Tag Archives: transfer

Self-assessment with Rubrics

I’m currently reading¬†Using Self-assessment to Improve Student Learning by Harris and Brown. I’m most interested in adapting these ideas, techniques, practices to online spaces – especially online only courses. How can we support student understanding of writing and learning to write by empowering learners through self-assessments? Where are the moments to include these ideas?

A bit of a tangential side note, this book references research on student ego and negative student perception quite a bit. This is a huge concern with self-assessment. As a writing instructor, I hear all the time from students “I hate writing” and “i’m a terrible writer” and the worst “I won’t ever need writing”. These negative student perceptions are often accompanied by student ego issues – students unwilling to listen, pay attention, do the work, believe me. So while I love these ideas, I’m a realist in this situation and understand self-assessment won’t work for everyone (I’m also playing around with growth mindset in gamified learning to see if I can reach more students).

I’m only halfway done with the book, but what struck me, and inspired this post, was the discussion of rubrics. I understand why teachers and professors love rubrics, but I hate rubrics. Do not like them. I’ve moved to a 1 point rubric – 1) Where you did well, 2) where you can improve. All my comments then center around this criteria and relate directly to key concepts from the course.

So, this book discusses the usefulness of rubrics – with the caveat that rubrics are co-constructed by teachers/instructors AND learners. I’ve tried this – I’ve asked students to help me fill out the key concepts based on my rubric and they wanted to write and not pay attention to the assignment they were completing (and then questioned grades). So I really like the short discussion on co-creating rubrics , then providing time and space for self-assessment of that criteria, then evaluating that self-assessment, then helping students develop strategies to improve their writing (or practice depending on content area). In this way, the criteria not only comes out of teacher-centered (which has been part of my issue with rubrics) by being co-constructed, students are also taught to develop their own understanding of the assignment, their own understanding of the assignment grading criteria – they are provided space to self-assess and develop techniques to self-evaluate (transfer!!!!!).

The idea that rubrics are more integrated into a cycle of drafting makes so much more sense to me than as grading criteria. How can I re-introduce rubrics as self-assessment criteria to support student learning of self-assessment strategies to improve and understand how to improve their writing? The rhetorical applications of this are endless……Plus, this idea holds value for writers outside academia. The likelihood that students will write a traditional academic research essay after graduation from their bachelor’s is minimal. However, students will write. Understanding how to contextualize their writing, and self-assess that writing within the context properly (not as I worked really hard on this email asking my boss for a raise – but as here is and email with the evidence I deserve a raise).

I’m worried calling this a rubric will still be problematic – it’s essentially breaking down assignment sheets and asking students to respond with their level of understanding of how criteria for grading will align with assignment sheets, and their strategies for drafting and revising based on that understanding. is that really a ‘rubric’ – but it should be….so do I need to call this cycle something different, without ‘rubric’ for students to reconsider OR do I need to help students shift their understanding of rubrics and their function within classrooms (as context builders and self-assessment tools) for the benefit of learning transfer?

I’m about to begin chapter 4 (of 5) and I highly recommend this book for those considering ways (and ALL the complexities) of supporting active self-assessment in their classrooms.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, pedagogy

Finals…….

It is final’s week at my institution, which for me means grading, student presentations, stressed students, and reflection on my curriculum.

While I have a bit of a filter-bubble in Twitter, I’ve seen tons of tweets circulating about self-care, the necessity of sleep to support studying and learning, campus-based activities to structure meaningful study breaks and provide food to students. I’ve seen my campus and colleagues try to address the student stressors to minimize cramming and sleeplessness.

I want to connect these ideas to reflection on my curriculum. While final projects and final essays are the norm in college composition classrooms, are there ways I can better support student learning while reducing stressors toward the end of the semester?

This semester I’ve been working on an ePortfolio plan for our department, so I played with Portfolio-based assignments in my class. This meant, students submitted ‘final’ drafts 3 weeks ago, received comments back from me, had class time to digest comments and work with peers, then submitted Portfolio drafts of their final essays (with reflection letters). The goal here was to support application of learning across drafts, with reflection on how final drafts in future classes can be as solid as the Portfolio draft for my class. But, I also considered how this would ease my grading load and reduce stress for students. They spent their time revising and composing, not drafting. Will they notice a difference? Or, will students wait until the last minute to revise the essays for my class giving priority to ‘new’ final projects?

