Students often claim to lack knowledge of or attitudes towards the topics they study. One way to illustrate that they bring knowledge and attitudes to their studies is to ask them to write on a concept before it is discussed in class. For example, if you are reading a feminist article by a female author who is lamenting that her work, because of its feminine subject matter, is discounted by the long established patriarchical publishing world, you might ask students to write about the word authenticity. What is authentic? After asking several students to read their definitions, you then bring the discussion around to the search for a writer’s authentic voice (the unique angle of vision that informs a work) and the societal standards that have confined and perhaps even silenced those voices. If the discussion is on love, you might ask them to write about vulnerability. The point is to get them to see connections (that’s why you don’t want them to write directly on the topic), to circle around, always broadening their perspectives based on what they already know and/or think.

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