Revolution Lullabye

September 7, 2012

Heard, Cultivating Sensibility in Writing Program Administration

Heard, Matthew. “Cultivating Sensibility in Writing Program Administration. WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 38-54.

Heard argues for WPAs to adopt a theoretical posture and ethos of sensibility, which he defines as a constant, embodied attuneness and attention to the constraints that shape the decisions they make and the subsequent consequences of their decisions. Heard maintains that if WPAs cultivate sensibility, it can help them understand the ways writing shapes their local decisions and practices. In addition, Heard contends that writing program administrators take a theoretical lead in the field, helping composition studies as a whole develop a writing sensibility.

Heard draws his argument about writing as “a living habit of being” from philosopher Carlo Sini (The Ethics of Writing.) Heard believes that writing helps us be more human, and this larger consequence of writing – as part of a thoughtful, deep life – needs to be incorporated into our pedagogy and scholarship. Writing helps us, he argues, be attune to the values and practices that we take on and their effects in our lives.

Notable Notes

writing instruction isn’t just about learning how to communicate to others

administrative advantage of this approach- be in the moment, attentive to the local

cultivate sensibility through recognition and naming, self-advocacy, public intervention

argues for changing TA training to reflect ethos of writing, attentiveness, local constraints

Quotable Quotes

“As ethos, writing becomes a force of being that not only shapes our communicative abilities, but also more profoundly impacts the way we see the world, interrelate with others, and find personal and social meaning.” (41)

Sensibility can “position WPAs to attune more consciously to the ways that our material, political, and other constraints affect the ways that the ethos of writing is put into practice through us and around us” (43)

“Instructors and students need to be able to see their study of writing as part of something bigger – part of how they learn to live and not simply how they learn to communicate more effectively” (50).


Gallagher, The Trouble with Outcomes

Gallagher, Chris W. “The Trouble with Outcomes: Pragmatic Inquiry and Educational Aims.” College English 75.1 (September 2012): 42-60.

Gallagher uses Pragmatism philosophy to argue against outcome-based assessment, which he contends focuses on the ends of the educational experience, not the means, and argues for articulated assessment, which is an ongoing inquiry process that involves all stakeholders (teachers, students, program administrators) in determining what the hoped-for and actual consequences of an educational experience are, and evaluating and refining programs based on those.

Gallagher uses the CWPA’s “Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” and the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing to distinguish between outcomes and consequences. Outcomes, he argues, are fixed and rigid, explain what the conclusion of the educational experience should be, and are often handed down from administrators and professional groups to teachers and students.  Consequences, on the other hand, are more open to what happens, are emergent and developmental, emphasize potentiality, and can be surprising. Gallagher doesn’t demonize outcomes: he argues that the outcomes created by our field were constructed to prevent those not in the discipline from imposing their own outcomes, and he does explain how outcomes give programs a shared sense of common values and goals. However, Gallagher argues that when we read student texts through the lens of outcomes, we lose the student and the text: we search for what we want to find as evidence to meeting an outcome instead of reading what is there (and potentially there.)

Gallagher explains in the final section of his essay how he employed the Pragmatistic concept of atriculation to move the teachers, students, and administrators in his wriitng program away from setting pre-conceived outcomes and towards developing ways individual, internal goals for writing classess can be related to larger outcomes statements. The articulation processes he describes engage multiple people in the process, emphasize conversation that relate the program and classroom work to larger department/institutional/professionalal goals, happen in an ongoing, inquisitive process, and find ways to assess and track progress within the goals and also beyond, to the unintended consequences.

Notable Notes

teachers mapped their hopes/goals for writing classes, and those maps were used to discover areas of overlap or tension

John Dewey – pragmatism, inquiry-based learning and assessment.

need to find the spot between coherence and openness to opportunity, potentiality

Quotable Quotes

“Under these conditions, teachers and students merely receive the outcomes; they experience them as imposed, whether they were formulated by a distant regulatory body, a professional group, or some earlier incarnation of the local faculty” (45).

“If close attention to outcomes tends to narrow our view to what we wish to find, close attention to consequences broadens our view to include what we never thought to look for, opening us up (potentially!) to surprise and wonder” (48).

“Regardles of whether we find ourselves working (or choose to work) within the OA model, the challenge before us is to frame and use educational aims in ways that avoid the pernicious separation of means and ends, the rigidity of fixed ends, the narrow focus on predetermined results, and the imposition of external ends on faculty and students – while addressing institutional demands for assessment of student learning and maintaining program coherence.” (49).

September 4, 2012

Moneyhun, Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development

Moneyhun, Clyde. “Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development.” WPA 34.1 (Fall 2010): 161-165.

