From the category archives:

Graduate students/teaching

Should I show this to my grad students?

by Dr Davis on September 28, 2012

It is not quite funny enough to be persuasive, but it gets close.

{ 1 comment }

Digital Rhetoric

by Dr Davis on September 27, 2012

This last month we were talking about digital rhetoric, or new media, or ____(fill in your term here) in a meeting. Then I saw this Digital Blog Carnival. It’s not brand new (June of 2012), but I like that it was up. If I had known about it earlier, I might have had my grad students read it.

Liz Losh, in attempting to define digital rhetoric over the last decade plus (and having written a book on the topic) said: “I’ve always thought that “digital rhetoric” means both rhetoric about the digital and rhetoric conveyed by digital platforms, interfaces, and code.”

Steve Krause, who finished his dissertation in 1996, said: “[T]he evolving speed and presence potential of new technologies have been in some sense gradual and historic (the way that postal systems and then the telegraph changed communication in the 19th century comes to mind now), and in other ways radically fast (the way we find out about emerging situations/events via social media on ever-connected smart phones). The tool is not the only thing that matters, but when it comes to contemplating “digital rhetoric” generally or immediacy in particular, it’s critical. Without contemporary and future-looking computer and media technologies, there’s no “digital” in “digital rhetoric.””

Mike Edwards of Vita said: “Rhetoric as error, lies, or bullshit is for the most part uninteresting to me. But rhetoric as something that stands in relation to truth even as it seems to swerve away from truth at the last moment, as it becomes something other than logic, reason, philosophy, or coercion — that’s interesting to me. So a metaphor: rhetoric is an act, a doing, a verb, a process of skating on the thin ice of persuasion that rests between the materiality of our everyday social lives and the dark and cold waters of contingency, even as that thin ice is constituted by the frozen, solidified, embodied aspects of that contingency.”

There’s more. Lots more. Go and read it. Let it settle into your head and into your brain. Then, go back and read it again.

That’s what I am going to do.


A Podcast

by Dr Davis on September 1, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses rhetoric; supported by Aristotle but reviled by Plato. Guests include Angie Hobbs, Ceri Sullivan and Tom Healy.
42 minutes

I think I might load this onto the class blog.


First day of grad class

by Dr Davis on August 31, 2012

First night of grad class is over. We all survived. I was very nervous. I bet they were too.

Since I want to end on a high note, I’m going to talk about my shortcomings last night first.

The bummer:
I lectured for about 2.5 hours. It was their first introduction to rhetoric.

I gave them way too much information on the Sophists, way more than they will ever need unless they get a PhD (which I am actively discouraging, though my colleagues don’t like that).

I did not want to overwhelm them with definitions of rhetoric, but I wish I had concentrated on thinking of or finding activities to get them involved.

The good stuff:
Since I don’t know the grad students, I had them go around and give their names, their areas of interest, and what kinds of books they like to read (or are potentially embarrassed about reading). I learned lots of interesting things.

I put up an image and asked them to think about sets of three things that were in their lives–maybe in relation to class, maybe not. Because of their major emphases, one of the triads I thought of consisted of: creative writing, literature, rhetoric and composition.

Shared a poem about learning. Since we have lit and creative writing people, I thought that was a good idea, too.

Talked about my immersive (and very overwhelming experience) with rhetoric at the PhD level.

Introduced the metaphor that the class is like a video game. If you are a beginner, you have a million lives and you can keep restarting. If you get it, you can move on up to a harder level.

Talked a little about the need for memory and hooks for new information to be assembled or organized on/with. Mentioned history as an option for that.

Talked about the beginning of rhetoric, officially and in reality.

Talked about rhetoric being used for good in Genesis 1 and for evil in Genesis 3–emphasizing that rhetoric is a tool, not inherently good or bad on its own.

Talked about what fyc students are getting in their freshman comp classes about rhetoric. (Mostly ethos, pathos, and logos and Cicero’s five canons.)

Shared a few definitions of rhetoric.
Two Greek (Plato and Aristotle)
Two Roman (Cicero and Quintilian)
Three Renaissance (Bacon, Locke, and Anonymous)
Six modern
and one modern definition of sophistic rhetoric for and by the sophists.

Then I included two ppt slides of additional readings.

I had a PowerPoint presentation on Sophistic rhetoric.
The background was nice. I did a good job introducing the major sophists. I didn’t use enough images in that PowerPoint.


Reading List

by Dr Davis on June 27, 2012

I’ve gotten stackloads of books this summer to read. I’ve mostly been doing the fiction recently.

I did finish The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Intorduction by James A. Herrick, that I thought was very good.

I also re-read parts of RAW (Reading and Writing) New Media for the fourth version of an R&R for a review. (Yes, sometimes I wonder if I really want to do the review that much, but since most of the work was done…)

A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love by Alan Jacobs has some interesting stuff. I am only on page 29, though. I’m expecting it to get even better.

