Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science
Yazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day is a novel about an Englishman's self awakening. The insights that he gains occur from his journeying beyond the walls of the Manor House where he worked. Beyond those walls he changed the point of view from which he saw himself and the world. In that regard, Stevens mirrors my own experiences teaching writing in a writing workshop class.
Englishman Stevens begins within the Manor's four walls as an English butler extraordinaire; he worked for a "proper" family, showed the kind of "emotional restraint which only the English are capable of," and "don[ned] the cloak of dignity and propriety" equal to great butlers from past generations. In recognition, Stevens was ad-mitted to the Hayes Society, the exclusive professional organization for butlers who achieved only the highest rank. He discovered while journeying along the English countryside, away from work, however, that the very definition that helped him attain his greatness from a previous generation's point of view defines his fall in the present post-War time and place. Changing times and situations necessitate a changing view not only of his role as butler, but as a man. Learning that he needs to spend more time and energy on his personal, human self, not just his professional one, he gets more in touch with his own humanity. For the remains of his days, he has greater understanding of himself and the world, and advances the possibility, at least, for his own growth and change.
Like Stevens, I have journeyed from the four walls where I worked. Though my journey was not a physical departure from the classroom where I taught for thirteen years, my journey nonetheless provided me a changed view of my students and of teaching writing in workshop settings. The culture of classrooms, like the culture of English butlers, is not static; it constantly changes as individuals uniquely interpret and negotiate individual points of view. To gain perspective on individuals and groups as they negotiate their writing with one another in a workshop class, I changed perspectives from being teacher only to "researching" my students and their written work. In writing workshops, I taught and, as much as was humanly possible, I systematically observed, tape-recorded and collected drafts of students' work to analyze retrospectively.2 Like other teacher researchers whose research is both colored and informed by their teaching (e.g., Lytle and Cochran-Smith), I tell about my journey in understanding more about my students and their responses to written texts. The story gives insights about writing theory and practice, and will be, I expect, of help to practicing teachers and to faculty learning to incorporate writing into content area courses. As it provides information about writing workshop practice, it raises questions about commonly held beliefs, speculates on the nature of response even as it calls for further research, and recommends ways to strengthen our responses to individual students and their written work. In particular, my journey leads me to understand more about the complexities embedded in the ubiquitous phrase "response," more about how writing workshop practice invites some students greater success than others, and more about the complex interactions that impact on individuals and their written work. While I raise as many questions as I manage to answer, like Stevens, I have gained some understanding of writing workshops that raises the possibilities for my own (and perhaps others') growth and change.
The writing workshop I taught and am reporting on was designed specifically for seniors at what I call Solomon School, a North-eastern, college preparatory, Jewish day school for students in grades six to twelve. With both implicit and explicit pressures to get into the college of their choice, students devoted more time in fall of senior year to college visitations, preparations for SAT's and achievements, and completing applications than to completing work for school. The Writing Workshop curriculum I designed was intended to capitalize, then, on their interest in applications to colleges; students wrote, workshopped and revised college application essays as the basis for their senior-level Writing Workshop course. Deemed what Heath would call authentic, useful writing (1972), these assignments made a real world and school connection, and provided a fertile context for understanding more about my students' writing and their responses to each others' written work.
This Writing Workshop course was structured so that all students and teacher discussed writing together as a whole group each time we met. With the pedagogical approach I refer to as "workshopping response," we seemed able to highlight the advantages but avoid the problems I experienced with both conferencing and peer group response. Although conferences (one to one conversations with their students) acquainted students with the conventions of written discourse and corrected problems with individual texts, I was concerned that students spent too much time waiting in line. More time-efficient approaches, like peer groups (where students respond to other students' work without the teacher present), offered the writer not only more variety, but less authoritative control of the paper than with one teacher-reader's response (Brannon and Knoblaugh). However, even with the advantages of peer-groups, Solomon School students and parents complained that private school tuition was too high to have the students, not the teacher, "teaching" the course. But, with "Workshopping" because both teacher and students are involved my methods were more readily accepted. I felt too that I was able to combine the strengths of conferencing or peer groups while eliminating some of the attendant problems of each. In addition, with workshopping, students would listen to many different styles of essays and learn to respond to others' suggestions as well as others' drafts.
My conception of response to writing in this kind of workshop is embedded in the notion that meanings are socially negotiated by individuals and social groups. Although students' classroom talk in writing workshops is clearly rooted in this concept of social negotiation, research about response has, according to Florio-Ruane, been too focused on "strips of conversation," on process or product or on isolated sets of instructions characterized by what students or teachers give (see, for example, Pianko, 1979; Perl, 1978; Stallard, 1974). Constrained by a lack of contextualized data, the majority of composition research has limited our notion of what it means to respond. Even in research that advocates the use of collaborative classrooms, there is still too little information about the social interactions themselves. The focus has been on a traditional view of response merely as a textually bound evaluation of various features of texts (Phelps). Rhetorically based response, however, no matter how key to helping students assess and change papers, does not help in understanding the complexities of what gets said, to whom, under what conditions, or how that response changes over time or gets reflected in revised versions of texts. Yet, since students in a writing workshop setting act as both initiators and receivers of response, what individuals say both affects and is affected by the interactions with others and by the different roles authors, revisers, respondents, and recipients of response that individuals in writing workshops play. Analyzing one workshop session briefly below, I attempt to see some of the complexity of response by showing through one student's text how the response to the rhetorical issues of her text constitutes only one portion of the response received. What follows is a copy of one student's text (Liz's essay), a transcription of the conversation we call "workshop response", and a brief analysis of the workshop class. What practicing teachers or faculty incorporating writing workshops into their content area classes might want to note, then, is how response is much more multifaceted than traditional definitions imply.
Academically speaking, I have to say that studying in Israel was an extremely enriching experience. It wasn't because I was studying unusual material that was so completely fascinating while I was studying there. I didn't cherish having four double periods a day and then sitting down to three to four hours of homework a day. I loathed it. I was in a foreign country wanting to explore the place and experience my first love relationship. Instead of spending the afternoon with my boyfriend, I was immersed in textbooks. I wasn't happy. Furthermore, I was living with twelve loud South Americans who taught me the true meaning of the word insanity. I was going through loneliness, homesickness, extreme changes in eating habits, sleeping habits, oops cross out, my entire lifestyle, needless to say. I forced myself to sit and work because I wanted to have it off of my mind. This time I had to do all of my work I couldn't take leave of my mentality because of common teenage depression. At first, these circumstances proved to be hellish. Nevertheless, as time passed, I developed a tolerance for my writing. I was able to be productive, even under the worst of circumstances. I developed a defense mechanism. By the end of the program, I was glad to be done academic programs. Although I had come close to the edge several times, I had survived. Admittedly, through slavery, I learned a lot of material. I gained the knowledge that I could handle that type of workload.
Ms. Baum: What was the question?
Liz: What was the most intellectual experience you've ever had?
Ms. Baum: Strengths?
Liz: It's only supposed to be one hundred words. It needs to be cut down a lot.
Ms. Baum: Let's worry about length later. Not now. Well talk about that in twelve weeks.
Right now it's not an issue.
Daniel: It's well written.
Ms. Baum: Be more specific. I don't know what that means. That [it's well written] doesn't mean anything to me.
Daniel: It was clear.
Ms. Baum: What was clear?
Ari: What she was trying to get across.
Ms. Baum: Which was what?
Ari: The experience she had in Israel.
Ms. Baum: No no no Can you tell me something specifically a name a sentence that was well written? Be specific.
Ari: The whole thing.
Ms. Baum: Unacceptable. Too general. All have to be more specific in our writing and in our com menting. Not helpf ul.
Ari: I liked how she started out.
Ms. Baum: Do you remember what that was?
Class: Academically speaking.
Liz: I didn't like the beginning.
Group: I didn't either.
Liz: I was going to ask you about that.
Daniel : I didn't like the way you spoke to us.
Ms. Baum: Wait Before we get into suggestions, we'll talk strengths. What part did you like ? What stands out? pieces? wholes?
