Research Writing Project Brainstorm

Social causes:

Because of my pragmatic philosophy background, I’m swayed this way, even more so when it comes to research writing. I think it’s a topic that’s even better for research writing than short course. The amount library resources and current events have to offer, plus if the focus was put onto social causes in Boston (the homeless issue, gang violence happening near Emerson, etc.)–it’d be a broad scope of what a project like this might be able to offer. I think about the public space of Himmer’s class sample and how that can relate to a social cause. There would be multiple genres available with this theme in mind: a profile of a homeless person; a letter to the state; a report on police changes occurring after the marijuana law passed; a commentary on illegal immigration policies–all of which would necessitate research.

Photoessays:

Right now, my group is brainstorming about photoessays because they can have a broad scope. A student could write about their family, using pictures of their family, and research their ancestry; or a student could take up a social cause by photographing the homeless population. In any case, the focus will still need to be put on the rhetorical situation, the proposition and the reasons, to an extent. I think a photoessay would work really well toward the movement to the final showcase, since it would be very much “seen” by the larger community.

An influential person:

I’ve also been considering with the idea of profiling an influential figure in a student’s life. I know such a project might become very “young,” like a project on heroes. But I think taking that type of inventory can help guide freshman who are currently embarking on their adult lives. Whether its a famous musician or family member, figuring out why someone is influential can help establish a student’s identity and place in the world. This project, too, could take on multiple genres outside of profiling, such as memoir or commentary, or even if they were to write a letter to the person (a letter, again, might be a little “middle schooly” but I think it could still be elevated into the language of the university). I’d offer these students academic articles; I can think of a few philosophers who have discussed influence and recognition, and I can think of famous speeches from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame about a musician’s impact on another; as well as the topic of “Art” itself and the passing down of values and culture (Marshal McLuhan, Hans Aarsleff). I think this topic could suit a college classroom if the readings are academic and research on the subject matter is more than “interviewing my mom.”

Classroom Observation

Before class time began, the students were quiet. The classroom was small and had eleven students, and the teacher had them form a circle to help bolster discussion. But the students weren’t in favor of discussion. Unless you count the discussion they were having on their phones, they preferred being quiet and sleepy. Sleepy, at four in the afternoon. Perhaps they were feeling down though, about the social scandal that’d recently occurred, how a conservative student, who took a picture with Milo Yiannopoulos, had been cyber-bullied until she fled from school. The teacher asked them about it, and they spoke about the scandal vaguely, as if they didn’t know what had happened, while saying they did in fact know what had happened, maybe because of not wanting to talk about it.

Then the meat of the class began. A student played a song for class, so that they could go over the lyrics. The research class has moved on from research paper writing to writing lyrics, to go over rhetorical situation, code meshing, assumptions, and proposition in a different way; to (as their teacher puts it in the unit III assignment) “make the jump from writing for specific outlets to writing as a creative outlet.” What is the proposition of the song, what is the rhetorical situation? In the song the student chose, the rhetorical situation seemed to be a breakup, how the breakup affected her and she wanted to communicate something. It was about love, some students said, how her ex once had strength and gave her strength, but because he metaphorically “cut his hair” and “literally” left her, they’re both weaker. After this initial discussion, about the song the student picked, they moved onto forming groups for their final projects.

At this point I discovered how freshmen, who although have been in college for several months still can be, at times, timid, when it comes to collaboration, have a way of compromising with their teacher. By compromise, I mean starting at what the teacher would like and slowly communicating their needs until they achieve what they need while not taking away from what their teacher had wanted in the first place. They wanted their teacher to form the groups for them, rather than them going off to discuss the project on a canvas discussion. Their teacher then gave them time to form their groups on their own, because he wanted them to form the groups on their own. But all the students remained quiet, eventually telling him why they’d prefer him to form the groups for them. So he set them into groups, deciding (he told me after class when I asked him why) it was a battle he didn’t really need to win, and if it made it easier for them to handle the final project, so be it.

After groups were formed, they shared the lyrics they’d written for class, which were posted on a discussion forum. What impressed me most was how confident they all suddenly were. Where before they had difficulty sharing their thoughts in discussion or forming groups on their own, here, in a creative mode, they shared extremely personal aspects of their life. The first person to read his song discussed a bad breakup, the next also read their poem about heartbreak. One student discussed her insomnia and read her poem about the psychological inability to sleep and depression it caused.

One student really stood out. English was her second language. It was her turn to read her poem, and she tried to explain herself, “You see. This is maybe better if I sing. Because it’s…you know…the emotion is not in the written… you know what I mean?” She wanted to sing the song because that was how it was set up; it wouldn’t make as much sense to read it word for word. And in that room, an acoustic setting so small her voice surrounded everyone, she demonstrated an incredible, confident talent. Where she was shy speaking English, she was confident singing English, which she’d been classically trained in.

As they work toward the final project, this class, I think, with them sharing their lyrics, opened them up to each other and helped them come to terms with rhetorical situation (why they chose the heartbreak or insomnia to write about) and the different methods of communicating a certain purpose.