Reading still to get to:
Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students by Crowley and Hawhee (textbook for grad class I am teaching part of)
Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition, Andrea Lunsford, editor.
Culturematic by Grant McCracken. The cover also has a beginning part of the title as “How Reality TV
John Cheever
a Pie Lab
Julia Child
Fantasy Football
Burning Man
the Ford Fiesta Movement
Rube Goldberg
NFL Films
Two and a Half Men
a 10,000-Year Symphony
and ROFLCon Memes
Will Help You Create and
Execute Breakthrough Ideas.”
Maybe I should move that one to the top of my reading list?


Grad Class Suggestions

by Dr Davis on June 13, 2012

I will be teaching a grad class in the fall. This CHE fora post from seniorscholar seemed particularly useful:

As much as possible, make students do all the work — I don’t mean “do all the work you assign” but “do all the work to provide the information, the questions, the references, and the directions for the class session.” I do a lot of prep during the summer before the fall grad class (which, for me, alternates by years: one year a master’s level literature class and the next year a doctoral level research methods and practices class which I expect to produce the basis for an article or conference presentation by each student by the end of the semester).

So, in the course you mention, I might on the first day of class find out what they know, find out what they intend to do with their graduate education, give them a quick overview, and hand out an individual assignment for each student for each of the next two sessions. Next session: have each of them read a separate scholarly article which you know (but they don’t) draws on one of the theorists they’ll be studying. Give them an outline for “presenting” the information in the article. Have each one present that information (I’m assuming a 2-3 hour seminar, which is our graduate routine: if the classes are shorter, this can take two or three classes) and answer the questions asked by others in the class and by you. For the following week, have each student read whatever work (theory or text) was central in last week’s article and reassess how the writer used it in a short essay to read aloud, and, again, answer questions from classmates and from you.

In other words, don’t “lecture” on anything: provide outlines, provide structures, provide questions; and make sure that each student has some definite task to do to prepare for each class, and not a task that any other student has done, so that each student is forced to take possession of one part of the teaching. (If the class is bigger than a seminar, it could be two students for each part.) And vary the tasks: sometimes reading, sometimes generating a bibliography, sometimes finding out information in library databases or reference sources. The goal is to not only teach the “texts” and the “theories” but to teach them “how to become an expert” on one piece of the material — and it is that latter skill that is the important skill for graduate students to cultivate, rather than “learning all about” a set of texts and theories.”

{ 1 comment }

What is Academic Literacy?

by Dr Davis on June 7, 2012

Since I work with students to help them improve their writing, I was looking for something specifically on writing in academia. These notes are more for grad students on entering the disciplinary conversation, but I thought they were good points.

1. Engaging with the key ideas and concepts of the discipline in ways that reflect how “experts” in the field think and reason.
2. Transforming what you have learned into a different form for use in a new context or with a different audience.
3. Making links between concrete knowledge and abstract theoretical knowledge
4. Engaging in substantive conversation
5. Making connections between the spoken and written language of the subject and other discipline-related ways of making meaning
6. Taking a critical stance toward knowledge and information
7. Using metalanguage in the context of learning about other things

Website for English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking

Pauline Gibbons’ English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking


Working on my grad class

by Dr Davis on May 7, 2012

A New Media Approach to Teaching Classical Rhetoric

I need to read this when I am not inundated with grading.


Conference Suggestions

by Dr Davis on May 3, 2012

I go to lots of conferences. Twenty-two in the last three years. (Seven a year is a lot, isn’t it? Or do I just think it is?)

Scott Belsky has 5 Tips for Making the Most of a Conference.

The one I most relate to is the first one.

I just went through my notes from the past two years of TED conferences, and I realized that I had never even re-read my notations from the 2009 event. Little observations and quotes that I particularly enjoyed were still scribbled amidst many pages of notes.

Belsky offers a way to mine these notes for their gems, even as they are being created.

[T]he Action Steps that I had come up with during the conference had fortunately been captured separately and addressed after the conference. During the conference, I had recorded these Action Steps with a star next to each – making it easier to decipher them from the other notations. There were people I planned to follow up with and a few ideas for improving one of our products.

The first thing I do after every conference is review the notes and transfer every starred item into my task management tool. Some people I know use a different color for the actionable stuff. Whatever your system, recognize that conferences are liable to overwhelm you with notations. You must enter and leave with a bias-towards-action to capture the gems for post-conference execution.


How Much Reading?

by Dr Davis on January 14, 2012

How much reading/preparation would you expect a grad student to do each week? Where I am, we require them to read a book a week. That usually provides enough material for a 2 hour long discussion.

If you’re in a science-based field, you should consider assigning empirical articles rather than literature reviews ; the former seem to inspire more critical discussion because there are procedural and analtyical specifics to hang arguments, criticisms, and questions on (although the latter may be useful as “background reading,” especially for students with less experience in the field). I usually assign 3-4 empirical articles per 2.5 hr class session.

from the CHE fora