Tuesday, March 20, 2012

00A #6 Teaching Portfolios

Hesse gives several benefits of students creating portfolios, including that through portfolios, students will display ability to perform in a variety of rhetorical situations and display development through the semester. Can you think of other advantages? And can you think of difficulties with assessment that can occur?

There are definite advantages to the portfolio system. As Hesse brings up, the rhetorical aspect is a significant part of the process. If taught properly, the students should have a working cognitive knowledge of how their work functions and be able to work with it in such a way that the portfolio itself becomes an added layer of critical analysis beyond that of the original essays. Students are in charge of their own submissions which requires them to consider their work beyond that of just editing. Control over their own work can have an empowering effect that makes their involvement more personal, their rhetorical response more specific, and their overall production more apt to be of higher quality. Likewise, the self reflection portion of the portfolio is an excellent tool for students to delve deeper into the writing process while at the same time maintaining an 'objective' quality. They are able to see aspects of their writing that they may not normally have made connection too if they were not given the opportunity to look at their work from an outside view point. Even if they lack in certain areas, just being able to cognitively see these weaknesses in the end turns out to be beneficial. They know (or should know) what areas they need to work on. They also have a chance to contemplate their strengths which is just as important. Students can see what worked and how to continue to use these methods either in their final edits or in future written works.

There are however, possible draw backs. For one, the implementation of a portfolio can be the downfall from the onset. Some teachers maintain a 'non' grade stance on the portfolio with little to now ranking feedback throughout the semester. This can be an issue when a final product is a 'rank'. How are students to know where they stand as comments can be at times inaccurate to a rank. Also, the portfolio is typically a large chunk of the final grade and some might see this also as a downfall depending on how smooth the process of the portfolio was set out and how clear the standards/rubric of it is. Largely the portfolio is a positive endeavor that moves away from a heavy ranking based system and creates a streamlined reader interface but again most of this depends on the clarity of the process provided by the instructor. This could be said of most projects, but seeing as though the portfolio is a final large chunk, any issues that may have come up earlier in the semester is delayed until is too late.

Friday, March 16, 2012

20 HH #5 Monkeys and Motiffs

Gilbert Hernandez continues to broaden his story telling skills in the graphic novel Human Diastrophism.  The previous GN Heartbreak Soup contained a cyclical attribute that appeared later in his story, yet this technique is apparent immediately within the first few pages as well as taking on a new, more refined quality.  The opening title page of "Human Diastrophism" (the story the GN is named after) immediately introduces the monkey motif.  I use motif instead of symbol here due to the many varying attachments throughout the story the monkey motif is associated with.  After page 20 Gilbert delays the use of this motif again until page 28 creating a sense of delay in reoccurrence, almost tricking the reader into ignoring a vital aspect of the story itself.  The monkey motif becomes attached to multiple elements within "Human Diastrophism". 

Page 29's monkeys are seen immediately after a death has been discovered,  on page 30 they become directly involved with mischief as they steal a school book, and on page 53 they reappear amidst chaos and violence.  This monkey image creates a way to associate various themes  and a trigger for the reader that something important is happening.  Gilbert even breaks it into two images: the visual monkey as well as the 'visual sound' of Chit Chit.  Gilbert goes so far as to arch the whole story with the image on page 20 panels 1-3 being revisited towards the end of "Human Diastrophism" on  panel 5 page 113.  This constant arching and reoccurring imagery continues to strengthen Gilbert's writing style both visually and thematically.

[Pictures are not owned by the author.  Uploaded from image search.]

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

00A #5 Peter Elbow Revisited

In this week's readings, Elbow talks about "evaluation-free zones" and "liking" students' writing as a better alternative to ranking and grading.
What would happen if grades were not given for a class or for assignments? Consider the pros and cons.
As an instructor, how would you balance ranking, evaluating, and liking? Would you use all three methods?

Peter Elbow makes, as usual, very poignant arguments in regards to ranking (grading) versus evaluation (comments). The question that leads out of this conversation, of the possibility of success with a gradeless class or assignments, is a difficult one. There are many pros and cons obviously but the need for this discussion to be situated specifically to new teachers is necessary. The reason for this is because a more experienced teacher may have the resources and experience to see pitfalls and potential issues that relatively inexperienced teachers may not be equipped to deal with. This does not mean that we are not capable as new teachers to implement a system more reliant on evaluating then ranking, rather it predicates that necessity for a greater sense of caution if we decided on this type of system. The pros remain the same across the board regardless of experience: the students get a specific sense of feedback that individualizes their worker rather than an ambiguous numeric or lettering stamp (or gold star).

