“I Changed My Mind”: Articulating Empathic Design

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

This post is the third in a series on empathy and writing scholarship. For the full series, please see her first post and second post.

When I think about what it means to write collaboratively and productively across the curriculum, I am always attempting to determine which frameworks best help us all define empathy ontologically and pragmatically. Toward this end, in my previous posts, I have attempted to simultaneously advocate for empathy’s inclusion across the curriculum even while I have tried to better define it. Admittedly, this is a complex task, and not just for me. As Daniel Batson (1991) says, “opportunities for disagreement abound” within the framework of empathy’s theoretical uncertainties (p. 11), and even with a “liquid” understanding of empathy (Burke, Permanence and Change, 1965 qtd. in Miller, 1984, p. 158), a firm sense of definition or application can be hard to come by. Continue reading

“Evolution not Revolution”: Empathy as Supportive Practice

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

This post is the second in a series on empathy and writing scholarship. For Rachael’s first post, please click here.

In my previous post, I discussed what empathy is partly by talking a bit about what it is not. The challenge presented by proposing we should actively include empathy as a curricular goal is convincing writing teachers that the change is a natural and necessary one. Consequently, my previous entry began the task of examining and overturning a few misconceptions that have long plagued how we talk about empathy in rhetoric and composition (when we talk about it at all), and then suggesting that a more constructive definition of empathy might help us reinvigorate some of our problematic or confusing writing practices. In this entry, I want to continue to expand our understanding of empathy in rhetorical practice on our own disciplinary terms. Continue reading

Empathy: Rethinking “Student-Centeredness” in the Writing Classroom

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By: Rachael Burke

Rachael Burke is a second-year Writing and Rhetoric PhD student at George Mason University.  Her research centers on empathic articulation and social-emotional design.  She has taught composition, ESL, and interdisciplinary studies, and she is currently teaching at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.  You can reach her at rburke13@gmu.edu.

Almost every semester, there is one assignment that I approach a bit differently from many composition teachers: the metacognitive essay. I love the overall spirit of this essay and what it asks students to do, as it encourages students to understand their own writing habits and the general composition process. And I certainly support the idea that rhetorically savvy writers must possess the capacity for introspective analysis. For me, however, part of the problem with the most traditional versions of this assignment (ones where students are centering their awareness on their own writing) is that it primarily asks students to re-form a relationship with their own ideas, feelings, and processes, in addition to cultivating self-evaluative judgment. Continue reading