Volume 41, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
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Central to rhetorical genre theory is the notion of ‘rhetorical situation’ (Bitzer, 1968), which emphasizes context as sociohistorically situated. In the analysis of academic genres, this notion helps us to think of the contexts that genres respond to as dynamic, varying across time and space, rather than as stable and unified disciplinary discourse communities. From this social perspective, academic disciplines are theorized as including a great number and range of rhetorical situations (Paré, 2014), and the idea of genre variation becomes of increasing scholarly interest. In this study, rhetorical genre theory and the concept of ‘rhetorical situation’ provide a framing for the analysis of a recurrent discursive event. The event is the design studio ‘crit’, a weekly presentation and review of students’ in-progress design ideas and artifacts, through which the teaching and learning of architectural design is enacted in the academy. In a professionally-oriented discipline such as architecture, curriculum genres often need to negotiate tensions between the academy and the profession. Applied to such settings, a rhetorical genre approach invites us to think about whose values and knowledge dominate, and who has the authority to adapt the genre to suit its changing needs. This paper reports on interviews with five design teachers (one senior academic and four professional practitioners). The interviews reveal how the teachers take up the crit genre in diverse ways, including what counts as knowledge and competence in the design studio and how this knowledge is best taught, learnt and assessed. The paper concludes that students would benefit from a genre pedagogy that focuses on genre variation, its sources and its consequences, as well as genre conventionality.


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