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Rhetorical Listening in the Classroom

In designing courses that incorporate rhetorical listening as a means for eliciting situated knowledge, we point to the Council of Writing Program Administrators' "WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition" as a constellation of top-level and more immediate commitments intended to inform curriculum design and writing instruction (Holiday). The "Outcomes Statement" identifies learning outcomes in five areas: (1) Rhetorical Knowledge; (2) Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing; (3) Composing Processes; (4) Knowledge of Conventions; and (5) Composing in Electronic Environments.

In designing curricula and pedagogy that enhance students' proficiencies in these five areas, faculty can effectively use rhetorical listening to literacy narratives, including those available in the DALN, as an end in its own right and as a means to rhetorical invention for engaging in more broadly public deliberation and engaging local and networked publics through re-mixing and re-circulating newly narrated critical incidents. The literacy narratives that we consider in this paper offer particularly rich opportunities for rhetorical listening and rhetorical invention around issues of access. We offer some questions that teachers might pose to students to facilitate rhetorical listening related to the five kinds of outcomes the WPA suggests:

1. Rhetorical Knowledge

  • What range of audiences do interviewer-rhetors and contributor-rhetors seem to be addressing? What audiences are they noticeably not addressing?
  • How are interviewer-rhetors and contributor-rhetors constructing themselves in relation to varied audiences?
  • How are interviewer-rhetors and contributor-rhetors constructing the narratives in ways that affect access for various audiences?

2. Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

  • Where in these literacy narratives do private issues seem to become public issues of shared concern?
  • What issues resonate with you as listener-rhetors? Which issues raised by these contributors might resonate differently with other listener-rhetors?

3. Composing Processes

  • How might listener-rhetors think about design, delivery, and reach in re-mixing and re-circulating critical incidents?
  • How can rhetors most effectively use "collaborative and social aspects of writing processes" (Council of Writing Program Administrators.) to craft texts that are accessible to a wide range of audiences or to a different range of audiences?

4. Knowledge of Conventions

  • What conventions are interviewer-rhetors and contributor-rhetors following or resisting as they construct and distribute this set of narratives?
  • How do conventions of video, audio, and/or alphabetic texts affect access for some audiences?
  • What might the results be if some conventions of video, audio, and/or alphabetic texts were changed in the remixing and re-circulating of the narratives?

5. Composing in Electronic Environments

  • What are the challenges and opportunities of constructing accessible video, audio, and/or alphabetic texts in digital environments?
  • In digital environments, what tools are available to rhetors for enhancing or strategically limiting access to video, audio, and/or alphabetic texts?

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