Monday, May 5, 2008

Metagenres and metadisciplines: tools for writing

In his essay, Carter provides an interesting notion of metagenre, which should help faculty organize their approach to the learning outcomes of a course. (In fact, Carter obtained the four metagenres from faculty from a variety of disciplnes in his institution.) The four metagenres are:

(a) problem solving
(b) empirical inquiry
(c) research from sources, and
(d) performance.

These four metagenres figure differently in different disciplines (or 'metadisciplines' as Carter calls them). For example, in zoology, empirical enquiry will be particularly significant, with some emphasis on problem solving. In mathematics, problem solving will be absolutely central, with little or no emphasis on empirical inquiry (unless we are doing applied mathematics).

I think the four metagenres provide a helpful framework to think about and organize the learning outcomes for a course. Being clear about what exactly we expect our students to get (or achieve) with a particular assignment (or group of assignments throughout a course) seems to me central to the students' learning. In this way, we can help them be clear about their own development.

This framework will help me in the Summer Institute by making me be clear about the outcomes I intend to obtain with each assingment I develop in my own course.

Having said that, it's not entirely clear to me, based on the extract that I read, what Carter means by 'performance' in a way that makes it distinctive from problem solving. But I expect that Carter addresses this issue in the full version of his essay.


Gina said...

I think "performance" is meant in terms of operating successfully within a discourse community, either in writing or orally. So: has a student mastered the basics of philosophical argumentation such that she can credibly participate in the ongoing conversation within a discipline. "Problem solving" I take to mean as the deployment of specific principles to formulate solutions to real world issues. At least that's how I read Carter's piece.

Otavio Bueno said...

Hi Gina

Many thanks for your comment, which was very helpful. It looks as though performance is a "meta-criterion" that applies to the other three "metagenres".