competency based curriculum as a form of resistance

I just wanted to follow up my comment in class with another clarrifying statement.  The reason I see this model  of math as an example of resistance is because it acknowledges that there are more ways than one to get to the answers.  The usual model of the math classroom is that there is a formula taught, the class would practice  and then they would be evaluated.  This new model puts a problem to the class to solve together, coming up with their own methods of solving it-and that may look different for each student.  As long as they can prove that they can solve the problems they need to solve they can move ahead.  How can this be applied to the writing classroom?  How can we ensure that students are competent yet give them the space to explore and resist?  Seems like a lot of work but with the same old same old methods of teaching writing not proving to be effective (with the pre-college population, at least), it may be time to try something different.

So, is Amber’s plagiarism okay.  I don’t think so.  I do think, however, we can learn something from her.


to summarize or not to summarize…

Since the reading of Jeanne Desy, where she speaks to the practice of having her students write summaries until they become good at it, I have been considering doing the same thing in my class.  That was until last week when L Lennie Irvin advised against it.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think summarizing can be a useful tool to help transition basic writers into the realm of academic writing or is it an ineffective time waster?

A Failed Experiment

Last week, inspired by our readings and discussions and by the group of students that I am currently teaching, I decided to rebuild my syllabus and completely change what we do with our class time.  I came to class with a new set of requirements and a new outline for our meetings.  I was quite excited about this change as I felt like I was changing the classroom to suit the students and I thought that I was actually using the concept of the “open syllabus” to do this.

But a few days ago I realized that even though I changed the classroom to better meet the needs and realities of my current students, I was still creating the requirements, content and direction.  Even though they have told me that they like the changes and have been staying engaged and productive, I faced the fact that this change was not student generated.

Some of my training in education and, more specifically, an article by the Carnegie Foundation on teaching and learning from which I have built my teaching practice ( stated that adults need structure in the classroom.  Also, in order to have lessons that achieve any kind of intended learning, I have to plan them ahead of time.

How do we create an environment of structure, intentional learning, and challenge with an “open syllabus”? What ideas do you have or what have you seen that works?