Chaim: People who'll read it can tell that she survived college and can do it again. She can survive college.
Ms. Baum: You liked the theme.
Ms. Baum: What was the most memorable thing? Check your notes.
Nancy: The part where she tells she'd rather be doing other things [other than school work]. She could have said I loved this [school] work.
Ms. Baum: My favorite line was about the rowdy South Americans.
Chaim: Me too.
Ms Baum: That's the kind of thing I need you to give back to me, to the author. That may be more helpful. More helpful if you can say what works. Why it works.
Class: Why does it work?
Ms. Baum: Why does it work?
Liz: Read back the line.
Jack: Not just the line but the line before.
Liz: Furthermore, I was living with rowdy loud south Americans which taugh t me the true meaning of the word insanity.
Ms. Baum: Rowdy . . . . From that word, I could picture, I could imagine just what that was going to be like. In fact, I thought you were going to go on from there. I though maybe that that's what your paper was going to be about because I was so attracted to it.
Liz: This essay has to be brief. Do you think it's worth developing?
Gaye: Maybe you could use it for one of your longer essays. If you can do much more with it, use it for a longe r essay .
Ms. Baum: I imagine it's like a distraction. Rowdy South Americans doing ABC DEFG.
Daniel: Academic Experience. List one and develop one incident.
Ms. Baum: Memorizing E= MC2 and they're out there screaming. I don't know . Really recreate the scene . One of the troubles you'r e getting into is you'r e busy summarizing the events. But I don't want a summary. This happens. That happens. That' s what you're telling us. You don't want to prese nt summary. You want to be more like script writers, novelists, re-create the scene. Leave out the moral s at this stage . . . the what you learned, heavy duty stuff. Just recreate the scene in vivid detail. What scene it is. That becomes the four D thing.
Liz : What I'm trying to do here maybe not a good way to work is all different aspects of love relationships coming together.
Ms. Baum: I got a picture of frenzy.. I didn't object to that. Elaborate on each one. I do think the whole introduction slowed it down . The middle is the best.
Daniel: The middle . . . maybe do general and then particular one.
Liz: Where do I stick in general moral? It's obvious the middle is more interesting but I have to get other stuff in, don't I?
Ms. Baum: Why can't you start in the middle?
Nancy: They know what the question is.
Daniel: I wanted to spend the afternoon with my boyfriend.
Liz: But it has to be clearcut.
Ms. Baum: It has to be interesting. That's all. Next.
In this workshopping session early in the term, we assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the text in order to help Liz improve her next draft. Together, the students and I pointed out Liz's general strengths ("well written") and particular strengths ("My favorite line was about rowdy South Americans"). The theme of her text was also identified as evidence of the paper's strength and clarity ("She can survive college"). Further, she was told what was not working ("It needs to be cut down a lot"; "I didn't like the beginning"). But, in the conversational response to Liz's text, conversation was not only about Liz's text, nor even directed exclusively to her. In Liz's session, as in many others over the course of the semester, much of the conversation was as much about conversation or others' texts as it was about the author's text. Some response was directed to the respondents, not the writer, and was centered on how to give better response or how they could write better for themselves. For example, even the portion of the conversation that began with my citing the line about "the crazy South Americans" and continued for a number of conversational turns occurred not only so that Liz would know what to do. It occurred to get the rest of the class to be more specific in their own responses. Since the students were less experienced and less adept in their responses early in the term than they were later in the term, much of my conversation, especially early in the year, was aimed at helping the students learn how to give responses to writing. Many of my comments were not reactive to the author or her text. Comments such as "Be more specific"; "What was clear? A name, phrase, sentence?"; "It's too general"; " What parts did you like?"; "Check your notes"; "What works and why does it work?" were all aimed at helping other students become more specific and articulate in their responses. For example, my own response which named my favorite line was trying to model for the group what had been a long way around answering the question, " Can you find a part you liked?" Chaim and Nancy both attempted to answer my question. Chaim identified the theme when he said, "People who'll read it can tell she survived college and can do it again." Nancy noted Liz's honesty when she identified the part where she said she'd rather be doing other things. But, they both identified broader issues rather than a specific line. My own response which named a favorite line was as much a response to the group's failure to find a particular workable gem as it was a response to Liz's text. Even elaborating on that line ("I imagined what that was going to be like; I thought you were going to go on from there") was as much an answer to the students' calling me, because I hadn't said why it worked (So why does it work?) as it was a response to Liz's text.
Even as brief as this analysis of one workshop is, it helps us see response as more than the most commonly held belief about response. According to Matsuhashi, the prevailing notion of response focuses on "teachers' comments on students' texts [in pedagogy], and . . . on what they do when they write such comments [in research]" (Matsuhashi, et al., 1989). Such a limited view offers teachers and students too little information about the ways response can evolve and change, or be affected by various participants, purposes, contexts, or various forms of texts oral and written, real and imagined, about writing or about how to respond. What , in other words, can we learn about Liz through her workshop and how she differed from the other participants in her workshop class? Would the other students' workshops sound similar to Liz's? Would these same responses be helpful to others? Would these responses impact on her responses or the other way around? Would she incorporate these suggestions into her written work? Would others learn as much or as little as she? What would be different about the others' responses and their workshop class?
In the rest of the paper, I build on the two most recent collections of articles on response, Anson, ed., Writing and Response (1989) and Lawson, Sterr-Ryan and Winterowd, ed. Encountering Student Texts (1989), notable for giving the topic of response a richer representation by attending to more of the complexities and social interactions of response. Specifically, I build on two studies in Anson's collection Anson's own work on individual variations in the making of response (1989) and Onore's work on individual variations in the receiving of responses (1989) as a way of hearing more of the highly differentiated voices of students which are not often enough heard. However, rather than focusing on either the makers of response or the receivers of response, I attempt to show in the remaining parts of the paper the interaction between the two. As a way to see the influences of these individual voices as they intertwine with others and influence both others and themselves, I attempt to point out to teachers participating in composition workshops the need to address the fuller classroom context of interactive relationships between individuals, and between the response individuals give and the responses individuals then receive. I recognize, of course, that the classroom setting is only one view of the interactions these students have: at lunch, at breaks, and outside of school, the interactions could build configurations and dynamics different, at least in some cases, from the interactions they perform in this one class. Nonetheless, in observing and analyzing the interactions in the writing workshop I taught, I show how all participants co-construct and influence the response or talk. That is, even though a student-author receives response, he is not only a passive recipient of that response. I view each as an active participant whether he or she actually talks or not. Some of the assumptions underlying this point have been made by Erickson (1985). In his view of listening, he describes listening as an active activity "involving production rather than passive process[es] of reception" (1985). That is, the listener helps to shape what the speaker says through non-verbal and verbal styles or previous conversational cues. Faculty need to attend to conversations about texts shaped not only by the texts or by me or the other students, but by the authors, or recipients of response as well. As an author listens to response, and interjects silences or words, he or she seems to help shape or determine the response he or she receives.
In the following example, I show Chaim, for example, helping to shape the response he received. Chaim interjected remarks and behaved in ways to influence the students and my interpretation of the situation and our resultant responses to him. Although in some contexts, I might tell students "write that down" as a way to capture a particularly useful idea for writing or cut them off from further conversation, in this case, I told Chaim to write that down to keep him focused on particular comments when he seemed otherwise engaged. Thus, "Write it down" was a response to Chaim's talk and behavior as much or more than his text. In this and other ways throughout the following example, it seems that Chaim, at least in part, jointly constructed the response to his basketball text. More complex than the oft-defined uni-directional response to text, analysis of real classroom conversation might help practicing teachers or Writing Across the Curriculum professors be cognizant of the need to attend to the cross-flow of conversation and interrelationships among students as well as the student's text.
Liz: During tryouts, you have description of sweat dripping down,
but I was more interested in what was going on around you.
Ms. Baum: I want you to write it down.
Chaim: I did.
Ms. Baum: What did you write? What did she say?
Chaim: I did it.
