Blog Post Week 8

To be honest, I had a difficult time with this week’s readings. Hence the late post. Bruffee and Trimbur sort of bled together for me, and Meyers read like a sort of discouraging history lesson– “We’ve been here before. Nobody’s saying anything new in the field.” That said, I truly do appreciate Trimbur’s approach to knowledge communities and collaborative learning.

Trimbur argues for a “critical practice” of collaborative learning wherein students and teachers work together to interrogate the practices and values of a given knowledge community. This does not necessarily mean that a group interrogating such values has to work to change/destroy them, but such a practice does encourage students to be mindful of the information that they’re taking in in the classroom and elsewhere.

Trimbur also wants to re-define consensus by defining it in relation to dissensus. Consensus thus becomes a sort of utopian ideal rather than a “real world” practice: “Understood as a utopian desire, assembled from the partial and fragmentary forms of the current conversation, consensus does not appear as the end or the explanation of the conversation but instead as a means of transforming it” (451). This returned me, mentally, to our discussion of genre theory wherein one can 1) simply offer up genres to students, 2) teach them to analyze genres, or 3) teach students to critique genres. Since when someone is critiquing something, they are always already analyzing it, I believe this third option seems like the most valuable for composition instructors. Trimbur’s goal of critiquing the knowledge community seems like a macro version of this practice, and one that would be very helpful in my classroom. My students in the writing in the sciences classroom seem very hooked on the idea that everything in writing should and does always play out in a certain, specific, rule-specific way. Adopting Trimbur’s approach would be a nice way to explode that idea.

Q1: How does one practically apply Trimbur’s concepts of consensus and dissensus in the classroom? I’m always curious about practical applications of pedagogy. Anyone apply something that looks like Trimbur’s ideas of consensus and dissensus?

Q2: Meyers makes the point that much of what is being said in Comp. circles is familiar territory that actually has been covered by others before. If we assume that he is right, where do we draw the line between some sort of navel-gazing rehashing of what’s already been done

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