Class Synthesis 3/1

Our class discussion followed several deep questions about the readings.  The first, regarding the Royster reading, was how teachers judge a student’s authentic voice.  The ensuing discussion tied back to the class’s original definition of authentic voice in the second class of the semester: stylistic choices that are consistent across multiple writing formats.  Several other ideas about authentic voice were put forward, such as whether code-switching compromises an individual’s authentic voice – meaning they have only one authentic voice, and any change in speech is an affectation.  Taken to the extreme, this could mean that a writer shaping their text to the audience to any extent compromises their authentic voice; in such a case, theoretically a writer could only use their authentic voice when writing without a target audience.  There was a general consensus that authentic voice is vital to a student’s writing ability, but also plenty of speculation about how authenticity can or cannot be encouraged through editing student work; teachers must help their students improve without stifling their creativity.  Teachers must have genuine conversations with their students, and learn to talk and listen rather than just talk back and forth.

Another concern was whether teachers can fairly judge authentic voice based on standard English.  Students of differing cultural and lingual backgrounds have less command of the language than native speakers, which often results in logistical errors such as grammar and punctuation, but focusing on these errors blocks said students from expressing themselves effectively and learning the deeper aspects of writing, such as authentic voice and argumentation.

Memorable Quotes

“What might happen if we treated differences in subject position as critical pieces of the whole, vital to thorough understanding, and central to both problem-finding and problem-solving?” (Royster 34).

“The call for action in cross-boundary exchange is to refine theory and practice so that they include as a phenomenon that is constructed and expressed visually and orally, and as a phenomenon that has import also in being a thing heard, perceived, and reconstructed” (Royster 30).

The major question asked regarding the Rose reading was why remedial classes so often fail to remediate students; and how can students be effectively remediated?  Discussion yielded a consensus that the very act of placing students in remedial learning tracks limits their potential to succeed.  In Rose’s words, “Students will float to the mark you set”; in context, this means that placing students in remedial learning tracks tells them that the bar has been lowered for them, and they are less motivated to meet it, knowing they are considered below average.  This effect persists regardless of how the remedial classes are described: Rose was placed in the “vocational track,” but he and his classmates knew they were essentially remedial students, and many chose to dismiss their schooling and not try in the first place rather than try and fail.

Concerning effective remediation, there was far more consensus about what not to do than what to do, including relegating students to discouraging remedial tracks.  Proposed strategies for remediation tied back to the Royster readings, including working more personally with students and trying to understand their errors, rather than underrating their ability based on cosmetic errors like grammar.  Another proposal was to lessen emphasis on assessment early in schooling, while students gained momentum in their education and identified their strengths and weaknesses, though this would require extensive revision of the current educational system.

Memorable Quotes

“Students will float to the mark you set” (Rose 2).

“You’re defined by your school as ‘slow’; you’re placed in a curriculum that isn’t designed to liberate you but yo occupy you, or, if you’re lucky, train you, though the training is for work the society does not esteem” (Rose 3).

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Collaborative Pedagogy

Collaborative pedagogy as it is currently understood was defined by Kenneth A. Bruffee in 1984, through his three principles that have since become staples of the theory.  These principles are as follows:

  1. Thought is “internalized conversation,” thus thought and communication tend to function similarly.
  2. Thought is “internalized public and social talk,” thus all writing is such internalized talk “made public and social again.”
  3. Learning collaboratively means to create and maintain knowledge among “a community of knowledge peers” through a process called “socially justifying belief” (Kennedy and Howard 37)

In essence, Bruffee characterizes collaborative learning as a means of engaging students “more deeply” with the text by providing a “social context” in which they can exchange and digest ideas.  This process trains students in the style of academic discourse sought by college professors.