Western States Rhetoric and Literacy Conference

Western States Rhetoric and Literacy Conference was held in Reno, NV this year. I and three of my colleagues, Elena Garcia, Ben Goodwin, and Joshua Hilst, presented: “Risky Business: Crisis and Consequence in Project-Based Pedagogy”

The Panel:
• “Notes Toward a Consequentialist Pedagogy,” Dr. Joshua C. Hilst
• “Aiming to Disrupt: Writing beyond Representation in the Project-based Classroom,” Dr. Jacqueline Preston
• “Rewarding Risk AND Failure,” Dr. Elena G. Garcia
• “Crisis as a Resource,” Benjamin G. Goodwin

Consequentialism is a branch of ethics that deals with the consequences of a particular action. Rather than focusing on the actor (virtue ethics) or the action (deontological ethics), consequentialism judges an action based on the consequences it has. Such a focus on outcomes jibes well with composition’s traditional focus on process pedagogy. Moving through the particular stages of “the writing process” leads to measurable, consistent outcomes. A project-based approach to writing instruction might indicate a different way to proceed. Such a course encourages students to identify and work within a problematic field toward a possible resolution or resolutions. In so doing, the focus is transferred from actors (authoritative authors) and actions (processes) to consequences. And yet, it runs afoul of process pedagogy by creating what Thomas Rickert calls a pedagogy of “risk.” What is required, at the same time as reflection on consequentialism, is the destigmatization of failure. (Joshua C. Hilst)

More about our panel:

Our first speaker, Joshua C. Hilst explored “the pitfalls and benefits of consequentialist pedagogies keeping in mind that philosopher Todd May notes—in arguing for what he calls a “multi-value consequentialism”—not all creations are worthwhile ones. Pedagogy often calls for outcome statements for any given course that present measurable, predictable items that a given student will learn over the course of the semester. A Project-based course can open up broader resources and even encourage student ownership over their writing. Yet, unlike process pedagogies it works against the idea that every student must receive identical “takeaways” from a composition course.”

Eugene Ivanov Itenerat TheaterI came second referencing the work of Raul Sanchez, calling into question pedagogy stayed to theory that would treat writing as primarily a “technology of representation” and instead calling for curriculum that underscores the generative qualities of writing through risk. Referring to a grounded theory study that examines the experiences of students participating in a project-based FYW course, I demonstrated what can be gained by a theory of assemblage applied to the writing space.

Our very fabulous Dr. Elena Garcia addressed the question: “What are the consequences of failure in our classes?” Her presentation discussed how changing the consequences for failure within a project-based approach allows students to take risks, which are important for meaningful learning.

And our oh so wonderful, Ben Goodwin addressed the interaction between crisis, consequentialism, and students—the common phenomena of generating motivation via the looming deadline. He discusses how students who “work better last minute” see themselves utilizing the crisis of running out of time—the consequence of a late paper—as a resource that improves, or in some cases allows, them to make writing happen. Goodwin discussed the student relationship with crisis, its realities in the classroom and implications for instructors.

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