Loose Leaf Pedagogical Dinner Salad

A Temptingly "Unfinished" Garden-Fresh Delight


 Pedagogical Dinner Salad:

A Forceful Yet Tentative Collection of Artfully Clustered Improvisational Greens Tossed with the Crispy Indulgence of Collaborative Interaction and Dressed in a Tangy Spritz of Pedagogical Theory.

 "Lettuce" Improvise and  Entertain You!

Pedagogical Dinner Salad

A Collection of Rough Thoughts on Collaborative Learning and Improvisational Pedagogy in the Writer’s Workshop

        As any idle perusal of the latest journals in rhetoric and composition pedagogy will reveal, the beliefs and tactics embraced within the teaching of writing have changed drastically over the past several decades. Rather than relying on the traditional prescriptive rules, recited lectures, and overly-structured models utilized in the banking approach to schooling, many instructors are choosing instead to battle against the strict government mandates of standardized testing and curriculum by incorporating collaborative learning and improvisational pedagogy into the lesson plan. This approach has gained in popularity across multiple disciplines, but is of most interest to us as it relates to the fields of rhetoric and composition, and is especially notable within the creative writing workshop.

            The writing workshop provides a particularly valuable space in which to analyze both collaborative learning and improvisational pedagogy because it, more than any other form of writing instruction, is designed specifically and deliberately to be an environment of collaboration. The workshop, when organized well, becomes an inquiry-based environment of active participation in which students are treated as individuals rather than passive audience members. Within this collaborative framework, the instructor mediates but doesn’t dictate, and knowledge-building and skill-enhancement take place in conjunction with both more and less capable peers, resulting in a creative and vibrant enactment of Vygotsky’s ZPD. As each individual is influenced by the unique perspectives, opinions, critiques, and abilities of the other students within the interactive and fast-paced realm of the workshop, he or she gains skills as a writer and is able to move intellectually and developmentally from the sphere of actuality into the sphere of potentiality.

            This place of collaboration, because it is freely structured and restructured by multiple contextual influences, must also be a place of improvisation, as both instructor and students interact and evolve together fluidly around an always-progressing AND always-deviating conversation. This constructivist learning flow, with its focus on improvisation, creates a space that is open to new material and discussion and allows the professor to direct the lessons – if any – according to interest, and to deal with students fluidly and naturally as individuals. Interaction and collaboration is encouraged, and both students and professor alike have the freedom to riff freely with the material. Good stuff.