Under Construction: Working at the Intersections of Composition Theory, Research and Practice
MacLennan encourages tutors to approach "a session with an open. MacLennan demonstrates how a "reciprocal relationship can be instituted at every stage of the composing process by remaining open to another's viewpoint and altering your own position when it leads to more effective collaboration. In the next essay, Jay Jacoby examines the controversy which MacLen- nan's article suggests: how much intervention should a tutor provide?
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Effec- tively using the research rather than just Inc metaphors of medical ethicists, Jacoby concludes with what most tutors fear: "In encouraging the substitution of our discourse for the students' we are potentially erasing at least part of that stud,. Jacoby draws on definitions of "informed consent. Mullin encouraging students to see that they do not have to assume the role of 'other' themseRes:' Framed by an examination of the concept of "difference.
Lassiter concludes that "only if we accept irreconcilable differences can we truly respect the integrity of students' identities and explore what kind of learning takes place between 'peers. Joan Mullin warns that "if tutors.
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Mullin concludes that "students and tutors 'must I understand the limitations of a literacy defi- nition w Inch pro. Iso I they can begin to engage in a true dialogue. For example. Adams and Adams suggest our creative traditions may hold the answer for renewing and expanding some of our practices. Hosseser, both of these theoretical discussions take on new meaning w hen grounded in Murphy's and Fitzger- ald's der dillerent examinations of collaboration.
Like Adams and Adams. IV factor, of uulisiduatl choice. In light of these discussions, does Vallace's test linguistics promote collaborative practice. Do the Miuses' workshop approach offer a Minke between itigerald's and Murphy's collaborative discussions'? I o new theimes emerge w hen practices derived from these are combined? Writing center practitioners can he more respon- sive to the individual learner in ways our composition classroom environ- ments cannot.
Centers provide spaces where the personal and public, the individual and oiler, struggle to honor the singular voice, to recognize differ- ent language communities.
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Yet those in writing centers also represent an academic culture which excludes individual voices and privileges its own language. The theories represented here help us construct alternative pedagogy to negotiate the thin lines between the conflicts which prevent true collaborations. Eric II. Hobson St. If writing center use of collaborative learning, for instance. Hawkins calls for that action: If ,riting centers are to continue making the substantial contributions to classroom practices and curricula.
Because of this tradition, the picture of an educational community piecing together hits of theories on which to gnmnd its instruction has no!
JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 28, Numbers 3 & 4, - Page - Digital Library
This insecurity blinds the writing center community to ways in which contra- diction between writing center theory and practice does not represent a struc- tural weakness in the writing center. Writing center theory has problems keeping up with writing center practice because w riting center theory.
Rey, ond this one explanation. Conventional w isdom at least ithin the rationally bounded discourse of academereinforces the idea that theory leads to practice. Writing center practice itself is capable of providing an informed self-critique suffi- cient for validating the know ledge that results from its critical action.
But how has the situation of contradiction and inconsistency within writing center theory and practice happened? The answers to this question are many. To examine and to critique these inconsistencies w e must examine the roots of both writing center theory and writing center practice. The History of Writing Center Theory and Practice There was no disjunction of theory and practice in the writing center while it operated under the influence of Current Traditional Rhetoric.
Working within an objecti isi epistemology, where truth was knowable, neutral. Betty McFarland writes, An objective common to each Icompositionl course is mechanical cor- rectness. The logical place for such supplemen- tal instruction is in it laborab,is. At many colleges and universities. Theory and practice were in harmon. As the composition curriculum responded in the late s and into the mids to issues raised bv the process movement. In the old curriculum. North Wallace I 9 9 1.
The process movement. Where the relationship between the composition curriculum and the practices of the writing lab had been clear-cut, there muw existed no absolute answers. Prac- tices viable within a positivist epistemology were no longer politically or economically 1 credible. Because writing had been demonstrated to be an actin ity controlled not as much by concrete rules as by the context in which the communicative event takes place. W riting centers had to alter their instruc- tiim. Instead of having students do workbook exercises, writing centers now had students talk to and work with trained writing tutors in the understanding that together these writers could use the generalise power or conversation to discover ways to improve their writing Bruffee Harris When writing centers changed their focuses to the contexts in which writing occurs and the wa s these contexts impinge on the creation of texts.
Writing center theory grew out of practice because no theory called Writing 'enter Theory existed. Early writing centers'! Collaborative learning and a commitment to individualized instruction are the most frequently cited theories used since the middle of the last decade to create a theoretical justification for writing centers. And yet, "collaborative learning," Trimbur writes, "is not a theoretically unified position but a set of pedagogical principles zinc! As the perceived mainstay of writing center theory, collaborative learning reinforces Bruffee's contention that writing center theory's roots are to he found in practice.
