All posts by Marissa

Words, Words, Words! (And Discourse too!)- Chapter 4: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Up to bat this week, Chapter 4 of An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method, by James Paul Gee. This chapter is titled, "Social Languages, Conversations, and Intertextuality," and I was excited to see the word "Intertextuality," because it hearkens back to my literary roots, and I look forward to seeing how it is tied in to this subject matter.

Gee opens with the idea of the social languages, the variations of language that allow for us to assume different social identities. For example, I speak differently to my parents than I would to my friends. I like that he talks about the importance of Discourse, because I would agree that language is far more nuanced than words alone, however I do see that the concern of linguistic discourse analysts is, first and foremost, language.

"Whos-doing-whats." Oh man, I had to read this part through a few times. Although it made my head spin, and it took some time to understand, ultimately I found that the breakdown of the aspirin drug information was a compelling way to explain what was meant by whos-doing-whats. I don't feel bad saying that I don't make a habit of close reading drug information for different voices and tones but, when Gee explained it bit by bit, it made perfect sense and I could hear the different voices and understand the reason for them. I'll never look at my Advil bottle the same....

The discussion of social language continued with the example of Jane, and her conversation with her parents vs. her conversation with her boyfriend. This part made me laugh from the start, based on Jane's claim that she doesn't speak in different social languages, because this would be "hypocritical" and "not being oneself." I think it was pretty clear to see where this was going from the start. It is entirely possible to speak in different social languages and still be 100% yourself. I am 100% myself when I am speaking to my friends, or to my boss, but something tells me that starting an email to my boss with "Hey bae❤️❤️❤️," as I would greet my best friend, would probably get me sent down to HR. Regardless, this discussion does raise the important fact that different phrasing is crucial within different contexts. Whether it is the difference between a conversation between parents and a friend, or between a scientific journal and a magazine, different languages are required for different interactions.

Moving on from social languages, the next section that Gee delves into is the two aspects of grammar, and he posits that one aspect refers to the traditional set of grammatical units, and the other aspect refers to the rules by which patterns are created that "signal...whos-doing-whats-within-Discourses" (50). Gee explains that these patterns are called "collocational patterns," which means that the different types of grammatical devices correlate to one another, and with Discourses. The idea of co-location makes sense to me, as a bunch or words and phrases that go together to create a certain social language.

Although it was a very technical discussion, I thought that the 112 different interpretations of the sentence regarding the death rates of lung cancer was a fantastic breakdown of the different ways that language could work, and words could be interpreted. A sentence that particularly stood out to me was:
Meaning is not merely a matter of decoding grammar, it is also (and more importantly) a matter of knowing which of the many inferences that one can draw from an utterance are relevant. And 'relevance' is a matter deeply tied to context, point of view, and culture. (54)
Very well said. Our social languages have a much bigger effect on us, and our understanding of meanings, than is immediately realized.

Moving on to the Big C Conversations section, Gee defines "Conversations: as the public debates, arguments, motifs, issues, or themes that are big in society-- looking at them all as parts of one whole capital-C Conversation. For examples, all of the parts of the mission statement of Johnson and Johnson that make up the capital-C Conversation that is the company's mission statement. The capital-C Conversations are the big ones, which include themes that reach far beyond what is immediately evident. For example, both Johnson and Johnson and Philip Morris (cigarette company) both have the idea of individual opportunity included in their mission statements, but these take on two very different manifestations in the items the respective companies produce. It is at points like this that Discourse becomes important, because in certain situations, words and ideas are not enough, and the meaning behind them is what makes the difference. Both companies may say that they value individual freedom, but one is manufacturing cigarettes. At least, that's how I read this particular section.

The final section of this chapter is called Intertextuality and, as I mentioned before, I was interested to see how Gee ties this into the subject matter.  He uses this term to identify the act of incorporating words from one social language into another-- e.g. "Shakespeare said love was such sweet sorrow." Gee cites the Oakland School Board case, and shows a few paragraphs, which exemplify the marrying together of the legal and the research language that, together, make the document work as a whole. However,  although I understood the case that Gee was making, I think it could have been better explained.  Whereas the rest of the sections were explained in much more detail, I think he skimmed over Intertextuality, which was pretty disappointing.
 

Words, Words, Words! (And Discourse too!)- Chapter 4: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Up to bat this week, Chapter 4 of An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method, by James Paul Gee. This chapter is titled, "Social Languages, Conversations, and Intertextuality," and I was excited to see the word "Intertextuality," because it hearkens back to my literary roots, and I look forward to seeing how it is tied in to this subject matter.

Gee opens with the idea of the social languages, the variations of language that allow for us to assume different social identities. For example, I speak differently to my parents than I would to my friends. I like that he talks about the importance of Discourse, because I would agree that language is far more nuanced than words alone, however I do see that the concern of linguistic discourse analysts is, first and foremost, language.

"Whos-doing-whats." Oh man, I had to read this part through a few times. Although it made my head spin, and it took some time to understand, ultimately I found that the breakdown of the aspirin drug information was a compelling way to explain what was meant by whos-doing-whats. I don't feel bad saying that I don't make a habit of close reading drug information for different voices and tones but, when Gee explained it bit by bit, it made perfect sense and I could hear the different voices and understand the reason for them. I'll never look at my Advil bottle the same....

