Ventriloquation in Discussions of Student Writing: Examples from a High School English Class

Published on Aug 1, 2009in Research in The Teaching of English1.675
Beth Lewis Samuelson4
Estimated H-index: 4
This study examines discussions of model papers in a high school Advanced Placement English classroom where students were preparing for a high-stakes writing assessment. Much of the current research on talk about writing in various contexts such as classroom discourse, teacher-student writing conferences, and peer tutoring has emphasized the social and constructive nature of instructional discourse. Building on this work, the present study explored how talk about writing also takes on a performative function, as speakers accent or point to the features of the context that are most significant ideologically. Informed by perspectives on the emergent and mediated nature of discourse, this study found that the participants used ventriloquation to voice the aspects of the essays that they considered to be most important, and that these significant chunks were often aphorisms about the test essay. The teacher frequently ventriloquated raters, while the students often ventriloquated themselves or the teacher. The significance of ventriloquation is not just that it helps to mediate the generic conventions of timed student essays; it also mediates social positioning by helping the speakers to present themselves and others in flexible ways. This study also raises questions about the ways that ventriloquation can limit the ways that students view academic writing. Ventriloquation
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