Title

Persuasive Processes: Acknowledging Student Agency in Assignment Prompts

Presenter Information

Peter Rampa

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 135

Start Date

21-5-2015

End Date

21-5-2015

Keywords

Rhetoric, Play, Composition

Abstract

It's easy to overlook the persuasive strategies used in board game instructions. An instruction sheet serves so many practical purposes, after all, that something like clarity might seem a more immediate and sensible metric for assessment. The same is true of assignment sheets in the post-secondary academic setting. Like board game instructions, assignment sheets outline a process for an intended audience to complete. Easy-to-follow instructions are great. Dense instructions are a chore. But the language of board game instructions and assignment sheets can sustain a more critical approach. What are the implicit arguments made by instruction sheets and the processes they describe? Are those arguments rhetorically persuasive? Are the intended audiences addressed as static participants or individuals with agency? Through a rhetorical analysis of Trivial Pursuit board game instructions, this project presents a practical schema for persuasive process design in academic assignment sheets. A key aspect of persuasive process design, particularly in the pedagogical context, is the acknowledgment of student agency. That is, the opportunity for intellectual curiosity and self-directed learning. I argue that the traditional language of assignment sheets often communicates restrictive processes that subordinate participants and, therefore, inhibit student agency. Early Trivial Pursuit instructions exhibit similar shortcomings. However, due to its reliance on pop culture, Trivial Pursuit has had to continuously revise instruction sheets in order to persuade contemporary audiences. I explore the persuasive strategies used in 30 years’ worth of Trivial Pursuit instructions, and consider how this history might inform the design of academic assignment prompts.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Josh Welsh

Department/Program

English

Additional Mentoring Department

English

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May 21st, 1:10 PM May 21st, 1:30 PM

Persuasive Processes: Acknowledging Student Agency in Assignment Prompts

SURC 135

It's easy to overlook the persuasive strategies used in board game instructions. An instruction sheet serves so many practical purposes, after all, that something like clarity might seem a more immediate and sensible metric for assessment. The same is true of assignment sheets in the post-secondary academic setting. Like board game instructions, assignment sheets outline a process for an intended audience to complete. Easy-to-follow instructions are great. Dense instructions are a chore. But the language of board game instructions and assignment sheets can sustain a more critical approach. What are the implicit arguments made by instruction sheets and the processes they describe? Are those arguments rhetorically persuasive? Are the intended audiences addressed as static participants or individuals with agency? Through a rhetorical analysis of Trivial Pursuit board game instructions, this project presents a practical schema for persuasive process design in academic assignment sheets. A key aspect of persuasive process design, particularly in the pedagogical context, is the acknowledgment of student agency. That is, the opportunity for intellectual curiosity and self-directed learning. I argue that the traditional language of assignment sheets often communicates restrictive processes that subordinate participants and, therefore, inhibit student agency. Early Trivial Pursuit instructions exhibit similar shortcomings. However, due to its reliance on pop culture, Trivial Pursuit has had to continuously revise instruction sheets in order to persuade contemporary audiences. I explore the persuasive strategies used in 30 years’ worth of Trivial Pursuit instructions, and consider how this history might inform the design of academic assignment prompts.