The discussion of social language continued with the example of Jane, and her conversation with her parents vs. her conversation with her boyfriend. This part made me laugh from the start, based on Jane's claim that she doesn't speak in different social languages, because this would be "hypocritical" and "not being oneself." I think it was pretty clear to see where this was going from the start. It is entirely possible to speak in different social languages and still be 100% yourself. I am 100% myself when I am speaking to my friends, or to my boss, but something tells me that starting an email to my boss with "Hey bae❤️❤️❤️," as I would greet my best friend, would probably get me sent down to HR. Regardless, this discussion does raise the important fact that different phrasing is crucial within different contexts. Whether it is the difference between a conversation between parents and a friend, or between a scientific journal and a magazine, different languages are required for different interactions.

Moving on from social languages, the next section that Gee delves into is the two aspects of grammar, and he posits that one aspect refers to the traditional set of grammatical units, and the other aspect refers to the rules by which patterns are created that "signal...whos-doing-whats-within-Discourses" (50). Gee explains that these patterns are called "collocational patterns," which means that the different types of grammatical devices correlate to one another, and with Discourses. The idea of co-location makes sense to me, as a bunch or words and phrases that go together to create a certain social language.

Although it was a very technical discussion, I thought that the 112 different interpretations of the sentence regarding the death rates of lung cancer was a fantastic breakdown of the different ways that language could work, and words could be interpreted. A sentence that particularly stood out to me was:
Meaning is not merely a matter of decoding grammar, it is also (and more importantly) a matter of knowing which of the many inferences that one can draw from an utterance are relevant. And 'relevance' is a matter deeply tied to context, point of view, and culture. (54)
Very well said. Our social languages have a much bigger effect on us, and our understanding of meanings, than is immediately realized.

Moving on to the Big C Conversations section, Gee defines "Conversations: as the public debates, arguments, motifs, issues, or themes that are big in society-- looking at them all as parts of one whole capital-C Conversation. For examples, all of the parts of the mission statement of Johnson and Johnson that make up the capital-C Conversation that is the company's mission statement. The capital-C Conversations are the big ones, which include themes that reach far beyond what is immediately evident. For example, both Johnson and Johnson and Philip Morris (cigarette company) both have the idea of individual opportunity included in their mission statements, but these take on two very different manifestations in the items the respective companies produce. It is at points like this that Discourse becomes important, because in certain situations, words and ideas are not enough, and the meaning behind them is what makes the difference. Both companies may say that they value individual freedom, but one is manufacturing cigarettes. At least, that's how I read this particular section.

The final section of this chapter is called Intertextuality and, as I mentioned before, I was interested to see how Gee ties this into the subject matter.  He uses this term to identify the act of incorporating words from one social language into another-- e.g. "Shakespeare said love was such sweet sorrow." Gee cites the Oakland School Board case, and shows a few paragraphs, which exemplify the marrying together of the legal and the research language that, together, make the document work as a whole. However,  although I understood the case that Gee was making, I think it could have been better explained.  Whereas the rest of the sections were explained in much more detail, I think he skimmed over Intertextuality, which was pretty disappointing.
 

The Role of Teacher as Researcher

The idea of the teacher acting as a researcher strikes me in an "of course!" sort of way. Of course the teacher should be a researcher! Who else knows the classroom better? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily an "of course!" kind of thing. In class we have discussed that, often, the people in charge don't know what they're in charge of, and the people doing the research are not the people in the classrooms. That being said, I think of teachers as being somewhat like scientists in their respective fields. Scientists do research and publish their findings for the betterment of their community, and I don't think teachers should be seen differently. After all, their "field of study" is the developing human mind. Is there anything more important?

The first article I will be exploring, regarding the role of teacher as researcher, is "Developing a Definition of Teacher Research." This article begins with a beautiful quote from Marion MacLean, "Teacher researchers have faith in their students; they know too much to give up on them." This is so important, and students know the difference when a teacher is caring and engaged, vs. when they are doing the job for a paycheck. I can attest to this from the perspective of a student-- the best teachers I have ever had are the ones who are willing to be open, vulnerable, and walk alongside me.

This article defines teacher research as "inquiry that is intentional, systematic, public, voluntary, ethical, and contextual" (1). This is a bit of a wordy definition and, as Martha and Debra also noted via Hypothesis, doesn't seem to differentiate "teacher research" from any other kind of research. However, further into the article, the author (forgive my lack of noting a name, I will come back to this later, but I'm not sure who wrote this??) further unpacks this definition, as beginning with a commitment to the examination of teaching and learning, followed up with enacting change in the classroom, based on the findings. The teacher researcher studies what is important to them because, likely, it's an issue that they've noticed in their own classrooms. Further, it is, as noted in this article, "a public endeavor" (2). When teachers work together. they "intentionally shift from a private perspective to a more open, public perspective in order to encourage challenges to their understanding" (2). This is always an intelligent way to conduct research, especially in a field in which collaboration can be so helpful to so many.