The I iberatory elements articulated in writing center theory, the attempts to help students understand the systems of power in which they function, have been synthesised from the work of such diverse thinkers and teachers as John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The writing center seemed to be a location for such activity. Like Dewey. Braiilian educator Paulo Freire critiques traditional education on the grounds that it "teaches students how to live passively within oppres- sive and alienating structures, to adapt to the world as it is, instead of devel- oping their subjectivity as historical actors- Trimbur , Describing traditional education through a "banking- model, Freire demonstrates how students are viewed as empty accounts waiting to be filled by teachers who n knowledge.
The writing center tutorial, with its "equal- participation of tutor and writer, resembles w hat Stanley Aronowiti and Henry A.
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Giroux understand as the "dialogic- nature of Freire's critique of traditional educa- tion: "learning occurs w ithin conversation and not as top-to-down instruction between the teacher and student'' Dewey's and Freire's ideas about educational reforms have been paramount to the development of the theoretical unity within the writing center commu- nity, and much of the foundational work in this effort was accomplished by B ru flee.
Bruffee is a synthesizerthe synthesizer the writing center community needed at an historical moment in its development. His articulation of a theoretical base from which to justify writing center activity depends largely on the ideas presented him by many of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century e. Itional factors. This con- cept allowed many writing center practitioners as well as teachers to under- stand the profound changes being proposed by advocates of this movement.
Ilk assertion that the "conversation of mankind- is the sole basis for arriving at truth, that agreement and consensus among groups of knowledgeable peers is the foundation on which all "knowledge- rests, are direct challenges to positivist epistemologies and practices. By Each attempted to provide the community with a means for sorting out its practice within the theories shaping the composition programs to which most writing centers were connected. The problem was fundamental: with Current Traditional Rhetoric and the mecha- nistic practices w citing centers employed to help students master the prescrip- tive writing instruction associated with Current Traditional Rhetoric discredited.
North provided the comparatively vague axiom "Our job is to produce better w niters. The writing center community knew what the practice of writing centers was within an objectivist epistemology and knew the center's goal was to produce better writing. But, as writing lost its linear and prescribable mask and was revealed to he a recursive and socially dependent activity, the equa- tion of what practices achieve the writing center's goals for the writers who conic seeking help w ith their w riting became rather ambiguous.
Hobson rive learning and individualized instruction were the best alternatives for writing center practice. Such methods as one-to-one instruction and group tutoring produced desirable results with writers, and the writing center com- munity enthusiastically endorsed these practices. Following l3ruffee's earliest discussions such as "The Brooklyn Plan: Attaining Intellectual Growth through Peer-Group Tutoring" of the role collaboration plays within student cultures, the writing center community has connected its principle instructional methodthe one-on-one tutorialto the principles of collabo- rative learning.
The community claimed that tutors "are the architects and partners of collaborative learning. They redesign the learning environment so that more of the responsibility and the activity of learning is shifted onto the learner" Hawkins In the midst of the rapid change during the s and early 80s. These critiques, however, all point to a less-than-seamless overlay of theory and practice w ithin the writing center. In Harvey Kail listed what he perceived to be "major problems with a one-to-one approach as the primary and often the only pedagogical strategy for writing centers.
John Trimbur. Greg Myers's critique of collaborative learning.
What if the road to inclusion were really an intersection?
His critique brings to the discussion the role ideolog plays in the creation and perpetuation of any educational theory and practice. As such. Myers challenges Bruffee's advocacy of collaborative learning as the means of arriving at communal consensus: 13ruffce's program is blind to the reality hat consensus is not always desirable. Even such careful and insightful critics as Kail and Trimbur 1 9 8 7 have argued likewise: "The power of collaborative learn ing, we believe, is that it offers students a w ay Myers's thesis strives to demonstrate that even such laudable intentions often serve to leave students still vulnerable to the caprice of a conservative ideolop.
Tom Hemmeter , among others, notes many attempts within the ssriting center community to create a metatheory and metapractice that finds its epistemological roots in the positivism of Enlightenment thought. Discuss- ing the "fragmentary nature of writing center theory,- Hemmeter takes to task those members of the community whose articulations of writing center theory and practice reveal "a desire for wholeness and completeness in a pedagogy ss hich covers all pedagogical bases and which works w ith the whole student- 39 1. He demonstrates how continuing to ignore or to explain away the disjunctions that exist between writing center theory and practice "is to fall into the structuralist trap of dualities'' Such is the dualistic nature of Enlightenment thought that holds hegemonic sway over the academy and requires us to discount as invalid any theory or practice demonstrated to be contradictory--that is, if we try to play by the rules of conventional theory building.
But, as poststructurzdist critiques of positivist epistemology have demon- strated. As Sosnoski notes. Echoing Hemmeter. The inconsistenc goes unrecognised because the -km- of noncontradiction is simply not imoked and he cause the teaching practice is successful at achieing its often disparate practical goals.
Hobson it we choose to 10 so that the contradictions between our theory and practice do not negate the value of the work we do in our centers.