Sunday, January 29, 2012

1st Post of the Semester - Pedagogy 00A

First post of the semester in my pedagogy class.  Looks like I have to warm up again with writing school posts.

Teaching Students to Write by Beth Neman

In her first chapter, titled "Teaching the Student," Neman refers to the "craft centered solution" and the "affect centered solution." Please comment on which of these "solutions" you find most relevant for the teaching of writing here at Northridge. Also--in that chapter, Ottinger makes a claim about why his class failed. What do you think of his perspective?

Mortification began to set in as I started reading "Teaching the Student". Neman seemingly sets out on a highly polarized line of rhetoric villainizing one extreme version(craft-centered solution) and praising another (affect-centered solution). It isn't until after the in-depth look at the latter of the two solutions (compared to the one page mention of craft centered) that Neman approaches a third possibility. It is this possibility that would be the most relevant form for teaching here at Northridge. Neman's version of craft centered, an obvious over-dramatization of this 'style', is not productive although I would say that this methodology typically ends in high school and is not as "commonplace in our day" (5) as Neman makes it out to be (at least not in my college experience). Reading about the center of teaching being "correction and criticism", "red pen" oriented, and having "sarcasm and ridicule" as a means or "upholding high standards and pursuing excellence" (5) typically is counterproductive to a viable learning environment. This method creates a sense of fear of being wrong that blocks the capacity of a student to expand beyond a limited scale. Yet on the flip side, affect-centered styles seem equally harmful, although in a completely different way. Neman states that the "problems cause by negative criticism are eliminated" (7) but this doesn't take into mind the extreme faults of the other end of the spectrum which Neman does eventually explore. The sub headings state it all: Possibilities for Abuse (which is true for everything), Insufficient Goal, Absence of Nonnarrative Writing (this point being one of the biggest issues of this 'solution') etc...

A smile crept to my lips as Neman finally approached a solution that contained one of my favorite words: Balanced. Each of the previous solutions were too far away from each other on the spectrum of teaching. Each ignored valuable principles within the other style in favor of being completely lopsided. One of the biggest aspects that I believe is necessary to be a successful teacher, is adaptability. Each set of students is going to be different and subscribing rigidly to one form or another with ostracize a great many students. Being able to blend different techniques as needed is a necessity. Beyond that, students need some form of structure and guidance within the academic environment. This is one of the issues that Ottinger found in his article "In Short, Why Did the Class Fail". He found that the initial happiness that students may have found in ultimate freedom was quickly overshadowed by the slide into "final catastrophe" (24). The necessary components of communication and opportunity broke down into "cliché-ridden topics". Some classes may be able to handle this freedom, but I would speculate that this is not the rule but the exception. Ottinger comes across as exasperated and jadded, which may have been part of the reason for the failure of the class in his eyes since it's a combined effort of both the teacher and the students in order to create a successful atmosphere. Yet Ottinger quoting "'Freedom is Slavery'" rings with a sense of truth: give students freedom but within limitations. This may sound contradictory at first but there are ways to allow students to stretch their limits within reason. They need to know the correct way write (as ambigious as that is). They need to know that the teacher will help if within the freedom they are given, they will be guided and not left to drown in their sea of choices. And despite Ottinger's possible low view of students, they need to be respected and encouraged but within a 'Balanced Solution'.


  1. Very informative, Mr.D. Keep the posts comin'! (:

  2. As a former Art Teacher, I do believe in the ability to give freedom within limitations. I worked with middle school, and felt that they should be able to reasonably be able to do those things that were necessary without constantly asking for permission, nor should I have to waste my time and effort to set out supplies at each group's table. Of course the principal thought I was wrong. I feel that every type of class should be conducted differently based on the needs. A math class should not be conducted like a music class, which should not be conducted like Band, etc. And while everyone should be treated with respect, I FIRMLY believe that everyone should NOT be treated the same, as everyone learns differently. Extremes in education don't ever seem to work very well.