NSSE questions in Canada and the U.S.


Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro PDF comparison

In my research today I compared the Canadian and American versions of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) instrument for 2010.

This is the survey that over 1 million university students across North America are invited to take in their 1st and 4th year.

The NSSE survey page calls the Canadian version the “Canadian English” version.  But the version is not just different in terms of its “Canadian English” vocabulary (such as “school/college” in the US versus “university” in Canada). 

The Canadian version is different in terms of its cultural content and rhetorical approaches.

This post provides comparative screenshots of survey content to help us ponder why these differences exist.

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Website analysis in Calgary Herald

My participation in an interview with Tony Seskus, a journalist at the Calgary Herald newspaper, spurred me to write this blog post on mayoral candidates’ websites a couple of days ago:

Website rhetoric of mayoral candidates

Now some of the content has appeared in this article —

Can mayoral hopefuls emulate Obamamania?

By Tony Seskus, Calgary Herald June 27, 2010…

for a bit of fun this last week, I asked Tania Smith at the University of Calgary for her thoughts on a selection of mayoral candidate websites.

Smith teaches a course in advanced professional and technical communication, where students work on real-world web design projects and study online communication.

She reviewed the websites of nine mayoral candidates and scored them on first impression, message and readability, and interactivity, giving up to five points for each.

Calgary Herald website: http://www.calgaryherald.com/

Website rhetoric of mayoral candidates

View from Calgary Tower.

View from Calgary Tower. Photo by palestrina55 on Flickr

Many decades ago society started talking about how televised debates were beginning to influence election campaigns.  Now we have new questions about how new media influences them, such as — What makes effective website rhetoric for a mayoral candidate nowadays?

The city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada is going to have a municipal election in October 2010.  Although it is only June, nine candidates have put their hat in the ring, and they all have websites already. Tony Seskus, a Calgary Herald journalist, contacted me yesterday (June 24, 2010) for my input on the candidates’ sites.  I provided to him some of my general findings and advice, and critiques and ratings of all nine candidates’ websites, and a memorable image clip from the site.

As I posted this on my blog, I added two final sections that help readers think about the theory and criticism of website rhetoric — what methods are needed, and how my theoretical framework for analysis relates to what ancient and contemporary rhetoricians have said.

If there is interest in this topic, I may give an update in October/November on how the candidates’ sites looked on voting day, and see if my ratings have any correlation to the results of the election.
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Canadian and U.S. Rhetorical Cultures

CBC Cross Country Checkup comment page

Teaching and studying “Rhetoric” in Canada is different from doing so in the U.S. because of Canadian “rhetorical culture” within which we live and work.

Rhetorical study has flourished more in the U.S. because there is less social stigma against using and studying rhetoric in the U.S.

Consider one small segment of our rhetorical culture — among academics.  The rhetoric we are accustomed to use in our colleges and universities as students, teachers, academic colleagues, and academic presenters.  Our cultural context beyond the university/college makes a difference in how we organize and deliver our presentations.  It probably impacts the way we do “small talk” and network and give feedback among colleagues at academic  conferences.

In his blog post on the CSSR (Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric) conference in 2010, David Beard (alias syntaxfactory) describes how his experience at our Canadian association conference differed from his experience of the RSA (Rhetoric Society of America).  He writes,

The feedback was neither agonistic (as so many conference Q&A become competitions between audience and speaker) nor was it skew (as so many conference panel Q&A become about “the paper I wish you’d written instead”).

Why was the feedback not agonistic or skew at the CSSR?  Because that’s a norm of our rhetorical culture.

Thinking beyond our academic worlds to the societies that support them, I often meditate on the differences in the “rhetorical culture” of Americans and Canadians.  There are negatives and positives on both sides, but the Americans have an advantage over us because they actually study their own rhetorical culture in a focused and open manner.

Canadians need to catch up with the U.S. in their study and refinement of rhetoric.  And when we do that, we may actually excel in the quality and broad impact of our rhetorical accomplishments for the betterment of society.

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“Sustainability” vs. Sustainable Ambiguity

sustainable_developmentHave you noticed the proliferation of phrases like “sustainable product” or “sustainable business” or “the sustainable university”?

It seems everyone and everything nowadays is aiming to sustain itself as if it were intrinsically a good thing to be sustainable.

But “being sustainable” is not necessarily the same as “promoting sustainability.”

In this post, I discuss the way in which the overuse of the simple word  “sustainable” without the “-ity” at the end can be dangerously ambiguous  and can actually hinder sustainability-thinking, sustainability education, and the  sustainability movement.

This rhetorical practice may, in fact, promote sustainable ambiguity.

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Cause and Effect in Rhetoric (Part 7)

"Cassandra" by Evelyn de Morgan.  The prophetess that nobody believed.  (from Wikimedia Commons)

"Cassandra" by Evelyn de Morgan. The prophetess that nobody believed. (from Wikimedia Commons)

This section of the blog article “Cause and effect in rhetoric” discusses how cause and effect arguments are based on  Social Biases and have Disciplinary Power Implications.

For the introduction to the article, go to Cause and Effect in Rhetoric Part 1.

There is a bias in contemporary western society and culture which predisposes us to believe that the more likely “causes” are things to which our culture attributes power — physical matter, biology, money, science, technology, etc.

Cultural and disciplinary bias (to which most of us are subject without realizing it) makes it much harder for scholars to argue cause/effect relationships that are culturally less plausible. Continue reading

Cause and Effect in Rhetoric (Part 6)


fragment of "WW1 Causes." (Harris Morgan 2007, Sep. 21, Wikimedia Commons)

This section of the blog article “Cause and effect in rhetoric” provides a typology of cause-effect arguments found in rhetorical scholarship.

It answers the question, “when scholars of rhetoric publish criticism, rhetorical histories, or textbooks and educational literature, how do they make use of cause and effect arguments?”

Below, I articulate parallels between rhetorical criticism, history, and pedagogy and the three classical genres of epideictic, forensic and deliberative rhetoric.

For the introduction to the article, go to Cause and Effect in Rhetoric Part 1.

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