"The Promise and Peril of (Virtually) Teaching a Graduate Seminar for New GAs in a Writing Program"

David Blakesley will discuss his use of First Class in a graduate seminar for new teachers of writing. The primary purpose of this course was to prepare these (33) new teachers by introducing them to program-specific goals, to the dynamics of writing classroom management, to sound pedagogical strategy, and to the theoretical foundations of our knowledge about writing and writing instruction. As a pilot project, however, the course also served as a model for others interested in seeing the University develop electronic conferencing software's potential for the virtual classroom, for distance learning, and for inter- and intra-institutional communication.

This presentation will focus on these two issues:

1) How does, how can, or how should the virtual classroom transform the traditional media of exchange that normally occur in such a graduate seminar? Instructional media like distance and asynchronous learning can transform the classroom into an environment that does not sacrifice the traditional ideals of critical inquiry, dialogue, and debate. Such an environment potentially facilitates contact between and among the teacher and students, encourages active learning of course material, and introduces students to what is quickly becoming a primary form of communication in corporate and academic contexts.

2) What are the institutional and individual forms of resistance to such innovation, and what can they tell us about the rhetoric of academic literacy?sAs the course unfolded in time and virtual space, both teacher and students had to reconsider how our ways with words define/delimit identity and enable or forestall dialogue. Traditional rhetorical practices of print and interpersonal communication in classroom situations sometimes interfered with the conduct of the class in a virtual environment. (For instance, it was clear early on that students initially conceived their audience to be the teacher, but one function of electronic conferencing is to facilitate discussion among peers.)

The presentation will conclude with some discussion of the feasibility of adopting and adapting electronic conferencing for wider use in a writing program.



Target Audience: Intermediate

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