Ms. Baum: What was it?
Chaim: I have to totally redo it.
Ms. Baum: Redo what?
Chaim: Sweat dripping down.
Ms Baum: LISTEN!
Liz: I want other aspects of what was going on.
Liz: How you felt . . . not just nervous . . . . Chaim: I'm not sure of myself . . . .
Liz: How you helped each other win the game. Illustrate how you were with them.
Ms. Baum: Everyone take out a pencil. Come up with a few details for Chaim . . . what work ing on a team means.
This conversation seemed shaped, at least partially, by Chaim's apparent confusion and his inability to recall Liz's advice. Although Liz told him, "During tryouts, you have description of sweat dripping down, but I was more interested in what was going on around you," the class and I believed Chaim was not listening because he couldn't answer any of the questions I asked him about what she had said ("LISTEN"). Thus, Liz repeated her initial remark ("I want other aspects of what was going on"); Sharon clarified it ([going on] "Outside"); elaborated upon it ("How you felt . . . not just nervous"); and then clarified it again ("How you helped each other win the game. Illustrate how you were with them"). The more turns it took Chaim to repeat what Liz had said, the more the class seemed to assume he didn't know what was going on. From that, everyone acted as if they would need to supply him with even more help. Thus, not only did they find a number of ways to communicate those points to him, but they also did a portion of the writing for him as well. Had I or the class felt he understood what was going on, or exactly what was expected of him, there would have been no reason to have written a portion of the text on his behalf. In this sense, Chaim was an active partner in shaping the response he received, since the group seemed to feel that they needed to clarify, specify, and elaborate more and more for Chaim to follow the course of conversation. Seemingly shaped as much by Chaim's behavior and classroom responses, as a response to his text, Chaim molded the extension of responses he received. Although Chaim helped shape the response he received by what he said and what he did, that alone did not determine the response to Chaim. It depended as well on the group's interpretation of what he said. For example, it is interesting that Chaim indicated at one point, just before the class was told to assume a co-author role," [I'm ] not sure of myself." Ironically, perhaps, Chaim's remark could have indicated his understanding of Liz's concern for his future draft; that is, "I'm not sure of myself" might have indicated what he believed he should convey in the next draft of his story in order to fulfill Liz' s request. Had I understood at the time (or Chaim made himself perfectly clear) the possibility that he was addressing rather than dodging Liz's concerns, I would probably have ended the conversation without having the class write for him; there would have been no need. In short, had Chaim's earlier behavior not indicated so much confusion on his part, I probably would not have [mis?]interpreted the remark as I did. I believed his remark "not being sure of himself" indicated his current feelings as a writer in what he was being asked to do. Yet, this interpretation, whether correct or incorrect, shaped the extension of conversation over many more conversational turns. Further, the interpretation that he was confused triggered my request for explicit modeling. He then included some of the group's writing samples in his very next draft. In these ways, response was a reaction not only to texts, but to individuals and their responses. Shaped almost as much by the teacher as the other students, and almost as much by the author as his text, response is necessarily a complex process, conversationally constructed, and socially and rhetorically controlled. The conversationally constructed response was further shaped by Chaim and the social and educational function that it might serve to get this seemingly confused writer back on track. It is important that faculty using workshops be sensitive to the complexities of exchanges and interchanges in workshop response and focus as much attention on the conversation and interactions of response.
Bakhtin's notion that any speaker or writer is him- or herself a respondent is useful in observing conversational constructions. Bakhtin points out that a speaker (or writer):
. . . presupposes not only the existence of a language system
. . . but also the existence of preceding utterances his own and
others with which his given utterance enters into one kind of
relation or another. . . . Any utterance is a link in a very complexly
organized chain of other utterances.
To explore Chaim's response as a descriptive, complex "chain of utterance [s]," I observed not only the way that Chaim talked but the utterances that came before and after he spoke. I observed the ways Chaim spoke to others in their workshop time in relationship to the ways others responded to him in his. The response characteristics of Chaim in the role of respondent were viewed in relation to the response characteristics in his role of recipient of response. This relationship I refer to as reciprocity. A term borrowed from Nystrand, "reciprocity" is useful in characterizing this mirroring or give-and-take phenomenon. Built on the foundation that "participants . . . develop a mutual co-awareness to communicate . . . less [as] a matter of speakers' transmitting intentions to listeners and more [as] a matter of operating on and transforming a shared knowledge base" (Nystrand), reciprocity reflects the ways writers (or speakers) balance their goals with the expectations they believe their readers (listeners) bring to a text (conversation). Bakhtin describes a similar phenomenon to Nystrand's reciprocity, which Bakhtin terms "assimilation." With "assimilation," Bakhtin implies less intentionality or consciousness in writing or speaking. Rather than adjusting oneself for others in particular situations, Bakhtin suggests that individual speech is shaped by others through continuous and constant social interaction. Thus, each individual's utterances resonate with others' meanings, which are consciously and unconsciously "assimilate[d], reworke[d], and reaccentuate[d]" (Bakhtin 89). While I borrow from the "assimilation" concept, I have nonetheless chosen the term "reciprocity" to reflect Nystrand's stronger sense of an individual speaker's consciousness and identity. But, I also give a tacit acknowledgement to the importance of "others" and "otherness" that Bakhtin's "assimilation" implies.
While we can see in the previous pages the general impact Chaim has on the responses he receives, we see below that Chaim's style to others seems like the reciprocity described above. The ways he influences others even as he is influenced is seen in the following excerpt of a class response to an essay on basketball for Syracuse University, Chaim's first choice school. The workshop reflects in part, I believe, a repetitious or imitative quality reciprocated between Chaim's and the group's responses:
As I was walking through the hallways of Solomon Academy, I glanced on the bulletin board. A reminder there were tryouts for Judas Macabeas games Tryouts on Sunday. I wrote this fact down. It was a priority. I've always wanted desperately to play and to have the opportunity to play with the best Jewish basketball players in the world. I got there. Seventy five kids were signing up. I was amazed at the amount of kids that were there. I knew I wouldn't be able to make this team unless I did something special to get me noticed. The whistle blew. I was playing well. I made the first cut. There were now forty five kids. What scared me was these kids were taller and stronger than me. I tried to block that out in my mind. The coach was reading off the names, Abram, Brett, Magic Word. Elsky. I didn't show much emotion on the outside. Inside my stomach was churning. I now had the chance to live my dreams to play in the Judas Maccabeah games held in Detroit. Throughout my life sports has been more than just a game to me. It has taught me team work, meeting people and the cause of many great experiences. Maccabeah games displayed all these characteristics. The games started. Near the end of August with twelve countries , and twenty five cities participating. Right from the outset, it was obvious that the Delaware Valley Basketball team had a lot of talent. In our first game against Canada, we were unorganized. As the game progressed, you could see the team working together and eventually winning the game. I feel that teamwork is an important part of real life as well as sports. Team work is answer in sports and business. If one has teamwork one will succeed. Not only did the game serve as a reminder of important teamwork, but it gave me the opportunity to meet lots of other kids from other teams and countries. This experience helped me on my first day of school. I played basketball and already met ten kids. Sports has been more than a game to me. It has triggered many of my friendships. Most of my friendships have occurred during experiences like the Maccabeah games. During the games, I was introduced to a new city, new kids who spoke many languages. Certainly the greatest was winning the gold medal . . . .
Ms. Baum: I'm going to stop you here.
Sharon: You know the part after you talk about the tryouts . . . .
Chaim: [you mean] Throughout my life sports has been important to me?
Chaim: Maybe that's the place I should start my paper.
Sharon: NO. NO. NO.
Liz: It's the first part that is interesting.
Chaim: I don't know. I just wrote down all my ideas . . . .
Ms. Baum: That's good. That's exactly what you should do. It's a good way to start.
Sharon: I was expecting you to follow that through why it was important to you, but you went back to the Macabean Games.
Chaim: What do you mean?
Ms. Baum: You're not going to talk. You're writing strengths and suggestions now.