So far (in 3 of my 4 classes) the presentations have seemed more relaxed. The students haven’t been frazzled – but there is no way to know if the curricular structure, their course load this term, or the mindfulness activities sponsored by campus and colleagues (or a combination) led to this reduced stress during my presentations. But it was really nice to discuss student presentations and projects with students who were less stressed. Is this enough to support learning about writing that will transfer across the curriculum (and life really), the outcome I would prefer to emphasize? I don’t know – but a few less stressed students seems like a win for the semester.

And, the essays were better ūüôā

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

Book Review: SoTL

McKinney, Kathleen. Enhancing Learning Through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. Anker Publishing, 2007.

This semester I joined a faculty learning community that read McKinney’s book about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I have a few projects right now that develop from the ideas of SoTL work, namely improving teaching and assignment design to improve learning.

Overall, this is a great book for interdisciplinary discussions on the value of SoTL work. It provides a significant number of resources and ideas – some organized by discipline to help readers from various areas find what they need. If you already value teaching and learning – as many teaching institutions do – this book is a bit less helpful as many of the chapters are devoted to why SoTL should be valued. Despite that, I still recommend the book to those interested in SoTL.

What I realized reading the book is I want more ideas for assessing and measuring learning on a smaller scale – then I want to address any needs that appear. When designed into the overarching curriculum mini-assessments can improve larger assessments, meet learning outcomes, support good learning.

But with writing courses, the default measurement is writing (grades on essays, content analysis of essays). More writing (so students can update, modify, demonstrate learning) equals so much grading. Because of McKinney’s book I’m now exploring ways of making learning visible to students so they can measure their own learning – so they can demonstrate learning.

Of course I expect to have the usual student resistance. For students who think they are strong writers so English Composition isn’t necessary for them, for students who think they’ll never learn to write – asking them to think through and make visible their own learning will be a struggle. I’m hoping growth mindset research has some ideas for long-term support to help in these cases. But I’m also wondering how students will conceptualize a course on composition where they need to make visible and measure their own learning. How will they understand the value – how will this mesh with transfer theory – how will I measure and record this? So many questions.

If you’re interested in SoTL I recommend this book – I think there is value to the interdisciplinary approach. I read about SoTL approaches used in different disciplines that helped me consider new approaches in my own. McKinney also provides really useful resources for supporting SoTL across campuses, and for accessing discipline specific information. If you already value SoTL you may find some chapters repeat what you already believe – but they can still be valuable for considering how other disciplines value and measure teaching and learning that may spark some creative approaches in your own classroom.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under book review

Media Literacy and Composition Studies

At the 2018 SXSW EDU conference danah boyd discussed media literacy, and contemporary struggles with media literacy. Namely, she pointed that the focus on skills and practices as applied through various digital tools can do as much harm as good. When we support student development of digital literacies and media literacies – they may use those skills to weaponize extremist groups (on both the left and right – using the American political system).

boyd points to the need to consider, discuss, and reconsider epistemology – how do we make knowledge, how do we discuss knowledge, how is that knowledge valued. Practices and knowledges have significant amounts of overlap – but they are different. That difference between the two is where media literacy falls short. Even incorporating information literacy, and many other xxxxx literacies, these approaches tend to focus on the skills and abilities, how students make knowledge of these existing communication acts without considering the larger cultural context, how knowledge operates, is made, is valued (or devalued) within the larger culture. Essentially, we are in the middle of a culture war that media literacy is ill equipped to engage in.

What I found so compelling about her discussion is the connection to Composition Studies. For decades, Composition Studies has been in a similar culture war. I re-read Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” last night and was struck by her bleak picture of diminishing English departments, her tracing of the devaluing of ‘writing’ because of the numerous definitions, ideas, and assumptions held about writing. As we currently read about universities in Wisconsin cutting English programs and majors – reducing English faculty to Composition Instructors (not by title, but content area valued at the institution) it’s clear there is a similar culture war within higher education – or simply an area of the same culture war boyd mentions.