 The two biggest aspects that I see this leading to is a set of students not driven by the almighty GRADE and that it does create a sense of response to writing that is based less on a unreliable scale system and more on a positive guiding measurement. The only caveat to the first aspect is that having also being a student having gone through a portfolio heavy class that Elbow has set out as one of the ways out of heavy grading, the reduction of grades does not always remove the desire and push of students for a grade. Those conditioned heavily, ie: 3rd-4th year college students, can be beyond the removal of this conditioning. It is very difficult to undo years and years (kindergarten through some college) of Pavlovian reactions. I feel that this would find a more open set of responses in a first year college course (of which we are dealing with primarily).

 I only state this as one of the prime issues: it will be difficult to overcome the mindset of years of ranking. The other problems might stem from, as stated above, the lack of experience. Starting with a hybrid system may be more secure and less prone to issues that we may not be able to foresee. The last issues that may come out of a gradeless model is that, especially in first year college students, there is no 'motivating' factor for work. This is, of course, the cynical side coming out, but having a class set on a foundation of 'you do the work you get the grade' could possibly end in the outcome of quantity not quality. And yes this could be balanced by setting requirement such as 'must have a clear thesis' and yes this could be balanced by x, y or z but the problem I feel still stems from the lack of experience to predict the possible outcome of production of the students without some sort of minimum weight system. After all Elbow does substantiate the need for some ranking system some of the time. Again, a hybrid system (or balanced system) looks to be like the most feasible compared to a rank absent structure.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

20 HH #4 Heartbreak Soup part 2

Reading the first half of Gilbert Hernandez's Heartbreak Soup only portrayed a portion (obviously) of the overall function of the many short stories.  In reality the functions of the stories were interlinked in a way that was not visible on a partial scale.  It wasn't until the full graphic novel was complete did the overarching cyclical nature of Gilbert's work stand out.  Many of the stories that link are done thought shifting points of view from one character to another, wherein each character revisits a particular moment in time shared amongst themselves.   Pages 162 panel 3 and 236 panel 7  are one such example of two characters, Luba and Heraclio, who share a single event together.  Page 162 is a flash back within a flashback from Heraclio involving Luba and their 'moment' together which is again revisited from Heraclio's point of view on the later page explaining it more in-depth.  On page 226 panel 3, Vincente has a nightmare about Luba falling down a hole.  This event then actually takes place on page 244 panel 4 from the view point of Lupe.  There are localize examples of cyclical aspects even as visual elements on page 206 panel 9 with its immediate counterpart on panel 7 of the adjoining page.  Even the beginning story of Luba in which the children are introduced contains a cyclical arch.  Page 7 introducing the twins Aurora and Israel, remains ambiguously unexplained until page 268 shifting from an omniscient narrator's point of view to Israel's.     These various loops, cycles and archs all serve to strengthen the overall story.  Gilbert forces the reader to come back to certain events multiple times also creates a sense of importance within the characters and certain events that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.  Strangely enough many of these cyclic aspects remain solely within the second portion of the graphic novel.  This might be attributed to the fact that the ordering of the stories are not necessarily their original ordering though the time signatures seem to indicate a constant move from '83 onward.  Either way this technique show a strength and maturing in Gilbert's writing that was previously absent in his previous works

Monday, March 5, 2012

00A #4 To Audience or Not to Audience

In "Closing my eyes as I speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience," Peter Elbow advocates writing in "the desert island mode," in which the writer focuses on "individual, private reflection," rather than audience. Do you agree or disagree with this assertion? In what ways have you employed this developmental model in your own writing?

Every good writer who is composing written text that is indented for anyone but themselves always considers their audience, whether it's conscious or unconscious. if someone is not aware of their audience they risk miswriting their purpose. They risk missing the mark. Even for someone who believes they are writing despite audience awareness, they themselves are aware there is an audience and this is just as much a factor in what is produced. Audience is an ever looming cloud that writers cannot and should not escape. Elbow's "desert island mode" isolates the writer in a negative way. Since audience is a constant whether we want it to or not, it should be included in all teaching methods of writing.

In my own writing, audience is always a foremost idea in my mind. Exigence and audience go together. If you have a reason but are unable to facilitate this meaning to have other also gleam that there is a reason to the writing then the exigence goes away. Without a reason then there the meaning of the argument is moot.

I try to understand how my meaning corresponds or relates to the audience I am writing for. Or at the very least, how can I make connections that will draw the reader to a more positive outlook of what I am saying. It is just having the general awareness and not the removal of it that is the base key to audience. This is something I try to make the students I work with conscious of. That beyond just the teacher as the focus of written responses, there is a target audience they should be considering. Without this, by putting them on a "desert island" we risk losing vital argumentative contexts and critical aspects that they would otherwise consider if they were aware of the larger picture. With as much as I normally agree with Elbow this is one of the few times I would have to disagree with one of his pedagogical models.