Moneyhun uses his own experience as a WPA who needed to create an evaluation system for his writing instructors as a way to explain how performance evaluation can be viewed as a faculty development opportunity. The yearly evaluation system he designed with much input from the instructors asked instructors to self-assess their work in areas of teaching, service, and research on both a numerical scale and through short reflective answers. Moneyhun argues that including expectations and rewards for service and research gave him room as a WPA to argue for insitutional support for sending instructors to conferences and for their community service.

Notable Notes

Moneyhun describes the conditions that must be met for evaluation to benefit instructors’ growth as teachers: instructors should be involved in creating the process; the process should derive from local university faculty handbooks and departmental guidelines; the process should encourage two-way dialogue between the WPA and the instructors; and the WPA should be clear about his role as both student and instructor advocate. (161-162).

The evaluation system involves the self-reports, then Moneyhun writes feedback letters and schedules follow-up conferences with the instructors.

The goals of evaluation: it is high-stakes assessment and also allows the WPA to determine who gets assigned special or desirable courses, helps determine merit pay increases, decides who gets re-hired, leaves a paper trail (positive and negative) (161)

not a peer-review system – but shows how evaluation can be a rhetorical argument to higher administration (the importance of service and research in the evaluation) and to the instructors themselves (expecatation of service and research add to a sense of professional identity) (163)

importance of making evaluation responsive to local conditions (165)

Penrose, Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession

Penrose, Ann M. “Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession: Expertise, Autonomy, Community in Composition Teaching.” WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 108-126.

Penrose analyzes the factors that constitute professional identity – dynamic expertise, autonomy and authority, and participation in a professional community – and argues that this definition of a professional could be a new way WPAs can articulate the goals they have for their non-tenure-track instructors and for improving their instructors’ material working conditions.

Penrose argues that the fractured nature of the field and the work of composition instructors – that the field, though broadly coherent, can look very different through the vantage points of sub-specialties, individual research agendas, and composition curricula and programs – leads to non-tenure-track composition instructors feeling like they don’t belong in the professional composition community.  Penrose calls on WPAs to make concerted, continual efforts to cultivate a professional composition community for their non-tenure-track instructors and graduate TAs, calling the instructors’ attention to the ways they are building their multifaceted professional identites, shared language, and common values.

Penrose argues that having a vision of what a professional composition instructor is will help in WPAs arguments for offering professional development and improving instructors’ working conditions.

Notable Notes

looks at research in what makes a professional and a professional community in history, sociology, higher education

even composition programs all founded on the WPA outcomes can look widely different

professional development can seem coercive – as a way to regulate, to supervise – not as a continued process of shared learning. They can be disruptive to autonomy and authority. (116)

studies show that high levels of professional identity among K-12 teachers lead to greater student learning (110).

trend from the autonomous professional (shut my classroom door) to the collaborative professional from the 1980s and beyond (111)

current pressures in politics to deprofessionalize education, to turn it away from an authoritative community that regulates itself, has the danger of making teaching an amateur enterprise, where teachers implement and reproduce but do not create or add to the knowledge base of the community (111)

definition of profession (112): specialized expert with dynamic knowledge base, has rights and privileges, and member of a social community with shared languages, values

Quotable Quotes

“The concept of professional identity is particularly intriguing in our field, where staffing practices intersect with disciplinary indeterminacy to create a teaching community comprising professionals with widely varying preparation, knowledge, philosophical commitments, and disciplinary allegiances.” (109)

“The diversity of perspectives that we value in theory and entertain in our disciplinary scholarship becomes complicated in the applied contexts of FYC programs, where contingent faculty are often hired to further others’ agendas rather than their own.” (109-110).

“Professional identities are not simply a matter of assigned status or recognition but self-images that influence behavior – determining, for example, where we seek our professional knowledge and to whom we consider ourselves accountable” (112)

“True professionals do not simply possess a body of knowledge but engage in continuing professional development and actively contribute to the community’s knowledge base” (113).

“Professions are dynamic social groups. Being a professional is not a matter of being free from community decisions but being part of them; not just of acquiring the profession’s knowledge but of contributing to it; not of working in isolation but of engaging with colleagues. Clearly we are aiming not for one of these identities – expert, autonomous agent, community member – but for all of them” (120).

“Understanding professionalism as collaborative provides useful perspective on the question of expertise, for it shifts attention from knowledge as static to knowledge as responsive and evolving” (120).

“Composition experts are identified not by the possession of a finite body of knowledge but by a rhetorical understanding that motivates them to assess, apply, and adapt their knowledge and develop new expertise as needed to meet teaching challenges in varied contexts” (121).

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