Revolution Lullabye

August 24, 2012

A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs

“A Symposium on Mentoring the Work of WPAs.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 148-166.

The symposium, which features five short essays, is presented in response to “The CWPA Mentoring Project and Survey Report” published in the fall/winter 2010 issue of WPA. This particular symposium focuses on the mentoring needs and experiences of new or beginning WPAs at non-R1 institutions, demonstrating the range of challenges faced by WPAs at American colleges and universities.

Joyce Olewski Inman, “Reflections on Year One as an Almost-WPA” 149-152

Inman is completing her PhD and simultaneously serving as a WPA at that institution, against the advice of her mentors. She points out how difficult it is to seek mentorship in her role as an “illigitimate” WPA, citing the rhetoric of CWPA resolutions that call for WPAs with terminal, specialized-in-composition degrees.

“I am hopeful it will lead to additional reflection on how our field might become more accepting of the fact that ideal circumstances rarely exist and more conscious of the ways our own rhetoric may be dismissive, not supportive, of WPAs who find themselves in these less than ideal situations” (152).

Kathryn Johnson Gindlesparger, “Snapshot of a Tenure Decision” 152-155

Gindlesparger is a full-time WPA in an admininistrative, not tenure-track faculty, line, and she writes about the benefits and consequences of converting her line into a faculty one. She specificately cites the relative freedom and safety of an administrative position and describes how the culture of a writing program is changed when its control moves from a full-time administrator to multiple faculty members taking on small administrative roles. She calls on CWPA to expand their mentoring to WPAs who are not on the tenure track.

Darci L. Thoune, “The Pleasures and Perils of Being First” 156-159

Thoune explains her position as the first-ever WPA at her institution, describing the challenge of creating a centralized program in a formerly decentralized non-tenure-track instructor system. She explains how one of her primary objectives was to learn about the culture of the department and program, something she did in part by observing classes. She explains how many of her early initiatives at professional development failed, but through those and attending the WPA conference, she decided to implement different, more successful ways to create commonality in the program and manage the many decisions she had to make as a WPA.

Collie Fulford, “Hit the Ground Listening: An Ethnographic Approach to New WPA Learning” 159-162

Fulford discusses how she used ethnographic approaches (especially listening and observing) to learn about the culture of her new department, a HBCU.  She explains, though, that there came a time where she had to stop listening and start speaking, start participating as a member, not just an observer, in the department and college community.

Tim McCormack, “Boss of Me: When the Former Adjunct Runs the Writing Shop”  163-166

McCormack discusses the difficulty in transitioning from an outspoken advocate of adjunct rights to becoming the WPA who did not always have to the power to do the things he thought as an adjunct a WPA should do.  He discusses how he has learned the complex context a WPA works in, and although he has been able to come to terms with some of the decisions he has had to make, he’s uncomfortable with the dissonance with the progressive stance our scholarship often takes about contingent labor and the day-to-day administrative decisions about contingent faculty WPAs need to make.

“My WPA role at the college has evolved from my unquestioning righteousness in support of adjunct faculty to a more nuanced understanding that includes making decisions based on what is good for the writing program and our students.”

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August 23, 2012

Cambridge, Research and Policy: Antithetical or Complementary?

Cambridge, Barbara. “Research and Policy: Antithetical or Complementary?” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 135-147.

Cambridge uses her experience meeting with the Secretary of Education Duncan with other NCTE representatives to reflect on the relationship between research and policy-making in the US and to call on compositionists and writing program administrators to use their expertise in writing teaching and learning to impact educational policy.

Cambridge resists the notion that legislators don’t listen or don’t care about writing research; she cites examples from studies done on the impact of research on policy to show that legislators and policy-makers are working in a complex political situation, so that their decisions do not always mesh with what we in the field think should happen. The research Cambridge cites does show that legislators do relies on “intermediaries”: trusted sources of research-based information on public policy issues.  Cambridge argues that writing program administrators and compositionists can become these intermediaries and impact public policy decisions if 1. we craft long-term, trusted relationships with policy makers; 2. become knowledgable about policy issues and build those into our research agenda so that we can give pertinent information in a timely manner so we become “go-to” experts; 3. teach public writing in our composition classroom so that our students have “rhetorical agency in the current political climate” (143); 4. argue for changes in tenure guidelines that count policy research and public policy work as research, not service; and 5. understand and communicate to others how important research is to policy work.

Notable Notes

Bogenschneider and Corbett study: how sound research affects policy: “allocations – altering how resources are distributed; tactics – altering how policies and programs are designed; solutions – altering how policies and programs are pursued; framework – altering how we basically think about certain social issues; salience – altering how much importance we give an issue; awareness – altering even how we think about doing policy” (qtd. 293) (146)

importance of narration in public writing and rhetoric. The Common Core has de-emphasized narration in favor of argumentation. Does that really prepare our students for being effective citizens in a democracy? What is lost? (144)

know your legislator = knowing your audience. It’s basic rhetorical strategy.

timeliness is key – research isn’t valuable unless it’s available as (or before) decisions are being made.

