Teaching Composition (Week 1 Readings)

Idea map of the arguments and ideas from week 1 readings for Composition Theory.

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Teaching Composition (Week 1 Readings) by Mind Map: Teaching Composition (Week 1 Readings)

1. Definition of Composition

1.1. FYC Intro: as “something to be studied” versus “a set of skills that teachers of literature could transmit to students lacking those skills.” (182).

1.1.1. Key moments = new definitions/boundaries. First, comp is something to be studied. Then, in context of the belief that English is the study of how one uses and understands English. Then, composition is a subject that "accepts" dialectical differences, though classrooms typically require edited American English. (FYC Intro) Composition (and composition studies) "include the work" of people outside the particular community of writing, composition or rhetoric. (FYC Intro) Echoed in Hesse's claims that the borders of writing "aren't fixed." Comp textbooks defined by "common places" = culturally or institutionally authorized concept or statement that carries with it its own necessary elaboration. (Bartholomae) Bartholomae: a student’s writing "success" marked more by ability to write with authority than grammatical perfection. Hypothetical situation of essays being graded by software raises a topic similar to Bartholomae's "common places": the idea that there are certain formulaic "textual features" that writing should have, and that all academic writing consists of is fulfilling those requirements (Hesse).

1.2. Hesse:"composition" is historically "an academic enterprise, a school subject and one generally gotten out of the way.”

1.2.1. Audience for Hesse and Yancey: these are addresses (though Yancey's edited) given to the Conference on College Composition and Communication. However, the audience for the printed version of this address is anyone in general who teaches composition, even if they are not members of the CCCC / do not attend conferences.

1.3. Composition exists "in the context of there being multiple modes of communication and writing containing more than one mode." (FYC Intro)

1.3.1. Echoed in Hesse's belief that the "best" writing would include multiple genres, forms, etc.

1.3.2. Reflected in Yancey's essay, which intentionally features and discusses various forms and claims both images and text "are materials of composition."

1.4. Yancey: "in circulation context, composition is “the thoughtful gathering, construction, or reconstruction of a literate act in any given media.” Relates to including work by non-writing community and focusing on multiple communication modes.

2. Definitions/Tenants of Composition Pedagogy

2.1. GCP: "body of knowledge consisting of theories of and research on teaching, learning, literacy, writing and rhetoric and the related practices that emerge."

2.1.1. Pedagogy is that it is "rhetorical and "personal" to each instructor. (GCP) GCP: pedagogy is a kind of "social action." FYC: writing is a "social action." Both writing and the theories of and research on it and practices related to it are instead affected by context. Shown in how long Anson spends discussing his own background and beliefs that make WAW a good fit for him.

3. Scholarly Problems in Composition Field

3.1. Historically, composition/writing teachers want to focus on "big ideas" in literature but couldn't because of schools' "reductive testing" (FYC Preface).

3.1.1. Obviously still a problem by references in Anson's and Hesse's essays.

3.1.2. Anson claims using a WAW approach was hindered by the program’s process-focused outcomes. Schools' program designers could argue that a focus on structure and writing processes is one part of being more aware of one’s writing choices. What would have to happen for a process-focused pedagogy to fit/complement a WAW-focused one? Or are they even as contradictory as this statement suggests?

3.2. The issue of "adapting" or "transitioning" academic/classroom writing skills into jobs. (FYC, Ch 1, Chris Anson)

3.2.1. Based on experimental class, Anson finds that students benefit from being immersed in new jobs and being given models, but also from "studying the role of language in their new settings." WAW: focus on the thinking about the thinking that writing involves, as well as how people’s backgrounds and literary histories shape their beliefs, and strategies/methods for writing Anson acknowledges limits on language-focused course, such as lacking "a focus on academic genres of writing in different disciplines." Professors in those disciplines who rely or expect Comp teachers to prepare students for their courses could argue that this kind of structure doesn't fit Intro to Comp. This would again go back to Composition’s goal – to teach student’s how to write, or to teach how to think about writing? Hesse identifies problem of the word "writing", which may cause people to focus on the act/result of writing instead of the thinking. Yancey's address shows WAW in action by having sidebar notes that examines the writing and revising process of this address-turned-essay.

3.2.2. Split b/t"public" and "academic" writing shown by Hesse's hypothetical essay-grading software. One reaction could be for students realizing they can write formulaic essays for a machine or write in a non-academic publicly effective way. Yansey wants composition that teaches public and academic writing; is multi-genred and considers more than one relationship (teacher/student); embrace circulation, or teaching students why/how a message moves across genres and fields; and emphasize envisioning and creativity. Plus, increased focus on WAC pedagogy, or defining writing as part of the process and the result of critical thinking. Related to project of having students focus on one subject and then write about that subject in multiple genres, purposes, etc. (Mentioned by Anson) Based on GCP, using a writing center pedagogy could also help "emphasize social writing skills."

3.3. Teachers acting as "talking heads" that just give students expert information

3.3.1. Anson's suggested solution: Course delivery reversal (CDR)/course flipping, which involves giving assigned lectures using powerpoints, etc. to read for homework and applying that knowledge in person during class.

3.3.2. Yancey also suggests teachers work WITH students to ask and answer questions

3.4. Audience awareness

3.4.1. Bartholomae claims students must be able to imagine and write from a point of privilege and equality. “The problem of audience awareness then is a problem of power and finesse” (10). Bartholomae proposes giving students a scholarly project that would let them feel like colleagues with professors, and give them knowledge in various academic branches. Reflects some of the active learning principles and "talking head" problem discussed in Ason's essay in FYC, as well as trend of increased subjects working with comp pedagogy. Ties into GCP's point that chosen pedagogies must be based on goals for courses and those goals depend on "how we construct our students." In this case, teachers seem to need to stop constructing students as pupils, but think of them as potential colleagues.

3.4.2. Bartholomae: students' lack of knowledge and understanding of common places make learning writing"imitation and parody." Perhaps creative writing professors would argue the negativity of this claim, considering that many CW professors have students imitate professional writers as a way to discover their own style. Hesse: because students don't presently have the authority to address the (assumed scholar) reader in civic writing, students usually are writing ABOUT civic issues instead of writing IN the civic sphere.

3.5. Composition classes are not changing to adjust to changes in public writing

3.5.1. Hesse points out how classrooms often teach civic writing as if it were academic with strict boundaries although it has become more fluid and public with technology.

3.5.2. Yancey: people already "know" how to write in the public sphere, and stats on decreased English majors, English departments, etc. raise question if composition professors are becoming unneeded/outdated.

3.5.3. The 2004 publication of Yancey's address is clear when digital technology is discussed and claimed to not be taught/used in the classroom much.