In this chapter Obermark answers questions Critel raises in the conclusion of "Mapping Student Participation" in this collection: "What if we asked students to tell us how they will participate? What if we asked them what they need from us?" As a response, Obermark conducted four, in-depth, conversational interviews with students from first-year and advanced writing courses, interviews that began with the very questions Critel suggests. This chapter demonstrates how student voices both confirm and complicate Critel’s discoveries. Obermark directly addresses each of Critel’s four original commonplaces—assessment, technology, community, and embodiment, but the students extend the commonplaces in their own surprising directions, sometimes conflicting with what instructors take for granted.
What if we asked students to tell us how they will participate? What if we asked them what they need from us?
This chapter exists because of Genevieve Critel’s concluding call in her chapter, used above as my epigraph. Readers can observe Critel’s advocacy for student voices throughout her work, and the call resonates across chapters in this collection, as well. My study adds to this emphasis on student voices in a direct way.
This chapter is based on data collected from in-depth, loosely structured interviews with composition students. From this data, I offer a careful curation of four student voices discussing participation. I argue that researching in/as conversation with the students in our classrooms can allow for a reassessment and redefinition of participation. The interviews curated here illustrate that participation appears in many different ways and serves many different functions for students. The students confirm and complicate the commonplaces of participation Critel discovered in her dissertation research (assessment, technology, community, and embodiment, discussed in this book's introduction), which focused largely on instructor and institutional articulations of participation.
I share my research as a small step in a direction Critel saw as immensely necessary. Since the step is so small, the chapter also serves as an invitation to other scholars to bring student voices to bear on the conversation surrounding participation in the field of rhetoric and composition. Like so much influential and guiding research in this field, part of understanding participation in an evidence-based manner means listening to and learning from students. What follows is my attempt.