Wednesday, October 5, 2016

“Are We Teaching Composition All Wrong?”

Provocative reading in The Chronicle of Higher Education : Joseph R. Teller, “Are We Teaching Composition All Wrong?” A sample:

I have tried requiring students to write only three essays developed over several drafts, each of which I comment on without a grade. I have used peer workshops to help students respond to each other’s writing. I have used portfolio systems and deferred-grading schemes. I have cajoled; I have encouraged; I have experimented with more rubrics than I can count.
Teller’s conclusion: these strategies rarely work.

One comment on this essay (quoting from and taking issue with a previous comment) signals some of the troubles that beset the world of English:
This is not an “experienced professional” in the field of writing and rhetoric: “English professor” means the person teaches in the English department, and there are many literature professors, as is Mr. Teller, who also have to teach First-year composition. Look to the professionals with credentials in rhetoric and composition to give you a “clear understanding” of the topic.
“As is Mr. Teller?”

comments: 5

Sara said...

Oh lord, that commenter!

The Crow said...

Don't know where my mind was when I read your title, but I thought you were asking if we were teaching compassion all wrong.

To which I would have answered I didn't realize we were teaching compassion at all! (Except at home, of course.)

Michael Leddy said...

I think that good teaching can model compassion. A student is lucky to have one or two teachers who can do that. But it’s a world apart from “Open your books to page 212,” and so on.

The Crow said...

I've thought about my misunderstanding throughout the day. I think I learned compassion by seeing it in others, watching and hearing them express their compassion to and for others. But that might be to narrow a definition.

In that way, learning by example - and certainly teachers show the way, the good ones do; I've known many - the lessons made a stronger impression on me. I never noticed if my guides were actively teaching. Most probably weren't; seemed to flow naturally from them, like an exhaled breath or the sound of a heartbeat, or a smile so tender and kind it made me want to cry. I don't know if compassion can be purposefully taught, or planned to be a lesson, but it is taken in to the soul by the observer, remembered and built upon. Compassion has to be experienced to be understood, I think.

Compassion makes us infinitely human, and unbelievably beautiful.

Heavens! where did that come from?

Michael Leddy said...

A good place. :)