Gaye: The first part, you're describing the whole thing. In the second part, you go on and on. I tuned you out. It was interesting in the beginning, but then it got boring. I woul d have liked to have heard more on that one specific part.
Ms. Baum: Of what he's mentioned so far, which one could be talked about ? what part?
Gaye: Tryouts. That stuck in my head the most.
Ms. Baum: I agree. Good suggestion.
Chaim: Tell more?
Gaye: Yeah. Think of any possible details.
Ms. Baum: To restate: You have twelve ideas. You need to pick one. Gaye's favorite part was the tryouts. We'll see if that's everyone else's favorite part too. It's one of the parts I liked too. My most favorite line was reading outnames. You're not on that list at first. It's something very concrete that happened. You need more of that. OK?
I found that Sharon tried to tell Chaim that the second half of his essay on basketball the part after the tryouts should be cut. Sharon's initial idea was repeated by Sharon, then Liz, then me, then Gaye; we continued to repeat the same idea for Chaim in slight variations on Sharon's idea: "you know the part after the tryouts part [cut it]"; "NO NO NO [keep this tryouts part]; "It was interesting in the beginning but then it got boring[ after the tryouts part]"; "It's the first part [the tryouts] that's interesting"; "I was expecting you to follow [tryouts] through"; "you have twelve ideas so pick one [the tryout part]"; "tryouts, that stuck in my mind the most." It seems that the responses Chaim received above mirror the repetitious quality of those he gave to the group in their workshop time. For example, in a workshop for Jay's essay about a summer job, I felt Jay needed to lay more groundwork before focusing on his paper's point. "Jay," I said, "first tell us about your experiences in the computer center." Six turns later Chaim repeated my response with, "I think you could mention the kind of job you've had." Although Chaim may not have heard what had been said, it nonetheless seems true that his comment "the kind of job he'd had" closely paralleled my suggestion to include "the experiences in the computer center" particularly since Jay's "job" was a "computer center" job.
In another example from a workshop for Yael, Chaim appeared to imitate another student, Sharon, in her response to Yael's draft on a summer job. Sharon had said that what she liked about Yael's draft was that it had good details in all the right parts. Chaim seemed to parrot her with, "Every time she needed to she went into detail. Just where she should." Chaim's remark, "She went into detail . . . just where she should" was almost identical to Sharon's preceding remark, "Good details in all the right parts." In a similar vein, he sometimes would attach "me too" right next to someone else's response. For example, he added "Me too" right after one individual said, "My favorite line was about the crazy South Americans." It seemed many of his repeated comments drew from the class a laugh. I was never sure if that embarrassed him or gratified him for the attention it brought, but I found, either way, that he received or elicited a particular kind of response somewhat distinguishable from others in the group.
Traditionally speaking, the "action" of the listener
or recipient of response is largely absent from the research on
recipients of response. Berkenkotter's study on recipients of
response (1984), for example, indicates that students receive
information differently. Some listen to suggestions to the point
of abandoning their own intentions. Some defy the suggestions
completely. Others manage to address the responses while maintaining
their own authorial identity. But, even with the differences noted,
Berkenkotter does not attend to the ways students as "recipients"
act on respondents or affect the next response. Similar to Berkenkotter's
in that respect is Onore's study (1989). Onore also found that
students receive information differently. She found, for example,
that "the writer's perception of the teacher-reader's role
. . . varied enormously from occasion to occasion and writer to
writer" (237). Yet, her study is uni- directional, for it
does not address the ways recipients act back on respondents or
response itself. There is little room to observe the impact of
recipients on the next response when she, like Anson in the same
collection, "did not seek to understand . . . the rich interactions
that occur between teachers and students in the fuller context
of instruction; the analyt-ical method was entirely static, focusing
on textual artifacts (essays and responses) as possible reflections
of various attitudes and ways of knowing"
But, in looking at the multi-directional interactions in the earlier example when Sharon tried to tell Chaim that the second half of his essay on basketball should be cut ("the part after you talk about the tryouts"), the reciprocated, repetitious responses intended for Chaim were at least in part shaped by him as well. Chaim received repeated ideas because Chaim interrupted the discussion five different times. In response to his interjections, everyone kept repeating the initial idea. At one point, he got the intended point completely backwards and thought he was supposed to focus on a part he had been told to cut ("Maybe that's the place I should start my paper"). From his confusion, he elicited another round of responses which repeated, in slight variation, Sharon's initial, incomplete suggestion to cut the section after the tryouts part. In another interjection, he admitted his confusion quite directly ("What do you mean?") and thus he heard yet another repetition of the original idea. In a third interjection, he requested confirmation ([You mean] "tell more?"), which initiated another round of repeated ideas. Thus, though I believe that the response Chaim received seemed reciprocated, it is not simply the case that respondents imitate the imitator in a one to one correspondence of each remark made. Through Chaim's questions and interjections, I believe he helped elicit from others a general rhetorical response not unlike the ones he gave.
The examples of Chaim's workshops above helps us see that response is affected by various participants' interactions with others as well as with their texts. While faculty and practicing teachers use workshops to help students improve their texts, these social interactions described above imply that emphasis on texts alone may be somewhat short-sighted a goal. Without a good understanding of student styles of response or interactional patterns, we may not have as much impact on our workshops and revision of texts as we would hope. Teachers may want to explore various questions, such as whether these characteristics of response for Chaim would be observed in other students in this or other classes? What other characteristics might typify student responses? Do they vary from individual to individual or class to class? Would my observations be confirmed by another's point of view?
In addition to observing Chaim, I observed one other male, Daniel, to be discussed later, and two female students Liz and Nancy discussed below and discuss my observations of reciprocicity with each below. Liz and Nancy co-constructed responses to texts and to various individuals at various times in ways not unlike Chaim. That is, the comments they received seemed influenced, at least in part, by the type of comments that they tended to give. The following portraits, for the sake of brevity, are less involved than that of Chaim's, describe Liz and then Nancy. These portraits, albeit sketchy, help raise questions about the extent that response as a rhetorical and social process is influenced by individual styles of response and by reciprocated styles in return. Shown first in contrast to one another, I then discuss what each student's style might imply for a classroom learning experience, particularly in contrast to the fourth student I discuss later, Daniel.
Liz was regarded by her peers and her teachers as a student who took her school work seriously. One of the better writers in the group, Liz, nonetheless, participated much less often in others' workshops than in her own even though the opposite was expected of her. Even when she did participate in others' workshops, she often bypassed my request to stick to larger rhetorical concerns and focused more often on surface features of text. Nonetheless, I found that she tended to identify as poor choices, for example, isolated words that others had used ("betrothal," "rhumba partner," "social register," "too many," "potential epicurean," "bystanders," "pajama figures," "still a foreigner"). Despite the general rule to listen to others' suggestions in her own workshop time, she often resisted suggestions made to her. Whether to defend, resist, ask for clarification, or offer alternatives, her responses seemed to begin as often with "But " as any other word ("But it has to be clearcut"; "[But] I was going to ask you about that"; "[But] this essay has to be brief"; "[But wait]. Where do I stick in the general moral?"; "But I have to get to the other stuff, don't I?"). In one case, she took twelve separate conversational turns to argue with others about the suggestions they had made to her.
