Revolution Lullabye

November 19, 2010

Phelps, Mobilizing Human Resources

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Mobilizing Human Resources.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 73-96. Print.

Phelps gives a case study of “Cicero University,” a university that is at the same time shrinking its enrollment by 20% and developing a new writing program. She points out that the most glaring resource problem might seem to be financial, but in fact, the biggest challenge that this WPA faces is one of human resources – the WPA must tap into the talents and potential of the instructors and TAs of the program to pull off a revision of the curriculum. She argues that the part-time faculty instructors who worked in the program before are the WPA’s faculty – they are the ones that will either buy in or buy out of the program. The WPA in this position must work to create out of this “disparate group of people” a “community of teachers with the skills and commitment to plan the changes, adapt to them, and work together to successfully implement new goals” (83). She argues that this WPA challenge can be approached with three tasks: 1. create intellectual capital and make it accessible (the program’s knowledge base and practical expertise as represented by all members.) 2. create social capital (a social network of commmuniation and trust); 3. reorganize work roles and work processes to fit a new instructional plan and 4. determine how to fund these solutions.

Notes and Quotes

“Human resources in a literal sense may refer to the number of personnel lines or dollars you have on budget, the types of employees, or the person hours you can tap for some task. But more fundamentally they are the talents and human potential represented among people who work for or with the program. Like any resource, they can be cultivated, expanded, and deployed effeciently and ethically; or they can be squandered, misdirected, underestimated, or diminshed. Human capital is a more crucial resource than dollars, technology, or even time. By investing energy, pride, and commitment in their work, people provide the knowledge, imagination, motivation, and skill without which the program cannot use other types of resources effectively, or at all” (82).

You can’t just replace the whole corps of part-time instructors. “They are your faculty” (83) They have varing backgrounds, but you must cultivate them into a teaching community, one that proposes, implements changes. That’s your job as a leader – not to impose some theory but to allow them to build it.

Argues that you can’t just come up with a plan for yourself and then ask for the money. Program building is a dynamic process and an effective WPA has to seek out synergies.

1990s was a time of change in higher ed – change brought on by troubled economic times, shifting demographi

cs, changing technologies, weak economy, shrinking pool of undergraduate students, move to making “student centered” universities, emphasis on interdiciplinary learning and cooperation between units

build intellectual capital through professional development (87) that involves and serves everyone in the program. List of professional development options on pg 88

opportunity costs of offering professional development to different constituencies (TAs, PhDs in comp/rhet)

the importance of being transparent about information and ideas in the program

Cooper, et al, What Happens When Discourse Communities Collide

Cooper, Allene, et al. “What Happens When Discourse Communities Collide? Portfolio Assessment and Non-Tenure-Track Faculty.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 44-52. Print.

Cooper, the Writing Program Director at Boise States, explains in this case study how her program moved from a proficiency exam to portfolio assessment to evaluate students at the end of the required writing courses. This change in assessment method came at a difficult time for many of the adjuncts in the program: 1. the new president of the university called them, along with the other adjuncts at the university (who taught 40% of the courses) “a dime a dozen,” 2. the number of TAs teaching in the program quadrulpled (making the adjuncts feel like their jobs were threatened, and 3. the TAs formed a strong teaching community around a shared syllabus (making the adjuncts feel outside this new constituency and thinking that they too would have to teach around a shared syllabus.) There was obvious tension between the adjuncts and TAs, a tension that came out in a shared grading session of the portfolios, where instead of focusing on the students’ writing, the adjuncts and TAs began to attack one another’s assignments and teaching methods. There was hope that the portfolio assessment would help cultivate camaraderie, but it was apparent that there were deeper issues between the two discourse communities, who “ran aground on issues of theory, pedagogy, hegemony, and economics.” (48). Cooper describes the options a WPA has in this situation and the WPA’s conflicting responsibilities: running this student assessment, training TAs, cultivating morale.

Notes and Quotes

“Your adjunct faculty, like their counterparts at other colleges and universities, have traditionally faced problems of low pay, no job security, no benefits, and no upward mobility within their profession. In addition to these issues of professional insecurity, they have faced the more subtle problem of isolation. They teach at odd hours and odd sites. Many feel almost invisible – it’s not uncommon for other faculty members not even to recognize them as fellow teachers” (48).

suggests that replacing adjuncts with full-time instructors might be a solution (50)

Cushman, Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing

Cushman, Ellen. “Vertical Writing Programs in Departments of Rhetoric and Writing.” Composition Studies in the New Millennium: Rereading the Past, Rewriting the Future. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003. 121-128. Print.

Cushman distinguishes between composition (tied to the history and the problems of the required first-year course) and writing (a broader understanding that suggests the teaching of writing practices and histories and theories inside and outside of the university.) She argues for the field to embrace the term writing and use it to develop vertical curricula which could counteract the troubling labor, identity and institutional problems that seem to plague composition studies. Cushman, following others like Crowley and Porter et al (institutional critique), points out that implementing vertical writing programs is difficult because 1. there aren’t enough PhDs to staff these programs, 2. current faculty in English don’t pull their weight in teaching first-year writing, and 3. the attitude that writing is a contentless course is a difficult prejudice to overcome. Cushman argues that composition and rhetoric scholars, in order to gain the leverage to establish vertical writing curricula, need to “tap into the cachet that writing has in many university administrations” by going outside the English department and even outside the university, partnering with business, government, and community members, who highly value strong writing skills.

Notes and Quotes

“Writing will be taught in the vertical curriculum by fully enfranchised teachers only if our colleagues in literature understand and appreciate that writing, a practice, is also a knowledge base. A social capital. A profession.” (123).

vertical writing curricula won’t solve the labor issue.

Cushman is arguing for “vertical writing programs to be taugth in writing departments by fully enfranchised writing professors. We can no longer trust literature professors to do the right thing when deciding where composition will be taught and who will teach it” (125).

She’s at Colorado University, Denver

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