e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


will the real prof please stand up?

After turning in grades this morning, I realized how different the two courses I taught this term were. One class had a substantial community service component and philosophically was rooted in a Frerian, critical consciousness, materialist pedagogy. Students completed project-based work with the agency where we worked. The production of text (brochures, executive reports, legislative action plans, etc.) was key--rhetoric as a practice and a civic obligation.

The other course--also an upper-level writing course--took a less public view of language production. We read several whole texts including Alice Sebold's memoir Lucky as well as shorter non-fiction pieces (Sarah Vowell, student work from previous terms) and used writing as a way to engage generatively with those texts. We kept writer's notebooks. We devoted class time to various "pre-writing" tasks and to open-ended discussions of course texts.

Common bonds between the two classes include revision (duh), rejection of the notion that "the essay" rules, (we used multiple genres), and production over consumption (problem- or purpose-driven writing instead of analysis for its own sake). There are some core things that stay constant.

But despite these commonalities and constants, the classes seem to come from different theoretical worlds. I realize that various courses I teach on a term-to-term basis have differences that go beyond just "approach." Sometimes I use blogs. Sometimes "Detroit" serves as a course theme and learning laboratory. Sometimes we read a lot of books. Sometimes we use a pretty traditional "writing workshop" model.

After ten years of teaching (many of those as a grad student--I'm young damn it) I realize that I'm still trying on different versions of process, different versions of student-centeredness, different versions of the whole performance of teaching.

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