Revolution Lullabye

May 11, 2015

Rhodes, When Is Writing Also Reading

Rhodes, Lynne A. “When Is Writing Also Reading?” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013.) Web. 11 May 2015.

Rhodes, the Writing Assessment Director at University of South Carolina Aiken, argues for more explicit reading instruction across the disciplines. She describes how pre- and post-course reading diagnostic assessments in the first-year writing program at her university helped raise awareness of students’  poor reading skills, which she argues affects their ability to write researched arguments. Rhodes maintains that teaching students how to read research is the responsibility of all at the university, and she suggests looking toward strategies developed by K-12 teachers to help teach students how to read. She explains that her university’s decision to assess reading has helped her writing faculty develop a language to talk about and describe what they mean by “good reading.”

Notable Notes

the appendix contains a helpful rubric for the pre- and post-reading assessments, looking at students’ reading skills in term of comprehension, analysis, and interpretation on a scale of 1 to 5.

Rhodes draws on Randy Bass (1998) who advocates for doing “diagnostic probing” at the beginning of the semester. Where are our students? Do they understand the purposes of reading (Horning)

Students especially need help reading academic journals, and they need to be told why they are reading something – for content, for a model, to critique, etc (this makes connections with Horning 2007).

Quotable Quotes

“Post-secondary instructors rarely understand how unfamiliar student readers are with any kind of text beyond short, simple expository and creative works.”

“Our colleagues in K-12 have long understood the syntactical differences that make texts more or less accessible to readers, but most college instructors do not have the flexibility that primary and secondary grade-level teachers have when accommodating readers with weaker skills.”

“It is time to ask what faculty can and should learn about teaching students how to read complex texts by examining practices and assumptions. In our reading and writing classrooms, we should explain explicitly why and how we want students to address the texts we assign.”

Rhodes found that “over half of our students demonstrate perennial difficulties with researched writing tied specifically to their poor reading skills. Students who read poorly when they enter FYC currently do not improve significantly as readers and writers and continue to struggle in their major programs.”

“We simply must not give up on making assignments that challenge students to struggle and engage with texts.”

“We don’t often define expectations for ‘good reading.’”

“Reading processes are recursive, requiring dialogue and feedback, along with revisions of perceptions and readjustments. Just as instructors expect that student writers will need time and consultations to rewrite their papers, instructors should also understand that student readers will need supportive class discussions and time to reflect on reading selections.”

“Teachers across the disciplines will have to engage in dialogue with students and with faculty in other disciplines to make our expectations more obvious and clear to students when they work with texts, to read and write across the disciplines, as well as to explore our own practices as academic readers.”

“We must explicitly share our expectations with students about performances that we identify as good reading in our classrooms.”

“Assessment of student reading should be a common concern across a university’s campus, not a singular skill to be housed in an English department or a First Year Writing program.”

Advertisements

November 18, 2014

Jamieson, Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals about Advanced Reading Skills

Jamieson, Sandra. “Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals About Advanced Reading Skills.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Jamieson uses data from the Citation Project and research on student reading skills and source-based writing from 1985 to the present to argue for revised pedagogies in first-year writing courses and beyond that help students acquire the advanced reading skills they need to successfully write source-based research papers. Jamieson contends that college faculty assume students have more sophisticated reading skills than they actually do, and she shows through an analysis of the Citation Project data that students are often working with sources shallowly and on the sentence level.

Jamieson argues that students’ reading difficulties are not the result of Internet-based reading habits; rather, she questions whether the students profiled in earlier research studies in the 1980s and 1990s ever had strong, consistent reading habits.

Jamieson suggests that the traditional research paper, assigned in a majority of first-year writing courses in US colleges and universities, be reframed in order to help students read more deeply, thoroughly, and critically. Instead of asking students to search for and synthesize a dozen or more sources, Jamieson points out that the goals of synthesis and research could be achieved by asking students to write a research paper that includes common course readings and extends the conversation with two carefully-selected outside sources. Jamieson argues that this approach could help instructors focus on teaching reading strategies and summary skills.

