Petraglia’s Reality by Design

Joseph Petraglia
Reality by Design: The Rhetoric and Technology of Authenticity in Education
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Introduction: Why an Interest in the Authentic?

•    An understanding of contemporary education hinges on what we take authentic learning to mean and how we believe it’s achieved
•    Rhetoric of inquiry: study of how discursive practices constitute and sustain human understanding with special reference to academic investigation
X: “Situated cognition—an approach that again emphasizes the individual’s perception of and responsiveness to the immediate ambient world and motivating activities that seem personally real.”
4:  “Constructivism—the interdisciplinary view that we construct knowledge based on our cultural assumptions and prior experiences at hand.  Therefore, constructivism can be understood as a natural and social scientific complement to the progressivism which it developed alongside of.”
4: “Modern constructivism, Resnick argues, obliges us to view social behavior not just as an influence on thought, but also, as itself, a manifestation of cognitive processing that leads us to ‘analyze the ways in which people jointly construct knowledge under particular conditions of social purpose and interaction.”
5: “Technology can help in this process [of rethinking schooling] because it makes it possible to create learning situations that mirror what is happening in the real world in ways that are difficult to realize in a traditional classroom.”
8: “Thus, the rhetoric of authenticity can refer to how language such as authentic, real-world, genuine, and everyday is used by educators to conserve comfortable epistemological assumptions while linking pedagogical innovations to a more constructivistic intellectual framework.  In this first sense, then, the rhetoric of authenticity is about how and why the desideratum of authentic learning is used as a central trope in the contemporary educator’s vocabulary.  However, in a second and perhaps more technical sense, a rhetoric of authenticity can refer to the way in which the real, and thus, the authentic, can be seen as an outcome of rhetorical processes.”
10:  “The evolution of constructivism through the cognitive revolution of the 1950s and 1960s to what, in hindsight, looks to be the fairly natural resurrection of Soviet sociohistoricism.  It is the sociohistorical perspective initiated by Vygotsky and his colleagues in the 1920s and 1930s that creates the conceptual space in psychology necessary for the treatment of everyday context.  This is accomplished via the quotidianization of learning—that is, by looking to everyday situations and activities as the primary source of learning rather than at deliberately structured learning episodes or learning acquired in school under formal conditions.”
12:  “Rhetorical and constructivist frameworks share many features—for instance, both are preoccupied with an interest in how representations of the world are constructed and modified.  However, the rhetorical tradition usefully distinguishes itself in its focus on the affective dimensions of thinking and knowledge-making and in its long experience with context-dependence.”
Chapter Six: Negotiating the Real world: Conceptual Obstacles and Opportunities for Education
•    A constructivist analysis of knowledge foregrounds rhetoric: the powers of persuasion and the differences of dispute
•    Making students participate in their own learning, rather than students being simply the audience
•    Who is the audience (Bitzer): an inappropriate audience is no audience at all
•    Rhetoric: performative dimension of expertise
o    The status of expert is not necessarily granted to one that knows the content in any objective sense, but is a status granted to the person that possess the means in which to perform the knowledge
•    Who can persuade others of their own expertise (Gorgias)
134: “The challenge of authenticating learning becomes transformed from that of presenting the learner with new and improved ‘reality kits’ to that of persuading learners that the problems with which they are presented correspond in some important way to their own sense of how the real world works.”
135: “The student as audience, a rhetorician would contend, is less a passive sounding board for the educator’s lecture, than an active interlocutor who is fully capable of evaluating claims, assessing evidence, and posing rebuttals.”
137:  “In other words, a rhetorician may observe that technologists often design environments for what Perelman calls the universal audience—that ‘reasonable and competent’ audience to which we direct out idea arguments.  This is rooted in the assumption that rationality is universal and needs no audience.  Yet Perelman reminds us that while the universal audience has its uses, it is only a fiction that serves as a heuristic in helping us define our particular audience—those living, breathing, alternately reasoning, and alternately competent audiences that we actually encounter in the real world.”
141:  “In recognizing that expert performance is rhetorically constructed at various times for various reasons, educators are reminded that authentic assessment—a critical subject in many education-based literatures—is entirely dependent on the norms of, and consensus among, evaluators.  New ripples, trends, tastes, and politics can quickly dethrone experts and replace them with individuals whose performance was previously considered highly inexpert.”
149:  “A rhetorical perspective reminds us that there is no guarantee of success in making learning authentic: Although we may argue for a given task’s authenticity, evidence one audience finds compelling, another audience fins inadequate.  What Aristotle identified as rhetoric’s natural concern with probable outcomes instills in the rhetorically sensitive educator an explicit awareness of the limits of persuasion and thus success.  In Book One of Rhetoric, for instance, Aristotle reminds us that the rhetorician who discovers the available means of persuasion does so with no assurances that the means employed will succeed.  He advises us to set out sights a bit lower and suggests that a more reasonable objective is to come ‘as near such success as the circumstances of each particular case allows.’”


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