5 ways of thinking of audience

 Coney : “Think about your audience” reminded me of some work I saw, read, and used during an advanced comp class.  I think I’ll print and attach a copy of some questions about voice.  I think a similarly exhausting, if not exhaustive, list of questions about audience would be useful to define our assumptions about audience.

            I liked the taxonomy of readers, although I don’t think I would have had I not already been exposed to the idea.  Not sure why.

            reader as receiver of information

            reader as user

            reader as decoder

            reader as professional colleague– social constructions community creating meaning?  If so, how different from below?

            reader as maker of meaning

 

Coney, M.B.  “Technical readers and their rhetorical roles.”  Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions 35.2 (June 1992): 58-63.

Teacher Learning

Found the following info on a teacher at a California college.

Kuro5hin says, “A speech class professor, Rosalyn Kahn, told students they could get extra credit for writing an anti-war letter to President Bush. To receive credit, the letter had to protest the war, and the letter had to be mailed to President Bush. (I would find this just as worthy of mention if she had required students to write a pro-war letter.) Then, according to a press release, “One week later, Kahn again required students to write letters with a specific political viewpoint, this time to California State Senator Jack Scott. Professor Kahn collected the letters from the class and personally delivered them to Scott.”

When the administration found out, they took care of the problem. This letter was from the president of the college to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

I found this interesting for a number of reasons.

One is that I am a college teacher.

As a college teacher, I have given extra credit for writing letters. Those were to members of the armed forces during the Gulf War and to missionaries (when I taught at a Christian college). I did not ask to see the letters. I did ask for them to be turned in inside an envelope that was addressed and stamped. However, I was an ENGLISH teacher. The students were getting extra credit for doing a writing assignment. Writing assignments are normally the pervue of an English teacher.

I was a bit dismayed by the fact that this teacher picked which side the letters were to agree with. (Although I hope none of the students wrote the servicemen and women and told them they were baby killers!) But I have had assignments which weren’;t made with the best judgement. Unfortunately, teachers are human too and make mistakes.

I thought the administration did a good job of taking care of the problem. I was amazed. I have worked under an administration in which the whistleblower gets in trouble, not the person doing the wrong thing.

Reading in America

Was reading a blog this morning. A very negative, inaccurate blog. I try to read alternative views, to keep my vision clear. This one said that you and I are stupid. Well, if you are an American he said you are stupid. He said I am an “uneducated clod”. He said my neighbors were. (Remember blogs are addressed to the reader. “You and yours” means “me and mine” to the reader.)

He also, foolishly, said that he was sure I didn’t know the last 5 books I’d read. Because Americans are too stupid to read. He said my neighbors wouldn’t know either. He took my answer off his site and disconnected comments from it.

This was my answer:

Goddess by Mistake

The Little Girl in the Blue Dress

The Other Linding Girl

The Wedding Assignment

The Baby Assignment

The Culture of Mesopotamia

Wonders of the Ancient World

The Tomorrow Log

A Fantasy Hero

A Summer's Breeze

The Mesopotamians

The Babylonians

The Assyrians

Archaeology and the World

Dummies Guide to Myth

Universal History of the World: Early Civilizations

Ancient Mysteries

GURPS: Low-tech

My Sister Celia

Sweet Adventure

The Curtain Rises

When Love is Blind

song Cycle

No More Secrets

One Good Man

The Black Gryphon

This is a short list, maybe half, of the books I read THIS WEEK.

Maybe the people you know don’;t read, but the people I know do. (Except for two.)

That’s the end of my answer.

I was ANGRY. I was furious that someone, I assume an American, would tell fellow citizens that they are too stupid to read.

I went to nursery class this morning to teach the three year olds like I do on Thursdays. I asked my fellow teachers, who I only see at class and do not know personally, if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. The shortest list was 11. The longest was 17. That’s from 3 people, women who teach nursery school.

I asked my parents if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. They did. My mom has read 9 in the last two days.

