On April 4, 2012, Professor Tiffany Rousculp received her Distinguished Faculty Award at the Salt Lake Community College Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
Rousculp also presented the findings of her research project, “Rhetorical Confidence: What Happens When We Anticipate Student Expertise,” which explored the dynamics between learned incompetence and innate ability as it relates to the idea of expertise in the classroom.
“Perhaps merely connecting with their innate rhetorical abilities by drawing attention to that which students already can do, by openly questioning the primacy of academic and teacher expertise, it opens a space that might not have been there before,” says Rousculp.
Rousculp’s research and experiment was inspired by her work as director of the SLCC Community Writing Center (SLCC CWC), which uses students as writing assistants who do the bulk of the work.
While others doubted that most of the work relied on the writing assistants, Rousculp knew that the writing assistants were responsible for everything from writing coaching and public relations to developing curriculum, programs and partnerships.
“Students did this and did it well,” says Rousculp
Rousculp’s experiment involved teaching two English 2010 classes in two different ways. One class was taught with the teacher and the text book as the experts and the students as traditional students learning from that expertise. The other class was taught in a collaborative approach following the example of the SLCC CWC, in which the traditional teacher-student relationship paradigm was to be disregarded.
“If none of us were experts, we could figure things out together,” says Rousculp.
Younger people in the experimental class gained greater confidence than their peers in the control group, and those in the experimental group were more confident about their ability to begin an unfamiliar writing task.
Rousculp thinks that the next stage to bringing out the innate rhetorical abilities of students involves teaching students over a longer period of time and reducing the power of the grade.