B.43: “Making the Lifeless Living”: Style Pedagogy in the FYC Classroom, the Writing Center, and the Basic Writing Studio
Reviewed by Lauren Gregory, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Kerrie Casey, York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA
Speakers: Angela Glotfelter, York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA
Jennifer Follett, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Kerrie Carsey, York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA
This presentation provided a unique look at how writing style is defined and taught within three spaces: the composition course, the basic writing studio, and the writing center. Angela Glotfelter described her role as “situated between professor and student,” and her research reflected this peculiar way she is placed in the classroom. As an undergraduate writing fellow, she is in a composition class where she attends the class, meets weekly with the instructor, and tutors the students outside of class. Her presentation focused on her attempt at introducing a dualistic writing style to her students, which she defined as a style that balances classical rhetorical devices with personal style or voice. She was interested in studying the effects of her lessons on writing style, throughout a semester, specifically, through five mini-lessons. She introduced these rhetorical devices (three per lesson) and collected writing samples at the beginning and end of the semester to measure any changes in the use and frequency of these devices. She grounded her teaching in Robert Harris’ (2002) Writing with Clarity and Style and Kate Ronald’s (1999) “Style: The Hidden Agenda in Composition Classes or One Reader’s Confession.”
Unfortunately, the projector bulb burnt out before Glotfelter was able to show us the slides with the results of her study, but she pushed through and told us about the significant increase in the frequency and variety of rhetorical devices per paragraph in the students’ final writing samples. She also effectively turned a critical eye to her study and addressed the study’s limitations, particularly the subjectivity of the study and the size of the sample, noting the issues with reliability when studying such a small population of students. She closed with a question for the audience to ponder after the session: What should (or should not) be considered suitable for undergraduate research?
Kerrie Carsey continued the conversation on writing style by sharing what she practices at the basic writing studio where she teaches a one-credit course of five students that is taken concurrently with their regular composition class. She focused her presentation on a three-column reflective journal that allows students to write about their contribution to the class (“What I Gave”), the feedback they’ve received (“What I Got”), and other general reflections. Through this studio, Carsey decided to conduct a style workshop and had students discuss how texts or sentences sounded, which brought up the topics of coordination, subordination, and diction. Carsey also referred to Aristotle’s thoughts on style, including his spectrum of qualities of style, ranging on either end from “clarity, appropriateness, and meeting expectations,” to “defamiliarization, surprise, and deviation from the norm.”
Jennifer Follett, the writing center director at Temple University, presented information about style and the writing center, specifically asking, “How are tutors defining style? What discussions do they have?” Through a survey of 125 tutors across 7 writing centers and looking at 1,200 session reports, she found that clarity is often cited as good writing by tutors and that students’ biggest concern is correctness. She noted that, in her writing center, the intake form that all students fill out before a session requires students to select what they would like to work on during the session. One of these options is sentence level style/clarity, and Follett discussed the issues of grouping these two areas together. She discussed the possibility of separating these two areas on the intake form for the Fall 2015 semester and wondered which option would be a more popular choice. Also, she asked us all to consider what working on style and clarity means. What do tutors really do during these sessions?
This session left me with a lot to consider as a writing center administrator. How do our tutors define style and good writing, and what services do our students really need from us?
Harris, Robert. (2002). Writing with clarity and style: A guide to rhetorical devices for contemporary writers (1st ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.
Ronald, Kate. (1999) Style: The hidden agenda in composition classes or one reader’s confession. In Wendy Bishop (Ed.), The subject is writing: Essays by teachers and students, 2nd ed. (pp. 169–183). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.