Communicating Images: A Narrative Based Approach to the Process of Writing (A Curriculum Design)
Shaffer, Joyce D.
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This dissertation consists essentially of an explication of a curriculum design for an introductory composition course at the high school or college level. The design was developed by the writer over a ten year period and has been used in its present form in college classrooms for four consecutive years. The practical aspects of the design are supported by carefully explored theoretical underpinnings from the discipline of rhetoric and the fields of composition, curriculum, and the psychology of learning. The design presents a synthesis of intellectual understandings and teaching experience which, while it defines no new theory, makes rational order of fragments of accepted theory and practice which were heretofore unorganized for the classroom teacher. The writer begins by addressing the pervasive problems facing composition teachers who seek success in their work: l. Confusion resulting from misunderstanding of the relationship between the composing process and the algorithms of form imposed upon the products of that process. 2. Confusion regarding the roles of teacher and learner in the composition classroom. 3. A lost connection between the learner as thinker and the learner as writer. 4. Misunderstandings regarding the meaning and importance of sequence and cumulative build in composition curricula. 5. Confusion regarding the purposes and reasonable expectations held for introductory composition courses, particularly at the college level. From an ordering of these confusions the writer draws three precepts which are the bases of the design presented. 1. Human beings need to find meaning in their lives and need to express the meaning that they find. These needs are the basis for the creative impulses of all humans and are the context in which the composing process is realized. 2. The composing process is the structuring reality of rhetoric. The parent discipline from which composition derives. People learn to write by interacting with the composing process; they learn to write by writing. 3. The successful application of the composing process depends upon having something to say and knowing how to say it. A helpful composition curriculum must attend both to the structure of the discipline/process to be learned and the learners who attempt to master that discipline/process as a means to expression of personal meanings. From the precepts follows an examination of the design itself, outlining the structure and sequence of the curriculum, making clear at the same time the relationships between theory available and practices described. Interwoven in the description are a rota of assignments, samples of student writing, and thorough discussion of evaluative procedures. The beginning assignments deal with the learning of narrative techniques because the writer believes narration is the most natural form of expression and because the sensory details of narration are especially important to personalized exposition.
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