Next, I looked to "The Teacher as Researcher," by Marian M. Mohr. Mohr makes a strong case against the traditional researcher as someone who isn't generally involved in the classroom for the long term, and I thought it was funny when she spoke, rather wryly, of her own ventures into her role as researcher.  Mohr's article made me consider the idea of thoughtful and intentional teaching, going into the classroom with the goal of learning alongside the students. I thought the example of the misspelling of "aggressive" was an interesting case study, and effective, considering that all of the students got that word right when tested. When students realize a teacher doesn't know everything, I think it may make the teacher more relatable. The last line summed it up well, "I am convinced that the model of a student that I provide for my students to observe will help them to become better students themselves." This is something I think that all teachers should keep in mind, and I certainly shall when my time comes.

Finally, I looked at "A Teacher-Research Group in Action," by Sandra R. Schecter and Rafael Ramirez. Off the bat, I saw that this article was published in June of 1991. so going in I know that the statistics are going to be over two decades old. This may prove to have nothing to do with the research, but it's something I like to take note of.

From the introduction, I am inclined to feel that this study went the distance to include a wide age range, which certainly works in it's advantage. Additionally, it appears to be highly comprehensive-- the participants in this study needed to passionate about being involved:


This is quite a bit of work! Continuing through the paper, I liked the description of the five segment seminar, it seemed engaging and purposeful. The only thing I wasn't completely on-board with was the concept of no syllabus whatsoever. I think that too much structure can be detrimental especially when it's used to the point of superfluity, however I think some structure is necessary and helpful.

Having read Marian Mohr's approach, I understand what the group facilitator meant by using her approach as the format for the seminar that he led. Schector and Ramirez cite the facilitator, Mike, as saying that he wanted to "experiment...to see what works and what doesn't" (4). This certainly does seem to be done in the spirit of Marian Mohr's approach, in terms of experimenting to see how the participants were to respond to a more down to earth model (i.e., Mohr broke the traditional "all-knowing teacher" model to come before her students as a student, in a comparable way this seminar broke the traditional structured model in order to try something new), but I do also think that this comparison is a bit of a stretch.

 The overall vibe that I gathered from the findings of this article was that "process is more important than the product" (5) and that open-ended questions, thinking, and time were key. I wasn't surprised that some of the participants weren't happy with the structure (or lack thereof) of the seminar, but I did find find it interesting that one participant noted that he appreciated the relaxed atmosphere for the ability to work on something that was truly his to be proud of, but admitted that "I wasn't as productive as I had been" (6). I wonder if I would have felt any differently, because I do value a degree of structure. When there are deadlines, you have something to work towards, and this is instilled in us from a young age. I think this would be a hard habit to break.

Regardless of the lack of structure, it appears that this did, in fact, have an overall positive effect on students. As I read through, I felt that I was getting a sense of excitement and invigoration from the teachers' responses, as if they were "visibly" encouraged by the community and ready to go out and share with their peers and students. The third section: "Teacher-researcher knowledge" reintroduced an unfortunate point that we have discussed in the past-- the teacher not feeling up to par with the researcher (traditionally, a university scholar). One interviewee "doubted she had the 'expertise' to undertake the indicated analyses...[and] several participants flt that their studies lacked sufficient rigor because they did not use sophisticated quantitative methods as did, they believed, university-based scholars" (8). I may be misunderstanding this, but what I read here is that teachers who are, effectively, in the trenches with their students, do not feel that their contributions are as valid as those of "scholars." This is a perception that must be broken and, as Schector and Ramirez note later on, "articles found in academic journals have little relationship to mastery of elaborate experimental methodology" (9). Teachers have a lot to offer as researchers in the learning community, and I'd be interested to read a more updated version of this study to see how things have progressed since it was published.

If a teacher loves his students, he wants to help them. He wants to put as much as he possibly can out there, in order to give them the best of himself. A teacher researcher is primarily responsible to these students and that, in my eyes, makes the role of teacher researcher a labor of love. Teachers have a lot against them, and it takes a special person to want to take on that role.

The Role of Teacher as Researcher

The idea of the teacher acting as a researcher strikes me in an "of course!" sort of way. Of course the teacher should be a researcher! Who else knows the classroom better? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily an "of course!" kind of thing. In class we have discussed that, often, the people in charge don't know what they're in charge of, and the people doing the research are not the people in the classrooms. That being said, I think of teachers as being somewhat like scientists in their respective fields. Scientists do research and publish their findings for the betterment of their community, and I don't think teachers should be seen differently. After all, their "field of study" is the developing human mind. Is there anything more important?

The first article I will be exploring, regarding the role of teacher as researcher, is "Developing a Definition of Teacher Research." This article begins with a beautiful quote from Marion MacLean, "Teacher researchers have faith in their students; they know too much to give up on them." This is so important, and students know the difference when a teacher is caring and engaged, vs. when they are doing the job for a paycheck. I can attest to this from the perspective of a student-- the best teachers I have ever had are the ones who are willing to be open, vulnerable, and walk alongside me.

This article defines teacher research as "inquiry that is intentional, systematic, public, voluntary, ethical, and contextual" (1). This is a bit of a wordy definition and, as Martha and Debra also noted via Hypothesis, doesn't seem to differentiate "teacher research" from any other kind of research. However, further into the article, the author (forgive my lack of noting a name, I will come back to this later, but I'm not sure who wrote this??) further unpacks this definition, as beginning with a commitment to the examination of teaching and learning, followed up with enacting change in the classroom, based on the findings. The teacher researcher studies what is important to them because, likely, it's an issue that they've noticed in their own classrooms. Further, it is, as noted in this article, "a public endeavor" (2). When teachers work together. they "intentionally shift from a private perspective to a more open, public perspective in order to encourage challenges to their understanding" (2). This is always an intelligent way to conduct research, especially in a field in which collaboration can be so helpful to so many.

