Tag Archive: RhetoricandComposition

Tutor Training in a Canadian University’s Academic Writing Centre: An Ethnographic Study of the Pre-Service Training and Socialization of Junior Tutors (Education Papers posted on April 11th, 2014 )

Academic writing centres, like the Academic Writing Centre (AWC), depend on a pre-service training program to prepare new tutors to teach academic writing alongside other more experienced tutors. This ethnographic study explores the effectiveness of the current pre-service training program employed by the AWC. Drawing on Engeström’s (1987) cultural-historical activity theory, Schön’s (1983) “reflective practitioner” theory, Lave and Wenger’s (1991) “situated learning” theory, and rhetorical genre theory to build an analytical framework, this study considers how the AWC’s cultural-historical context influences its practices, how senior tutors define current pre-service training practices, and how junior tutors are socialized into the AWC. Over a six-month period, three kinds of data were collected and analyzed recursively (Charmaz, 2006): interviews with five tutors and three coordinators (present and former), observations recorded in detailed field notes, and various documents from the AWC. Findings from the study suggest that the training provided to junior tutors, shaped by a complex web of inside and outside influences, is effective in preparing the tutors to work with student writers.

Assessing reasoning through writing: Developing and examining approaches based on psychological and linguistic theories (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

One of the primary purposes of education is the development of students reasoning abilities. However, the assessment of reasoning using written essays can be problematic because the scoring rubrics used for these assessments often contain undefined terms and vague criteria. Therefore, this study focused on the development and examination of two new approaches for assessing reasoning through writing. The first approach, termed model assessment, was based on the psychological theory of mental models. Model assessment was used to identify myside and otherside positions and their supporting reasons. The second approach, termed elemental assessment, was based on the linguistic theory of systemic functional grammar. Elemental assessment was used to examine the presence of conjunctions and conjunctive adjuncts. These two approaches were employed to assess a sample of high school students N = 156) persuasive essays. The model and elemental assessments of these essays were compared to holistic and analytic ratings of the same essays and to students scores on standardized tests of reasoning ability and language arts achievement. Nearly all students presented myside positions and supported these positions with general, rather than personal, reasons, but only half of the students presented an otherside position. Also, students with average scores on a verbal reasoning composite were more likely to present an otherside position than were students with low scores on that composite. The model assessment produced two generalizable factors, Myside Reasons and Otherside Viewpoint, but the elemental assessment did not produce interpretable factors. Both the model and elemental assessments captured small, non-significant proportions of variance in tests of reasoning abilities. Results from this study suggest that greater attention should be focused on the context in which the assessment of reasoning through writing occurs, as well as the materials used to conduct these assessments. In future studies, participants should be more thoroughly prepared for the tasks on which they will be assessed.

The question of transferability: What students take away from writing instruction (Education Papers posted on March 24th, 2013 )

Writing courses are required in the college curriculum because composition instruction is presumed to equip undergraduates for the demands of educated literacy. Thousands of writing teachers across the nation, dutifully reading and responding to student writing, assume that their well-intentioned labors succeed in teaching students to write. With so much good faith thus at stake, it is crucial to ask: Does writing instruction work the way teachers assume? Students, however, often report that they learn how to write, not from composition teachers, but from practice over time in classes that require written performance. I argue that it is time to question what students take away from writing instruction. Highlighting the gap between pedagogy as imagined by academics and as experienced by students, Lee Ann Carroll coins the term faculty fantasies for academic illusions about writing and learning to write. Many language scholars doubt what a general composition course can accomplish, given the context-dependent nature of writing. This dissertation questions the transferability of writing instruction and works toward a solution to the current crisis in the field of rhetoric-composition by synthesizing scholarship and research. Turning to the newly reconceptualized field of genre studies as a promising approach to teaching writing that transfers, I examine the effects of a genre-based pedagogy that emphasizes genre, not as text types, but as rhetorical Social action. I conducted ethnographic writing research that tracks the learning experiences of participants for two in some cases, three) years following a genre-based approach. Participants with a solid grasp of rhetoric and genre function were able to translate their knowledge into an accelerated ability to learn how to learn to write in new discursive situations. Transferability is not open to facile explanations; the complexity of learning to write has yet to be fully explained. But focusing the goals of writing instruction on rhetorical awareness and genre analysis, rather than on improving writing in general, holds the promise of a pedagogy that carries over into the actual literacies of students writing in college and beyond:

