Misleading Course Title (?)

For my second semester in college I will be taking a class called, “Writing Seminar: Voices of Community.” So far I have one book for this class titled, “Composing a Civic Life: A Rhetoric and Readings for Inquiry of Action.” A seminar by definition* is, “A small group of advanced students in a college or graduate school engaged in original research or intensive study under the guidance of a professor who meets regularly with them to discuss their reports and findings.” So a writing seminar must be intensive study and research with a professor and a small group of advanced students on the topic of writing. Surely enough, the course description echoes this to an extent with, “Building on the writing skills developed in Images of Nature, Voices of Community provides students with more extensive practice in composition and revision. The course focuses on cultivating the conventions of Standard Written English and enriching students’ expressive and stylistic resources through a series of assignments that explore from diverse perspectives how the environment encompasses human relationships and communities. The critical thinking and communication skills learned in this course enable effective and informed participation in these communities.” I remember that when asking what professor would be good to take the class with, a friend of mine said to take so-and-so because she will really help me with my writing, and may even have my done with the 15 or so end semester paper before all of the other classes. In waiting to receive the book (and now that I’m on break I have no idea if it was properly shipped), I grew curious as to what it is about. I found a table of contents, and I was excited to see lines about global and local communities, a look into the reasons for going to college, and “engaged pedagogy.” I also like lines and chapters that suggest I can connect this to my journalism and logic classes. But when put in context with the course description, my friend’s advice, and experience with the first core class, Images of Nature, I have a feeling I’m in for a dull experience.

This is definitely pessimism. Whether it is grounded in reality has yet to be played out. The student capacity is 20 seats. That is definitely “small,” but only in a general way. It does not arrive at the intimate learning I desire. The group should be small enough that a track of viewpoints can be practically sustained over the course of the semester, giving the group (instructor included) opportunities to help to strengthen one another’s reasoning. I’d say 13 or less. But in my experience with Images of Nature, not even a small group setting can do much to bring this about if students do not put in any effort to tune in. It had about 10 students. My other classes have been blaze, preferring the stale air of lecture sessions to the discussion-based style that our classes are meant to exhibit. I am also disappointed about the course focus, because as a person curious about defining community and understanding effective community engagement, spending most of my time improving my writing skills seems like the wrong way focus on community. I understand that I will, as with Images of Nature, be writing in context of the topic of community, but I am still skeptical. Images of Nature was loaded with standardized expectations that make me question if professors are teaching core classes to instruct, or teaching to certain requirements such as final student papers that must be submitted into an online network for random review by removed “educators”*. Even the syllabus for Images of Nature was set to a standard teaching and learning expectation for all divisions of the classes – teachers had to edit in (and edit out) their own expectations, assignments and goals.

I realize that I have needs. I want to focus on enjoying what I learn, rather than running through a checklist of requirements. I want my college education to be a mix of critical reasoning and explorations of ways that I can engage in society. I want to use my education to develop the practice of work as play, innovation, and a challenge to look forward too. I have only seen weak sparks of these goals and concepts in my school. I do not want to believe that this is all up to me, and that “life is what I make of it.” That is only half of the game. People are dependent on healthy communities that can help us develop and communities that we can provide our support to. There has to be a balance.

*definition of seminar from thefreedictionary.com.
*On a side note of standardization, course evaluations at my school are a JOKE. They are merely forms that only vaguely allow for input about whether the course and instructor met your needs. Only in two of my classes (no, images of nature was not one of them) did my professors create their own evaluation processes that really got to the core of issues that students dealt with, and encouraged honest feedback about improvement.

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Posted on December 31, 2010, in Bureaucracy, School and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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