Next, I looked to "The Teacher as Researcher," by Marian M. Mohr. Mohr makes a strong case against the traditional researcher as someone who isn't generally involved in the classroom for the long term, and I thought it was funny when she spoke, rather wryly, of her own ventures into her role as researcher.  Mohr's article made me consider the idea of thoughtful and intentional teaching, going into the classroom with the goal of learning alongside the students. I thought the example of the misspelling of "aggressive" was an interesting case study, and effective, considering that all of the students got that word right when tested. When students realize a teacher doesn't know everything, I think it may make the teacher more relatable. The last line summed it up well, "I am convinced that the model of a student that I provide for my students to observe will help them to become better students themselves." This is something I think that all teachers should keep in mind, and I certainly shall when my time comes.

Finally, I looked at "A Teacher-Research Group in Action," by Sandra R. Schecter and Rafael Ramirez. Off the bat, I saw that this article was published in June of 1991. so going in I know that the statistics are going to be over two decades old. This may prove to have nothing to do with the research, but it's something I like to take note of.

From the introduction, I am inclined to feel that this study went the distance to include a wide age range, which certainly works in it's advantage. Additionally, it appears to be highly comprehensive-- the participants in this study needed to passionate about being involved:


This is quite a bit of work! Continuing through the paper, I liked the description of the five segment seminar, it seemed engaging and purposeful. The only thing I wasn't completely on-board with was the concept of no syllabus whatsoever. I think that too much structure can be detrimental especially when it's used to the point of superfluity, however I think some structure is necessary and helpful.

Having read Marian Mohr's approach, I understand what the group facilitator meant by using her approach as the format for the seminar that he led. Schector and Ramirez cite the facilitator, Mike, as saying that he wanted to "experiment...to see what works and what doesn't" (4). This certainly does seem to be done in the spirit of Marian Mohr's approach, in terms of experimenting to see how the participants were to respond to a more down to earth model (i.e., Mohr broke the traditional "all-knowing teacher" model to come before her students as a student, in a comparable way this seminar broke the traditional structured model in order to try something new), but I do also think that this comparison is a bit of a stretch.

 The overall vibe that I gathered from the findings of this article was that "process is more important than the product" (5) and that open-ended questions, thinking, and time were key. I wasn't surprised that some of the participants weren't happy with the structure (or lack thereof) of the seminar, but I did find find it interesting that one participant noted that he appreciated the relaxed atmosphere for the ability to work on something that was truly his to be proud of, but admitted that "I wasn't as productive as I had been" (6). I wonder if I would have felt any differently, because I do value a degree of structure. When there are deadlines, you have something to work towards, and this is instilled in us from a young age. I think this would be a hard habit to break.

Regardless of the lack of structure, it appears that this did, in fact, have an overall positive effect on students. As I read through, I felt that I was getting a sense of excitement and invigoration from the teachers' responses, as if they were "visibly" encouraged by the community and ready to go out and share with their peers and students. The third section: "Teacher-researcher knowledge" reintroduced an unfortunate point that we have discussed in the past-- the teacher not feeling up to par with the researcher (traditionally, a university scholar). One interviewee "doubted she had the 'expertise' to undertake the indicated analyses...[and] several participants flt that their studies lacked sufficient rigor because they did not use sophisticated quantitative methods as did, they believed, university-based scholars" (8). I may be misunderstanding this, but what I read here is that teachers who are, effectively, in the trenches with their students, do not feel that their contributions are as valid as those of "scholars." This is a perception that must be broken and, as Schector and Ramirez note later on, "articles found in academic journals have little relationship to mastery of elaborate experimental methodology" (9). Teachers have a lot to offer as researchers in the learning community, and I'd be interested to read a more updated version of this study to see how things have progressed since it was published.

If a teacher loves his students, he wants to help them. He wants to put as much as he possibly can out there, in order to give them the best of himself. A teacher researcher is primarily responsible to these students and that, in my eyes, makes the role of teacher researcher a labor of love. Teachers have a lot against them, and it takes a special person to want to take on that role.

Rhetoric and Composition: Tying the Greeks to the present.

Maybe this is worthy of #dorkalert, but I am so excited to read Chapter 3 of Janie Lauer Invention in Rhetoric and Composition because I see it's bringing us back to the Greeks (and following that, the Romans, the medieval period, the Renaissance and, finally, my beloved eighteenth and nineteenth centuries-- which I might have to explore at a later date).

I was immediately struck by the dilemma given in the opening paragraph, that "in earlier periods rhetoricians held narrow views of who could hold the subject position of rhetor, i.e., who could engage in rhetoric and hence in invention" (11). This brought me back to a conversation from a few weeks ago in which we discussed the world of research academia, where a few key scholars seem to set the rules, and the rest are left to wonder about their place in the field. It is interesting to me that this was a question going all the way back to the Sophists.  Evidently, as is the case today, people argued the answer to this dilemma, as Aristotle, Ramus, Bacon, Blair, and Hope exemplify).