Quotable Quotes

“Unless colleges and universities wake up to the crisis in our political system; acknowledge their responsibility to address it in multiple ways, including figuring out how to generate and communicate research that applies to the system; and value those of its faculty members and administrators who develop expertise in that responsibility, colleges and universities are failing the society in which they operate.” (146).

 

August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

August 14, 2012

Lamos, Credentialing College Writing Teachers

Lamos, Steve. “Credentialing College Writing Teachers: WPAs and Labor Reform.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 45-72. Print.

Lamos argues for a national credentialing system for college writing teachers as a way both to define and value the specific knowledges and skills of college writing teachers and to create “occupational closure” to help improve the labor conditions of non-tenure-track writing instructors (47). Lamos argues that writing program administrators, as “middle managers,” should lead the case for a national credentialing system, one that models (in part) the system already in place for K-12 educators. He contends that credentialing writing instructors is beneficial to the research-centered university, which has traditionally marginalized the work of teaching, because it addresses the current pressures the reseach-centered univeristy faces, including accountability to undergraduate teaching, competition for undergraduate tuition dollars, and the need for local community engagement. Lamos sees credentialing as complementary to unionization – it can strengthen collective bargaining. Lamos draws on Adler-Kassner’s concept of “story-changing” as a tool for WPAs to use to advocate for writing teacher credentialing. He calls for a CWPA task force to look into the ways a national credentialing system might be put into place and also encourages WPAs to try developing localized systems of peer-review and education in the meantime.

Notable Notes

need to define what writing teachers should know, how to assess that, and how to develop hiring and re-credentialing systems

writing teacher education should include coursework, practical experience (better than current TA training at many institutions), on-going mentoring, assessment and evaluation, and professional development

assessment could be a combination of K-12-like credentialing tests and teacher portfolios

need for both a national and a local plan

the economics of labor: credentialling can make college writing teachers more scarce, thus helping WPAs make the argument for better working conditions

credentialing already is there for teachers, OTs, PTs, nurses, etc….many professions have credentialing systems

credentialing can open up the opportunity for more graduate programs that are not solely focused on producing PhDs and give MAs a certification that is marketable.

what is lost when we make a credential?

assessment based in peer-review: writing teachers should participate in cross-institutional peer review

 

 

August 13, 2012

Dobrin, Ecology and Concepts of Technology

Dobrin, Sidney I. “Ecology and Concepts of Technology.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 175-198

This is a review of four recently published books:

Baron, Dennis. A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Blair, Kristine, Radhika Gajjalaand, and Christine Tulley. Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action. Cresskill: Hampton Press, 2008. Print.

DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Heidi A.McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe, eds. Technological Ecologies and Sustainability. Computers and Composition Digital Press. 2009. http://ccdigitalpress.org/tes/

Selber, Stuart, ed. Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication. Colubmia: U of South Carolina P, 2010. Print.

 

In his WPA book review, Dobrin argues that the conversations in the field about writing (especially digital) technologies need to move past the idea of “writing technology as tool or apparatus” that can either improve or inhibit writing or writing instruction. Instead, Dobrin points to these four recently published books and collections to argue for technology as a concept and a way to do and think about writing, as inseparable from a larger local and global ecology. He emphasizes at several points in his book review that writing has always been and will always be inseparable from technology. He challenges scholars, administrators, and teachers to push the bounds of what they mean by ecology by considering (drawn from the books he reviews) the environmental impact of technology and e-waste, the spaces in which people write their lives outside of the classroom, the global human justice issues of writing and technology, and the gender bias in the computing languages and platforms we use to write.

Notable Notes

4 threads: ecology, cyberfeminism, rhetoric, history

need to understand the constraints and institutional limitations in the ecologies we write and work in

complex ecologies are fluctuating ones

importance of historical context for understanding how a writing ecology works – the technology doesn’t just appear out of a box

Quotable Quotes

“We have to acknowledge that the instituational limits, the environmental oppressions, and the human oppressions are themselves ecologically bound.” (184)

“The study of writing cannot be separated from the study of technology.” (195)

December 31, 2011

Aslup, Janet, et al., “Seeking Connections, Articulating Commonalities”

Aslup, Janet, Elizabeth Brockman, Jonathan Bush, and Mark Letcher. “Seeking Connections, Articulating Commonalities: English Education, Composition Studies, and Writing Teacher Education.” CCC 62:4 (June 2011) 668-686.

