Monday, March 17, 2008

Hosting a conversation --- and maybe entering it as well

So, in scholarship we usually refer to "entering the conversation" as our approach to following up on and moving forward with ideas from other scholars - the Burkean Parlor - so I'm wondering how that is somewhat enacted in panel presentations at conferences. And here is an insightful (and helpful) essay by Linda Kerber from the Chronicle of Higher Ed on tips for chairing a panel, which is in many ways like hosting a party. In fact I use the "hosting a panel, hosting a party" analogy with my writing students as they are looking for sources and speakers for their papers. I ask them who they are going to invite to their party, who they want to talk about the issue. In other words, I want them to think about the speakers as real people, not just facts to support a preconceived position. As Kerber says
[C]hairing a session can be an art form. A good host can establish a friendly atmosphere in the room, make the speakers feel authentically welcome, and go a long way toward ensuring that interesting questions are asked and a solid discussion ensues. (That last is not guaranteed, but there are ways of increasing the possibility it will happen.) Here are some of the steps a chair can take to encourage an effective session.
Her advice seems wise and helpful. Newcomers to academia (even regulars) could use some of these points.


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