Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Enhancing Social Pedagogies (Bass and Elmendorf)

My "connecting activity" (using Facebook to facilitate writing feedback between two Composition I courses) would enhance Bass and Elmendorf's sections on "authentic audience." A key passage: "...students are developing their knowledge in contexts that centrally ask them to think of their audience as someone other than their professor...whether it is other students or some external audience" (2). As a long-time writing teacher, I've long emphasized -- with mixed success at best -- that effective writing needs to be as broadly accessible as possible. Thus, the author must provide the reader with necessary background information or context throughout the discussion. Although this seems like a straightforward concept to me, many students have struggled to make the cognitive and imaginative leap into their audience's mind. We all knew this was a fictional situation, and that I was the only person who'd read their work.

Web 2.0 technology might provide a more "authentic" context for writing, one which somewhat foregrounds its communicative -- rather than merely performative -- dimension. As Bass and Elmendorf write, such a context gives the "sense that something is at stake in sharing one's ideas other than getting a grade" (5). While this might be stated too optimistically (I doubt that most students ever lose sight of the grade as the primary motivating factor), sharing one's writing with an unknown peer does raise the "stakes" for one's writing. At the very least, students probably don't want to be embarrassed by attaching some unacceptably poor sample to their names. Here, peer pressure is the teacher's friend! In short, the creation of a "broader context beyond a private transaction between teacher and student" is a tailor-made pedagogical context for the kinds of activities we're piloting in Community 2.0.


  1. Another benefit of "authentic audience" might be that students participate in a recursive process that more closely mirrors the way we learn outside of the classroom...

    In the social pedadgogies article, the authors draw the following conclusions, after showing us that diagram that Milena posted about:

    Through iterative cycles of engagement with ways of thinking, acting, and communicating, social pedagogies are particularly effective at engaging students with the difficult dimensions of core concepts. Communicating and collaborating in the process of grappling with authentic, open-ended questions encourages students to consider the importance of perspective, the need to think and re-think what they know, and to develop their own voices. (7)

    Your writing activity might allow for more of a cyclical type engagement for students as they fill the roles of audience and author. By moving the process of composition, response and revision online, there may be more opportunities to take a less linear, more recursive, path through the writing process. So, besides authenticity of audience, you start to get more authenticity of experience, too.

  2. ... and now, having read your most recent post (5/18 or 5/19?), you've actually noticed that students prepared their paragraphs much more carefully (and successfully) knowing that others would be reading!

  3. Absolutely, all good points. Again, I'm not sure these are issues that comm folks have been dealing with a little longer, but it seems so. It all comes down to communication, right? The audience is greatly expanded.

    However, I would throw in one caveat with respect to the phrase, "that effective writing needs to be as broadly accessible as possible." I'd say broadly accessible as reasonable as well. One thing I know about social/new media is that it alters things in ways we can and cannot predict.