Might it be that Liz's resistive tendencies were reciprocally reflected so that Liz's resistance was frequently met with counter resistance in return? As an example from one workshop below suggests, she resisted a suggestion to focus on only one of the two parts of her paper either the missing Opher or music part. To what degree do these tendencies reflect a style of response to written work in general or to the particular group configured in our writing class? Was this a student role she played for us or could it be configured more generally as a style of response? Although more research would be necessary to answer such questions, I think practicing teachers might benefit from observing the differences between Chaim and Liz below. By noting the individual differences, teachers might better see the variations in their own students' responses and their and others' responses back to the individuals themselves. The draft she read follows:
I miss Opher. I miss Opher. I don't want to be here in America
in my bedroom. As I get more upset, as these thoughts repeat themselves,
go through my head, sobs get caught in my throat and steamy tears
begin to trickle down my cheeks. I wish I hadn't seen those pictures,
the pictures of Ave, Gideon, myself, all of us laughing, joking,
walking through the old City of Jerusalem. I begin to frown, the
corners of my lips turn down and begin to cry without restraint,
my chest heaving. I feel so much pain. I can't stand to feel this
terribly. I'm so tired from crying the same tears over and over
again without being able to get back to where I want to be. Wanting
to lessen my pain, I walk over to my stereo system, turn on the
dial, and begin to look for my tape of famous selections of music
from the baroque era. My stomach begins to turn in a knot. I insert
the tape into my cassette player, rewind the tape to its beginning,
close my eyes, and listen for the notes. As they begin to float
from the speakers, my breathing becomes heavier and I stop gnashing
my teeth; the tension in my head is eased. It begins with the
slow, rhythmic sounds of a bass string instrument pulsing evenly,
the same set of notes repeating again and again. As each chord
finishes, a new string instrument adds its voice to the melody.
The tune is soothing, a pretty, melody with the constant voice
of the lower instruments in the background of Paccabell's Cannon,
a tune which reaches back into my memory a piece which has deep
meaning for me. As I listen to the comforting melody, my mind
goes back to other memories. I recall sitting on a purple plush
rug. I'm sitting in a circle, my friends alongside of me. We are
in my counselor's living room in a small apartment on the west
side of East Talpint, a suburb of Jerusalem. Outside, through
the window, there is a view of the surrounding houses, and beyond
them the desert mountains overlapping one another. We have all
had a hectic week and each of us has some problem we need to share
with our peers. My counselor walks over to the record player,
puts a record on the turn table, and the notes of Paccabell's
Cannon begin to resonate throught the room. Slowly, the tension
which has been built up inside of me, all week begins to dispense,
my shoulders fall and I take a break, tears of relief slowly fall
down my face. As the music eases my tension, I begin to talk,
allowing the melody to help by problems spill out. **It is February
of the same year. I am riding in the car with my mother through
the wooded parts of the suburbs. The snow which had fallen the
night before creates a mystical world around us crystal hanging
from every leaf, twig, hugging the bricks of the cottages which
bordered the road. We open one of the car windows in order to
feel the brisk clean air. As the cold causes our cheeks to redden,
my mother turns on the tape cassette she has selected from the
compartment between the two front seats. As the notes of the canon
sing from the speakers, delight us, a smile forms. The piece enters
a crescendo, we can't stop smiling. The music heightens our happiness
from the surrounding nature, and I feel lighthearted and very
alive. As these scenes run through my mind, I can't help but weakly
smile. It's odd how so many memories which are evoked by this
piece of music, so many emotions heightened by its melodies.
In response to her reading of this draft, the class gave her suggestions about the draft at hand and made suggestions for her future draft. In particular, she was told that she needed to cut the Opher part and focus on the music part of the paper instead. But, she talked in response to every attempt to make a suggestion to her. I believe that her talk back to them was a way of questioning them, of attempting to understand them, of nervously reacting to them but, in effect, she seemingly resisted them and the advice they gave. Perhaps, she resisted the particular suggestion most because she was more attached to the Opher part (her boyfriend) than the music part. Nonetheless, the resistance seemed so intense at one point that one student said, "You have a hard time letting go [of that part of the text]." Nevertheless, even as they sympathized with her, the group seemed to resist her resistance and insist that she cut that part instead. One student suggested, "Start with I'm upset and then go into the music"; another, "Start with, 'It's February of the same year'"; then another, "that's the focus . . . the effect of the music." Meeting her resistance again, one student countered with, "You described the music well enough we can hear it. But cut the stuff not related." Another tried to convince her, "I didn't even like it until the music part." One student finally retorted with exasperation in her voice, "Just trash the first part [until the music part]." With each time Liz argued, disagreed, or resisted cutting the early part, another participant would argue back with her and, in effect, repeat in a different way the same directions they originally gave to her.
Nancy, by contrast, seemed quite different from that of both Chaim and Liz, but as in their cases, there seemed to be a co-constructed set of social and rhetorical relationships in her workshop response. Nancy, however, unlike Chaim and Liz, seemed to address the preceding speakers more often than she addressed the authors who read aloud their texts. I found that Nancy tended to participate when there was a disagreement, or potential source of conflict, but she helped mediate the tension at the source. In one example, Nancy said only nine words, but through them, she seemed able to compromise and acknowledge each participant's needs. In that one line "more? or more specific? Just add two more lines," she acknowledged Sharon's initial suggestion and my later request that Gaye, the author, would need to write more in yet another draft. But, in saying "Just two more lines," she seemed to help bridge the differences between Sharon's and my request to write more and Gaye's "I'm- not- going- to write- anymore" angry stance.
Nancy seemed to use a kind of negotiation not only in the ways she reacted to others, but in the ways she maneuvered among a variety of topics in her responses to their texts. Her responses often identified her own feelings as well as features of text ("I liked when you explain why you liked her"); identified or helped to identify the feelings or reactions of others ("Say more about how you're feeling; I know I'd be angry"); admitted not knowing what the problem was ("I didn't like it but I don't know why") as well as how to fix it ("Tell how they touched your behind. Tell more about the Arabs"); compared different drafts ("I'm thinking about the first paper she read; what a difference"); clarified others' remarks (["In other words] Why do you want a college program?"); explained her expectations ("That's what I expected for you to tell me . . . about the Arabs"); imagined others' future texts ("You could say something about how you were playing well"); clarified the essay questions ("[The essay question] doesn't say that"); and clarified themes ("Isn't the real question why does he want to make the team so badly?").
As if indicating a strong relationship between responses given and received, students gave Nancy a wider range of response to her written drafts than any other student in the group. In the workshop below, I found that Nancy not only received a wide range of response across topics, she received extended response on one topic the main topic of her paper, the boy.
He was a small dark skinned boy, with big brown eyes and a head full of thick almost black hair. His body was very thin with no excess fat at all except for a big ball in the middle of his stomach. His little mouth was closed and his eyebrows were lifted in a puzzled manner. There he was standing quietly in the middle of the room. All the other two years old were playing frantically and noisily excited about their first day at day camp. I realized he must have been the child who was recently adopted from Honduras, and he spoke very little English. I walked over to him, took his hand, said Hi Michael, I'm Nancy. I spoke slowly, pointing my finger to my chest. I could tell he understood. Michael learned so much so quickly. He got used to the camp routine quickly (especially eating). By the end of the first week, we spent a lot of time together. I remember we played a game together which he invented. He would ask questions. His bright eyes reflected so much intelligence even though he always asked questions. What's this? in his soft spoken Spanish accent while he pulled a dangling piece of metal on my ear. Earring, I answered. Earring, he repeated. He then stuck his fingers on the sticky colored stuff on my lips. What's this? Lipstick. I replied with a smile. His face glowed with pride and he repeated Lipstick. His favorite was the bright gold dangling necklace around my neck. He tugged on it and looked at it intriguingly. Learning words was his favorite game. It was obvious he was happy to be here. During lunch, one day, I was sitting eating pretzels, while he was busy playing with some toys on the rug. He noticed my food and came over to me, but he didn't say anything. "Would you like a pretzel?" He stuck out his hand so I gave him one. His eyes were bright and his lips curled slightly upward to find a grin. Then, in his soft spoken voice, with a little Spanish accent, he said, "Thank You."