Lauer breaks into the three dominant Greek conceptions of invention, regarding composition. First up was the Sophists, who focused on the initiation of discourse as being of top importance. They called this initiation, "Kairos" (or, as Debrah so kindly expanded on via Hypothesis, the "opportune moment"). In conjunction with dissoi logoi, defined as a two fold argument in which one must equally consider both sides, I find this to be a compelling conception-- utilizing kairos, the opportune moment, as the catalyst for knowledge. However, it seems to be difficult to pin kairos down-- a key point offered by Lauer and backed up by other critics is the question of if "rhetor could control kairos or be overwhelmed by it" (15).

Lauer then considers sophistic epistemology, and she cites Kathleen Freeman's writing on Protagoras's theory of knowledge and explains that, "each individual's perceptions are immediately true for him at any given moment, and there is no means of deciding which of several options about the same thing is the true one; there is no such thing as 'truer' though there is such a thing as better" (qtd. in 15). Hmmm. I don't think I'm a fan of this approach. As Lauer goes on to explain, this totally disregards any kind of stable knowledge. Additionally, "objects do now exist except while someone is perceiving them" (qtd. in 15). Once again, hmm. Lauer cites Janet Atwell as defending this idea, "while his theory of knowledge is relativistic, it does not give way to skepticism or solipsism. Considering that solipsism is defined as "the view of theory that the self is all that can be known to exist" (and yes, I had to Google that), the fact that everything is based on each individual's perceptions, then I feel that this may imply that the self is the only thing that does truly exist. I think, to the contrary of Atwell, that this does certainly give way to skepticism and solipsism.

Moving on from the Sophists, Lauer next considers Plato's view of Invention. Plato seems to be more focused on the soul of the matter, in regard to discourse, and Lauer cites Martha Nussbaum as arguing that "to reach insight one needed personal love and passion, the ferment of the entire personality, even certain aspects of madness" (18).  Scholars differ in their approaches to Plato's view of the purpose of invention. Some argue that Plato "considered invention's goal to be locating support for judgments and truth found outside of rhetoric and then adapting these truths to various audiences" while others "have claimed that Plato viewed invention as a process of inquiry and reasoning" (18).  I'm not sure where I would side on this issue, and I think I would have to know more about Plato to make an educated decision on the matter. Regardless, it appears that, unlike the Sophists, Plato seems to dig more into the meaning of knowledge, not merely the point at which a new idea is instigated.

Finally, Lauer focuses on Aristotle's Rhetoric, in which he "delineated several acts of invention and constructed arts(strategies or principles)...for analyzing the discourse situation and categorizing its matter; arts for exploring using the 28 common topics...and the special topics...:and arts for framing its probably rhetorical epistemology facilitated by the enthymeme and the example" (19). Of the three groups examined thus far, Aristotle seems to have the most point-by-point breakdown of his analysis, however, there is still debate over the implications of what is has lain out.  I found John Gage's opinion to be intriguing, that "Aristotle's rhetoric was legitimate inquiry into probable knowledge...that for Aristotle knowledge was created through invention in the activity of discourse (21). However, Eugene Garver would argue that "Aristotle was not interested in creating specialized knowledge but in finding the available arguments" (21).

The questions of truth, purpose, and meaning were clearly hotly debated among the Greeks, and I think it is so interesting to be able to go back in time and see that the questions that are debated today were problematic back then too. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is nothing new under the sun.

Moving on to something a little more recent (I think that's safe to say!), this reading was paired with Chapter 16 of Farris and Anson, "Theory, Practice, and the Bridge Between: The Methods Course and Reflective Rhetoric" by Kathleen Blake Yancey. I think that this pairing is going to be an important one, because all of the previous reading was theory. Theory is fantastic, but sometimes it seems like a far leap from what is actually instituted in the classroom, and I think Yancey's questions are important ones: "How have I taught? How do I understand my own teaching? What have my students learned?" (234). Stepping back from theory, I think it is crucial to realize that human beings are the test subjects in the field of knowledge, and Yancey immediately highlights this as being the case.

Yancey explores the important question of delivery and perceived intention, which certainly hearkens back to the writings of the Greeks. As one could see all throughout Lauer's article, scholars differed in their interpretations of the texts. This is an issue across the board, whether one is reading the ancient Greeks, or attempting to convey a mathematical concept to a group of 4th graders.

I particularly loved Yancey's point that a good teacher is forever a student. I've seen this to be true in my own life, as the best teachers that I have had have been openly willing to learn from those they are teaching. Conversely, the worst have been the one's who waltz into the classroom, completely disconnected, and pretending to have all the answers. Yancey seems like a teacher whom I would love to have!

I appreciated this article because I felt a very real connection to Yancey through her writing. In so any ways, academic articles can seem to fly over the heads of the intended audience, for the purpose of being on another level. However, throughout her article, Yancey continually brings the topic back to her research, her students, and her purpose mentioned within the first few pages, to weave together a theory that would be applicable to her own students who seek to teach, as well as any other aspiring teachers that may be out there. Her ending point about the importance of reflection is threaded throughout the entire article, and it is an important one. As a future teacher, I want to be approachable, and I want my students to know that I care. I do not want to passion to be crushed out of me by cynicism, and an inability to connect with those who I intend to educate. If that were to happen, what good would come to me, or to my students?

Rhetoric and Composition: Tying the Greeks to the present.

