Caleb’s Reading Response: Haswell 10-04-2011
The last chapters of Haswell’s text were by far the most intriguing, however, albeit confusing at times. I liked Haswell’s discussion on learning and writing production styles, because it focused on a seldom talked about issue in writing instruction, and education in general. Instead of paying close attention to the individual styles of each student, many teachers and administrators operate under the assumption that learning is standardized, whether they personally know better or not. Haswell says that teachers “should be out to make the slow style more efficient, not turn it into the Laelic or any other style” (222). I whole heartedly agree. All too often educators see learning and writing styles that fall outside of the norm, and despite all that we know about cognitive development and individual learning styles, they still label students as deficient, or work to change their style, rather than increase the effectiveness of their style.
Haswell develops his discussion on learning styles and sentence structures to work his way to a major juncture in his text, applying his views on development to the basic writing student. Haswell starts the section by posing this question: “how then would the transformative determine remediality?” (268). In addressing this question, I feel that Haswell doesn’t believe in any notion of remedial, instead opting that student’s are not slow or remedial, but rather at a different stage of development. Despite the difficulty it posses to writing teachers, I really like Haswell’s response. Essentially, Haswell doesn’t see remediation in terms of what student’s can’t do, but rather in term’s of what they can do. Using this frame, Haswell says that teachers should create individualized lesson plans for each student, ensuring that each student is doing the right types of activities and receiving the right types of instruction for their respective learning styles and current stage of development. Again, I really love Haswell’s answer to this issue; however, it makes me wonder just how feasible this would be. If every teacher created a specific lesson plan for each of their students and assessed accordingly, then each student would receive the instruction that is most suited to their styles; however, with only 24 hours in a day, I don’t know how a teacher could be expected to perform at this level.
Although the curriculum designated by Haswell seems to far fetched, I think his assessment (or diagnoses) method is much more feasible, at least to a degree. In the chapter on remedial student’s, Haswell highlights that the student’s that the teachers considered remedial actually wrote very similarly to the professionals mentioned throughout the book. If this is the case, and these professionals are considered proficient writers by their employers, then how can their younger selves be considered remedial? Haswell posses this question and answers it, acknowledging that teachers should be more cognitive of the ways they assess. Essentially Haswell thinks teachers should “diagnose” rather than assess student writing, looking deeper into the styles of individual students to better understand their writing and learning styles. By better understanding the individual student, teachers would be better at diagnosing their work, and would do much better at picking up on their unique styles. By grading in a standardized fashion, which always reverts back to what the student can’t do, student’s get a raw deal, and can be educationally stunted; however, treating student writing as individual texts with unique style can help the development processes of student’s, providing them tailored instruction and fair assessment.
Although I like a lot of the ideas that Haswell posses, I don’t know how feasible all of his high in the sky ideas are. Teachers don’t seem to have the time or resources to work with their student’s on the level he suggests. With standardized testing the primary measure of academic success in our country, it would take a complete overhaul of the education system to implement his system, and apply it usefully. Despite issues of plausibility, I like where Haswell takes the conversation, and hope that scholars continue to find ways to implement feasible and helpful changes in the current education system.