Decisions to be made:
--How much of the FYF book to cover and to what end?
In order to help students find controversies: The instructor may decide to require that the entire FYF book be read in order to set the terms and the parameters of controversy selection. This could be done in the first week of class. Or, the instructor may decide to have students read only one major chapter--perhaps the proposal (section III)--in Pollan's book and to guide an extended discussion about the controversies over various eating habits; different manners of producing, distributing, and consuming food products; etc. The later chapters can be saved for other units. (Chapters 1 & 2, for instance, may be a great sources for Unit II, as Pollan presents his audience with various types of arguments, and since he himself tries to analyze an ideology--a key term of rhetorical analysis as defined by Stancliff and Crowley.)
In order to help students develop a deep understanding of the controversy that will prepare them for the next two units: The instructor may decide to read the entire book in an effort at learning the details of one perspective. In particular, the instructor may decide to focus on those moments when Pollan addresses his critics in the interest of showing how one writer speaks to those in the community, how he positions his argument amidst other perspectives, etc. Or, the instructor may choose to present students with a range of other arguments, all from different perspectives, only covering Pollan in a cursory fashion to demonstrate that he (fails to) speak(s) to these other interests.
--How many chapters of the textbook to cover and to what end?
Chapters 1&2 are both useful and strongly recommended reading for this unit because they each directly work towards one or more of three principal goals in unit I:(1) Help students to develop research topics and strategies for investigating controversies that are addressed by the FYF book. (2) Guide students towards locating and dissecting their own controversies. (3) Help students to develop research questions that they can answer as they begin to learn about their individually chosen controversies. Chapters 2&3 are also possibilities because they further add vocabularies to help students achieve the second goal listed above. Further explanation of our rationale can be found on the document listed at this site (Critical Situations Unit I.doc).
While chapters 1&2 will be indispensable as students seek out their controversies, chapters 3&4 may enrich their understanding of the rhetorical situation, thus better preparing them to think in complex ways about audiences, arguments, and persuasive strategies.
--How to help students select controversies?
(1) The instructor may choose to model a controversy for the students, thus offering a common text for them to discuss in class and also offering an example for them to follow as they look for their own controversies to investigate. Doing so would require that the instructor not only find representative arguments in this model controversy but also would require that the instructor distill the central question at issue, explain how s/he found the articles, and explain how s/he might dissect the disagreement for an audience unfamiliar with the material (see document at this site: modelcontroversy.pdf) The instructor may decide to only bring in one article to start things off. Or, the instructor may decide to bring in other texts to help students think about the issue as they read Pollan and Crowley and Stancliff. The DRW, for instance, recommends and has copies of three movies that instructors can borrow to show their students. Resources for developing a model controversy can be found here.
2. The instructor can offer a preprepared list of controversies (a list of possible controversies can be found here and at this site.
3. Design a short writing assignment that asks students to think about and think through a controversy. This can be discussed by presenting the issue paper assignment that we offered last year in 398T (see doc at this site: issuepaperdescription.doc)
Decisions to be made:
--How many research summaries to require in Unit I?
For example, one might decide to require 3 research summaries in Unit I, one in Unit II, and one in Unit III. In Unit I, the research summaries would be written about articles from various perspectives in a controversy. In Unit II, the research summary would be of the article that the student wishes to analyze in her major paper, or if could be a summary of one of the three articles that she must also include in her rhetorical analysis. In Unit III, the research summary could be of an article that further contributes to her knowledge of the issue and her ability to advocate for one perspective in this controversy.
Whether to have students submit copies of their articles with their summaries?
Having students submit their articles along with their research summaries, allows the instructor to review the primary document and to judge how faithful and thorough the summary really is. Not having the students submit their articles along with their research summaries allows the instructor to behave like the students' intended audience: an interested group of people who do not not much about the controversy, its stakeholders, or the arguments surrounding this "critical situation." Students must eventually be able to write about other people's work in a faithful manner that interests the uninformed. An instructor's ability to judge the quality of these summaries may then depend upon whether or not s/he has the primary document at hand while reading the summary.
Whether to have students write research summaries with comments or without?
Two things can be accomplished by having students write research summaries with comments: (1) the instructor can emphasize the distinction between fair summary and response; (2) the instructor can request different tasks of the students in the comment sections on each research summary. But, students do not get the constant practice at summarizing without editorializing as would be the case if they wrote all four (or six) research summaries without comments.