Maybe this is worthy of #dorkalert, but I am so excited to read Chapter 3 of Janie Lauer Invention in Rhetoric and Composition because I see it's bringing us back to the Greeks (and following that, the Romans, the medieval period, the Renaissance and, finally, my beloved eighteenth and nineteenth centuries-- which I might have to explore at a later date).

I was immediately struck by the dilemma given in the opening paragraph, that "in earlier periods rhetoricians held narrow views of who could hold the subject position of rhetor, i.e., who could engage in rhetoric and hence in invention" (11). This brought me back to a conversation from a few weeks ago in which we discussed the world of research academia, where a few key scholars seem to set the rules, and the rest are left to wonder about their place in the field. It is interesting to me that this was a question going all the way back to the Sophists.  Evidently, as is the case today, people argued the answer to this dilemma, as Aristotle, Ramus, Bacon, Blair, and Hope exemplify).

Lauer breaks into the three dominant Greek conceptions of invention, regarding composition. First up was the Sophists, who focused on the initiation of discourse as being of top importance. They called this initiation, "Kairos" (or, as Debrah so kindly expanded on via Hypothesis, the "opportune moment"). In conjunction with dissoi logoi, defined as a two fold argument in which one must equally consider both sides, I find this to be a compelling conception-- utilizing kairos, the opportune moment, as the catalyst for knowledge. However, it seems to be difficult to pin kairos down-- a key point offered by Lauer and backed up by other critics is the question of if "rhetor could control kairos or be overwhelmed by it" (15).

Lauer then considers sophistic epistemology, and she cites Kathleen Freeman's writing on Protagoras's theory of knowledge and explains that, "each individual's perceptions are immediately true for him at any given moment, and there is no means of deciding which of several options about the same thing is the true one; there is no such thing as 'truer' though there is such a thing as better" (qtd. in 15). Hmmm. I don't think I'm a fan of this approach. As Lauer goes on to explain, this totally disregards any kind of stable knowledge. Additionally, "objects do now exist except while someone is perceiving them" (qtd. in 15). Once again, hmm. Lauer cites Janet Atwell as defending this idea, "while his theory of knowledge is relativistic, it does not give way to skepticism or solipsism. Considering that solipsism is defined as "the view of theory that the self is all that can be known to exist" (and yes, I had to Google that), the fact that everything is based on each individual's perceptions, then I feel that this may imply that the self is the only thing that does truly exist. I think, to the contrary of Atwell, that this does certainly give way to skepticism and solipsism.

Moving on from the Sophists, Lauer next considers Plato's view of Invention. Plato seems to be more focused on the soul of the matter, in regard to discourse, and Lauer cites Martha Nussbaum as arguing that "to reach insight one needed personal love and passion, the ferment of the entire personality, even certain aspects of madness" (18).  Scholars differ in their approaches to Plato's view of the purpose of invention. Some argue that Plato "considered invention's goal to be locating support for judgments and truth found outside of rhetoric and then adapting these truths to various audiences" while others "have claimed that Plato viewed invention as a process of inquiry and reasoning" (18).  I'm not sure where I would side on this issue, and I think I would have to know more about Plato to make an educated decision on the matter. Regardless, it appears that, unlike the Sophists, Plato seems to dig more into the meaning of knowledge, not merely the point at which a new idea is instigated.

Finally, Lauer focuses on Aristotle's Rhetoric, in which he "delineated several acts of invention and constructed arts(strategies or principles)...for analyzing the discourse situation and categorizing its matter; arts for exploring using the 28 common topics...and the special topics...:and arts for framing its probably rhetorical epistemology facilitated by the enthymeme and the example" (19). Of the three groups examined thus far, Aristotle seems to have the most point-by-point breakdown of his analysis, however, there is still debate over the implications of what is has lain out.  I found John Gage's opinion to be intriguing, that "Aristotle's rhetoric was legitimate inquiry into probable knowledge...that for Aristotle knowledge was created through invention in the activity of discourse (21). However, Eugene Garver would argue that "Aristotle was not interested in creating specialized knowledge but in finding the available arguments" (21).

The questions of truth, purpose, and meaning were clearly hotly debated among the Greeks, and I think it is so interesting to be able to go back in time and see that the questions that are debated today were problematic back then too. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is nothing new under the sun.

Moving on to something a little more recent (I think that's safe to say!), this reading was paired with Chapter 16 of Farris and Anson, "Theory, Practice, and the Bridge Between: The Methods Course and Reflective Rhetoric" by Kathleen Blake Yancey. I think that this pairing is going to be an important one, because all of the previous reading was theory. Theory is fantastic, but sometimes it seems like a far leap from what is actually instituted in the classroom, and I think Yancey's questions are important ones: "How have I taught? How do I understand my own teaching? What have my students learned?" (234). Stepping back from theory, I think it is crucial to realize that human beings are the test subjects in the field of knowledge, and Yancey immediately highlights this as being the case.

Yancey explores the important question of delivery and perceived intention, which certainly hearkens back to the writings of the Greeks. As one could see all throughout Lauer's article, scholars differed in their interpretations of the texts. This is an issue across the board, whether one is reading the ancient Greeks, or attempting to convey a mathematical concept to a group of 4th graders.

