Some limitations inherent in the "laboratory" situation

It is important to remember, however, that - like all such social laboratories - this context is so rich that it's difficult or impossible to factor out important matters and disentangle causes from accidents. Not all students come into such a situation without experience of writing in such pragmatically authentic consequences. Some have learned to learn how to write in new situations, and adjust very quickly; others never catch on at all, and continue doggedly to write summaries designed to demonstrate to an authority that they'd actually attended. Alterations in patterns of discourse are as likely to be triggered by the particulars of the immediate circumstances as by the general rhetorical situation; thus only the most general of trends can be observed across the corpus of roughly 560 texts produced between September 17 and the Christmas holiday. All of these texts produced after about the first of October are available on the course's "Occasions Archive."

When they exist, patterns are, of course, best seen in the writing of individuals over the course of the term. One thing that we might expect to see is changes from the conventions of school essay writing to more dialogic models: rather than summarizing what is already known, for instance, one might find writers taking more cognizance of the fact that the readers all, by definition, share experience of the Occasion being discussed.

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