Friday, February 12, 2010

"Paper Day" Redux

A brief pedagogical note by way of justifying (inviting feedback) a "new" classroom practice. I have asked my graduate students if they would want to podcast or otherwise share their "Paper Day" presentations (both the document and their performance of it). In the spirit of dissoi logoi, I see such a practice as both raising and lowering the stakes of graduate student work.

In making their performances additionally public (to what extent, who knows), I am making the performance riskier for them - raising the stakes in terms of both judgment and reputation. If their performances were to be posted to the course blog other faculty and students across the university might hear/read them. Anyone Googleling "Alternative Rhetorics" might come across them as well. More judges means more ways to gain or lose reputation.

However, it also feels like the move lowers the stakes. In stressing sharing, this practice removes from panicking pupils the pressure to privately perfect ideas. Sharing works in progress makes the practice, the activity of cultivating ideas valuable in and of itself. Why not watch the sausage get made? Intellectual life is about living, doing, and becoming, and not just about the end product. To make this point we need to do a better job of celebrating and rewarding the activity of scholarship and not solely the scholarship itself.

Something like the above sentiments is one way I think the conversation about such a practice for graduate education should proceed. What are the stakes of such sharing and what values does such an activity challenge or reinforce for academics under construction?

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