A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Of all the paper topics . . .

Ok, show of hands: how many of you have had a student take on a topic you yourself would like to tackle? Now, how many of you found it far harder to offer suggestions for and respond to that paper than others?

A student in my intro to writing studies course is doing an intertextual analysis of the lyrics to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," to show how it performs "individuality" (and individualism). The idea came from the opening of the song, which directly borrows from a standard wedding sermon, weddings being those most clear-cut of situations featuring performative utterances.

The thing is, there's no way she's going to write the paper I want her to write--which is the paper I want to write--especially because it's clear that she's still struggling with the concept of performativity. On top of that, I fear the guidance I've given her (I am usually a very effective conferee when it comes to student writing), may have only deepened her anxiety about doing a good job on the project. Could it be that my effort to scaffold her writing process, and thereby keep it in her ZPD, has morphed into an effort to achieve a Vulcan mind meld? Am I trying to get her to realize my vision of the paper and not hers? I don't think so--at least, not in any ethically problematic way (scaffolding can require, though, that the teacher be willing to supply a push in the form of substantive suggestions now and then). But as a teacher committed to reflective practice, I have to at least consider the possibility that my responses to this student's writing have been deeply problematic from the standpoint, if not of ethics, then of pedagogy.


At 9:59 PM, Blogger drew said...

Now, as a professor, how much of the grading process is REALLY affected by the teacher's bias? Not that it's wrong, but I guess my question is how much does a professor's opinions affect the outcome if he/she absolutely disagrees with the student? Anyway, nice blog.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Lance said...

Sorry, Drew, I had a long response to your question almost finished when my computer automatically restarted and wiped it out. Suffice it to say, teacher "bias" certainly exists, but it's not even close to the problem many people think it is. The vast majority of instructors and professors I've known are conscientious, ethical people devoted to being good teachers, even to those students with whom they routinely disagree.

Thanks for stopping by.


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