Contrastive rhetoric revisited: Taiwanese advanced ESL learners’ organizational structures in persuasive English writings (Education Papers posted on March 20th, 2013 )

The major theoretical framework on which the present study is based includes Kaplans original contrastive rhetoric concept and Matsudas revised version of contrastive rhetoric. According to Kaplans original contrastive rhetoric, first put forth in his article “Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education” in the 60s and maintained in his book “The anatomy of rhetoric: Prolegomena to a functional theory of rhetoric” of the 70s, organizational preferences in a type of writing e.g., expository essay writing) are different across cultures or languages. L2 learners tend to transfer their L1 organizational preferences to organize their L2 writing. One of the limitations of the original contrastive rhetorical concept is its ignorance of the intervening influences of writers personal experiences or backgrounds on their L2 organization. The limitation is revised by Matsuda. In his article, “Contrastive rhetoric in context: A dynamic model of L2 writing,” Matsuda claims that important roles may be played, not only by L2 writers L1 organizational preferences, but also by their education and various personal experiences; these are important elements that determine what will go into writing L2 organizational structures. Based on the weak version of Kaplans early contrastive rhetoric differences in organizational structure across cultures and the cross-cultural influence on L2 organization), this study examined the degree to which eight Taiwanese ESL learners textual organizations in English persuasive writings may reflect English writing conventions and the cross-cultural influence of the Chinese writing conventions. By taking Matsudas revised model as the supplementary framework, this study also examined how the eight Taiwanese ESL learners English organizational structures might be shaped by their other backgrounds, such as education and other personal experiences. It is found that the English persuasive writings by the participants, more or less, have deviations from the English organizational conventions. Some of the deviations reflect the cross-cultural influence of the Chinese organizational conventions. However, the English writings by three participants with most training and practices in English writing in college reflect greater proficiency in the English organizational norms. This study also found that L2 organizational norms may transfer backward, and influence the writers organization of their L1 writing.

Negotiation processes and text changes in Japanese learners’ self-revisions and peer revisions of their written compositions in English (Education Papers posted on March 20th, 2013 )

The purpose of the present study was to compare the processes and effects on the products written texts) of second language L2) writers a) self-revisions and their b) peer revisions of their writing without any teacher instruction or feedback, as evaluated for quality by native speakers NSs) holistic and specific assessments. Participants were 24 Japanese university students of English as a foreign language EFL). The units of analysis were negotiation episodes, text changes, and graphic symbols about their written texts. I categorized the types of negotiation from a) the think-aloud protocols of participants self-revisions and b) transcriptions of their discussions during peer revisions. I also categorized their text changes using the same coding scheme of negotiation episodes. Other data included stimulated recall interviews with individual students. The results indicated that these intermediate L2 learners could improve their drafts without any teacher instruction or feedback, particularly by revising the same kind of essay repeatedly, irrespective of the conditions of revision p<.01 by the t-test). Most of the students attention and text changes related to morphology and lexis, and students rarely paid attention to discourse-level features in both conditions of revision. Their negotiations and text changes were qualitatively and quantitatively different in the conditions of self-revision and peer revision. There was more meta-talk including meta-language during peer revisions than during self-revisions. Students tended to repeat L2 words when they focused on morphology and lexis during self-revisions. Despite students considerable attention to inflectional changes in both conditions of revision, two NSs assessments of these inflectional changes to the texts were mixed. Notably, the NSs did not tend to value highly the morphological changes, suggesting that writing instruction and teacher feedback could raise L2 writers global-level awareness about this issue. Students employed graphic symbols differently in the processes of self-revision and peer revision. During self-revisions, students used some symbols as a form of mediation for their personal problem solving, whereas students wrote some symbols as a means of communication with each other during peer revisions.

