Using Rhetorical Media to Meet Outcomes

and Satisfy Stakeholders


Section 4:  Knowledge of Conventions.

The outcomes statement outlines a set of conventions of which students should be knowledgeable.  These conventions include the knowledge of formatting for different kinds of texts, documentation conventions, as well as knowledge of the surface conventions related to grammatical and mechanical issues.   In addition, the statement discusses a set of genre conventions that the WPA wishes for students to know.   These conventions include everything “from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics” (Harrington et al, 2001, p. 325).

This outcome makes many demands on the student.  To meet this objective, students need a place to store a variety of information.  Essentially, they need memory.  Here, once again, a re-imagined version of the rhetorical canon can help.  Reynolds (1993) explains that memory historically received the least attention of all the rhetorical canons, despite being what Carruthers described as “the noblest of the canons” (as cited in Reynolds, 1993, p. 3). Reynolds (1993) attributes this neglect to a misunderstanding that memory concerns only the “‘memorizing of speech’” (p. 4).

Understanding memory as a mere tool for memorizing speech is reductive and unimaginative. As society has shifted from an oral one to one that is literate, a shift in memory’s interpretation is also needed. The four “interpretive options” for memory, as described by Reynolds (1993) are “memory as mnemonics, memory as memorableness, memory as databases, and memory as psychology” (p. 7).

Memory as mnemonics refers to the manner in which textual cues (such as color, headings, and even topic sentences) can be used as memory devices to aid reading. Drawing on the role of narrative writing and memorable language in effective writing, Reynolds describes memory as memorableness as the importance of creating texts that resonate with readers and are, therefore, more likely to recalled by readers. Memory as databases refers to the type of memory that would retain knowledge about style guides and formatting, for example. It might also address knowledge of how to recall information from library databases and the like. Lastly, memory as psychology refers to the connection, observed by many scholars, including Plato, of memory to the idea of "psychological consciousness" (Reynolds, 1993, p. 12).

These interpretations start to demonstrate how memory can be rendered an effective and even vital canon to consider. The first interpretive options relate to prior outcomes because both would aid students in making choices during the composing process that reflect rhetorical knowledge.  The third option, however, related directly to conventions.  This usage of memory will allow students to retain an understanding of the conventions of different kinds of texts and style guides suggested in the outcome statement.  Therefore, rhetorical exercises that emphasis this interpretation of memory will aid students in storing this type of knowledge.

It should also be pointed out that the outcomes statement also stresses that students should have conventional knowledge of how to “control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling” (Harrington et al, 2001, p. 325).  While spelling and punctuation may not be relevant to images, for example, it has been argued that visuals have their own grammar.  Kress and Van Leeuwan (2006)  describe their version of visual grammar.  They explain that “as grammars of language describe how words combine in clauses, sentences and texts, so our visual ‘grammar’ [describes] the way in which depicted people, places and things combine in visual ‘statements’ of greater or lesser complexity and extension” (Kress & Van Leeuwan, 2006, p. 1).  Therefore, if we are to agree with Kress and Van Leeuwan’s description of grammar, then visuals, like verbal texts have grammars, and thus, in a pedagogy that incorporates the visual, this grammar would need to be introduced as part of teaching students textual conventions.    Here again, this statement describes a pedagogy that is not limited to writing.

Film Project Units Emphasizing This Outcome:

        Unit 1

        Unit 2

        Unit 3

        Unit 4

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