Of course, since I read a lot, you would expect people I know to read a lot. I do know two people who don’t read a lot. But they can also tell me the last five books they’ve read. One of them is a doctor and he reads multiple technical/medical journals every month.

A quote from the blog that made me so angry.

Our education level is far below, MANY other countries in the world. Consider the latest statistic that over 60% of Americans read below a 4th grade level. Don’t believe it? Name the last five books you’ve read in the past year. Ask your neighbor to do the same. (If you can do it without naming a magazine article from Car and Driver, I applaude you.) You get a gold star and can consider yourself part of the “elite” 40%)? The rest of the world knows we’re a bunch of uneducated clods…

According to our government, though, our children have an average education for other highly industrialized nation. Our government wasn't too happy that we were average, though. But we certainly aren't below average for the world if we are average for industrialized nations. I would be amazed to find someone outside our own country calling us uneducated clods. Because we aren't.

According to a 1993 literacy study, the average American reads between 8th and 9th grade level. That includes those who are in and grew up in a culture of poverty and are totally or functionally illiterate. According to the site above, most medicaid patients read at a 5th grade level. So according to this, even the functionally illiterate read at the 5th grade level.

If someone is going to say something like you and I are stupid, they ought to be able to back up what they say. And they can’t. Because we’re not.

What does that tell you about the rest of what they say? It isn’t reliable.

I know that people think reading has gone down in America, but I am not sure why they think that. One hundred years ago, my great-grandmother didn’t even finish high school. She was busy working as a secretary in a bank, trying to support my grandmother. She didn’t have time to read. And she was not a stupid woman.

Yes, the most elite read one hundred years ago. Certainly Jefferson, Adams, Washington, and Franklin (200+ years ago) were avid readers. But the regular folks in town? Were they avid readers? I don’t think so.

Students, papers, Fs

(Kept private until 2008.)

I was grading my first essays for this semester this week. That just about killed my week. There is not a lot that is more of a bummer than a college essay with 72 marks against grammar on the first page. That was the first essay. The second essay wasn’t any better. I did finally get some decent papers, towards the end of the bunch. (I saved the ones from students I knew wrote well till later.)

I know some of my students are my age and older. But it is the younger students who seem unable to use their computers to do grammar and spell checking. I have one student who thinks that every time he pauses he needs a semi-colon. That’s going to be a tough habit to break.

The papers were a short story analysis. They had to read three Flannery O’Connor short stories and write on one or all three. They could pick which they wrote on. But they had to have quotes from the story in their paper. They did okay on the quoting part.

I actually had my last semester college kids write a process essay. They did fairly well on that one. Some of the other types were much harder.

Less Work, Higher Grades

As a college teacher, I found this article interesting. It said people are learning to work the system to get the grades. It also said that freshman are drinking less.

However, the more interesting section was the comments. Lots and lots of comments.

My favorites were the ones about going through the quizzes afterwards (Which students were complaining about that?) and the curve (I gave that same lecture.). The ones on drinking were also interesting though.

Wow, there were a lot of comments. I even made one.

6 Types of Questions for Creating a Test

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create different questions.

1. Begin with the simplest. Remembering.

These questions would use words like: Acquire, Define, Distinguish, Draw, Find, Label, List, Match, Read, Record.

For freshman comp, for example, this would be: Define two kinds of papers we wrote in class.

2. Understanding.

This is where you had to read/listen and make sense of the information.

The questions would use words like: Compare, Demonstrate, Differentiate, Fill in, Find, Group, Outline, Predict, Represent, Trace.

For comp and lit, an understanding question would be “Compare the treatment of women in Glaspell’s Trifles and Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.'”

3. Applying.

This is where you employ information in new situations.

These questions would use words like: Convert, Demonstrate, Differentiate between, Discover, Discuss, Examine, Experiment, Prepare, Produce, Record

A sample question might be “Discuss how you could use your expertise in art to connect to the college community.” (It’s a useful idea and most of my lower income students were artists.)

