You are on page 1of 2

Lemley 1

Meta Commentary: This is my first RAR and my first opportunity to speak on the subject of
composition as a concept. After having completely this course, I now am aware of how
problematic any single standard would be. I also now have the knowledge that composition as
subject is contentious because it lacks any measurable quantitative means to track student
progress. This is both the nature of the beast (composition as a term being so varied amongst
its practitioners could likely not decide what one should be measuring?) and a product of how
daunting long term studies tracking individual students would be, if possible at all. Looking
back at this response to the readings, I realize that I didn’t see the full scope of what teaching
composition entails: the numerous pedagogical philosophies, varied legal and institutional
constraints, student engagement, etc. are just a few of the considerations.
William Lemley
Katherine Bridgman, Ph.D.
ENGL 5301: Topics in Rhetoric and Composition
September 8, 2014
Reading Across and Respond: Transitioning into the 20th Century: From Current Traditionalism
to Process (1 of 9 RARs)
The history of composition is one of various arguments in teaching methods. I believe
that this history can make for both effective and ineffective teaching. When new methods and
points of view on the pedagogy of composition are presented, it can be helpful, even
enlightening in terms reaching and connecting with students. These new modes may represent
the best and most effective way for the students to engage, digest, and then disseminate the
material in any particular subject—but in term of our interests here, writing and language skills.
Inversely, without a solid, cogent mode as a standard, there is no one prescribed method that has
proven most effective. This lack of standard not only poses issues with effectiveness, but the
teaching approach may be structured differently from one classroom to the next, one grade to the
next, leaving the student to rectify two different, and possibly discordant, teaching styles. I
believe in primary and secondary schools—elementary, middle, and high school—there should
be a district wide approach adopted throughout, effectively streamlining the pedagogical method.
This would alleviate the issues of variation in styles, and the possible discordant effects on
students’ learning abilities and outcomes. I see this as less essential at the college level. In many
ways, college is about variation and adaptability. The student should be pushed out of their
comfort zones, so they experience the variation in modes of interactions that potentially exists
outside the world of academia. College, in many cases, is the last stop before the career, a welladjusted and flexible understanding of the working world can be simulated in a classroom where
a student does not like or even agree with the instructor’s approach. In many ways, life is about
compromise and flexibility, and college can teach (or at the very least, acclimate) a student to
that reality, but at the secondary and primary level, a strong and coherent foundation must be
laid. Most of these articles touch on the notion of a singular mode of instruction from

Lemley 2
kindergarten to college. This would take a statewide curriculum necessary and potentially limit
the academic freedom college professors enjoy within their classrooms. So, I am opposed to this
as the college level, but composition, as a field of study, is deeply important to every subject at
every level, so effectiveness is paramount.
Despite the importance of Composition, as a field of study, the articles made clear it is
still in the working stages as a subject. While the practical outcomes of an education in
composition are understood, the modes and methods are in flux, still in debate, and contentious.
Some of the theorists we read and those theorists’ sources, Bruner, Rohman, and Wlecke, seem
to indicate that an interactive approach is most effective. I agree to a certain extent. Rote
memorization does not make critical thinkers as Rohman and Wlecke found with their
development of prewriting. To expose a group of students some educational subject matter,
regardless of topic, using the expository mode that Bruner described, is to tell, when effectively
students should be shown the how’s and why’s. These simulations give the students the
application as well as the knowledge. The hypothesis mode acts to increase the interactive
element, thus making the engagement of the material that much deeper. It is through the
rhetorical exchange that a student comes to understand the ways in which one thinks critically,
and then give this person the ability to espouse this knowledge and understanding at various
levels of explanation.
[ Bridgman’s notes: William, You’ve done a great job with this RAR. I appreciate your balance
of summary & response. I look forward to seeing how your perspective of writing, its constant
state of flux, develops. If writing is so socially situated, do you think this flux can or even should
end? In your next RAR try to make more specific mention of all the readings.]