Balancing Theory, Imitation, and Practice

  • Balancing Theory, Imitation, and Practice

    Posted by Joshua Butcher on September 19, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Classical rhetorical theory recommends three things for developing one into a complete orator: theory, imitation, and practice (Cicero might add wide knowledge of a variety of subjects, but we’ll just assume that’s a prerequisite).

    So how do you balance these three elements? Do you tend to overview theory first and then assign something for practice? Do you show a model and have students imitate before introducing theory? Do you start with an assignment and let students struggle so that their minds are searching for the theories and models that will help them?

    Share you best practices about how you organize your teaching of rhetoric and its assignments.

    Julie Leppert replied 2 years, 9 months ago 2 Members · 1 Reply
  • 1 Reply
  • Julie Leppert

    September 20, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I am not currently teaching, and I am not trained but minimally (via self-study, listening to talks, and using classical curricula) in this pedagogy, but my inclination would be to present a contemporary model that would be familiar to the students as a point of reference to build engagement and intrigue/curiosity. I would guide them into noticing (very simply) what seems to make the model compelling. I would then introduce to them a model that is likely more traditional in delivery and style and follow with another inquiry similar to the first. And to do a comparison between the two. I would keep this brief. Or, if it seemed helpful, I would provide a few more models for comparison. Then I would guide them into an introductory inquiry into the history of rhetoric and its purposes over time and give some room for discussion about its historic forms and telos. (My goal in doing so would be to help them realize there is a long human rhetorical experience – with consequence – in order to provide a context and connection for them as members of the experience within place/time, but would likely not ever mention this specifically, but trust their god-likeness/image to bear witness, unless they bring it up. Then we would talk.) If I had a full course to teach, I think that I would move through the course weaving a pattern of these discussions and give them time to practice and build their own rhetorical skills.

    I would love to receive corrections to this approach or suggestions for improvements upon it as I do not have anyone to provide me feedback other than this platform. I am seeking connections in my locale, however, but this would be a great value to me. Thank you for asking the question!

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