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ERIC Number: EJ1097776
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0007-8034
Filling in the Blanks: They Say, I Say, and the Persistence of Formalism
Lynch-Biniek, Amy
CEA Forum, v38 n2 Sum-Fall 2009
Amy Lynch-Biniek begins by introducing popular yet controversial concepts presented in the Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's "They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing" (NY: Norton & Company, 2006). As stated in the book's introduction, the goal of Graff and Birkenstein's text is "to demystify academic writing by isolating its basic moves, explaining them clearly, and representing them in the form of templates" (ix). They further claim that, "In showing how to make such moves, templates do more than organize students' ideas; they help bring them into existence" (xiv). Graff and Birkenstein acknowledge that templates may be criticized as overly "prescriptive," "passive" or "automatic" (xiv-xv). While many including Lynch-Biniek argue those very points, Graff and Birkenstein state in their book that many students need such explicit instruction, and that templates can in fact "stimulate and shape" critical thought (xv). Herein, Lynch-Biniek first argues that when formalism dominates instruction, complex ideas may suffer in favor of reproducing conventions. As a result, students may produce less intellectually rich or stylistically engaging prose. Second, she questions what students actually learn in courses focused on formalism, proposing that they may take away limited notions of the choices available to writers when they would be better served by rhetorical flexibility. Third, she believes the latest rationalization for formalism--that composition teachers lack transparency--is not genuinely reflective of research and pedagogy in Composition Studies. Rather, it is perhaps more revealing of the gulf that still exists between those decreed in Composition and Rhetoric Studies and other academics teaching writing, and of the problematic staffing practices in composition. In the final section of this article, Lynch-Biniek offers an example of a project she uses in first year composition (FYC). This assignment is grounded in a post-process approach, one framing writing as contextual and situated.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A