Do you agree that "basic" writers can benefit from being "shown they are better than other students in some ways" (p. 279)? How does this avoid being perceived as empty flattery?
Our group discussed the importance of stressing a student's strengths and weaknesses, not necessarily in comparison to other students. We agree with the idea, but we believe that the wording is problematic. Students do not need "empty flattery," but they do need support to create motivation. At the same time, the teacher has to challenge students to move beyond what they have mastered. We do agree that students can learn from their peers in collaborative learning experiences, working with the strengths of some students as well as the weaknesses. Shared experiences in both success and failure (or failed attempts) can be beneficial to the learning experiences of students.
Is it possible to create a "diagnostic guide" for teachers of freshman composition or basic writing that will "train" all of us to this role? What kind of ideas can you take from this text to help you diagnose a student's writing?
Our group believes strongly that there is no possibility of creating a universal diagnostic guide for writing teachers. Students are diverse within a classroom, an institution, a city, a state, a nation, etc. A guide would overgeneralize these populations, unless it simply focuses on the broad goals of taking a more transformative approach to writing instruction. Our group also believes that this metaphor of "the mechanic" is problematic - labeling the students as broken or in need of repair in order to function. Haswell emphasizes the importance of truly diagnosing students, looking not only at what is wrong but creating a plan to move forward; however our group doesn't think that these processes could be generalized.
How do we cross that divide and communicate with our students? (p. 352)
Haswell emphasizes the importance of perspective. Teachers have to see students through a beginner's eyes and consider their unique environments. Teachers also have to shrug off their professional titles and responsibilities and reconnect to the human element of their profession. If a teacher remains in his/her lofty role, refusing to view their course from the perspective of the student, then how can he/she know if they are even being effective (if they even care...)? If teachers and students remain locked in their "interpretive boxes," they will be unable to communicate through "open dialogue," thus creating mutual development (p. 352).