Nancy, who was a fairly strong student though not as strong as Liz, received responses in her workshop that allowed her to work at a level almost equal to Liz. She received from almost every participant in the group continuous elaborations on previous turn-takers' points, as exemplified in the following workshop response to her draft above: "You could picture the boy, there were so many details"; "I like the picture of the game, the way he was feeling"; "I liked the dialogue between you and him"; "What was he feeling? How do we know . . .? What's the purpose of it? . . . We need not only description [of him], but description that leads to a point"; "Write the experience of working with him"; "And watching him grow, what does that tell us about you?"; "What makes you decide to take him under your wing?"; "Why did he catch your eye? How could you tell . . . he understood?"; "From teaching him about language you learn too"; "It was interesting how you said what you learned." The comments listed above extend and elaborate the discourse of previous speakers similar to the way she did with others. The progression of the comments given to her seems logical and gives her specific direction in what to do. Nonetheless, Nancy is told what to do most often in question form. Even when declarative, the statements given to her seem most often constructive and build, as she so often did with others, on the paper's positive points and on previous conversational cues. The tone of even the most directive remark to Nancy, "Write the experience working with him" sits in marked contrast to Liz's "Just Trash the [music] part." Although I had no conscious intentions of giving workshopping responses without parity, I believe that Nancy, in fact, received the most useful information about her papers than any other student in the group.
The workshops of Liz, Nancy, and Chaim above show some of the complexities of response. Not merely a uni-directional comment about rhetorical features of text, conversation was socially constructed and more than rhetorically controlled. Although it is possible to see each student playing a stereotypical role (the less able student who needs work repeated, the good but resistant student, the cooperative and nice girl student), I think there is enough information about these students to raise the possibility at least that each gave and received response somewhat differently as each received talk that, at least in part, seemed to reciprocate the style of talk they used. In the case of my class, for example, it seemed that with Nancy the group often mediated a wide range of topics, and elaborated more extensively and respectfully on a few major points than they did for others. For Liz, the group elaborated on particular points but seemed more intense and insistent almost angry and annoyed as they spoke to her. Chaim received repeated instructions articulated in a variety of ways sometimes, I think in misunderstanding, that he would need more directions to understand what he needed to do. Different as they were from one another, Liz, Nancy and Chaim commonly shared elicited talk that elaborated upon a few major points and was summarized or repeated again. As different as they were from each other, the conversation of all three was marked by a large number of active participants in the workshop process, each of whom took frequent conversational turns. Various speakers elaborated in various ways on previous participants' turns. The extended conversation immersed them it seemed in the language of application essays and the language of revision and response. According to Bakhtin, the more interactions and practice, "the better the command of speech genres, and the more freely [they would be] employed" (80).
Unlike Chaim, Daniel didn't repeat what he was instructed to do. Unlike Nancy, he didn't express to others a wide range of ways of exploring the very same theme. Unlike Liz, he didn't resist the suggestions and have others resist his resistances or become insistent back to him. Daniel seemed of all the students the most self-assured. Perhaps, because of that or his strength as a writer, the group seemed to give him less than they gave the others to his oral or written work. Instead, the students and I seemed to talk indirectly to him, with little specific direction or advice. Relative to the others, we seemed to switch topics frequently and give few clarifying examples or reinforcements of our points of view.
In the example below, Daniel had written his first essay as a letter from Holden Caulfield and the class responded in the same political manner that was so characteristic of Daniel's revisions as well as Daniel 's talk.
I can't believe you're actually going through with all this college crap. You're playing right into their hands. I mean I know you're telling me that working for the synagogue is well paying but it's another case of your going through the motions and being everybody's damn choir boy. Even though you don't have the voice, maybe synagogues have altars and you could be an altar boy. And you have the nerve to say you enjoy seeing your students perform well. Ridiculous. I've never had a teacher seeing their students perform well. They hate to give back tests with high grades unless you regurgitate exactly what they want. I guess I'm doing well. At least that's what my shrink thinks. Sometimes I wish I could take off and leave the compound. I'm beginning to lose my ability to think things out. I used to walk in the woods to sort things out in my head. I sure could have used some of that time in Israel to straighten myself out. It sounds like an amazing experience. I must say I was surprised by your indulgence in alcohol. Even if there's no drinking laws in Israel, don't you think it's a bad habit to pick up? Your friend, Holden.
Ms. Baum: Strengths
Liz: Daring. I like the technique. Not proper diction.
Ms. Baum: Part of that technique is that he can imitate an author's style. It shows ability and technique. Also talks about you through him. It's funny, cute, entert aining. Suggestions? It does need work .
Sharon: Some things Holden just wouldn't say. Like he wouldn't say indulgences. It's a lot of they; the whole world against him. They're all against him. They're all against us.
Ms. Baum: He does use it a little.
Sharon: Don't let them get to you.
Chaim: Scratch drinking altogether. It's too negative.
Daniel: I was going to add a response.
Ms. Baum: Do it all in one letter. I think you can. Try it anyway.
Ari: It's good how he intertwines Israel experience with Holden.
Ms. Baum: Suggestions. I would recommend you think more carefully about getting you in there. So far we have a line on Israel . . . synagogue. It's not enough. Elaborate a whole story. Another issue. I'm not sure you want to use those stories Maybe you do. Maybe not. You want them to fit with Holden. Other than we/they is there something he learns? or comes away with? indicative of growing up?
Daniel: He becomes reflective instead of reactive.
Sharon: He was always bullying. Maybe you wouldn't use it but like his next door neighbor, Peggy.
Ms. Baum: What about Peggy? What lessons, messages are in the novel: phony/real . At first phon y, but now I realiz e real. Think about exper ience s in the novel . I don't remember the novel well enou gh. You mayb e need to rerea d it, go back to it. Sharon: His roommate goes out with a neighbor. Then he goes berserk.
Ms. Baum: Why? Did he love her? Did he tell her?
Daniel: Didn't he try to call her?
Daniel: When he calls this one, that one . . . He's really messed up.
Ms. Baum: He starts to act on his fantasies.
Ms. Baum: But at the end, is he still messed up ? less messed up?
Sharon: You should put Phoebe in there. She's the one who makes him care about things.
Ms. Baum: OK There we go, the caring. That's what I'm trying to get at. He emer ges. In the begin ning he does n't care. In the end, he cares about peopl e and then mayb e even baby sitting thing (earli er essay ) can get in there. Blend the two. But I think you're on a good track. Interesting. Maybe gives ideas to other people about using ideas and playing off it. Using novels, [othe r people's] styles . Nancy: Anyway you can tell why you relate to Holden so well. Maybe Daniel can relate to Holden.
Ms. Baum: On the right road. Who's next?
Although Daniel's essay was strong, bold, and "daring" (e.g., "I can't believe you're going through with all this college crap"), it was told not in Daniel's voice but more indirectly, disguised as Holden Caulfield's. The class' responses to Daniel also seemed a bit oblique and served Daniel only in the most indirect ways. In a general way he was told to develop more about himself. Yet we did not develop or elaborate on how he could develop his own story into Holden's. Instead, surprisingly, we discussed Holden as a character in the novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Even though I intended to lead eventually from Holden's experiences to Daniel's, it never quite worked out that way. The conversation was often sidetracked and never developed or elaborated any one topic very long. For example, on one of the occasions, I had just asked Daniel what Holden had learned. He responded, "He becomes reflective instead of reactive." Rather than discussing that important point on the novel's theme, and moving from it to discussing its application to Daniel, we were sidetracked by Sharon who refocused the discussion onto Peggy instead. When the discussion finally returned to the theme in Catcher that Holden ends up caring about people I alluded quite briefly to how he could incorporate an earlier babysitting story to show how he, Daniel, also learned to care. I gave this suggestion, however, in only the most vague sorts of ways. In fact, immediately upon making the remark, "In the beginning he doesn't care. In the end, he cares about people and then maybe even babysitting thing can get in there. Blend the two. But I think you're on a good track. Interesting." I turned to the rest of the group to discuss instead what they , not Daniel, might learn from Daniel's text ("Maybe gives ideas to other people about using ideas and playing off it. Using novels' [other people's] styles"). But, Daniel, himself, was, I believe, shortchanged. Rather than discussing Daniel's text directly, most of the response was indirect, unelaborated, and only obliquely related to Daniel and his text. Might it be then that reflective of his own more or less indirect style for response, he received most often a reciprocated response in return?