I particularly loved Yancey's point that a good teacher is forever a student. I've seen this to be true in my own life, as the best teachers that I have had have been openly willing to learn from those they are teaching. Conversely, the worst have been the one's who waltz into the classroom, completely disconnected, and pretending to have all the answers. Yancey seems like a teacher whom I would love to have!

I appreciated this article because I felt a very real connection to Yancey through her writing. In so any ways, academic articles can seem to fly over the heads of the intended audience, for the purpose of being on another level. However, throughout her article, Yancey continually brings the topic back to her research, her students, and her purpose mentioned within the first few pages, to weave together a theory that would be applicable to her own students who seek to teach, as well as any other aspiring teachers that may be out there. Her ending point about the importance of reflection is threaded throughout the entire article, and it is an important one. As a future teacher, I want to be approachable, and I want my students to know that I care. I do not want to passion to be crushed out of me by cynicism, and an inability to connect with those who I intend to educate. If that were to happen, what good would come to me, or to my students?

To research or not to research? Farris and Anson Chs. 1 & 2

Chapter 1:
"Theory, Research, Practice, Work"
Christopher Ferry

Anything that starts with a Rent reference is off to a pretty great start in my book (and you can safely assume that I spent the rest of this reading humming "Santa Fe," but that's a great deal better than "#Selfie" so, you know, small blessings). I liked how Christopher Ferry began his paper by highlighting the importance of praxis, which is the phenomenon which includes both reflection and action in order to improve the overall learning experience between teachers and students. This idea of a learning environment in which both categories involved can benefit is something that is crucial and, sadly, is lacking in many classrooms. The presence or absence of collaboration can make a huge difference in the school experience. Once Ferry introduces this concept as a jumping off point, he raises more questions most notably, "What is the nature of our 'work' within institutions of higher learning" (11)?

As he further explores this question, he first mentions that what compositionists do is "create a theory of composition" (12), but counters then that theory without demonstration is not enough. He finds that the current theory at work is unbalanced because there seems to be a surplus of theory, and a lack of action. I think this is a valid point. In some of the theory we have read thus far, I've found that people raise excellent points, but the question has remained, does it work in practice? We can think and theorize all we'd like, but the true test is application.

I thought that Ferry's walk through history was an interesting way of telling the story of the division between theory and practice, particularly the part in which he notes that "universities become tangential to the everyday world, even to the extent of providing refuge from it; departments become nations with fiercely defended frontiers, and disciplinary discourse, 'self-enclosed and often self-confirming' becomes a professor's native language" (14). Isn't that the sad truth (in some cases, not all).

This is an interesting section for me because I want to be a professor, but I do not want to be disconnected. I want my students to be able to live in this world, and apply what I teach them, and use it to enhance their lives, not use it to separate themselves from the word around them. 

Further into the paper, I liked Ferry's reflection upon praxis, that "The educator who wold engage in praxis must die to her assumptions about reality and be reborn in communication with her students: 'Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new existence'" (17). Further, "Rather than forcing students into some preconceived theoretical model such teachers must work with and for students to understand the reality they share, then to construct a theory together that will  change that reality" (17). These are both excellent points, as well as encouraging ways in which to start in the direction of coming down off of the academic pedestal and facing reality. 

In conclusion, theory+research+practice+work= theoryresearchpracticework. All of these things must go in, and they all must work together in the result. To have classes that belong to all is so much better and more inclusive, and an all-around positive experience.

Chapter 2:
"Composing Composition Studies: Scholarly Publication and the Practice of Discipline"
Peter Vendenberg

"Rhetoric and composition around the end of the nineteenth century has been described as 'as academic desideratum...to be escaped as soon as practicable" (19). Hah!

This chapter seems to be an interesting juxtaposition from chapter one, as Vandenberg debunks the argument that "Quality teaching, as the argument goes, is dependent on research, and research presupposes its teaching: 'to achieve a balance in which the two activities actually complement each other is one of the most important contributions we can make'" (19). Vandenberg's case, on the contrary, is that this argument fails to take account of the "profoundly powerful institutional and disciplinary structures that lend teaching a research practical definitions as neatly hierarchized workplace activities" (20). This is quite a different stance from Ferry, and I'm interested to see what the opposing arguments are. 

Once again, I like how these writers have included historical framework to shape their respective arguments. This inclusion adds dimension because it's interesting to see how the past can be interpreted to explain the present. Further, it is interesting to see the transformation of what became valued in the classroom-- not necessarily the act of teaching or being a good teacher, but the concept that "Each faculty member should 'resolve that he will become a recognized scholar in his field and begin at once some piece of productive work'" (21). This raises an interesting question-- what is this "productive work?" And what are the implications of saying that being a teacher alone is not productive? Granted, this is a quote from Charles R. Van Hise in 1916, but this is a point from which our current system rose. It also rose from a Frankenstein-esque (thanks, Colin!) concept of students existing as "raw material" (22) to be shaped by the teachers, who have been given specifications by superiors. I'm not sure I like this analogy. 

And yet, the question remains, where does composition fall into this field? How does research work its way into this picture? Can they possibly be married together? If the administrators are the ones who research and publish, and they don't want the teachers below them rising, is this where the discussion ends? Additionally, I made this note in my reading-- is this true? I can't understand why teachers doing research wouldn't serve to better everyone. Why is this perceived as a threat?

