There is a lot to like in Graff’s piece, even though his audience, “upper- division English majors who intend to become English teachers,” couldn’t be more different than our own.
That said, college freshmen are people who have just made a big investment in their future. They’re both risk averse and risk takers (heck, they just took this huge plunge), and so, treating them like adults, and giving them insight into how we, as educators, think and plan and scheme, giving them a sense of agency as well as a super-sneaky peak behind the curtain…all good. Process: yes. Modeling: yes. “What rhetorical analysis and text modeling offer is the option for students to see what teachers already know, that exam writing is only one kind of writing, with its own set of expectations, and that students may choose to meet those expectations in testing situations…”
Also, our freshmen are often gifted with great Intuition. They often make good choices in the flash of a moment, but don’t know how to appreciate themselves and label and recognize their own proficiency. His student proof:
“Sara may have made this point most explicitly when she noted that, as a result of this project, she became ‘an objective writer who can use the rhetorical tools consciously and effectively whereas before I may have used them still, but more with intuition and less with intention.’ Sara’s comment points to precisely the kind of meta-awareness composition research- ers have suggested can help students apply what they have learned about writing beyond their composition classes (c.f. Beaufort, 1999; Bergmann and Zepernick, 2007; Greene, 2001; Hillocks, 2008; Wardle, 2007).” [boldface, mine]
Dance is often learned by following someone in front of you. Joining in. Writing often flows best when you use it to become part of a larger world full of exciting things. I think that the idea of the Mentor Text is great. “Once they composed their arguments, they found a popular magazine in which they could make their arguments, selected an article in the magazine that suited their vision of what they wanted to say, and revised the original argument using the article as a rhetorical model or mentor text (see Figure 1 for the complete assignment).
Sorry this post is a bit choppy, but I just want to copy, below, his use of the terms “Modeling” and “Process” as they differ a bit from how I have tossed them around in the past:
“Modeling—Composing a variety of text forms and using modeling with low-stakes writing to experiment with genre, style, and syntax helped students apply their developing rhetorical analysis to their own writing.”
“Explicit attention to process—Because of the complexity of the final task, we had to be very mindful of the steps in the process—generating ideas and collaborating to support each other’s writing, drafting, and revising. This very explicit and conscious attention to process is what transferred for some students.”
“It’s changed the way I look at a lot of things,” says one of his students, Elizabeth. I love when students say that. And yes, the teaching to the “writer” and not the “writing” like Jackie already posted. Great. And I could go on a lot about this:
“…Bergmann and Zepernick (2007) suggested that composition courses should focus ‘less on teaching students how to write than on teaching students how to learn to write’ (pp. 141–142).”
I also started reading the Lindemann “Rhetoric for Writing Teachers” that he assigned his own students. Not much time left, though. : )