students’ “cultural history,” as discussed in Bedford/St. Martin’s essay. A teacher must know the cultural influences that have played a role in a student’s life in order to understand the biases towards writing he or she might have. Students’ attitudes towards writing affect their ability as well as their effort to write. By knowing the ethnic, socioeconomic, etc., background of a student, a teacher is better equipped to reshape (if necessary) or encourage a student toward writing.

Finally, I have to insert the “cliché” Lunsford and Glenn refer to for my final concept: making the work relevant to the student. The difficulty lies in knowing what students will find relevant; however, I believe the task is necessary. Sometimes, even letting students choose their own topics is enormously effective. Writing is personal, and it can become even valued by an uninterested student if he or she is allowed to write about his or her interests or concerns. Students will care more about their work if they feel it matters, not only to them but to others in the class as well.

That is all for now… =)