As a Composition Instructor I often hear “students can’t use APA and it’s just a series of rules,” or “students don’t understand grammar,” or “students can’t write.” My job is reduced to rule memorizer and grammar teacher. The understanding of writing, the value it lends to the university is rule based – ignoring the significant evidence that writing supports and develops reading, thinking, agency, identity, and so much more. boyd’s point really resonated with me – I do think that media literacy as supporting skill development is as useless as composition lecturing on grammar and MLA/APA rules. That decontextualizes information, knowledges, ideas, values. It removes these skills/practices from the real-lived situations where writing happens, where media making and consuming happens as if the ideas presented through the use of the correct rules doesn’t matter. It potentially weaponizes writing abilities, similarly to boyd’s discussion of weaponizing media literacy skills.

As a discipline, many within composition studies are focused on ideas and explorations of transfer. How do we help students understand the contexts they write within, the audiences they write for, the arguments available within those spaces, the practices expected, and the ideas valued as the approaches to helping students recognize the grammar and style guide rules. We spend more time developing epistemology than we discuss rules. Could this be the answer to media literacy – contextualize the skill development, ask students to determine the appropriate media for their message. Both approaches place significant value back on the message. Words matter, ideas matter – let’s spend time discussing that.

The downside to this discussion is always time and content. K-12 teachers prepare students for graduation requirements and standardized testing. Adding one more area of discussion that’s difficult to assess (if 30 students use 30 different media how can that be assessed?) is asking a lot of teachers. Similarly, college composition faculty spend so much time trying to help students think creatively and analytically and critically is there time to add more media literacy into the composition curriculum. I only have students for 15 weeks their freshmen year, and if i’m lucky, 15 weeks their junior year. That is such a short period of time to engage with epistemology, and writing, and disciplinary writing, and discourse community, and and and and…….

I know boyd’s video has been somewhat controversial and my aim is not to critique or defend her. Instead, I want to consider her struggle, the struggle of media literacy, through the lens of the struggle of composition studies as a discipline. Is there anything media literacy can learn from composition studies, and is there anything composition studies can learn from media literacy to help students as they wade into the contemporary culture war?

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy, theory

No Such Thing as Bad Writers

I’ve been reading extensively in Digital Citizenship lately as I prepare for some new research projects, prepare my Media Literacy Institute on Digital Citizenship (more information here), and reconsider approaches in composition classrooms that could include more direct conversation on our social media/content creation use as digital citizenship. The goal for me has become the idea of digital citizenship as critical approach to technology and stewardship to support digital citizenship understanding by others.

So with these two approaches to thinking always at the forefront of my thinking, I read an Inside Higher Ed post on “Bad Writing“. While the blame is placed heavily on K-12’s required standardized tests that force the hands of educators – I think we need to stop calling this Bad Writing. Again – at the forefront of my thinking is this idea of stewardship, if we (educators/faculty) continue to have public conversations about how “kids today don’t write so good” that negativity will continue to be associated with writing. While there is plenty of evidence that standardized testing to measure writing ability requires very formulaic structure that has very little to do with the actual content of writing, scores are decent which means kids today write very well! For where they are measured!

This is the key for me – for where they are measure, how they are measured. When students come to my composition courses with my adapted Teaching for Transfer curriculum (shout out to #4c18 and my panel on this curriculum on Friday 3/16), they are asked to understand the interchange among discourse community, purpose, audience, and ethos. As the understanding develops through the theme (for me, remix) students begin to understand that certain discourse communities allow for certain arguments and analysis – purpose is not global it needs to match the argument within the discourse community AND be meaningful to the audience. I could go on and on – but the key here is – coming out of high school these students graduated and were admitted to college. They understood how to develop an argument on a standardized test that met the needs of their audience (the test grading service), and demonstrated their ability within the discourse community (K-12 education).

If I supported the idea that these students were bad writers i’m not allowing them agency over their successes so far. In fact – I’m denigrating their successes so far. I’m taking away the success they had at developing an argument for a discourse community. They are in college! They have succeeded. My job is to help them be successful at navigating the more nuanced discourse communities. I want to empower my students to recognize these communities and determine how to adjust their writing process accordingly. Because, let’s be honest, they’ll take a class from that one professor who cares more about spacing in APA citations than they do the content of writing (ahem….how is this different than the standardized test?). They’ll also need to understand their education and educational experiences so they craft themselves as strong employees to their internship supervisors and future employers – so they get the interviews, the jobs.

