Tips on Preparing the Weekly Reading Responses
NOTE: All significant changes since Sept. 3 are in this color.
You are responsible for writing a weekly reading responses (usually 2-3 pages) for any item that week that has a (*). You can also choose to write on all the readings for the week, comparing and contrasting them, or on a group of readings as long as there is one (*) among them. It is your choice.
Turning in your responses:
1) If you are in charge of facilitating the discussion, either send your response to me as an email attachment or post it to the Blackboard Discussion Board (under the appropriate week) by 9:00 PM on Tuesday.
2) Others are required to either bring a typed copy to class (to be turned in at the end of class), or have sent me a copy by email attachment or have posted it to the Discussion Board by the start of class.
Turning in your questions:
You will also have to prepare 2-4 questions for class discussion that come from the reading/s you have critiqued which should be turned in at the start of class or emailed to me prior to the class.
Reading responses are intended to help you think more carefully about the readings - they are intended to help you develop careful and critical approaches to the reading. A "critical approach" does not necessarily imply a criticism of the author/s. This doesn’t mean that you must criticize an author, but rather, following the lines developed in Critical Pedagogy and the sociological approaches of Critical Theory, that your reading is informed by an understanding of the society which generates our system of higher education (specifically the reality that higher education is an elemental part of an unequally stratified society in which class, race, and gender, among other factors, are key elements). "Critical" approaches, then, are those that understand critical as:
- Essential (what do you find that is central, essential about the author's argument);
- Reflective (approaches that bring you into a deeper and more nuanced thinking about a subject, that are not only limited to the piece you are reading, but can bring in other ideas, class discussions, ideas from outside readings, etc.);
- Aware (of the institutional, corporate, or social impediments to learning);
- Analytic (can both describe/define and analyze/interpret the materials, always based on the evidence at hand);
- "Non-partisan" (i.e. you bring the same critical approaches to those arguments that you find yourself in agreement with as well as those you dispute).
You will want to be aware of the author’s standpoint (what informs his or her arguments? does it help to know who the author is? why? does the author have a stake in the argument?) and whether the arguments presented are convincing or deficient.
Your responses should be in the range of 2-3 pages.
It’s important to know what the reading responses aren’t: They are not summaries of the text although you are expected to be able to summarize the author’s arguments. They are also not opportunities for you to tell me (or others) how you “feel” about the book, author, or argument in a way that is not tied to argument and evidence. It's not enough to say that you "didn't like Mr. Jones' article" without immediately following with an explanation: "because its evidence was drawn from highly unreliable sources," or "because his argument rested on certain assumptions -- which I will spell out -- that were never substantiated." The same would go for any analysis of an article that you "liked" - why did you like it?
Organize your writing around the following questions: What is/are the main point/s of the article? The key question/s the author is addressing? The author’s main conclusions or inferences? Does the author address a key theoretical concept? What are the main assumptions underlying the author’s argument?
1. Use evidence (i.e., quotes from the reading) to support your own argument. If you argue that the author’s perspective is “x”, provide some evidence to support your statement.
2. What is your reasoned opinion about the author’s argument? Again, this is not the same as how you “feel,” about it, but whether you agree or not and why (evidence, again, is important – from this source or others). You might want to consider whether you have any particular vested interests in your own approach to the topic.
3. Does the author’s argument make sense? Is it logical? Does it leave certain perspectives out? Does it present its argument with the necessary complexity or is it simplistic?
4. What is the significance of the article? Is the subject of the article compelling? Important?
5. What kind of evidence is most important for the author? Is there evidence that seems to be left out?