Quotable Quotes

“It is my contention that it is an error to assume that the goals instructors believe are being fulfilled by reading are actually the goals their students set out to fulfill by reading. This error leads to additional erroneous assumptions about how and why students read, assumptions that obscure the skills and practices that writing courses across the curriculum should be teaching.”

“Shirley is the student who lives in our collective imagination so strongly that what we believe to be her skills and needs shape curriculum, assignments, information literacy programs, and academic integrity policies.”

“Since I have begun paying systematic attention to the ways students use sources in researched papers, though, I have come to suspect that Shirley never existed. I do not believe that in 1990 there were many college sophomores who were able to read and engage with sources in the way we believed they could. And I don’t believe their children can do so today. This has huge implications for the way we teach and assess student writing and the way we assign and guide student reading. Indeed, I believe it challenges us to entirely rethink our pedagogy and expectations across the curriculum.”

Citation Project data and earlier research “specifically points to the possibility…that first-year writers have uneven success in reading and writing from sources, even from one sentence to the next.”

makes a distinction between misuse of sources and plagiarism: “such source misuse requires a pedagogical intervention rather than judicial action, although I do not mean to in any way minimize the seriousness of the problem by making this recommendation.”

“So, we need to take a second look at Ashley and her peers, a group of students who might be considered the poster children of the first-year writers the Citation Project multi-institutional research has uncovered: well-meaning students who are often anxious about correct citation, sometimes but not always able to paraphrase correctly, and sometimes but not always able to identify relevant sources. These students rarely analyze or engage with the sources they cite and tend to simplify the arguments within them…Viewing this data in the context of research on the reading abilities of students from a generation before them challenges popular assumptions about the laziness of the ‘Google generation’ and emphasizes the need for new responses.”

“In order to engage with our students in this way, instructors will benefit from a less-is-more philosophy. If students are all assigned to read the same sources, summarize them and place them into dialogue with each other, they can evaluate each other’s work and understand that not all summaries are the same.”

“However, if we develop pro-active pedagogies designed to increase the abilities of our students to engage with texts and their understanding of how texts work in general and as sources within academic texts, we may actually avoid the necessity of developing reactive pedagogies to respond to patch writing and other misuse of sources. That seems like a very fine reading goal for us and our students to work toward.”

Notable Notes

Margaret Kantz (1990) published a study focused on “a typical college sophomore” (qtd. in Kantz) named “Shirely.” Jamieson introduces a typical sophomore of 2012, “Ashley,” who could be Shirley’s daughter. Jamieson argues that their problems writing with sources and reading with sources are largely the same, unaddressed in college pedagogy for over twenty years.

Uses Mary Lynch Kennedy’s 1985 study of students writing with sources

Great overview of studies of student reading, writing with and from sources from 1985 through today

explains the methodology of the Citation Project – coding for source use, frequency of source citation, page of source that was cited, type of source, etc. Definitions of the different kinds of source use: 1. direct copying, cited but not marked as quotation; 2. direct copying, cited and marked as a quotation; 3. patch writing; 4. paraphrasing; 5. summarizing

when students write from sources, they are not engaging with whole-text arguments

students need more than one year to acquire consistent, expert reading skills

students often read for research papers with the goal of retrieving information from sources, not synthesizing ideas or understanding the larger conversation

students have trouble transferring reading, summary skills into a larger research paper

Citation Project data:

  • only 6.3% of student papers contained summary; 91.4% of the student papers used quotation
  • 77.4% of all citations were from the first 3 pages of the source; 9.4% were from page 8 or later
  • 56.5% of sources were cited once, 76.1% were cited twice

few college writing assignments (from those collected in research studies about college writing assignments across the disciplines) have explicit guidance on how to read, the goals of reading, how to use sources.