Again, I’m approaching life through positive development of digital citizenship and stewardship. We’re all already using technology. If I rage about the misuse of Twitter I’m accomplishing nothing – my students are just hearing more negativity (by the way, there is an interesting IHE post on citizens stepping back from social media sharing). They are sick of the negativity, so they tune it out. This – tuning out – that is dangerous for writing instruction. I don’t want students to tune out and not care about thinking and writing and learning and how all these will help them in their classes – their careers. So why would I approach the situation so negatively? It’s not working for cyberbullying campaigns (thanks Digital Citizenship theory) why would it work for teaching writing?

So I’m calling on al my readers (hello!) to consider their approaches to teaching, or studenting (there is not good word for this, hahahahaha), or citizenship as stewardship. I’m not just an eternal optimist arguing for positivity, I’m drawing on real data from digital citizenship studies that show positive approaches – stewardship – to digital citizenship supports better understanding and critical engagement with technology and what citizenship means in a global technology world. Let’s use that in composition studies – let’s use that with writing!

What would it mean to drop the conversations about “Bad Writing” and instead focus on the ways that students succeeded in writing, and the ways we (educators/instructors/researchers) can help students develop a richer understanding of writing (again TFT model here) for more successful writing for specific situations. Let’s actually make this happen and stop calling writing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ which confuses college students by removing their agency. Let’s say “Great work – you’re in college! Now, let’s start developing a richer understanding of writing so you don’t write a 5 paragraph essay for a discourse community – a course – where your audience will not approve of the stilted argument development and structure”.

Let’s approach the teaching of composition as stewards instead!

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

What is ‘good’ writing?

As my students begin (hopefully) writing their Reflection essays this weekend (it’s due next Friday so this is possibly wishful thinking) – I’ve noticed I’ve discussed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing A LOT this week. Not just with students in my classes, but with former students, grad students, colleagues, and even at home.

As part of a faculty reading group in my department we’ve discussed teaching – especially teaching moments in online courses (and their relationship to design, assignments, assessment, etc.). So i’ve been contemplating how i’ll assess and comment on the drafts submitted next week. As I was thinking about this, I was told a story about a professor saying “since you struggle with writing, go to the Writing Center.” This reminds me of an elementary teacher telling my mom I’d always struggle with writing. In both these situations I would argue the professor/teacher is the culprit of ‘bad’ writing. Clearly there was a lack of audience awareness for the potential outcomes of such a statement. For me, I obviously set out to prove her wrong (HA! joke is on you teacher who I really do appreciate). For the other student, she’s rethinking how far she’ll continue in higher education and reducing her career goals because she obviously selected beyond her capabilities. NO!!!! Just no!

I think what’s hardest for me, and probably the reason Rhet/Comp resonated so much with me, is I could have been that statistic. One mis-directed comment could have derailed my educational plans, when that was completely unintended by the speaker/writer.

So coming back to assessment – how can we use the Teaching for Transfer key concept model AN view assessment feedback as a teaching moment so we don’t recreate ‘bad writing’ through our comments? And, how do we balance these teaching moments so students attend to the comments and transfer the learning to the next essay?

The easy answer is to keep the feedback short – right. So students will actually read it.

I use a 1 point rubric – which is as un-rubric like as you can get – which is why I love it. I break feedback down into “What you did well” and “where to improve”. So now I’m considering how I need to attend to each of the 4 key concepts (5 for Content Management) within this structure – to tie my assessment feedback to the core of my curriculum in an attempt to maximize transfer. So when I go through ‘how is purpose attended to in this essay’ in class – I need to better use that in my rubric.

I’m thinking:

Based on our class discussion, each key concept needed to be directly discussed in this Reflection, and considered as a rhetorical move within the text of the essay. Here are my comments for where you excelled and where there is room for growth:

What you did well:

Where to improve:

Since I have a week until I’ll need this structure it may change, we’ll see. Too formulaic?