The students or I rarely engaged Daniel in the overlapping dialogic conversations that more often characterized the other three. Instead, they seemed to speak most often to him obliquely, rather than directly, of what he should do with his future drafts. The talk he received, then, was more like a weaker piece of writing: less focused, less elaborated, having fewer examples and concrete support. With little repetition or insistence, the group did not maneuver with Daniel as they had more often with the other three. In effect, it seemed he had fewer opportunities to hear concrete ideas, he seemed engaged less than the others with the respondents and their ideas. With little direction given or interface of ideas exchanged, he had fewer opportunities to use others' responses to revise or improve his written work.
The responses to Daniel may have been so different from the others for reasons unrelated to reciprocity. Without research to eliminate other variables with certainty, I must also consider the possibility that his responses were different because the group read him as not needing help; he was already one of the better writers in the room. Or, maybe because he was less well liked, the others felt less concern for his work. Perhaps, the others wanted to help, but didn't know how. Perhaps with another group of students or another assigned task, he might have adjusted himself better to the group. Those possibilities notwithstanding, I believe that, at least in part, his more aloof style colored the conversational responses in a way that kept the group somewhat aloof in their reciprocated responses to him. At least partially, his own reciprocally created responses meant the group did not react with connected conversation as they had with those who encouraged more connected talk in (re)turn.
What future or present educators might need to ponder then in addition to the claim of reciprocity and its impact on response is whether or not classroom responses, no matter how constructed, work favorably on each student's behalf. Often in my own teaching, I have erroneously assumed, as I did with Daniel, that things were working when they were not. Sometimes I have erroneously assumed that things were not working when I realized later that they were. I have also previously assumed that little revision draft to draft is the fault of the author rather than assuming some of the responsibility lay with the group's failed social interactions in the workshop group. What I urge educators to pay more attention to then are the social interactions that writing workshops are founded on and how that might impact on the resultant revisions of texts.
What do we know about the impact of collaborated response on revisions of texts? According to Beach, who examined the effects of a between draft-evaluation on revisions made by high school students, students make more revisions in response to teacher comments than in response to student ones; the teacher comment groups' revisions were associated with higher quality products particularly when the comments focused on a single dimension, specifically "support." Hillocks, working with seventh and eighth grade classes, found like Beach that revision preceded by focused comments and observational activities positively affected texts. However, comments alone without revision or observational activities had no net gains. In support of Beach and Hillocks, Ziv found that comments needed to be very specific to make significant gains in students' work (1984). She found that unskilled writers needed more explicit cues; skilled writers could rely on more implicit ones. Sommers (1982), on the other hand, found teacher comments too vague to be particularly helpful though she thought students created more text-specific responses that were more helpful to them. Although these studies provide some information about specific comments being more helpful than general or vague ones, they tell us less about which comments are more helpful to whom, under what circumstances, or how these students develop their understanding of writing and revising over time. Further, we do not see the ways the social contexts like those viewed earlier in this paper would help constitute each response. Using the transcripts of classes and drafts and revisions of texts, I discuss below some ways teachers instruct students, and students instruct their teachers in learning more and less effective ways of writing and revising as well as responding to texts. The four students discussed above, Chaim, Liz, Nancy and Daniel, are discussed again below. In what follows, I speculate about how differences in the ways they revise relate, at least in part, to the ways they respond.
I found Chaim anxious to please; he followed suggestions, and incorporated them into his writing more or less as he was told to do. So, for example, after his first, barely-started essay on basketball, I suggested that he write down his ideas, pell mell. He did that and had a second draft with, not surprisingly, too many disparate ideas. His second paper had paragraphs on the value of sports to life, the value of teamwork friendship, family, social activities, competition, meeting interesting people, how basketball is good for business, the basketball tryouts, the coach to name just a few of the topics he tried to use. In response to that pell mell draft, he was told to focus on the best part. Then, as was suggested, he focused on the teamwork part in the very next draft. In response to that next more-focused-on-the-teamwork draft, he was directed to add a few more details to flesh out the papers' unsupported views. In the fourth draft, as with the others, Chaim did as he was told; he added detail, and even borrowed some of the precise language given to him by the workshop group. I found that Chaim followed suggestions as if literally. He made one major change per draft in response to what he was told to do. Although I found he experimented less than some of the other students in the class, he did succeed in incorporating suggestions that had been made. When the suggestions were good, he managed to be successful with his writing though certainly, less than stellar.
In this process, Chaim was given numerous occasions to listen and understand others, and to talk and be understood himself. As he imitated the suggestions for his written work, one labored point at a time, I found that he made slow but steady progress in his drafts. Although I wasn't always aware of it at the time I taught him, I found that his interactive style of response kept him engaged with others and with the revisions he made. Focused in conversation, in response, and in revision, on one idea at a time, he repeated what he was asked to do. Following directions, he made the revisions he was asked to make.
As with Chaim's ability to mimic or repeat, I saw Liz's resistances seemingly reciprocally appear in her revisions as well. Liz's draft #1 had developed, fairly successfully, a story about crazy South Americans in Israel. It was funny, and entertaining, and had a point to make. She was told to clean up just a few details. She did not, however, heed that advice after her workshopping session on draft #2. Her next revision, draft #3, was markedly worse and markedly different from the draft before. Long- winded and overbearing, draft #3 lacked the clarity, humor, subtlety, and fast pace of draft #2. Rather than saying briefly and metaphorically what she'd learned from the experience of studying abroad, as she had in draft #2 ("I was able to develop a tolerance for the maddening circumstances. I could turn a deaf ear to their screaming. Eventually I was able to adapt to the madness. I maintained a sort of eye of the tornado type of inner calm"), she belabored the point in draft #3 in cumbersome, pretentious phrases, and got bogged down in an overabundance of detail ("I was forced to develop the ability to concentrate regardless of my surroundings and soon I was able to block out all abstractions"). I found that although her resistance led, in this case, to a worse third draft, it kept Liz, as it did Chaim, engaged with her text and the group. As they resisted her resistance (and she theirs), she and the group found additional means to express their points of view. Even as Liz resisted the suggestions the group made for her writing, she explored through revision a different path for herself. This tendency to resist the group's particular suggestions nonetheless kept her writing and revising. Although she didn't listen to the group's ideas, I found she managed in the long run to do quite well. Ultimately, I discovered she created alternative solutions to the ones the class identified for fixing the problems in her drafts. Ultimately, I liked the work she wrote.
Nancy's responses kept her as engaged with others as with her written work. She continually glided as easily over new topics and terrain of writing as she had in conversations with the group. Nancy manipulated her revisions so she not only made large changes within each draft, but "negotiated" across different essays, pulling different pieces together in original ways. In draft one of her first essay, Nancy wrote about an alien. In draft 2, she wrote essentially the same essay, only now she included the more specific activity of teaching the alien to dance. The next draft split itself in two both drafts of which abandoned the alien completely. In one, she wrote about dance, but this time about herself learning ballet. In the other, she wrote about teaching English to a Honduran boy at summer camp. Draft 4 switched gears yet again from the Honduran's experiences to her own childhood experiences at summer camp. I was interested in the ways Nancy moved these pieces forward from draft to draft. I certainly had more difficulty tracing the development of story ideas than with the others since hers took such dramatic turns. But I liked her experimentation and found her devoting much energy on the writing and on the group.
As different as the three were from one another in the style of response, Liz, Nancy and Chaim had a style of response that kept them engaged with each other and their texts. Although each made extensive revisions, Chaim, Liz and Nancy differed in the kinds of revisions made. Where Chaim made one change at a time, exactly as he was told to do, Liz and Nancy moved beyond what was literally asked of them. Where Liz in many cases opposed the group's suggestions, Nancy moved in directions that leapfrogged forward from the group's response. As different as they all were from one another, however, they all engaged with others in response and in their revision of text.
