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WFP Rhetorical Genre Studies Approaches to Teaching Writing
Terms in this set (34)
As we have discussed earlier, Rhetorical Genre Studies' sociological understanding of genre has revealed genre as a rich analytical tool for studying academic, workplace, and public environments, but it has also left RGS researchers with questions about the pedagogical pos- sibilities of teaching genres explicitly in classroom environments, out- side of the contexts of their use.
How can we bring our knowledge of genre to bear on the teaching of writing?
Research on writing transfer has begun to shed some light on the challenges students face as they negotiate disciplinary and professional writing contexts
Research in education and psychology identifies meta-cognition as an important component of knowledge transfer, especially across dissimilar contexts of the sort students will encounter between FYC courses, courses in different academic disciplines, and workplace set- tings. In their well-known research on knowledge transfer, D.N. Per- kins and Gavriel Salomon distinguish between what they call "low road" and "high road" transfer.
Low road transfer "reflects the au- tomatic triggering of well-practiced routines in circumstances where there is considerable perceptual similarity to the original learning con- text," for example, how learning to drive a car prepares one to drive a truck (25).
High road transfer, on the other hand, "depends on de- liberate, mindful abstraction of skill or knowledge from one context for application to another" (25).
Some RGS scholars have argued that genre analysis and awareness enable such meta-cognition.
This interest in teaching genres as learning strategies or tools for accessing unfamiliar writing situations (or for solving "problem spac- es") is taken up by Anne Beaufort in her recent longitudinal study, College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writ- ing Instruction. Throughout the course of her study, Beaufort explores how genre knowledge can serve as a "mental gripper" for students ne- gotiating new writing situations and how teaching genres as learn- ing strategies can provide students with tools that transfer to multiple contexts.
To support these claims, Beaufort proposes an approach to writing instruction geared toward positive transfer of learning, a pedagogi- cal approach very much situated in genre theory, as evidenced by the genre-centered teaching apparatus she includes at the end of the book.
RGS scholars—taking up this challenge to develop students' genre knowledge in ways that can better prepare them to access, understand, and write in various situations and contexts—have developed fruitful methods for cultivating meta-genre awareness.
Guidelines for Analyzing Genres
1. Collect Samples of the Genre
2. Identify the Scene and Describe the Situation in which the Genre is Used.
3. Identify and Describe Patterns in the Genre's Features.(structure, word choice, format, sentence types)
4. Analyze What These Patterns Reveal about the Situation and Scene.
The questions above stress the interaction between genre and context, guiding the students from analysis of the situation to the genre and then from genre back to the situation, in a trajectory that reflects RGS approaches to genre analysis.
Other RGS textbooks aimed at first-year composition writers effec- tively use genre as a frame for formulating rhetorical strategies and re- sponding to various communicative situations, reinforcing the transfer value of genre knowledge.
A similar approach is taken in the Norton Field Guide to Writing (Richard Bullock), which also integrates genre considerations, noting how genres frame reading and writing assignments.
As illustrated by the above examples, a rhetorical genre approach teaches students how to recognize and perform genres as rhetorical responses to and reflections of the situations in which they are used.
Just as Freedman and Medway point out that a genre approach can "demystify" writing situations, they also warn that "the slide is easy from the discovery that conventions are not arbitrary or unmoti- vated to the assumption that they are right and should be acquired" (Learning and Teaching Genre 14) by students, which is also a danger.
To recognize genres as socially situated and culturally embedded is to recognize that genres carry with them the beliefs, values and ide- ologies of particular communities and cultures.
Ideologies are embedded not only in the genres we assign students to write but in the genres we use as instructors, such as assignment prompts, syllabi, and comments on papers.
One way to construct useful guideposts for navigating academic cul- ture is through demystifying classroom genres, like the teacher's end comments on student papers, the student-teacher conference, writ- ing assignment prompt, and the syllabus.
Another way students can learn to access and participate effectively in academic scenes is by identifying expectations embedded in writ- ing assignments or prompts.
As Bazerman and others have noted, classrooms are complex spac- es that are "always invented, always constructed, always a matter of genre" ("Where is the Classroom?" 26).
A teaching approach that develops a critical awareness of genre should, in addition to teaching students to critique a genre's ideologies, teach them an awareness of how to produce alternatives.
Another approach to teaching genres as both constraining and enabling is to have students write critical analyses of genres but also participate in the production of new generic responses.
A related approach is to have students read multiple examples of the same genre to discover that there's more than one way to respond to a situation.
following approaches already used in English for Academic Purposes (EAP).
For example, in his genre-based approach to an EAP program, Brian Paltridge includes ethnographic components as students carry out a study of fellow students' attitudes toward English
A genre approach that incorporates field or ethnographic approach- es—observations of a group's interactions, participation in the group, interviews with individuals who read or write in a genre—can situate genre analysis and give students access to authentic contexts for lan- guage use.
RGS practitioners have begun to integrate participant/observation research of communities in order to enable students to examine and to see first-hand how communities use genres to carry out social actions and agendas.
Guidelines for Observing and Describing Scenes
1. Select and Gain Access to a Scene
2. Observe the Scene in General.
3. Identify the Situations of the Scene.
4. Observe and Describe the Situations of a Scene.
5. Identify the Genres in the Scene.
In Genres Across the Curriculum, Herrington and Moran argue that students can learn ways of thinking and problem solving by writing in authentic contexts, via participation in public genres (9). This view is backed up by research on the socio-discursive model used in Brazilian pedagogy, which teaches literacy skills through genres such as radio genres (see Baltar et al., "School Radio") that have a broader reach to audiences beyond academic audiences.
Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) programs, since their inception in the 1970s and growth in the 1980s, have focused on two strands:
writing to learn (writing as a tool for discovering and shaping knowl- edge) and learning to write in the disciplines (learning the specific genres and conventions of a discourse community).
If genres are ways of knowing and acting within differentiated learning domains, can a genre approach help us re-envision the rela- tionship between writing to learn and learning to write?
WAC pedagogies that integrate genre approaches envision genres as situated actions that function both pragmatically and epistemologi-cally—both as sites of material interaction within social environments and as tools for understanding and interpreting these interactions.
As we have seen in the last two chapters, genre-based pedagogies are adaptable to multiple and varied institutional contexts, as evident by their use within ESL programs, graduate-level writing programs for international students, primary and secondary school writing curri- cula, first-year composition programs, and writing in the disciplines/ writing across the curriculum programs.
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