It seems to me, that I would have to agree that the praxis concept that Christopher Ferry writes about is an excellent approach, that marries together research and teaching in order to get the best of both worlds. However, Vandenberg's article is enough to make one nervous. Is this really what it's like out there in the teaching world? Is the praxis concept merely an unreachable ideal? It would appear that the world of academia and administration is rough when it comes to rhetoric and composition, and Vandenberg certainly paints a bleak picture of the system that is currently in place.

 

Bonus:
Santa Fe from Rent 


To research or not to research? Farris and Anson Chs. 1 & 2

Chapter 1:
"Theory, Research, Practice, Work"
Christopher Ferry

Anything that starts with a Rent reference is off to a pretty great start in my book (and you can safely assume that I spent the rest of this reading humming "Santa Fe," but that's a great deal better than "#Selfie" so, you know, small blessings). I liked how Christopher Ferry began his paper by highlighting the importance of praxis, which is the phenomenon which includes both reflection and action in order to improve the overall learning experience between teachers and students. This idea of a learning environment in which both categories involved can benefit is something that is crucial and, sadly, is lacking in many classrooms. The presence or absence of collaboration can make a huge difference in the school experience. Once Ferry introduces this concept as a jumping off point, he raises more questions most notably, "What is the nature of our 'work' within institutions of higher learning" (11)?

As he further explores this question, he first mentions that what compositionists do is "create a theory of composition" (12), but counters then that theory without demonstration is not enough. He finds that the current theory at work is unbalanced because there seems to be a surplus of theory, and a lack of action. I think this is a valid point. In some of the theory we have read thus far, I've found that people raise excellent points, but the question has remained, does it work in practice? We can think and theorize all we'd like, but the true test is application.

I thought that Ferry's walk through history was an interesting way of telling the story of the division between theory and practice, particularly the part in which he notes that "universities become tangential to the everyday world, even to the extent of providing refuge from it; departments become nations with fiercely defended frontiers, and disciplinary discourse, 'self-enclosed and often self-confirming' becomes a professor's native language" (14). Isn't that the sad truth (in some cases, not all).

This is an interesting section for me because I want to be a professor, but I do not want to be disconnected. I want my students to be able to live in this world, and apply what I teach them, and use it to enhance their lives, not use it to separate themselves from the word around them. 

Further into the paper, I liked Ferry's reflection upon praxis, that "The educator who wold engage in praxis must die to her assumptions about reality and be reborn in communication with her students: 'Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new existence'" (17). Further, "Rather than forcing students into some preconceived theoretical model such teachers must work with and for students to understand the reality they share, then to construct a theory together that will  change that reality" (17). These are both excellent points, as well as encouraging ways in which to start in the direction of coming down off of the academic pedestal and facing reality. 

In conclusion, theory+research+practice+work= theoryresearchpracticework. All of these things must go in, and they all must work together in the result. To have classes that belong to all is so much better and more inclusive, and an all-around positive experience.

Chapter 2:
"Composing Composition Studies: Scholarly Publication and the Practice of Discipline"
Peter Vendenberg

"Rhetoric and composition around the end of the nineteenth century has been described as 'as academic desideratum...to be escaped as soon as practicable" (19). Hah!

This chapter seems to be an interesting juxtaposition from chapter one, as Vandenberg debunks the argument that "Quality teaching, as the argument goes, is dependent on research, and research presupposes its teaching: 'to achieve a balance in which the two activities actually complement each other is one of the most important contributions we can make'" (19). Vandenberg's case, on the contrary, is that this argument fails to take account of the "profoundly powerful institutional and disciplinary structures that lend teaching a research practical definitions as neatly hierarchized workplace activities" (20). This is quite a different stance from Ferry, and I'm interested to see what the opposing arguments are. 

Once again, I like how these writers have included historical framework to shape their respective arguments. This inclusion adds dimension because it's interesting to see how the past can be interpreted to explain the present. Further, it is interesting to see the transformation of what became valued in the classroom-- not necessarily the act of teaching or being a good teacher, but the concept that "Each faculty member should 'resolve that he will become a recognized scholar in his field and begin at once some piece of productive work'" (21). This raises an interesting question-- what is this "productive work?" And what are the implications of saying that being a teacher alone is not productive? Granted, this is a quote from Charles R. Van Hise in 1916, but this is a point from which our current system rose. It also rose from a Frankenstein-esque (thanks, Colin!) concept of students existing as "raw material" (22) to be shaped by the teachers, who have been given specifications by superiors. I'm not sure I like this analogy. 

And yet, the question remains, where does composition fall into this field? How does research work its way into this picture? Can they possibly be married together? If the administrators are the ones who research and publish, and they don't want the teachers below them rising, is this where the discussion ends? Additionally, I made this note in my reading-- is this true? I can't understand why teachers doing research wouldn't serve to better everyone. Why is this perceived as a threat?

It seems to me, that I would have to agree that the praxis concept that Christopher Ferry writes about is an excellent approach, that marries together research and teaching in order to get the best of both worlds. However, Vandenberg's article is enough to make one nervous. Is this really what it's like out there in the teaching world? Is the praxis concept merely an unreachable ideal? It would appear that the world of academia and administration is rough when it comes to rhetoric and composition, and Vandenberg certainly paints a bleak picture of the system that is currently in place.

 

Bonus:
Santa Fe from Rent