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It's Just a Suggestion: English Studies Comprehensive Exam

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Pennie Gray

on 9 October 2013

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Transcript of It's Just a Suggestion: English Studies Comprehensive Exam

Writing is entangled with identity; both are at stake in the composition classroom.
We must ensure that risks are reasonable.
Classroom closeness encourages growth and risk.
Wolfson (1988): The Bulge
Linguistic Politeness Theory
Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987): Positive and Negative Face
“the want to be unimpeded (Negative Face) and the want to be approved of in certain respects (Positive Face)” (p. 58).
Politeness Strategies Used During Peer Review
Positive Politeness
Intersections in English Studies
“(M)ultiple and interdisciplinary perspectives” give rise to new understandings not only of the content of each discipline, but also of ourselves and our work in the world (Department of English, Illinois State University, english.illinoisstate. edu).
a suggestion: An analysis of peer review politeness strategies in a composition classroom

How might this intersection between composition and politeness theory support and inform my assessment practices and in so doing, support and inform my pedagogy?
First Year Composition and Linguistic Politeness Theory
Course Content
Writing Process:
Topic, Genre, Mode
From peers*
and from me
Final Copy
Further Revision
research papers, short stories, poems, newsletters, play, children's book, letter from the editor, website, music video, grant, series of songs
Face Threatening Acts (FTA): Poised to endanger the social closeness of the classroom environment if they are not mitigated through the use of politeness strategies (p. 60).
Johnson and Yang (1990): Politeness strategies can mitigate FTA and “reflect and contribute to the classroom social environment;” they function “to build social solidarity with others and to soften comments that might otherwise be offensive” (p. 99).
An uneasy conundrum: “to be overly critical (during peer review) might offend a classmate, but not to be sufficiently critical would not meet the requirements of the assignment” (Johnson and Yang, p. 102).
“Positive politeness is oriented toward the positive face of H, the positive self-image that he claims for himself. It ‘anoints’ the face of the addressee” and indicates that the interactants have the same wants (Brown and Levinson, p. 70).
It may involve exaggeration "manifested by choosing words at the extremes of the relevant value scale” such as intensifying modifiers (e.g. absolutely, completely) (p. 116).
•The way you describe homelessness is the

way to begin in my opinion.
really enjoyed
your poem. (and later) I
that final line you put in there about how at the end of the day, you’re still a man. I feel like it
really demonstrates
the amount of dignity that’s at stake in this story, and again it marries the idea that “them vs us” is actually “them AND us.”
It’s brilliant
•I thought you accomplished your purpose
really well
in this newsletter. I liked the layout
very much
, and the information was interesting and quite informative.
really love
the idea of this piece. It’s

so original
and something I myself never would have thought about doing. I
really enjoyed
the first song.
really enjoyed
your music pieces
I thought that was a
really creative
way to do your third composition, as well as a good use of your particular set of talents. You have a
lovely voice!
(and later) The first piece, Night, sounded

. The piece was
very beautiful
really conveyed
the mood that I think you wanted to illustrate.
•You did a

really nice
job with both, especially the closing. I felt like you
really wrapped up
the piece.
•I really felt like overall this is a
very strong
rough draft.
•I thought that the idea of doing a found poem was
really great!

I learned a lot from it, and it was

really creative
•First off,
really great job!
really love
your idea for the children’s book.
•One of my
absolute favorite parts
is the beginning when you say. . .
•Overall, this is
one of the best rough drafts
I have reviewed.
really enjoyed

reading your piece. I
applaud your creativity
for choosing to write a letter instead of just another literary analysis. I
really enjoyed

your first body paragraph in which you dissected some of Tiny’s sentence structure and grammatical errors.
•I honestly see this as
final draft material
. You use transitions
very well
, and you flow from topic to topic smoothly. Overall, I would be
extremely satisfied

with this paper.
the ending. It was

really good
And I
especially loved
how you ended with the word period. I thought that was
Set 1:
70 positive politeness phrases = 2.9 per letter
as intensifier = 18 times
Set 2:
139 positive politeness phrases = 5.79 per letter
as intensifier = 45 times
Just Hedging
“Normally, hedges are a feature of negative politeness . . . but some hedges can have (a) positive-politeness function as well, most notably (in English):
sort of, kind of, like, in a way
.” (Brown and Levinson, p. 116).
These hedges may soften FTAs of suggesting or criticizing by masking the speaker’s intent.
These hedges are redressive actions: actions that give face to the addressee, that is, “that attempt to counteract the potential face damage of the FTA by doing it in such a way, or with such modifications or additions, that indicate clearly that no such face threat is intended or desired” (p. 69-70).
Students sought to soften the blow of the imposition and to minimize the work they were suggesting. These kinds of comments are considered off record comments and serve to minimize the imposition of the suggestion (Brown and Levinson, p. 176, p. 214). (The comments in effect violate Grices’ Maxim of Quantity which states that the speaker should not say less or more than is required; in this case, students are saying less than may be required.)
•I would suggest
doing a real basic search on homeless people and seeing what facts come up and going off of those.
•Also, I would suggest rearranging
a couple of the sentences in the paper so that they flow better and are easier to read.
•There were
a couple of words and commas that I added.
•I would
reread through your paper and make sure you’re not being too repetitive with that.
just a little thing
make sure you’re putting your periods after your parenthetical references rather than at the end of the sentence.
•Again, you had a great amount of information, now you


need to focus on making it stronger.
•After reading your composition piece, I have
just a couple of slight suggestions
•Other than that, there are a few spelling errors and spaces between periods,
just little stuff
that will not take you much time at all to clean up.