The social construction of authorship: An investigation of subjectivity and rhetorical authority in the college writing classroom (Education Papers posted on March 20th, 2013 )

Although we use the term author on a daily basis to refer to certain individuals, bodies of work, and systems of ideas, as Michel Foucault and other critics have pointed out, attempting to answer the question “What is an Author?” is by no means a simple proposition. And, starting from the position that there is no single, or definitive answer to this complex question, my dissertation seeks to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the genealogy of authorship by investigating the ways in which conceptions of the author have informed models of the writing subject in the field of rhetoric and composition and the ways in which composition students define and relate to these models. Drawing on the work of literary critics, cultural theorists, legal scholars, and book historians, the dissertation first reviews the major theoretical frames offered by to interpret the unique status and history of the term author, and the ways in which rhetoric and composition scholars from a range of theoretical positions—current-traditional, expressionist, cognitivist, new rhetorical/Social-epistemic—have relied on models of the author to describe student writing subjects. Secondly, the dissertation presents and analyzes the findings from a 2005 qualitative study of ten composition students at The City College of New York. Key issues that are investigated include: 1) How students define the terms author and writer; 2) The reasons why students consistently apply, or do not apply, these terms to themselves; 3) If those students who conceive of themselves as writers or authors have a different relationship to writing, or various aspects of writing, than students who do not, i.e., a different relationship to audience, rhetorical strategies, technical writing issues; 4) Specific moments in which students achieve an authoritative relationship to writing and how they describe the conditions and circumstances of such moments; 5) If publication and distribution of student work may facilitate a change in a students relationship to writing, or the conception of him- or herself during the writing process.

The social construction of authorship: An investigation of subjectivity and rhetorical authority in the college writing classroom (Education Papers posted on March 19th, 2013 )

Although we use the term author on a daily basis to refer to certain individuals, bodies of work, and systems of ideas, as Michel Foucault and other critics have pointed out, attempting to answer the question “What is an Author?” is by no means a simple proposition. And, starting from the position that there is no single, or definitive answer to this complex question, my dissertation seeks to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the genealogy of authorship by investigating the ways in which conceptions of the author have informed models of the writing subject in the field of rhetoric and composition and the ways in which composition students define and relate to these models. Drawing on the work of literary critics, cultural theorists, legal scholars, and book historians, the dissertation first reviews the major theoretical frames offered by to interpret the unique status and history of the term author, and the ways in which rhetoric and composition scholars from a range of theoretical positions—current-traditional, expressionist, cognitivist, new rhetorical/Social-epistemic—have relied on models of the author to describe student writing subjects. Secondly, the dissertation presents and analyzes the findings from a 2005 qualitative study of ten composition students at The City College of New York. Key issues that are investigated include: 1) How students define the terms author and writer; 2) The reasons why students consistently apply, or do not apply, these terms to themselves; 3) If those students who conceive of themselves as writers or authors have a different relationship to writing, or various aspects of writing, than students who do not, i.e., a different relationship to audience, rhetorical strategies, technical writing issues; 4) Specific moments in which students achieve an authoritative relationship to writing and how they describe the conditions and circumstances of such moments; 5) If publication and distribution of student work may facilitate a change in a students relationship to writing, or the conception of him- or herself during the writing process.

