Sunday, September 27, 2015

Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century
Richard Fulkerson

Fulkerson ends his piece with a quote by Scott McLemee that states that, "the field of composition studies is on the verge of what undoubtedly will come to be known as the new theory wars." This pretty much sums up Fulkerson's piece. He explains throughout, that the field has become "less unified" over the decades. There is a division in the goals of how to help students to become better writers. He goes on to address the three current axiologies  that are at the forefront: critical/cultural studies, expressivism, and procedural rhetoric. As he breaks down each, he examines them based on four questions he feels must be fully answered. The results of the four questions determine if a course can come to fruition based on the philosophy. The questions deal with axiology, process, pedagogy, and epistemology. 

He begins analyzing critical/cultural studies which are theme based approaches. Within this classroom, students are given theme based readings that deal with topics of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. They are to analyze readings and create writing pieces that empower or liberate them from societal injustices. As I was reading this, two things came to my that were confirmed later in the text. First, this approach is much more suited for social sciences as it is a content based approach to writing. The second is that it doesn't feel quite like a writing class. There does not seem to be writing instruction happening. Fulkerson goes on to explain that students often end up feeling confused about the grading and expectations within this type of course. 

The next approach he discusses is the expressivist approach. This approach allows for self exploration. Writings take place in the form of journaling, freewriting, and reflective writing. Writing with voice is an important aspect of this classroom. However, a main concern seems to the teacher's role or decision making. Nothing seems to be "set in stone." There is no specific way to teach expressive writing. This feels to me like there are worthwhile pieces to this approach. Freewriting and journaling are needed for writing students  in order to gain voice and practice techniques. However, there sounds as if there needs to be more structure within this classroom. Voice and expressing one's feelings are valuable, but there are other types of writing that need to be incorporated.

Finally, Fulkerson discusses procedural rhetoric as an approach to the writing classroom. Rhetorical approaches seem to favor the WPA's minimal standards for first year college writing courses which Fulkerson feels aligns more with 1970s/1980s tradition. Some emerging factors from this classroom is that the teacher is seen as a coach, writing skills and techniques are taught and practiced, and different types of writings are taught.  Within this approach it feels as though writing instruction is taking place. There is a structure and an understanding of outcomes. 

Fulkerson ends his piece with conclusions and implications. He lists seven points as to where the conversation leaves us; basically with a lot to talk about. When we finished discussing the Lauer piece in our last class one of the questions that was raised was where will writing theory be in ___ years. This piece shows us that there is a movement happening. There also feels like a divide. I personally feel like there is value in all three of the approaches he discussed. I wonder if the conversation can look and see a way of combining the best qualities of each approach and creating one universal writing classroom. Just an idea.

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