ranked annotated bibliographies

I’ve fielded several questions today about the RAB–Ranked Annotated Bibliography–aka “Top 10 Texts.” So I found an annotated bibliography on-line as an example. It has MLA documentation for each text, followed by a bit of summary and discussion or response. Your discussion doesn’t have to be as long as the example below, but should include why you ranked the text where you did. Also, note this is listed in the order of publication date; an RAB is ordered by rank. Your RAB can use anything you “read” this semester in the context of this class (including guest speakers and films). BTW, Peter Elbow’s work has highly influenced my teaching strategies.

Annotated Bibliography: Peter Elbow

Elbow, Peter. Embracing Contraries: Trustworthiness in Evaluation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986.

Elbow suggests, in the section of this book, that three general strategies for increasing the trustworthiness of grades and comments. First, breaking down into parts the performance to be evaluated. It is not surprising that any piece of writing will more than likely get the full range of grades. It would be better that readers agree remarkably better if readers grade features (ideas, organization, mechanics, and so forth) of each of the pieces of writing. Competence-based education and narrative evaluations are ways to increase the trustworthiness of evaluation by breaking down the knowledge or skills into parts. Second, using more than one graders will increase the trustworthiness of evaluation. Here the term of portfolio first appears in his article. The above two methods are most helpful with measurement. Last, using “movies of the reader’s mind” whose purposes are to tell students the truth and ground teachers’ reactions in specific details and accurate observations. This last method is related to comments. Finally, Elbow concludes that evaluation includes two activities: measurement (or grading or ranking) and commentary (or feedback).

I think this article represents his early ideas of evaluation. The methods he suggested were embryonic as compared to the methods he proposes right now. I can see that the term of portfolios emerges not as a fad but as a necessity at that time and extends up to the present.

Elbow, Peter. Nothing Begins with N: Toward a Phenomenology of Freewriting. Ed. Pat Belanoff, Peter Elbow, and Sheryl I. Fontaine. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois UP, 1991.

Elbow regards freewriting as a warm-up activity towards other more complicated activities. He thinks that freewriting is something at the center of a writer and a teacher. He has several reasons for freewriting. First, freewriting is so incoherent that it relieves the burdens that would undermine students’ writing. Second, unfocused exploring is his main use of freewriting. True freewriting is a companionable, social activity which contradicts the association of writing with isolation. There are two kinds of freewriting: private (writing for self), and public(sharing with others). Freewriting invites the mind to react actively. It can lead to a certain experience of writing or kind of writing process. Freewriting establishes a directness of tone, sound, style, and diction that helps Elbow emulate in his careful revising. Freewriting involves a sense of letting go and a matter of translation. It functions ambivalent ways of pouring oneself into one’s discourse and popping oneself out of it. In his conclusion, Elbow admits that freewriting has given him a profoundly different experience of and relationship to writing.

This article, unlike the other articles that Elbow publishes, is written in an descriptive and expressive way. The whole article is centered in the theme of “freewriting.” It describes what benefits freewriting can contribute to writing. I don’t know whether freewriting can be useful to every student in the writing class even though I admire its merits.

Elbow, Peter. “Reflections on Academic Discourse: How It Relates to Freshmen and

Colleagues.” College English 53 (1991): 135-55.

Elbow indicates that there is something good about academic discourse: learning, intelligence, sophistication, but there is something about academic discourse which he seems to dislike: it is the discourse that academics use when they publish for other academics. He objects to the idea of handing over the freshman writing course entirely to academic discourse. He gives three reasons for this: First, very few of our students will ever have to write academic discourse after college. Students can be granted to have a free choice of writing. He thinks that the best test of a writing course is whether it makes students more likely to use writing in their lives. Second, a kind of nonacademic discourse is particularly important to teach. That is the discourse rendering experience rather than explaining it. The discourse that renders often yields important new cognitive insights. Third, nonacademic discourse is necessary for helping students produce good academic discourse. The use of academic discourse often indicates a lack of true understanding. He argues that the teacher can’t teach academic discourse because there is no such thing to teach. The teacher knows little or nothing about other kinds of discourse except his or her own discourse; therefore, he or she is not qualified to teach most kinds of academic discourse. People see academic discourse as a medium whose conventions tend to imply disinterested impersonality and detachment. Academic discourse tries to focus on the argument, reasons, and the claim. It also leads to a somewhat formal language. Students are learning better when academic discourse is separated from its linguistic and stylistic conventions. In the end, he suggests that students should master some particular, well-defined sort of discourse rather than confining to academic one. Thus, students are able to develop an awareness of and pleasure in the various competing discourses that make up their own.

I think that the best way to introduce students to academic discourse is to have them familiarize nonacademic discourse first. As they are used to putting their thoughts and experiences with their own language in writing, they are ready for being inculcated the conventions of academic discourse. When writing for academic discourse, they won’t just mimic surface stylistic features instead of elaborating organic contents.Ra