 

November 17, 2014

Odom, Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn

Odom, Mary Lou. “Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Odom argues that in order to improve students’ reading skills, faculty should adopt some of the pedagogical practices that have worked in writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives. Odom bases her argument on a three-year study of her institution’s WAC program. She looks at student course feedback and reflections from the WAC faculty (called WAC fellows) to describe pedagogical strategies that did work and that did not work to improve students’ reading skills. She shows that just merely asking students to read does not mean they will read well or learn what the faculty want them to learn from the reading.

Among the pedagogical strategies that worked to improve students’ reading were explaining to students the disciplinary conventions of a discipline-specific reading, asking students to engage with a reading on a personal level, and asking students to make connections between the reading they were assigned to read and either other readings or current events. Odom points out that all these strategies are also principles of effective WAC teaching. Among the strategies that did not work was using writing in the classroom or in electronic discussion boards to merely check that students had done the reading. Faculty complained that students in these forums rarely engaged with the texts beyond a cursory level.

Odom argues that problems in student writing can often be traced to students’ poor reading skills, and points out that reading is rarely taught beyond the elementary level: faculty assume students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in college. Reading in the disciplines is as invisible as writing in the disciplines once was, Odom contends, and she suggests that taking a WAC approach might solve this problem and better equip students with the critical reading skills they need to succeed in college and fully participate in contemporary civic life. In order for this to work, faculty need to be willing to reconsider how they ask students to read and what they ask students to do with the reading that they do.

Quotable Quotes

“It has been my experience that when we talk about student literacy struggles and practices in higher education, writing is talked about more frequently, more specifically, and with greater urgency than reading.”

“Reading instruction can be, particularly for faculty who want to move on and teach other content, unintentionally yet easily ignored.”

“Few and far between are the classes that do not incorporate or depend on reading, although reading skills cease to be taught or assessed.”

“Reading has in many ways become an invisible component of academic literacy” – it is not seen as the problem by faculty or students.

“Indeed perhaps the best reason efforts to rethink student reading should look to writing across the curriculum strategies is the WAC movement’s broad goal of improving not just student writing but student learning.”

“In sum, the issue of student reading is more than just complex; it is characterized by a transparency that renders it too easily and too often overlooked. Explicit reading instruction tapers off precipitously after elementary school, and students, teachers, and testing then tend to focus on the texts being read rather than the strategies used to read them. Just as texts alone do not provide meaning in isolation, the act of assigning texts alone does not guarantee that students will read. It is no surprise, therefore, that faculty dissatisfaction with student reading is vocal and widespread across the disciplines. When looking for ways to address this challenge, WAC, already proven to be a transformative force for teachers when it comes to writing, is a natural place to turn. Just as writing across the curriculum encourages faculty to consider the ways they ask students to write, efforts at improving student reading must begin with a conscious awareness that we ask and expect students to read in particular ways that may not always be familiar to them.”

“Our choices as teachers have very real consequences regarding how or if students read.”

How faculty can encourage better student reading across the disciplines: “First and foremost, faculty must see that they have a role – beyond simply assigning texts – to play in student reading behavior. Second, at the heart of this role must be a clear sense of the goals faculty have for student reading as well as a willingness to share those goals with students. Third, faculty must be willing to provide guidance for students reading complex, discipline-specific texts. Such guidance may come in the form of explicit conversation about disciplinary conventions and practices, but more often than not it can be conveyed in thoughtful, authentic assignments that students can connect to on an either a personal or ‘real world’ level. Adherence to these principles will not solve all the challenges of student reading; they can, however, begin conversations and initiate practices about reading that are long overdue.”

Notable Notes

research to look at: Newkirk (2013); Joliffe and Harl (2008); Horning (2007)

When faculty point to a problem in student writing, do they realize that this may be, at its core, a reading problem that is contributing to the lack of student learning?

Reading is an “assumed ability” as writing was in the 1960s and 1970s before composition studies challenged that paradigm (Mina Shaughnessy et al) – writing was shown to be far more complex than what students or faculty assumed.

