Truth in Society

November 17, 1994

Prompt #38


A cover letter

Before beginning the process of reading, reflecting on, and responding to the three texts from within your focus group, please get together with your working group and compose a cover letter to the rest of your focus group. You can do this by inkshedding separately, reading and marking each other's inksheds, putting them together and then writing whatever else needs to be said to make it a letter. This letter should introduce your text to the rest of your focus group. You might, for example, remind them of what you have done in this text. You could tell them how you hope it fits with the work of the other two groups. Let them know what you need to know about your text; and what you don't want to hear about it (because you already know). You might need to explain what is new in the text that they don't know about. Your cover letter, in short, gives your focus group colleagues permission to respond to your work, and helps them shape their responses.

We'll have printed out and made some copies of all the RPT files by the time you finish this; we'll then take these and make copies of them. So make sure they're legible.

Reading, reflecting, responding

For the last couple of weeks you've been researching and writing about some aspect of one of the three episodes of belief. This morning you will be changing hats. Remove, please, your researcher's and author's hats (one is inside the other, unless you've two heads), and don your reader's hat. This morning it's time to read, reflect on, and respond to all three working group reports from within your focus group.

Let's take the reading, reflecting and responding in turn. First, the reading. John, Russ and Thom will be printing and photocopying working group reports as you read this and write your cover letter. There will be four copies of each text. Start your reading with whatever texts we have already copied. We will get the rest to you as soon as we can, and will attach cover letters as soon as they are finished and copied. Another thing about the reading: you may go wherever you please to read, reflect, and respond, but take only one text away from EC 120 at a time. Finally: read to find out, to learn, to understand. More about this below.

Second, the reflecting. There's not much to say about this -- your thinking is your own. We probably don't have to remind you that if you treat this step cavalierly, you harm your own learning, and you insult the work of your focus group colleagues. But we just did anyway.

Lastly, the responding. What should you write? How might you comment? Again, much of this is up to you. We would ask, however, that you try to make your responses "readerly." By this we mean -- following our colleague Doug Vipond -- that you don't have to (and shouldn't) try to be a teacher, whose job it is to "correct" or "fix" the writing of your colleagues; you're a reader, trying to learn from it. Take into account the working group's cover letter; try to respond to it directly. Since you are reading the text to learn from it, understanding it is important. If you don't understand, tell the authors in a comment in the margin: ("I don't understand what you mean here"; "I am confused reading this.") If you are not sure you understand, use the margin, or the back, to check it out with the authors: ("When you say blah, blah, blah, I think you mean yada yada yada. Is this in fact what you mean?"). If the text raises questions for you, or reminds you of something you've read, tell the authors: ("When I read yada yada yada, I was reminded that zurple zurple zurple"). Your aim is to help this piece of writing tell you everything you need to know to understand what it's trying to say, and your focus should be on what it says. Take some time with this: we're allowing more time than it would take to read through, write "good work" on the bottom and toss it back into the folder. We're allowing time enough to spend some effort and thought on these texts, to learn something from them, to help their authors see what else they might say that would make what they have to say even fuller and more valuable.

Notice that "readerly" responses often begin with "I" or "We." The difference between "I had to re-read this a couple of times" and "this paragraph sucks!" should be obvious. Finally, sign or initial your response.

Use the labeled file folders to store the working groups' texts. When everyone's read and responded to all the working group reports, put the file folder on the table at the front. Please return to EC 120 at 1:00 pm.


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