Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2010

McMullen and Wellman, Writing Programs Outside the English Department

McMullen, Judith Q., and J. Douglas Wellman. “Writing Programs Outside the English Department: An Assessment of a Five-Year Program.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 14 (Fall/Winter 1990): 17-26. Print.

The authors describe the independent Writing Improvement Program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, created in 1982 in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, and interpret the results of a five-year review survey sent to graduates from the School about the kinds of writing they did in the WIP and how or if the program helped them be more effective writers. The results indicate that the students find the program valuable (if not during college, then after in the work world) and that the program needs to think about who should be teaching in the WIP – experts in the disciplines? those in the English department?

Notes and Quotes

structure of the program: certain courses are writing-intensive, a consultant from the English Department screens student writing and gives one-on-one tutoring to students who are determined to need this kind of help.


Little and Rose, A Home of Our Own

Little, Sherry Burgus, and Shirley K. Rose. “A Home of Our Own: Establishing a Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 18.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1994): 16-28. Print.

Little and Rose describe how the stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing were created at SDSU, explaining the changes that occured in the establishment of the new department, and argue that WPAs need more than good reasons for advocating for a separate writing program; they need to use rhetoric, good reasoning to argue for independence, which comes through an understanding of local institutional constraints, mission, and politics. They stress the importance of knowing university polity (organizational and governance structure); policy (principles and procedures for getting things done); and politics (who has power and sway, who are your allies.)

Notes and Quotes

go beyond the English department to the rest of the institution – get to know others in other departments.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing became independent at San Diego State University in May 1993 (Colgate, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UT Austin all around the same time)

Little and Rose, rejecting the metaphor of divorce to describe the separation of composition from literature into independent departments, adopt Phelps’ metaphor of describing composition as a ‘grown child’ who needs a ‘home of her own’ as a separate and equal adult.

They give their responses and arguments to the following objections: 1. Writing has always been in English (just not historically or currently true) 2. study and teaching of writing is necessarily linked to the teaching and reading of literature 3. the writing program needs the English department for protection (placing it outside will strenghten it, showing connections to other disciplines besides just English 4. composition is not a legitimate discipline 5. English departments don’t marginalize composition (just look at the pervasive labor problem and assumption that no one wants to teach writing) 6. money isn’t an issue (it always is and composition is a very fiscally efficient and profitable enterprise) 7. loss of graduate TA lines in English 8. if English majors dry up, there won’t be composition classes for English faculty to teach

“Creating a separate writing department does not, then, separate reading from writing, but terminates the exclusive relationship between writing studies and literary studies” (20).

Lindemann, Three Views of English 101

Lindemann, Erika. “Three Views of English 101.” College English 57.3 (March 1995): 287-302. Print.

Lindemann uses the CCCC debate between herself and Gary Tate (who debated the place of literature in the first-year composition course) as a way to explore what those in the field believe is the purpose and identity of the first-year course. She uses Young, Becker and Pike’s heuristic procedure of viewing an element as a particle, wave, or field (static, dynamic, or as part of a larger network) to explain three ways to teach first-year writing (she focuses on pedagogy, not theory or institutional relationships or departmental politics). Seeing writing as a particple – a product – results in a course that is based in the reading of texts (content) with the idea that reading enough good literature will give students stylistic models to imitate in their own essays and themes, a course where the teacher is the expert, the student is the novice, and that relies on grammar exercises and emphasizes form over invention. Seeing writing as a wave – a process – results in a course that based in process and expressivist pedagogy, where students write on subjects of their own choosing, where a variety of kinds of writing are assigned and encouraged, and where the teacher is placed as a coach or mentor for the student. Invention, practice, and drafting are given primary importance in a process course, and the course is interested primarily in the development of the individual student writer and his search for truth. Seeing writing as a field – a system of social actions – sees student writers as involved in multiple social systems that use writing to communicate and to make meaning (drawing on Cooper’s ecological argument.) It rejects the overarching emphasis on the individual in process theory and instead tries to teach students that they are part of several discourse communities, either through inquiry readings, connections across the curriculum, or connections across the community. How readers and writers relate to one another dependes on the context of the discourse and the values and norms of the community from where that discourse came out of. Lindemann makes the argument that compositionists must understand how they see writing – and how their programs and departments do – in order to have meaningful conversations and assessments.