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

Kairos and Power

There is a story in Smith’s¬†Rhetoric and Human Consciousness¬†about Marin Luther causing an uprising months after he published a paper in an unexpected area. The Printing Press was very new technology, authors hadn’t considered circulation and kairos because circulating texts had been difficult and expensive so very few were circulated.

Today I read a post on Chronicle of Higher Ed about recent identity politics issues. While these are important discussions, what struck me were the examples of social media critique that stopped movements. Without self-reflection on the influence of our own subject positions, arguments may carry bias. With the internet publication cycle (anytime, anywhere), this can cause power issues in addition to the expected circulation issues.

As I’m beginning to formalize my plans for Web Writing and Content Management, this idea struck me as especially important today. In a course focused on the circulation of text, the plans to structure communication in meaningful ways, how do I address issues of power as they relate to the content.

Web Writing and Content Management is a course closely related to Technical Writing and Business Writing. While the impact of text and document design is briefly discussed by these fields (in textbooks – I’m focusing specifically on textbooks here not scholarship), it’s still just a brief discussion. Yet, Universal Design for Learning, Document Design for Social Justice, and the power of unconscious bias in text are important conversations directly related to all the assignments created for such a course.

In my current Advanced Writing course, the Document Design for Social Justice article resonated the most with students, but after the course conversation, most chose not to continue with this discussion in the papers they submitted. How do I not just design accessible content, but focus on teaching accessible content design, the importance of accessible content design as a primary concern?

In my composition courses I’ve begun to structure them based on key concepts, as an approach to learning composition through threshold concepts (organizing learning structure to support transfer and recall). What will this look like accounting for UDL and potential content bias? What key concept can support critically engaged thinking while teaching approaches to writing and structuring content in meaningful ways? What can a Content Management course look like structured by learning-based writing concepts modified to support content management specific writing so writers consider UDL and power?

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

Observing Teachers Teaching

This semester I’m Co-Chair of a committee in my department that observes the teaching of our non-tenured faculty. I want to spend some time consider what I’m learning about teaching from observing teaching (practicing my #meta pedagogy).

Scaffolding

Composition instructors spend amazing amounts of time developing strongly scaffolded assignments in their syllabi. To help students understand the connections we really need to be overt in discussing the connections between assignments – connections to the overall learning goals. I’ve noticed students in classes where the scaffolding was overt, where the connections were discussed, asked excellent questions about writing and their assignment. Questions to help guide and develop their thinking.

Awareness and Language

The advantage to these overt discussions was language development. Students in sections with discussions about the assignment connections developed richer language about assignments, learning, composition, writing practices, etc.

Students benefit from understanding the language that surrounds writing. When freshmen composition students ask questions about identifying arguments in persuasive opinion articles, and about the effectiveness of supporting detail, they are able to discuss how arguments develop. In aiding students with developing rich language surrounding writing, they can use that language to identify and understand writing in other classrooms, in other situations.

In my classroom observations I saw students ask more complex questions when they had language to support their questions. I know there are many different theories to support this approach to teaching writing. How do we share these results? What results will be most meaningful to faculty members to adjust their curriculum to support stronger student writing development including the language and metacongition that supports understanding of their own writing?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

Makerspaces at Conferences

This past weekend I presented at the Feminisms and Rhetorics 2017 conference. I presented a maker session on using coding robots (my ozobots) to support learning writing processes and theories (maker pedagogy with a focus on transfer).

The conference call for papers included a call for maker sessions, but for this conference it seemed very few presenters submitted to publish under that category. I attempted to attend a few maker sessions that didn’t happen, and generally did not see many listed in the program. Whatever the cause for fewer maker sessions, it caused interesting mindset reactions in my session.

I presented on Friday afternoon – after a largish lunch with our keynote speaker. The conference began on Wednesday, lasted all day and into late evening on Thursday, included activist sessions and workshops Friday morning, followed by our keynote address, then my session. By my session many attendees seemed a bit overwhelmed and tired. There was a lot of conference happening before my session. What I appreciated most was the joy and excitement in my session when I told attendees the point was to give them time to experience my theory pedagogy, they were going to play with robots.