In the Special Symposium on the NCTE/CCCC Relationship

The authors explain how the SIG on Composition-English Education Connections has helped define a forum for groups of people interested in the training and support of writing teachers who normally would not cross paths, either identifying with NCTE or CCCC. This article explains the history of the SIG’s creation (first meeting in 2001), the effects the work of the SIG have had on scholarship and curriculum, and argues that the work of the SIG can form a launching point for future NCTE/CCCC collaborations that focus on the critical examination and research of pedagogy.

The authors note three themes emerging from the work of the SIG: 1. the development of a writing teacher identity that moves “across the borders” of NCTE and CCCC (674); 2. practical teaching and mentoring suggestions; and 3. innovation and growth in scholarship (connections with technology, writing centers, collaborations.) They also point out that the informal dialogue that happens at the SIG is crucial – the SIG gives those who practice writing teacher education the time and space to talk and come up with ideas (677).

Notes

The co-authors are former and current Composition-English Education Connections CCCC SIG leaders, whose members include WPAs, writing center coordinators, writing faculty, writing methods faculty, fieldwork supervisors, and National Writing Project directors (668)

topics discussed in early SIG meetings: Portfolio assessment, writing teacher identity, National Writing Project, literature/writing divide in teacher education

lists sample presentations given at the SIG meeting – other than those presentations, though, the meetings are informal, dialogic

Robert Tremmel and William Broz’s Teaching Writing Teachers of High School English and First-Year Composition as a foundational text

Good timing for the SIG: the journal Pedagogy  in comp/rhet signals the field’s interest in pedagogical issues, Common Core State Standards and push for college-readiness curriculum, WPA’s Framework for Success, NCTE and CCCC statements on the teaching of writing and 21st century literacies (678-679)

Quotes

Books/articles/scholarship alone cannot help writing teacher educators grow and develop: “Individuals must be prompted to come together, to convene at a time and place conducive to critical discussion and the sharing of ideas.” (677)

“These questions and the kinds fo answers that SIG presentations provide are inherently linked to larger research and policy efforts, and they are far more complex and central to the field than simply ‘what works’ in the classroom. The position and policy statements of NCTE and CCCC are the foundation for strategic initiatives, professional development, publishing, and professional conferences and hence influence the teaching and learning of English language arts around the United States” (679).

December 29, 2011

Reid, “Preparing Writing Teachers”

Reid, E. Shelley. “Preparing Writing Teachers: A Case Study in Constructing a More Connected Future for CCCC and NCTE.” CCC 62.4 (June 2011): 687-703.

In the CCC Special Symposium on the NCTE/CCCC Relationship

Reid argues that the research, scholarship, and practice in the training of writing teachers, which she terms “writing pedagogy education,” can be fruitful ground for future collaborations between NCTE (focusing on K-12 English education) and CCCC (college composition and rhetoric.)  Reid claims that as a professional organization, CCCC has turned away from the practical issues of training teachers to teach writing.  She insists that scholarship on writing teacher preparation, instead being regulated to the margins of the field, as a solitary-institution specific practice or “sub-field” special interest group,  can bring together a variety of members of NCTE and CCCC in order to work on developing policy and practices for the training of writing teachers. In this way, Reid sees potential for a sub-field (writing pedagogy education) to revitalize larger disciplinary organizations.

Reid uses her own efforts to chair a SIG on the Education and Mentoring of TAs and Instructors in Composition and her work on the CCCC Committee on Preparing Teachers of Writing to show how difficult it was, with limited time and resources, to weave together local experiences of writing pedagogy education into a coherent, useful, and theorized whole about the preparation of teachers of writing. Reid calls on WPAs and those who train writing teachers to stop seeing themselves as “local practitioners” and rather, as part of a national, scholarly organization whose aim is to “articulate a larger vision” about writing pedagogy education (692-693). She argues that forums like SIGs and commissioned committees are not stable or sufficient enough to provide writing pedagogy education practicioners and researchers what they need: momentum and diversity of members. She suggests that CCCC follow NCTE’s lead and form a task force on writing pedagogy education, which could help create and support research grants, national studies, or online clearinghouses.

Reid points out specifically that “few studies of writing pedagogy education are data-driven, longitudinal, or inclusive of more than one program.” (692)

Notable Notes

Argues that scholarship in writing pedagogy education can address Patricia Stock’s 3rd question in what English education is: “(1) What is English? (2) How is English best taught and learned? and (3) How are teachers of English best prepared for their professional work?” (368, Stock “NCTE and the Preparation of Teachers of the English Language Arts,” 2010)

common problem in writing pedagogy education: the local: the isolation of individual writing programs, institution-specific needs and policies. No national network or conversation.

problems facing writing pedagogy education: How do you quantify teacher quality (tie in with national discussions on teacher tenure)? How can you measure writing learning as connected to teacher quality? How long does it take to develop good writing practices?  (692)

Move beyond the discussion of “what worked for us.” (692)

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