Discourse Community in the classroom?

Reading Johns’ article I got a better understanding of discourse communities. I like her choice of introducing what a discourse community is in society, then move into professional and ultimately academic discourse communities. I also enjoyed learning that we can belong to different discourse communities and be involved at different rates at different times.

I don’t know if she would accept that we consider a language a discourse, I think it is in a way. If it is the case then for me code switching from a language to the other when I am communicating means I change discourse every time. It may sound superficial and that a language as a medium is changed, but if we can consider it a discourse then we know a new set of rhetorical expectations will come with this new discourse. That is because a new language means a new community and we know from Johns that communities have traits that makes that group who they are.

I do not think it is the intention of any discourse community to be non inclusive because their nature is to have a set of goals and maintain them through a particular rhetoric. However, I cannot help but think that it is a non-inclusive environment. Johns mentions how this happens when she talks about “those who come from diverse rhetorical traditions” (505) So how does this work? Do we reach out to those who do not understand the discourse or do they have to take efforts to join. Should there be a bridge between background and the “new” discourses one attempts to enter?

In a writing class, I think that students should be exposed to such discourses as the academic one early in their academic career. It is also good for them to compare the academic discourse with everyday language. The problem with this idea is that it sounds great if it were to be put in practice, but it isn’t really. Writing classes are too busy teaching students how to write academically there is no time left to compare. I think it would be important to try that out for a whole semester in class. Students would enjoy making connections between what they read that is accessible to the public and what they are taught to write in class. This way, students in different disciplines would not get frustrated in the gap in writing styles they see in the classroom and outside.

I think that this is an interesting article that simply and clearly explains discourse community. It is even one we could show our undergraduate students in order to introduce them to academic discourse community and then their specialized areas in academia. But I do have a couple questions related to it:

  • How do we apply this theory in class? What activities and pedagogies do we actually employ in order to introduce and maintain a discourse community?
  • How can we enter a new discourse with which we are not familiar with? Do we familiarize ourselves before we get into it or do we get involve then figure it out (mashfake)?
  • Can other beliefs such as political or other interfere with a particular academic discourse community at some point?
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