Daniel, on the other hand, experienced little of the engaged conversation marked by the other three. I do not believe he heard about his own work the repeating, elaborating, or clarifying across speakers and across different drafts that was done with Liz, Nancy and Chaim. In contrast to the responses given to Chaim, Nancy and Liz, the responses to Daniel were disjointed, fragmented and it was unclear from them what he was expected to do. Reflecting, perhaps, the aloof quality of the responses he gave to others and that were given to him, I found that his revisions didn't show many differences draft to draft. Even by his own admission, changes weren't particularly noticeable: "This [draft] is going to sound more similar [to the last draft] than Nancy's [first to second drafts] did." Although the three had conversation which tended to be focused on only one or two major points at a time, got elaborated upon in various ways by various speakers, and were summarized or repeated over and over again, Daniel, I fear, experienced truncated conversations that switched topics frequently from one to the next. With each variation, the three heard abstract ideas supported by concrete examples and modeled words. With Daniel, we switched topics too often for him to have opportunities for reinforcement of ideas as he listened and rehearsals for ideas as he talked and wrote. Since, according to Nystrand and Brandt, "the extent of the discussion predict[s] the extent of the revision," Daniel suffered in his revision and in his response. Although I have argued that the type of discussion matters even more than the length alone, the three benefitted, I believe, more in the amount of revision and response conversation than Daniel who had little extended discussion of any one topic or extended revision of texts.
"How the various participants and their interactions affect their use of language, and the way their language affects their interactions" (Bloome and Green) gives some indication of the ways students and teacher negotiate among themselves, to interpret and construct the conventions of written discourse; then influenced by that and their interactions, how they responded and then revised. Because individuals in a workshop setting are almost at once actor and audience, speaker and listener, they shape groups in reciprocal fashion as much as they themselves are shaped. As a co- constructed cooperative effort, response implies the labor of one individual, relies on, and in fact helps determine the labor of the other. Even as they impact on other individuals, they almost simultaneously elicit from others or are socially influenced themselves. Even as they give, they receive, it seems, a mirrored, reflective response in return. By focusing on reciprocity, we can begin to think about research and pedagogy for response as complexly shaped by various particular individuals, in various contexts and various points in time. Keeping focused on individuals in the classroom as well as the group may help teachers improve their own responses in workshop class.
I found the notion of the reciprocal nature of talk helpful in my teaching. I think it might help composition teachers and researchers in theoretical as well as pedagogical terms. In theoretical terms, this study contributes to Phelps' (1989) and Anson's (1989) calls for more complex, socially interactive, and diachronic views of response. Rather than defining response as it so often is as uni-directional in speaking to students about their written work, I find from what I refer to as reciprocal responses the need to include in the future what is said by the author and how that impacts on resulting response conversations and resulting revision of texts. I find also the need for a broader-based working definition for response that includes not only talk that is reactive to texts (e.g., Sommers, 1982), but talk that is reactive to participants and contexts. I find also from my students' reciprocity a need for a definition of response that shows not only the ways the teacher or students react to the author's text (e.g., Anson, 1989) and shape the students' texts (Nystrand and Brandt, 1989) but the ways the student-authors help shape or create the teacher's or group's response.
Although research on response often views either the commentary to students or the students' reactions to the commentary made to them, I found on my own journey of classroom observations that these student were not merely recipients of or reactors to that response, but helped create response as well. Without the power to control the educational responses they received, individuals in my class, nonetheless, seemed to influence their own learning as much as any other students or I was able to do. To understand the full implication of themselves as partial agents of change, my students might have been encouraged to focus as much on the ways they influence others' responses as on their own written texts. They might have been encouraged to analyze, for example, whether their responses seemed helpful: whether their response conversation was extended or truncated, whether they were engaging or disengaging respondents, or giving some other type of response. This is not to say that students who succeed or fail have only themselves to thank. Rather, what these observations acknowledge is a role each plays on her own behalf.
By way of extension to other classes, teachers might want to research responses in their workshops to see whether other variables could confirm or not the notion of reciprocity as a major component of what we mean by response. They might want to analyze their own classroom conversations to see if their awareness of individual variation and reciprocity should it co-occur impact on successes in workshop class. Would it help in making students aware of and able to modify, if necessary, their style of responses as a way of teaching certain individuals to elicit "better" more engaged response? Since certain individuals seemed to elicit more engagement with and from others, teachers and students may need to be more cognizant of ways of responding to see if the interactional patterns are what is in need of change. With my own students, for example, I might have analyzed the discourse at the time I taught in order to bolster the ways Chaim, Liz and Nancy talked. Although I would not at the time have predicted that Liz and Chaim were receiving as positive responses as Nancy, I think in retrospect that they were since the engagement they engendered kept them talking and revising. In the case of Daniel, whom I assumed at the time was all right because he was already such a strong writer, I realize now he might have done better had I identified, at the time, his limited discourse patterns to encourage both him and the group to engage each other more.
To encourage more interaction and engagement, I might have encouraged revising, according to suggestions made to others' texts as well as to their own. That is, I might have asked that after each person had a turn reading and getting response that the group write down information about content, suggestions, and strengths given to others that might also be of use to them. This less uni-directional process might encourage more interactive listening and application of ideas not intended for, but nonetheless of use to, students. This practice might have the added benefit of assisting individuals like Daniel who through the "mirroring" of others' styles might be able to find reciprocated conversations more engaged than their own.
Though this paper shows some ways in which individuals influence others, we need to learn much more about the ways individuals react to others' reactions, and the ways those responses become incorporated into the next response. Because I believe that these individuals acted as both respondents and recipients of response in socially interdependent ways, we need to learn more about the ways other individuals shape and are shaped by response. Are there, for example, a finite or infinite number of ways of responding to written texts? Are those who had more engagement with others and their texts considered more social and socially adaptable? Would differences among the four students be identifiable across assignment types, classes, and other configurations or groups? How do individuals cue others? At what point might the talk of one dominate the talk of another? At what point might individuals begin to change? In what additional ways do individuals contribute to others' responses? In what ways do individuals contribute to the responses they themselves receive? In particular, more information is needed about individuals and the "active" role that they play even as listeners or recipients of response. The more we understand about the ways teachers and students read each others as well at their own texts in other localized contexts, the more we can understand about what kinds of response might be most helpful to whom, or what combinations of individuals constitute effective groups. The more we understand about respondents' individual styles of response, the more responses can be consistent with and effective for particular responding and revising needs. With more information, we may come closer to understanding the interactive nature of respondents and recipients in collaborative group response. In this way, like Stevens in Remains of the Day, we forward the possibility for greater educational growth and change.
1A different version of this paper was presented at
CCCC, Boston, March 1991.
2To understand more about the workshopping conversation , I audio-tape recorded all class sessions. One eighty-minute class session was held one day a week, and the other class sessions met for fifty minutes, each on another two days. I also collected the drafts and revisions of each student's essays and dated them to correspond to the tapes of the classroom talk or response. These two data sources students' drafts /revisions and the tapes of the talk/response comprise the primary data for my study. Empirically, response was defined as anything said after a draft was read. Empirically revision was defined as written changes from draft to draft. In order to look more closely at the language of individuals in classroom response, I observed in particular four students focusing more carefully than if I had tried to account for the conversations and interactions of the entire group. The four were chosen because of the split between males and females and between strong writers Liz and Daniel and less strong Chaim and Nancy. I, as researcher, identified themes about the language of response mainly through induction, from the data sources, the relevant bodies of literature and my research questions (Spradley), and through a process of sampling, hypotheses generation, and hypothesis testing (Erickson). A search for confirming and disconfirming evidence among data sources was conducted (Erickson). This process, also known as triangulation (Lauer and Asher) occurred when I compared the data from the different sources and from the published literature on revision and response. In one form of analysis, I analyzed the content of the talk and the conditions under which the talk occurred. The unit of analysis was each conversational topic within a conversational turn, defined as one speaker's utterances, bounded by either a change in the speaker's topic or by other speakers' turns . I analyzed the four student responses for the comments they made to others and the comments that were made to them. Although my and other students' responses were integral to the workshop process, I focused on only four students the responses to and from them and their written work. I attended to: their favored topics of conversation, whom they addressed (e.g., previous speakers or authors), under what circumstances they talked (e.g., to argue, to add, to conciliate) and the amount of interactional turn-taking displayed (e.g., an isolated remark or part of larger number of conversational turns.
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