I. Principles of Visualizing Rhetoric
The idea for Visualizing Rhetoric began after being introduced to rhetorical thinking models, Richard Paul’s Critical Thinking model and the Constructivist approach to teaching. Its aims are to unite the visual and the verbal, the critical and the constructive; to present the student with a practical way to both break down and understand, and also build and communicate an argument.
The underlying principle of Visualizing Rhetoric, put simply, is that all communication is rhetorical (McCroskey, 1993). Communication presupposes an audience and a source. Furthermore, the methods of logical thought borrowed from mathematics, and too often applied to composition – namely the premise/conclusion structure of the syllogism – are not suitable for communication. Another paradigm for thinking about arguments and communication must be used. Aristotle called this structure the enthymeme, or Rhetorical Syllogism (McCroskey, 1993).
The Rhetorical Syllogism provides a shift from the purely logical mode in that it represents more accurately the way in which arguments are communicated from a source to a receiver. It adds to the premise/conclusion model (data/claim in rhetorical thinking) a third major element, called the warrant. The warrant is the bridge that the speaker uses to connect the data to the claim. In other words, the warrant is the underlying set of inferences (asserted or assumed) that connects the pieces of the rhetorical argument. It authorizes the relationship between data and claim (Toulmin, 1958). By adding this crucial and often missed piece to the compositional puzzle, one can see how it transforms an assertion into something that can be broken down, analyzed, critiqued and validated, according to Paul’s Elements and Standards.
Another element that enhances Visualizing Rhetoric is the Constructivist model of teaching. From this, we have borrowed the principle that students construct their own meanings through experiences and the social negotiations of those experiences. It is important in our curriculum design, therefore, to honor students’ experiences while encouraging them to experience the readings in a new way that is meaningful, authentic, and allows for personal and group interpretations. Most of the Critical Reading Process is done in groups. By doing so, reading will be transformed from a passive experience to an active one where students paraphrase, process, diagram, and take the essays apart. According to Richard Paul and others, this empowers the students and makes them more active, engaged learners.
Finally, Visualizing Rhetoric is based on the principles of critical thinking. By using a visual model (Toulmin) to express and view arguments, students can more readily apply the Elements and Standards to different parts of the argument. The Rhetorical model allows for not only data, claims, and warrants, but also...