Whether to have different research summaries target different skills or objectives?
Here's a possible approach (one of many). The instructor could require 4 research summaries, all in the same format (no comments).
S/he could tell students that students are expected to hone and demonstrate four skill sets in every research summary: (1) Fair summary of the principal claim(s). (2) Clear explanation of the argument's arrangement. (3) Clear and thorough description of the author's position, background, and expertise along with clear explanation of any background information that an audience unfamiliar with the topic will need. (4) Proper MLA documentation including parenthetical citations and a list of properly formatted works cited. Though all four skill sets should be demonstrated in every research summary, the instructor could focus her commentary on one skill set per research summary. Research summary 1, for instance, will be largely evaluated based on the students' ability to fairly summarize an argument's principal claims. This approach allows students to focus their attention on specific tasks, and it also allows the instructor to focus comments and instruction on a set of skills. But, this approach does not allow an opportunity to work on a holistically polished piece of writing.
Whether to include other short writing assignments in this unit to promote research?
An annotated bibliography. See sample at this site (annotatedbibliography.doc).
A log of research activities (such as an informally written journal with entries about searches performed, articles found, ideas about how these arguments relate to one another, etc.) To successfully implement the research journal, the instructor should give prompts for daily entries so students have a sense of what they're supposed to be doing and recording.
Whether to create research clusters among your students?
Instructors might consider organizing their students into research clusters. This would involve breaking the class into groups of 3-5 students who would all share the same or similar controversies. Since you would have to limit the number of controversies available to the class, this approach might prevent students from pursuing the topic most interesting to them. On the other hand, research clusters would allow students to do a number of activities involving collaboration: clusters could discuss their research process together; by focusing on similar topics, group members could get a sense for how one controversy can be mapped in different ways; clusters could act as an informed audience capable of judging whether or not a specific member's papers fairly summarize and analyze a specific argument or controversy generally; and research clusters could serve as a basis for the final 10% of the grade if they were, for example, to give a group presentation on their controversy or stage a debate for the class.
How much time and when to teach documentation?
Decisions to be made:
How to transition from research summary writing to Paper 1.1
You might consider spending time in class discussing the arrangement of Paper 1. Will students simply organize one research summary after another? Will they organize the paper around different concerns (e.g., stakeholders, lines of argument, questions discussed by the controversy)?
Whether to require that students produce a preliminary and truncated explanation of the argument for either workshopping in class (e.g. a one-page document that can be exchanged with another student or presented to the entire class) or presented to the instructor for comments.
This brief, low-risk assignment can give the instructor an opportunity to guide students at an early stage of the writing process. It can also give students the opportunity to receive meaningful feedback before they actually write a full draft of the paper. It can, however, interrupt the smooth progress of students' writing. If such a preliminary writing assignment is required, consider giving students direction, such as a list of questions to answer:
• What is the issue here? (Try to phrase this as a question.)
• What are the major perspectives on this issue? (Try to phrase these as several brief sentences that explain what certain camps might think or have argued.)
• What are the main differences among these perspectives?
• What (if any) similarities do (some) of these perspectives share?
• What sources will you use to argue your point?
Give students meaningful feedback that looks forward to the major paper. Don't chastise for mistakes made. Offer advice about how to get from this stage of the writing process to the next.
Whether to make 1.1 an advisory grade or a percentage of the final grade?
How much time to give between 1.1 and 1.2?
Allowing a lot of time will give students the opportunity to really revise their papers, but it may also simply give them time to put off the revision altogether.
What to do between 1.1 and 1.2?
This time may be occupied in a number of ways:
(1) Workshopping common problems that the instructor noticed in 1.1. The instructor can ask students to bring their papers to class on a specific day, briefly discuss common issues and ways to address them in revision (with specific examples that are drawn from student papers--with consent--or written for this purpose specifically). Time can then be given in class for students to find such problems in their own writing and to address them. At the end of class, students can discuss what they did in the first draft and how they plan to change.
(2) Workshopping stylistic issues. The instructor can pinpoint a few concerns and can demonstrate ways to notice and edit for these problems. This is a good opportunity to bring the handbook into particular use. We offer advice about just such a grammar workshop in the suggestions about how to use Easy Writer in class. See doc at this site, Easy Writer Unit I.doc).
(3) Have a UWC representative come to give a revision workshop.