4. Analyzing.

This is when you separate the whole and determine how the parts relate to one another and to the whole. It requires organizing.

Analyzing questions would include words like: Classify, Determine, Discriminate, Form generalizations, Put into categories, Illustrate, Select, Survey, Take apart, Transform

A sample question would be “We read four papers on feminism. How would you define feminism based on these works and how do the works illustrate feminism?”

5. Evaluating

This is when you make judgments based on criteria.

Words for these questions would include: Argue, Award, Critique, Defend, Interpret, Judge, Measure, Select, Test, Verify.

A sample question might be “Argue either for or against the inclusion of English writing classes as a requirement for all majors.”

6. Creating

This is where we put things together, reorganizing them to form a structural whole.

Possible wording for questions include: Synthesize, Arrange, Blend, Create, Deduce, Devise, Organize, Plan, Present, Rearrange, Rewrite

A possible question of this type would be: “We learned that Glaspell and Gilman had personal experiences that effected their stories. Using “The Story of an Hour” what can you deduce about Kate Chopin’s experience with marriage?”

Class-Based Value Differences

taken from JZ’s work, part of the whole. She said she doesn’t want her name on it yet. (And she still said that in 2007.)

Another Cultural Diversity Issue in the Classroom

The often unspoken personal hierarchy of values drives decision-making, and student responses to education. If we are to retain students from homes with generational poverty values, we must understand conceptual barriers to success. Community college teachers must plan strategies to optimize strength and bridge differences in order to release hostility and build trust. Understanding does not connote tolerance of unacceptable behaviors, as one of our unstated missions is to help students function positively in an academic and /or business environment dominated by middle class values.

From Melvin Kohn (1969) is this gem: “the essence of higher class position is the expectation that one’s decisions and actions can be consequential; the essence of lower class position is the belief that one is at the mercy of forces and people beyond one’s control, often beyond one’s understanding.”

In other words cause and effect obvious to middle-class may not be visible to persons from generational poverty. Middle class persons may label lack of action by persons from generational poverty as a personal deficiency such as “lazy” or “unmotivated” or having “low self esteem.” Persons from generational poverty may view middle-class community college culture as hostile and untrustworthy.

Possible scenario based on value differences across classes:
Teacher: “Come and ask me if you have problems.” (Values achievement)
Student has problems but never comes. (Values politeness and conformity, feels powerless over destiny)
Teacher labels student failure to ask for help as personal deficiency (Values self direction).
Student views teacher as hostile and drops class (Values relationship over achievement).

3 ways to make information more accessible to readers

First paragraph of “Making Information Accessible to Readers” from Writing in NonAcademic Settings (Odell and Goswani).  Easiest to improve specific sentences and words.  Read through first looking for local changes.  Then read again for global changes.  Does this mean that I focus on local?  Or just focus first?  Does this happen much?

            I would really like to work on how to get nonacademic writing into the curriculum of comp courses.  I think that would be phenomenal, useful, and fun.  I don’t have the foggiest idea how you’d go about it, though.  

Poverty and Education

Found an interesting entry at brad’s blog on blog-city. He was talking about the Michigan U affirmative action policy. He had a good argument for something else, instead. A poverty-based initiative. I thought his arguments were cogent and interesting, as were his comments afterwards.

Poverty is not inherently a negative factor in education. It is the culture of poverty that makes for poor education.

My family was far below the poverty line when I was growing up, but my parents always read to us, took us to the library as often as we finished our books, and emphasized school to us. I have a PhD. My brother has a LlD. My baby sister is working on her MA.

My father's family were farmers and often below the poverty line for income, although they always had food to eat. He has a LlD. One sister has a PhD. One sister is a CPA. They all have good educations. Because those were emphasized.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. It is essentially a description of why it is hard for the poor to get a good education. It is because their culture is against it.

This entry is no longer available, because the author took it down. I have a copy of the information sitting on my computer, though. But I don’t want to publish it, because it isn’t mine.