After reading Carol's comment and re-reading my post from yesterday morning, I should probably clarify the situation under which I failed this grammar quiz. I don't intend to excuse myself from culpability, but I do need to rant about the way this course is designed.

We're enrolled in a course on "composition and rhetoric", yet the entirety of our in-class discussion so far has revolved around the use of freewriting (via Peter Elbow) and inkshedding (a Canadian variation of freewriting) to teach first-year university students. The remainder of our time is spent clarifying exactly what we're supposed to accomplish with our grammar homework: first, we are meant to understand what it feels like to be a first-year university student who doesn't understand the material being presented; second, we need to understand the rules of grammar a little bit better before we can throw them out the window completely.

In other words, the course title is bait on a hook. This is a course designed to pull the carpet out from under our feet and coercively persuade the few remaining traditionalists in the graduate program to re-think their stance on rules and regulations. There is no expectation that any of us will actually learn anything about structure or rhetoric or anything resembling composition theory; rather, we are learning about "the writing that matters." We are then expected to teach from this experience, and to bring up the GPA for students in our first year classes.

There is no breakdown of the course mark in our syllabus: we're in a "contract" with our professor. I.e. if we work hard she'll give us a reasonable mark, and if we excel in some undefined way we'll get a better mark. I thought that Pirsig's system in Zen and the Art... was a fascinating way to evaluate written work in a class where students are expected to produce real writing, but I have no idea how that system will work in the context of this paradoxical inkshed-and-grammar-quiz curriculum.


This is part of the reason that I'm not nearly as worried about failing a quiz as I should be; the rest of that reason is explained in the post below.


Carol said...

Absolvo te. I thought it was an OE grammar quiz, not realizing that you are taking this "teaching" course. There's a lot of cr*p out there regarding teaching correct writing to first year students. I have not mastered the art of doing it, but I am convinced that small classes and lots of well-marked writing assignments are the key.
I've got to say that the marking system sounds bizarre: I have done "contract" marking before, but the requirements for various grades have to be completely and clearly spelled out. Otherwise it just seems to be arbitrary. But God forbid that I should criticize another of the professorial guild!

Daniel Jackson said...

I'm doing my penance by actually reading King John and the facsimile of the ca. 18?? prompt book before my Shakespeare class tomorrow.
Hurray for penance.