Drs. Bess Fox, Holly Karapetkova, Laura Valdez-Pagliaro, and Tonya Howe recently presented papers at the new “Praxis, Pedagogy, People: Writing Studies in the DC Metropolitan Area” conference, hosted by George Mason University at George Washington University’s Mount Vernon Campus. They presented together on a panel examining “fruitful failure,” or creative experiments in the composition classroom. Asking, “What happens when your reach, as a teacher of writing, exceeds your grasp,” this panel gathered four experiences of productive failure, coming face to face with the problems of disembodiment in the writing classroom.
Dr. Hollynd Karapetkova, whose research project on personal and national consumption trends was meant to embody the ethical implications of capitalistic experience, confronts students’ remarkable resistance to seeing the larger implications of their market choices. Dr. Bess Fox asked students to reflect on their goals as writers and was met with the enduringly pernicious myths of writing as a linear, unembodied logical process. Dr. Tonya Howe, who designed a research project springing from personal narrative engaging an influential or iconic photograph showcased at the Newseum, encountered resistance to practicing research as original, creative inquiry synthesizing personal experience, first-hand interviews, and historical context. Dr. Laura Valdez-Pagliaro’s daily warm-up exercises, intended to close the gap between reading and writing for college and students’ “real world” experiences, were often positively received by students but failed to yield practical value.
In presenting these experiences as a group, they sought to illuminate–and make sense of–common pedagogical experiences in the composition classroom, especially when a traditional classroom attempts to become something more. Dr. Karapetkova will present on “Consumption Logs in the Composition Classroom,” Dr. Fox on “Encountering Student Myths about Writing,” Dr. Howe on “‘Because I Like It’: The Perils of Creative Research,” and Dr. Valdez-Pagliaro on “Real World Writing.”