Notes and Quotes

“Until we can find some common ground in instructional practices (or articulate our differences when we cannot), other discussions seem irrelevantly secondary. Until we can say why teachers and students meet together to read and write in a place called college, we cannot address other practices: placement tests, teacher training, program administration, hiring, and so on, meant to advance this work.” (289).

“Because product-centered courses assign primacy to texts, teachers pay considerable attention to form” (291).

Kearns and Turner, Negotiated Independence

Kearns, Judith, and Brian Turner. “Negotiated Independence: How a Canadian Writing Program Became a Centre.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 21.1 (Fall 1997): 31-45. Print.

The authors explain the transition of the University of Winnipeg’s writing program (housed in English) to a stand-alone interdisciplinary Centre for Academic Writing. There are some interesting connections to Syracuse: this move to create a stand-alone writing program/department was happening at the same time (late 1980s, early 1990s), the importance of internal and external reviews to define the necessity of a stand-alone program, making writing a more visible, all-university affair. They argue that the development of independent writing programs depends on some sort of faculty and administrative support at a time where there is a perceived need and available funding.

Notes and Quotes 

on methodology, the use of case study in WPA scholarship: “Readers of Writing Program Administration will be acquainted with histories of new and emerging writing programs (Kirsch; Little) and with accounts of changes to existing programs (Bean and Ramage, Howard, Little and Rose, Rankin). Reading evaluations of program effectiveness (Olds; McMullen and Wellman) and more theoretical articles (Gale, Carson, Gunner), many of us have focused particular attention on the case studies used as illustrations. Each of these narratives gives WPAs an opportunity not merely to place our own experiences in a broader context but also to learn strategies for strengthening programs and improving their institutional status. As Carol Hartzog has pointed out, these accounts also make a formative contribution to the field as a whole, insofar as efforts to develop sound programs parallel the larger effort to consolidate the identity of composition as a field…In a sense, then, histories of particular programs help to construct an emerging discipline” (31).

Canadian context: virtually no PhDs in rhet/comp, tough immigration laws for Americans to come on over.

Before becoming independent: They explain the difficulties both of implementing a common curriculum using instructors with no background in composition and rhetoric pedagogy and of running the program without formal administrative or voting procedures: things were done on an ad hoc basis by committee.

Went through a five-year review, begun by a self-study (connections to the Syracuse WP). This was happening at the same time as Syracuse (five-year review was in 1993). Had both an internal review and an external review. Both recommended that the program be made autonomous.

The review – conducted internally by the university who were not aware of composition pedagogy and theory – focused only on practical matters, but did note that a common curriculum stifled instructors and allowing students to opt out of writing made writing seem punitive (36).

The faculty from the Centre are in a precarious position for tenure because they are not in a traditional department.

Howard, Hess, and Darby, A Comment on ‘Only One of the Voices’ and ‘Why English Departments Should ‘House’ Writing Across the Curriculum’

Howard, Rebecca Moore, David J. Hess, and Margaret Flanders Darby. “A Comment on ‘Only One of the Voices’ and ‘Why English Departments Should “House” Writing Across the Curriculum.'” College English 51 (April 1989): 433-5. Print.

The authors comment on recent articles published by Blair and Smith about how best to constitute a WAC program, drawing on their experience from the Colgate University Department of Interdisciplinary Writing, recently founded in 1989 as a stand-alone program whose faculty are from a range of disciplines who don’t just assign writing but teach it in the disciplines.

Notes and Quotes

“The experience at our institution demonstrates that the interdisciplinary composition faculty is an achievable ideal.”

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