While i’ll follow-up later with discussions of the theories, I want to take a short break to discuss the idea of maker time at conference to support good learning at conferences. Educators burn-out too. We become overwhelmed at conferences. My session now has me wondering if there should be more productive ways to organize conferences to build in experimental time, experience time, play time.

What i’m not arguing is that my format was the best. What I am considering is the way my play-based format, using the ozobots and some keynote theory slides, but focusing on spending time with the theories as experiential learning offered time for attendees to process some of their learning. Even if attendees never use robots (I understand the cost prohibitive nature of this tech – I only have 4 which influences how I design some of my pedagogy), even if attendees don’t process my theories but some of what they’ve learned from other sessions, could there be benefits to makerspaces at conferences where all attendees work through their own learning in experiential ways that are meaningful to them?

With a focus on transfer (I’m reading How People Learn, I highly recommend these ideas), I’m also wondering how makerspaces can aid learning transfer. How can attendees use these maker practices in new spaces to continue to support their own development. While being overloaded with ideas for new projects is great, it’s also exhausting. Can makerspaces help information processing in meaningful ways?

I feel this post has even fewer answers than I normally provide, I’m epically failing as an education blogger by just adding more questions to an already complex field, but I’m really happy with these ideas. I’m also considering possible applications in the classroom. Yes, I use robots, but with course times, regularly engaging maker activities requires a lot of work (and areas where I need to improve my approach to flipping). How does the classroom need to be reimagined for this to work? This same question would apply to conferences too – how would a conference be reimagined to allow for maker learning processing space? How do we get student/attendee buy-in for such a different approach? I have tons of students who love lectures, they are comfortable with and familiar with lectures, modify that approach and students need guidance. I’m assuming conference attendees would be similarly mystified to new approaches to conference learning. How do we teach students/attendees how to learn in these new approaches?

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy

Core Concepts, FYC, and Intertextuality

Influenced by a visiting speaker, Kara Taczak, I’m making some changes to how I teach First Year Composition to promote transfer. Drawing from both Writing About Writing and Teaching for Transfer, the new model will focus on threshold concepts or core concepts of writing to strengthen what students know about their own writing process to help students successfully transfer ‘good’ writing to new writing situations.

 

When I taught a 200 level Rhetorical Theory course we learned a lot of concepts, key terms if you will, that related to rhetoric and why rhetoric as a theory and field of research survived. Even during the Dark Ages when learning, knowledge, and schooling were very limited, rhetoric continued to be taught to Catholic Priests to help convert and deliver sermons to constituents. One of the key concepts that remained, and became a stronger aspect of theory, is the idea of intertextuality.

Teaching the idea of intertextuality from Smith’s Rhetoric and Human Consciousness¬†is difficult. Smith focuses on Biblical intertextuality and the ways the Church interpreted the theory to benefit their Priests and constituents (it’s much more involved than this, but this summary serves my purposes here). Literature students recognized the concept and drew connections to how intertextuality operates in literature. Non-literature students never seemed to understand Smith’s discussion. I’m currently reading Stephen King’s¬†The Drawing of the Three¬†(#2 in the Dark Tower series) and the characters referenced¬†The Shining¬†in a discussion – basic intertextuality, but it’s engrained in the story so readers don’t recognize the moment as intertextuality (why did King reference The Shining at THAT moment? why not The Stand, etc.). But, intertextuality exists far beyond literature and novels, and some of the most popular television shows and movies use intertextuality in important ways.

After watching Game of Thrones¬†(the¬†episode that aired on Sunday 8/16), I read a blog by Erik Kane (he presented at the Undergraduate Videogame Symposium at my previous institution about blogging as a career post-English Bachelor’s – the students loved his candor) about intertextuality in GoT that could help a viewer make educated guesses on the direction of the show (there’s also compelling arguments for the need for viewers to recognize most of the intertextuality to follow the storyline development – cognitive requirements of modern viewing and fandom). While his post is looking at literary intertextuality in the television show, the use of text and a multimodal YouTube clip as support for his claim struck me as ridiculously helpful to teaching academic intertextuality – the dreaded citation.