Metaphors and gestures for abstract concepts in academic English writing (Education Papers posted on March 16th, 2013 )

Gestures and metaphors are important mediational tools to materialize abstract conventions in the conceptual development process Lantolf and Thorne, 2006): metaphors are used in the educational setting to simplify abstract knowledge for learners Ungerer and Schmidt, 1996; Wee, 2005); gestures, through visual representation, can “provide additional insights into how humans conceptualize abstract concepts via metaphors” Mittelberg, in press, p. 23). This study observed and videotaped four composition instructors and 54 ESL students at an American university to probe how their metaphorical expressions and gestures in a variety of naturally occurring settings, such as classroom teaching, student-teacher conferencing, peer reviewing and student presentations, represent the abstract rhetorical conventions of academic writing in English. By associating students gestures with the instructors metaphors and gestures, this study found evidence for the assistive roles of metaphors and gestures in the learning process. The final interviews elicited students metaphors of academic writing in English and in their first languages. The interviewees were also asked to reflect upon the effectiveness of the metaphors and gestures they were exposed to. This study confirmed the roles of gestures in reflecting the abstract mental representation of academic writing. Twelve patterns were extracted from the instructors data, including the linearity, container, building, journey metaphors and others. Of these twelve patterns, six were materialized in the students gestural usage. The similarity of gestures found in the instructors and students data provided proof of the occurrence of learning. In the elicited data, students created pyramid, book, and banquet metaphors, to highlight features of academic writing in English and in their first languages. These new metaphors demonstrate students ability to synthesize simple metaphors they encountered for a more complex one, which is more significant in the learning process. The interviews suggest that metaphors are better-perceived and more effective in relating abstract knowledge to the students. Gestures were not judged by the students to be helpful. This could result from the fact that gestures, other than emblems, are often understood unconsciously and are naturally used to provide additional information to the verbal utterance rather than replacing speech, which is more prominent perceptually and conceptually.

Extending with “Bridges” and mapping “Maps”: A discourse based study of metaphor in the writing center and writing classroom (Education Papers posted on March 14th, 2013 )

Scope and Method of Study. This thesis studies the use of metaphor in the writing center and writing classroom. Subjects included 2 instructors, 4 writing tutors, and 18 freshman students. Subjects were recorded during classroom and tutorial discourse and asked to complete questionnaires. The data was analyzed using a discourse-based approach to metaphor. Findings and Conclusions. Subjects used metaphor extensively in both the classroom and the writing center. Specific metaphoric items and groups of items were found to be highly conventional. Novel items were used to create new meanings or to extend the meaning of conventional items. Several sources of confusion were identified, including source and target domain ambiguity due to combined or competing metaphoric items. Based on the findings, specific suggestions were offered for improving writing pedagogy.

Where writing and autism intersect: A study of literate practices in children with high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome (Education Papers posted on March 9th, 2013 )

Autism is a neurological disorder that occurs across a spectrum, with what Lorna Wing 1991) refers to as the “triad” of Social, communicative and imaginative impairments ranging in severity from mild to severe. The syndrome also affects motor skills, sensory responses, intense interests, perseveration and executive functions such as organization and cognitive flexibility. When autism is paired with average to above-average intelligence levels, the diagnosis is often termed Asperger Syndrome AS) or high-functioning autism HFA). Many of the children with AS and HFA in educational settings are not placed in special classes, but rather attend class with their “neurotypical” peers and a number of them attend college. Their Social challenges are often easily noticeable, but they also often struggle significantly with the academic demands of the classroom. Due to the inherently social and communicative nature of writing, their struggle almost always extends to writing activities and assignments. In this dissertation, I utilize qualitative research methods in a detailed instrumental case study of 9th grade student, Sam Crossing, as he negotiates the requirements of a curricular unit study in his English class, focusing on his writing activities in and out of the classroom. Through thick description and a careful exploration of “rich points” Agar 1994) where the impairments of AS/HFA tangle significantly with the requirements of the writing tasks that Sam undertakes, I hope to shed light on the writing development process in general for these students. I call on the research and literature in the fields of autism; special education; and literacy and composition to explore how AS and HFA affects the writing process. This exploration ultimately seeks to lay groundwork for effective interventions to assist students like Sam in expressing their ideas in writing, as well as exploring how the notion of “difference” affects the teaching of writing all students.