Initial observations from the 225 surveys

  • 12/16 (17) students filled out survey-approximately 1/3 left at least one question blank, and the questions left blank most often were the definitions.
  • Most people took it because it was required by their major/program; 1 person took it on the recommendation of a pre-law adviser; a few people took it to develop their writing skills more or to fill out their class schedule or another reason (6 required; 4 as extra class-2 said they enjoyed ENG classes and wanted to fill their schedule, 1 said “I wanted to enroll in a course that would give me more experience with different writing styles,” 1 said “I wanted to take a composition course and this looked challenging” ; 1 took the class on the advice of a pre-law adviser; 1 had unclear reasons based on the answer given (“I checked the grade distribution, then ratemyprofs. Both indicated a good teacher and an easy A if you like to write.”) though it seems like this person was looking for an “easy A class” to fill up their schedule.
  • Another interesting trend is that about ¼ of the surveys indicate that this class was the only class that required them to do a significant amount of writing (based on their responses to question 4. “Has this view affected the writing/composing you’ve done in other classes or outside of school?”)
  • Answers indicate that most, perhaps all, of the students showed an increased awareness of their own composing process as well as an expanded understanding of what essays as a genre are/can be.
  • On the other hand, quite a few surveys indicated that students had not really thought about or understood “invention” based on work we did in class. Many surveys left that word blank or as “unfamiliar” even when the other two words (“process” and “essay”) had definitions beside them.
  • That being said, a few surveys used variations on the word “creative” in one or more of their question responses, which indicates to me that they have a better understanding of what invention might be concerned with even though they don’t call it invention. . .
  • My initial reaction, which is the reaction I had after the semester ended in December, is that the class succeeded in expanding student views of the essay as a genre, which allowed them to better account for rhetorical exigencies (audience, purpose) when writing an essay on a topic. In other words, students knew that writing an essay could entail more than writing a standard 5-paragraph theme on a topic. What’s more, they connected this newfound knowledge with an increased awareness of their own creativity as writers along with the creative possibilities in essay writing. Additionally, the surveys suggest that students believed they had begun to better understand their composing processes and that for some people their processes had changed a bit due to enrolling in this class. The class did not, however, adequately convey what all this has to do with the rhetorical canon of invention. That is, while students’ awareness of process is, I believe, a crucial part of invention, I as a teacher did not do enough to name this as “invention.” I didn’t use the terminology frequently enough and I didn’t include enough rhetorical theory/ education about the canon of invention to ground this part of the class experience in appropriate rhetorical terminology for students. So, in some ways, I believe this class succeeded in making students aware of their process and perhaps how to show that process to audiences in essays; it failed, however, to give students an appropriate formal rhetorical education in order to use appropriate rhetorical terminology to name their experiences as part of the canon of invention or as part of invention studies in general. What’s more, I failed in my  lack of formal rhetorical education to formally introduce students to different invention heuristics or strategies (such as tagmemic, prewriting, freewriting, topoi, stasis theory) in order to help them interrogate how these strategies affect final products. I did introduce them to different invention strategies over the semester (topoi, freewriting, looping, journaling/blogging, using questions as writing prompts, etc. . .) as they began each project, but we didn’t take time to think about how these strategies have developed in invention studies/composition studies over the years in order to investigate the epistemological assumptions of each heuristic. Part of the reason for this involves the lack of any comprehensive text on invention strategies/heuristics/studies meant for an undergraduate writing class audience.
  • I need to learn to write better survey questions. Or something.
  • Reading model essays (and to some extent, imitating them) and conferencing were also key parts of the process in many surveys, though I’m not sure I did enough to connect this to process/invention formally.
  • Maybe I overdid the undoing of their understandings of what an essay is: to the point of not really defining essays at all, but by encouraging students to view essays as too undefinable.
  • We are clearly living in a digital world, what with meeting in a computer lab for class, blogging all semester, and creating digital essays as the last project. . .how does this fit into my goals for the class? Or does it? Is it another distraction. . .
  • I had some other observations, but they floated away while I was writing that last bullet point. Hmmm. . .
  • I think it had something to do with the genre of the lyric essay being particularly useful in making students aware of showing process as a topos. Maybe.
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I am an associate professor of English and writing center coordinator at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. I teach courses in composition, creative nonfiction, fundamentals of English, and peer tutoring.

Posted in Dissertation, Invention, reading, teaching

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