Listening language and student interaction in online writing spaces

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Listening language and student interaction in online writing spaces

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This dissertation responds to the concerns rhetoric and composition teachers have with student interaction in online writing spaces. Specifically, the study conducted here is part of a recent conversation regarding the way students listen in online environments. This dissertation explores listening from a rhetorical perspective. Current frameworks for online interaction center largely on reducing three types of conflict: flaming, lurking, and low/non-participation. As a response to the challenge of how to proceed in light of these online conflicts, this dissertation offers "listening language" as one solution. Drawing upon the works of Wayne Booth, Sharon Crowley, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and Krista Ratcliffe, I argue that listening language becomes an approach to online interaction that students and teachers may use in three distinct online spaces: asynchronous discussion forums, virtual peer reviews, and a final narrative analysis assignment that is uploaded to a graded drop box. Listening approaches like the one I develop have the potential to transform the way individuals interact with each other from a position of mastery and argumentative superiority to one of mutual exploration and exchange. This dissertation is guided by the following research questions: Does exposure to pedagogy based on listening language a) change students' attitudes about the relationship between listening and writing and b) their online discourses? Are there differences between the online discourses of students who have been exposed to a pedagogy based on listening language and those who have not? If so, how can those differences be characterized? Taken together, these questions help researchers interesting in listening and online writing instruction understand some of the ways listening happens in online spaces.To assess the impact of a pedagogy based on the principles of listening language, I use a mixed methodology for data collection and analysis. This study was conducted on two sections of first-year writing at a large, mid-western research university during the Spring 2013 semester. I created a sequential design that begins with a quasi-experiment data collection process followed by rhetorical analysis of student texts generated through the duration of the study. This study also uses statistical analysis of an original pretest/posttest survey results that are a part of the quasi-experimental research design. Sentence-level and whole-paper rhetorical analysis were also conducted on student-written texts collected during this study.The findings suggest that listening language does impact student attitudes toward listening. Though there are differences between the written texts of students in treatment and control groups, neither group makes use of listening language's entrance and exit moves. This study also finds that hedging and qualifying are the most frequent ways students acknowledge troubles others may have with listening to their ideas. Moreover, students acknowledge troubles with listening most frequently during peer reviews rather than in discussion forums or the narrative analysis assignment.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 297 pages, appendices A-G.

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Oleksiak, Timothy. (2014). Listening language and student interaction in online writing spaces. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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