I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but to pick up on Russ' suggestion that we think more about genres in this discussion, I'm struck by the list that you cite from Marcy of typical school genres: "freewriting, essay test, term papers". What strikes me is that these, in my experience, are very different genres with very different purposes / functions (epistemic and / or instrumental). Isn't "freewriting" a genre that many of us try to use at least partly in opposition or resistance to the more traditional, formalized genres of tests and term papers? So, I guess my point is the rather obvious one that we need to keep in mind the complexity and differences *within* the educational system of the functions of academic writing - and similarly, within workplace contexts (for example, between routine and non-routine tasks, or between primarily instrumental and more epistemic writing processes).
I'm also, in response to Patrick's comments, thinking about an issue that I discuss with my students every year and which may have implications concerning the possibilities for engaging students in truly dialogic writing: philosophically as well as practically, I am committed to collaborative knowledge-making and communication in my classes - perhaps this could be linked to the ideal of dialogic communication. However, at the same time, I recognize and discuss with my students the (unfortunate) reality that university education in Canada does not, ultimately, recognize or reward collaborative or group achievements - regardless of what I set up in my own classroom, students receive individual grades, they are ranked individually against each other, etc. Most workplace contexts, by contrast, function in terms of a group or corporate objective. True, individual employees may compete against each other for promotion and so on, but most workplace tasks, as I understand, are undertaken for the purpose of the company's or organization's success. In this general context, there is a much clearer, more logical imperative for collaboration (of a dialogic nature?) among members of the community. Employees (ideally) have a joint commitment to the success of their organization. In my own class, I may value and attempt to reward (authentic? substantive?) collaboration, but I know perfectly well that it's unrealistic for students to have a profound commitment to this way of doing things, to this kind of community exchange and process, given the institutional structures which surround us. I don't mean to imply that collaborative work and dialogic exhanges are identical, but perhaps there's a connection here worth exploring in order to try to understand the constraints within educational contexts on engaging students and ourselves in "truly" (there's another term to add to our list!) dialogic activity.
Another thought: several of you have been commenting on the wonderfully dialogic nature of this discussion - do you think that might be due in part to the nature of this email list as a kind of workplace context, where we as professional academics / teachers are exchanging and exploring ideas relevant to our work - a kind of professional development forum perhaps, to which we are all committed by the nature of our employment / careers?
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