Using Talk for Learning and Invention During the Composing Process

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349559_Rodrigue_pic.pngToday’s guest blogger is Tanya Rodriguean associate professor in English and coordinator of the Writing Intensive Curriculum Program at Salem State University in Massachusetts.


In 2016, I engaged in two new experiences: I composed a personal audio documentary of the 2016 women’s marches and recorded myself talking through my process. One of the reasons why I chose to do so was because I assign longform audio projects in my writing courses yet never composed one myself. I thought I would learn more about how to effectively teach soundwriting if I did a version of my own assignment and reflected about it along the way.


From these experiences, I learned that recordings of my process, or what I call audio process notes, function as sites for both learning and invention. In listening and analyzing my own audio process notes, I discovered I was using talk as a means to learn—to learn how to write in a foreign genre in a foreign modality. My talk explicitly revealed cognitive moves associated with deep learning such as metacognition, problem-posing and problem-solving, and persistence. I also discovered, as Peter Elbow claims in Vernacular Eloquence, that messy, unplanned talk as opposed to careful writing, is a fertile ground for generating good ideas.


The inclusion of audio process notes in writing assignments, particularly those that ask students to compose in a new genre, is ripe with pedagogical potential. The audio process notes not only help students learn and identify the important cognitive moves needed to thrive in intellectual environments, but also more broadly teach students about writing, rhetoric, revision, idea development, and perhaps most importantly, how to approach a new writing situation.


Assigning audio process notes is appropriate for any writing assignment, not just multimodal writing assignments. Instructors may consider using or adapting the following description and audio process assessment tool in an undergraduate writing course.


Assignment Description:

While composing your project, you will reflect on your process along the way in audio form. If you have a smartphone, you can simply record yourself using an app and email the file to yourself. Otherwise, you may consider using Audacity, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player on a computer. I recommend you record yourself talking about your process after, or even during, each work session. You are required to have three entries, and each entry should be between 3-8 minutes. These notes will be assessed using five categories associated with effective learning and strong writing: rhetorical knowledge, problem-posing/problem-solving, play, persistence, and metacognition/reflection.

Assessment Tool:

Process Notes

[5 categories]

The composer demonstrates these abilities in a sophisticated and thoughtful manner consistently across their process notes.

The composer demonstrates these abilities in an effective manner across all or most of the process notes.

The composer demonstrates these abilities in an adequate way with room for growth in some of the process notes.

The composer demonstrates little to no effort in demonstrating the abilities in the five categories.

(1) Rhetorical knowledge: the ability to consider purpose, genre, audience, sonic rhetorical strategies, and context when making decisions.





(2) Problem-posing and problem-solving: the ability to pose challenging questions, and/or recognize a problem or issue and making a plan for how to approach solving it.





(3) Play, experimentation & flexibility: the ability and willingness to try out different ways to address a problem or achieve a goal, and/or take risks in an effort to determine what strategy/method is most effective.





(4) Persistence:

The ability to sustain/maintain interest in and attention to the project. The composer stays on task and works through problems or issues without giving up.





(5) Metacognition and reflection: The ability to think about one’s thinking, and to reflect on the impact of rhetorical decisions and their effects.






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