Teaching One Moment at a Time

Disruption and Repair in the Classroom
A revealing exploration of the issues involved in the pedagogy of writing


Based on the author's longtime experience as an instructor of composition, this book explores the "delicate negotiation" between teacher and student that determines success or failure in writing courses. Dawn Skorczewski's focus is on the role of the teacher in shaping this classroom dynamic, particularly the ways in which theoretical presuppositions and personal expectations influence the responses elicited from students. Drawing on the insights of psychoanalysis as well as recent infant research, Skorczewski argues that the teacher who recognizes the beliefs she brings to the classroom is equipped to listen to her students more carefully than the teacher who holds her beliefs so closely that she can no longer see them as beliefs.

To show how these unconscious assumptions come into play and to explain their effects, Skorczewski looks at a series of key "moments" in the life of a writing class. She examines what it means to enter a classroom and take on the role of a teacher; the challenge of leading a discussion; the art of designing effective writing assignments; the difficulties involved in evaluating student writing; the negotiation of issues of authority; and the pros and cons of self-revelation. In each case the author offers not only an analysis of the disruptions that characterize these pedagogical moments but also practical advice for dealing with them. Although informed by theory, the emphasis throughout is on real issues faced by real teachers in their writing courses.

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