Returning to the idea of selecting key concepts, for Fall 2017 I’ll focus on discourse community, audience, purpose, and ethos. I’m using¬†They Say/I Say as the course textbook. As I’m finalizing the design for my internet-theme’d, Teaching for Transfer influenced pedagogy, i’m working in a way to use a blog post (internet-based reading and writing, with all it’s messy author-audience relationships and imaginings) to help students understand why citations matter (ethos, discourse community). In the GoT post, Kain uses a few interesting rhetorical moves that are helping me work through the connection to be made between theme (internet) and key concepts (learning about writing to write better).

First, the post begins with an image (yes there is a title, but i’m choosing to begin with the image) of¬†The Magnificent Seven (his term). For those who watch, GoT has an endless supply of story lines and tons and tons of characters (i’m not a lit major so excuse my lack of literary terms to describe this). In using an image of the exact group he’s discussing, he focuses the reader’s attention on the small portion of the HUGE GoT world he’ll discuss in this post. This is such an important move in academic introductions. We humans have been discussing and theorizing since before the Ancient Greeks (the Greeks happen to be the most well preserved recordings). In selecting a topic for an essay, the hardest concept to teach students is how to enter that HUGE conversation and focus the point. Blogs, by including multimedia, allow for images to do much of that work for the author – IF the correct image is selected. From a Pfannenstiel’s key concept point of view, this allows Kain to focus his discussion on the purpose of his conversation within the larger discourse community.

Next, Kain establishes the background knowledge necessary to understand his claim – he contextualizes the mission and the characters involved. Again it speaks to the discourse community, establishing the necessary background information needed for the post without assuming too much or too little about the reader of the post (ethos and¬†audience). The attention to audience here is really important, he makes educated guesses about how to introduce this information so his audience appreciates the information without feeling like he’s belittling their knowledge of GoT.

Now comes the intertextuality (with some ethos thrown in when he includes both the show and the book). We (readers) are being asked to re-examine existing information from the show as evidence for Kain’s analysis. After including the originals (again, the video clip and the passages from the book), Kain analyzes the information by explaining the clips along side his analysis – let me say that again in case any of my students read this post, by explaining the clip along side his analysis. He doesn’t assume the readers will draw the same connections, so he includes the original source, then analyzes it and adds his point.

The goal of this post isn’t to explore GoT theories, but to consider how the video clip functions as an academic citation – through intertextuality. While intertextuality isn’t a key term (it’s a difficult idea to grasp), it is influenced by and influences discourse communities and practices within discourse communities.

To develop a connection between the Magnificent Seven and GoT lore, Kain includes a video link with a clip from season 1. This is an expected rhetorical blogging move – include the thing that you reference for readers to know especially in the form of a video. This is also, essentially, a citation. Here is where my information comes from. Citations and intertextuality help an author establish ethos, they lend credibility to a discussion and claim by referencing other sources in very specific ways.

The specific clip selected is a choice to present the findings from the original in a very specific way. When I search on YouTube for “Old Nan tells a story” I have approximately 5,300 results. While yes, many are commentary and fandoms (so easily excluded) – this is the same situation student writers often find themselves in, wading through massive amounts of text to find the one that properly supports their point. What’s so important for comp instructors (and librarians) is the information literacy skills required/developed to wade through these videos. It’s the same required of wading through sources to find ones that actually support and develop the student-author’s text. If we consider any of the other videos in the YouTube list of 5,300 we can discuss all the reasons those videos would support Kain’s argument less well than the video he included. This is a real, lived citation making intertextual claims, embedded within a blog argument, to support Kain’s analysis of the episode.

Importantly, students read posts all the time that require them to understand these videos as citations, as intertextuality. They experience, analyze, and judge posts daily that rely on their ability to understand intertextuality and citations in writing. Will finding and analyzing such everyday lived posts help them transfer what they know from everyday sense-making to the academic essay, or will they still see citations as a ‘chore’ and ‘requirement’ of writing that simply make their lives hell?

Now, we’ll see if this focus on rhetorical moves of an existing blog post helps students understand the key concepts as they move through their academic papers this Fall……… show of hands for who watches Game of Thrones!¬†

Leave a comment

Filed under pedagogy