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Category: Uncategorized

Developmental Writing in the Historical Trajectory of Rhetoric

This post originally appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here. "So when you get your PhD, will they let you teach real classes?" This question came from a student in my first year of teaching developmental writing. I was saddened by her apparent belief that she wasn't a "real" student and told her so, but the question kept coming up in different forms. One particularly strong writer who had spent the semester producing complex pieces of analysis written with poetic flair seemed almost angry as he visited me in office hours (voluntarily) to talk about his future plans as a writer: "What is this? Are you just trying to be a big fish in a small pond? Why are you teaching this class?" Most heartbreaking of all was a student who said in front of the entire class, "You seem really smart, so why are you teaching us?" It's a question I've gotten from other…

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A Closer Look at the Term “Remedial” (Part 3)

This post originally appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here.  In Part 1, we looked at how Harvard's elective system expanded the boundaries of who got to go to college while using written entrance exams to police language standards. In Part 2, we examined how the creation of open admissions colleges and the expansion of community colleges imploded existing boundaries around college admissions and created new crises in language standard maintenance. I started this series by questioning what it means to label classes as "remedial." As we've seen, what was once "remedial" can quickly become the new standard. Some will view this as meaning that we have "dumbed down" our curriculum to accommodate students who couldn't meet the rigor of the previous standards. That's one way to look at it, I suppose. But once you take into account the socioeconomic elements of identity that are tied around educational inclusion and exclusion, it can't be that simple.…

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A Closer Look at the Term “Remedial” (Part 2)

This post first appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here.  In the first part of this series, I took a look at how Harvard started freshman comp in the 1870's and expanded college access through meritocracy, a feat which hinged squarely on its entrance exam and essay component. This essay exam essentially existed to ensure that all of the students entering Harvard could write right. This post will further explore what the implications of that practice mean for students and for social perceptions of their education.  Have you ever taken an essay entrance exam? It's not really about the quality of writing at all. At least, not if writing means being able to articulately and convincingly share information with a specific audience in a meaningful way. No, an essay entrance exam is about testing whether or not you follow the conventions of writing and much less about whether or not you can actually say anything. This is why…

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A Closer Look at the Term “Remedial” (Part 1)

The following post originally appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here.  I teach "developmental writing" courses. You may also hear these classes referred to as "basic writing" or "remedial writing." Whatever the term, the point is the same: these classes won't count for college credit, and they're caught in a gap between college and not-college, a zone that everyone involved--administrators, instructors, and especially students--senses acutely. As much as I believe in my students' abilities, and as much as I know that they come into my classroom with rich experiences, perspectives, and ideas to share, there is nothing that I can do to convince them or myself that I am not teaching within a class of writing that is publicly perceived as less legitimate than, subordinate to, and at best working toward "real" college writing: the freshman composition class. While there have been many wonderful efforts to give students in developmental classes more (much-deserved) respect and…

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Fast Food Pedagogy: Slowing Down and Taking Stock

I don't think I need to do much to convince you that fast food (and its impact on everything from the economy to Americans' waistlines and heart attack rates) is frequently demonized in both media and casual conversation. Regardless of the widespread disdain for the Golden Arches' ubiquity, it's clear that most of us are still drawn to consume, even as we criticize. I'm not up…

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Are We Still Living in a “Tidy House”?

The following post originally appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here.  Today I'm reading a couple of landmark essays on developmental writing by David Bartholomae: "Inventing the University" and "The Tidy House." It's the latter that's really resonating with me and my work as a developmental writing instructor working decades after he published these words: "Basic writing has begun to seem like something naturally, inevitably, transparently there in the curriculum, in the stories we tell ourselves about English in America. It was once a provisional, contested term, marking an uneasy accommodation between the institution and its desires and a student body that did not or would not fit. I think it should continue to mark an area of contest, of struggle, including a struggle against its stability or inevitability. Let me put this more strongly. I think basic writing programs have become expressions of our desire to produce basic writers, to maintain the course,…

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Readings for a New Semester (Part 3 of 3) or, Links Roundup

This is the final post in this 3-part series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2. This isn't a single reading, so much as a link round up. And it isn't a link round up so much as a website roundup. I'm linking to the home pages of websites where I've found journalistic pieces and/or personal reflections with insight, research, and experience. Digital Pedagogy Lab's Journal, Hybrid Pedagogy. Cultural Anthropology HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) The Writing Campus  Profology Blogs Ok, this last one is an article link: How One Professor Makes Her Own Free Open Textbook.        

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Do I Need to “Get Real” About My Teaching Goals?

The following post originally appeared on Balancing Jane as part of the Blogging to My PhD series and is being crossposted here. I've managed to fall down a research rabbit hole and have spent the past few days wading through a decades-old (or, depending on how you want to tilt your perspective, millennia-old) debate. This particular iteration of the debate took place when Min-Zhan Lu published a 1992 article titled "Conflict and Struggle: The Enemies or Preconditions of Basic Writing? In it, Lu makes an argument very similar to the one that I'm using at the core of my dissertation: students labeled "remedial" are particularly positioned at a place of conflict in the academy, and a pedagogy that accepts (and even seeks) that conflict will serve them better than one that attempts to ignore or mitigate it. In making that argument, Lu angered several of her contemporary colleagues in basic writing. This entire conversation is absolutely fascinating to me, but I wanted to pull out one…

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Wikipedia’s Status in the Writing Classroom

When I was a kid, a man showed up at my door selling a set of encyclopedias. I lived on a gravel road in rural Missouri. We had to drive to get our mail, and the nearest gas station was almost ten miles away. Though the town I lived in had a library, I never visited it when I was little because I went to…

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Readings for a New Semester (Part 2 of 3)

  This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. See Part 1 on reading full-length texts here. Image courtesy of Jain Basil Aliyas     This series began with a post about the importance of reading full-length texts. In addition to these--the primary course reading for the semester--most of our assignments on DevelopingWriters.net include supplementary readings and videos, which try to capture the complex issues of our books in current…

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