something to think about.
•There were

just a few minor grammatical/spelling errors
•This is
just a tiny thing
, but I would change the text color of the first two information slides. . . because the black blended into the background a bit which made it a


difficult to read.
•Anyway, I would
try to be consistent throughout.
Students sought to minimize their own authority and thus their distance from their peers which is what Brown and Levinson refer to as an
“by making it clear that (the speaker) doesn’t really expect (the hearer) to say ‘Yes’ unless he wants to” (p. 72). At the same time, this type of move allows students to remain at the same level in terms of power and expertise—the use of
in this case could be a self-deprecating move that serves to align the reviewer and the reviewed.
•Again, in this paragraph you use the term "children" which isn't really wrong I guess,
it just sticks out to me
, so revisit it and see how you feel about it.

just a side note
this last page is when it really starts to be evident that you're sleepy and still writing, so check that out.
I'm not judging or anything, just letting you know

(T)hese are just all the ideas
that I have right now, but I can try to think of more if you really feel that you need it.

This is just my opinion
, feel free to leave the sentences way they are if you like!
•I have
just a couple of suggestions
for how to improve your project.
Feel free to take them or leave them, they are just my opinions!
•Let me first say that any changes that I made in the paper were
ways that I thought would possibly make it flow a little more.
You’re not obligated to use my corrections, they’re just suggestions
•The changes that I made in your paper were either
just small mistakes
or sentence structure things. Obviously,
it is completely up to you whether or not you want to use them
•Once again,
anything I say is just suggestions and you don’t have to listen to them

Feel free to completely ignore these changes. They are just suggestions
•You could always add a personal story of a homeless child to connect to the homeless youth,

just an idea

Just an idea
, but (it) could make the paper sound even more interesting
Set 1:
36 uses of
- 19 minimizing FTA; 10 self-deprecation (giving an out)
Set 2:
30 uses of
- 18 minimizing FTA; 4 self-deprecation (giving an out)
Wenger (1998): Communities of Practice
We can examine speech acts to understand "the social strategies people in a given speech community use to accomplish their purposes--to gain cooperation, to form friendships, and to keep their world running smoothly" (p. 31).
"(T)he two extremes of social distance--minimum and maximum--seem to call forth very similar behavior, while the relationships which are more toward the center showed marked differences" (p. 32).
Combined with research by D'Amico-Reisner (1983, 1985), Wolfson notes, "interlocutors who are in the Bulge almost never voice their disapproval of one another overtly" (p. 35).
Thus, I might surmise that students were attempting to solidify and stabilize their tenuous relationship by employing extensive politeness strategies. They may have been finding other ways to voice their disapproval.
Communities of Practice arise within school settings and entail joint enterprises that build coherence, cohesion, and mutual accountability (p. 6).
When Communities of Practice arise "in response to some outside mandate, the practice evolves into the community's own response to that mandate" (p. 80). Thus, the students' response to the mandate of the Peer Review Letter was their own, not a prescribed response.
Identity is a "negotiated experience" (p. 149). "Identity exists in its negotiation--not as an object in and of itself--but in the constant work of negotiating the self" (p. 151).
"Because learning transforms who we are and what we can do, it is an experience of identity. . . it is a process of becoming" (p. 215).
I posit that students were keenly aware of the social development of the class as well as the identity issues at stake in their compositions as evidenced by their use of politeness strategies.
Risky behavior
n a
wareness of politeness strategies helps me gauge the social closeness

of the class,
those politeness strategies contribute to classroom cohesion as well.
Further Exploration
Exploration of my own politeness strategies (
+ D + Rx)
Investigation into avenues to build classroom community
Examination of the role of prosody
Consideration of using peer review that is audio-recorded
Stretching out the notion of assessment in order to examine all its components
Peer Review situated within the assessment process
Feedback Intervention Theory (Trees, Kerssen-Grief, and Hess, 2009)
Entanglement between assessment and pedagogy
Works Cited:
Questions or Comments
Facework can be mutually beneficial: Attention to positive face also anoints the speaker's face (good taste, kindness, thoughtfulness) (Mao, 1993, p. 458).
Face is continually renegotiated through interaction (Locher, 2006).
Brown, P., and Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Johnson, D. M. and Yang, A. W. (1990). Politeness strategies in peer review texts. In Lawrence F. Bouton and Yamuna Kachru (eds.) Pragmatics and Language Learning, 1, 99-110.
Locher, M. A. (2006). Polite behavior within relational work: the discursive approach to politeness. Multilingua, 25, 249-67.
Mao, L. R. (1994). Beyond politeness theory: ‘Face’ revisited and renewed. Journal of Pragmatics, 21, 451-486.
Trees, A. R., Kerssen-Grief, J., and Hess, J. A. (2009). Earning influence by communicating respect: facework’s contributions to effective instructional feedback. Communication Education, 58, 397-416.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.
Wolfson, N. (1988). The bulge: A theory of speech behavior and social distance. In Jonathon Fine (ed) Second Language Discourse: A Textbook of Current Research, 21-38.
*Peer Review Conference and Letters
It is possible that the decrease in self-deprecating comments was the result of increased student confidence resulting from additional experience.
Pennie L. Gray
PhD Candidate
Illinois State University
English Studies Comprehensive Exam Presentation
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