I really enjoyed reading this week’s piece titled “Places of Learning” by Elizabeth Ellsworth. Specifically in the introduction, I found myself engaged and listening as influences from Shipka and even Murray seemed to echo in my ears: Process over product, multi-modality, affect, the body as materiality…
Throughout this semester I have found myself aligning with scholars like Murray and Shipka who are pushing students (as well as teachers and even the university) to consider other means of composition in order to engage with the process. Ellsworth asks: “How does the fact of human embodiment affect activities of teaching and learning?” (2). This question makes me think of my own rhetorical strategies and teaching philosophies. Teaching a first year writing course, as well as being a graduate instructor, means a very restricted agenda to an extent. Throughout the readings this semester, I want to challenge myself as a teacher and as a student to see if I can engage students to experience this “affect” or embodiment of learning. One of the main threads I noticed throughout this reading was trying to teach for an experience. Often times, the experience is argued to only be achieved during the process of learning. The product has a stigma of unimportance—and I agree to this point. I want my students to engage in the process of their writing, the experience of revision, and attempt to achieve something inside rather than only write for external reward (the grade). Though this may be difficult to implement in a first year writing course, I certainly want to begin the challenge by focusing on the processes of my own writing. I hope that by doing so I can experience this “learning self” and affect and, in turn, expand my own practices and understanding of rhetorical vehicles. Writing has always been an experience for me as a student; however, I want this experience to transfer over to my teaching as well in order to achieve pedagogical anomaly. I truly believe that stepping away from restricted meanings for “composition” will lead to an experience within the body. I wonder how we could get students, in a first year comp course, to achieve affect.
by Miranda M. Ardis & Adam Wilson
Based on our class discussion of Jody Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole, there were several essential components for Shipka’s project:
- Understanding composition’s historical context and its beginning: changing demographics of students entering into college
- The argument for process: ignoring process has made us miss the entire project’s possibilities; Shipka asks her students (as part of the process) to reflect on:
- What is their piece trying to accomplish?
- What is their methodology/rhetorical approach towards the project?
- Why did they choose this way of deconstructive composition?
- The essential question: “what is good writing?” is no longer a question for Shipka
- The split: The split between composition and communications requires us to consider what would have happened if they did not split? What would the communicative approach be if they were a cohesive discourse/ a dynamic whole?
The overview of Shipka’s project:
Jody Shipka’s project aims to show composition as a continual conversation, one that is open to debate for what the term ‘composition’ means. Shipka would argue it should certainly be multimodal, meaning that composition is no longer solely a written genre. Rather, composition aims to become all encompassing—textual, written, spoken, architectural, performance, etc. Shipka asserts that composition and the term ‘multimodal’ is often limited to the understanding of a digital mode of composing, and that when this happens, it immediately limits the agencies for composing. These agencies of mediational means rely on process, issues of relevancy (in other words, asking the students what matters to them), making meaning, and sociocultural implications in order to remediate the “old” way of thinking about composition.
Critiques of Shipka’s Project:
Several questions and critiques were raised during our class discussion of Toward A Composition Made Whole. The main critique of Shipka’s work was that assessment of student work could be troublesome if students are allowed to compose in any medium. Shipka argues that tools like a SOGC (statement of goals and choices) cause students to go through the same rhetorical processes as in “normal composition,” and teachers can grade this accordingly. However, it was argued in class that students might not go through these academic processes but rather just “give the teacher what they want.” Similarly, the question was raised about whether teachers can successfully grade these projects on a single scale with the wide variety of products that they receive. Another question raised in our discussion was whether Shipka’s method of teaching composition helps or hinders other academic writing and whether the methods learned through these processes can transfer to other discourses. While the class agreed that Shipka’s methods are interesting and engaging, several of us questioned the bigger picture implications of what is learned. A final question that was raised in our discussion was the possibility of a shift towards a more holistic composition being feasible with the “old” form of composition being so ingrained in most university writing programs.
After discussing critiques and questions about Shipka’s work, we concluded our discussion by talking about the notion and importance of “play” in the book. In composition, if there is play, like in Shipka’s multimodal approach, then it is possible that the monotony of composition can be put aside and that students may actually learn something from and have fun with their composition course.
The topic of cultural studies seems to be making its way into composition courses quite rapidly; the question “how to implement what students are learning into their actual life experiences?” remains at the root of the problem. What I find particularly interesting is that this essay comes into conversation with James Berlin’s notion of “writing for democracy” and as participating citizens. The text states: “so while writing instruction is meant to produce sophisticated critical thinkers and writers, we are left with the important question… the question is simultaneously a practical one—what can we do to produce better citizens and rhetors… can we develop rhetorical theories that surmount to insufficiencies of contemporary cultural studies” (3). However, if students are to participate in democracy and write with purpose, how do instructors teach this process? The idea of implementing cultural studies and students’ life experiences into the classroom is tricky because teachers must strike a balance to improve the quality of education, strive to be rhetorically successful in doing so, while also being mindful of sensitive material that may be encountered during the real life, cultural experiences. This gap between the personal and the social is just one struggle that the composition course must consider. I found several key terms in this essay that are of interest to me as a teacher and a student, in relation to cultural studies and composition courses: power, fantasy, desire, consensus, truth, knowledge, social, and personal. These terms show up in several locations in the text that suggest they are important; furthermore, another major factor teachers need to think about when attempting to implement cultural studies into the curriculum is: how can a student write “truthfully?” Even if a student is writing from their own cultural and life experiences, are their ideas not (to some extent) tied to another ideology? In other words, if writing cannot be ideologically free, how does this sophisticate the rhetorical aim of writing for democracy and as a participant in society?
Expressive Pedagogy is a reaction to Current Traditional Rhetoric; furthermore, this pedagogy strives to implement practices inside the classroom that fights such a dominating discourse. Quite literally throwing out traditional text books, Expressive Pedagogy encourages students to write with authenticity, voice, and empowerment. So what is authenticity? What does it mean to truly be “organic?” For the expressive pedagogue, authentic writing stems from the process of writing– not the product. It is not concerned with how “good” or “correct” the writing is, rather how true the writing becomes to the writer. Writing is a means of expression. Within the Expressive Pedagogical curriculum, the writer becomes the craftsman– a shaper of ideas, truth, and democracy. Utilizing workshops, peer revisions, and interactive lesson plans, the students become a participate in the classroom instead of solely a pupil. The goal of Expressivism is to free the student from the dominating discourses of society, free the student from the rulebook–allowing the student to understand their own sense of what “good” writing means to them. As Voltaire so eloquently stated: “Writing is the painting of the voice.”