Research shows that there is big discrepancy between what faculty assume students are doing as they read and what students are actually doing.

faculty have “a rather uncomplicated view of how writing and reading might work together,” such as the belief that merely asking students to write about the readings they read will result in critical engagement with those texts.

problem with assigning writing merely to assess or check that students have completed a reading (“quiz/coercion approach”), “reading compliance”

Freedman, “Reading to Write” in East Asian Studies

Freedman, Leora. “‘Reading to Write’ in East Asian Studies.” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Freedman describes how teaching students specific reading strategies, many developed for English language learners, can help both ELL and native-English speaking students read disciplinary-specific texts better. She describes an partnership at her institution, the University of Toronto, between the East Asian Studies department and the English Language Learning Program that used TA-led discussion sessions to help students in introductory-level East Asian Studies courses develop stronger reading strategies and skills. The TAs taught students specific reading techniques, asked students to apply those techniques on other texts in the course, and asked students to write several low-stakes writing assignments, like reading responses and summaries, that gauged students’ reading comprehension levels. Freedman claims that given feedback from the students, TAs, and faculty involved in this partnership, that students seem to understand the course material more deeply and their writing seems to be improved. Freedman argues that reading pedagogy belongs at the college level for all students.

Quotable Quotes

“Linguistic development, like students’ intellectual development in general, is often uneven and non-linear. Students need to understand that successful performance in academic writing, which may be a more immediate goal, is linked to efforts in other areas which are often invisible to the people marking their papers. (e.g. a grader will comment on an overly general sentence, and it will be identified as a writing problem, but the same grader may not comment on or necessarily perceive the student’s vague grasp of the reading material; the grade is given officially for the quality of the writing).”

“Reading was seen as the most fundamental area to address, underlying the difficulties many of the students have with research, writing, vocabulary, and speaking.”

Notable Notes

need to change the institutional culture around reading – it is not remedial education, but something that is tied to students’ writing and critical thinking

TAs led weekly sessions in each 12-week term (fall, spring) to 25 students. The sessions complemented the lectures (200 students in the lecture.)

low-stakes writing assignments used to gauge reading comprehension included writing an account of previewing strategies, writing summaries, writing informal responses in preparation for a bigger, critical argumentative/analytical paper

TAs used a technique dubbed “question-based active reading discussion” where they came to the sessions with prepared questions, a mix of comprehension and more critical analysis to lead small group discussion

Faculty and TAs noticed less patch writing, less plagiarism in the students’ writing

Reading techniques taught in the TA-led sessions:

  • previewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • active reading
  • learning vocabulary from context clues
  • summarizing
  • distinguishing an author’s opinion from the opinion of a cited source
  • distinguishing between argument and information
  • how information is used in an argument
  • visual mapping of an article

October 25, 2013

Artze-Vega et al, Privilgeing Pedagogy

Artze-Vega, Isis, et al. “Privileging Pedagogy: Composition, Rhetoric, and Faculty Development.” College Composition and Communication 65:1 (September 2013): 162-184.

This article, written by seven scholars who work in the “border” between comp/rhet and faculty development, demonstrates the connections between comp/rhet scholarship and faculty development work and argues for more collaboration between these two fields. The authors define faculty development as a “transdisciplinary site,” (166) list the ways comp/rhet theory and work prepares scholars for faculty development work, explain how faculty development research has informed their own teaching and scholarship, and argue for greater emphasis on faculty development theory and training in comp/rhet graduate programs. Their article includes an annotated bibliography for faculty development scholarship.

The essay makes a case for the political importance of comp/rhet scholars taking on faculty development roles: these administrative positions give comp/rhet scholars the opportunity to affect change on the institution and influence higher education in directions that could privilege teaching and learning.

Notable Notes

How comp/rhet scholarship and training prepares people to take on faculty development positions:

  • “established focus on pedagogy and the trend toward preparation for administrative duties” (166)
  • valuing of teaching and learning
  • insights into how students learn that can be applied across contexts and disciplines
  • good writers/rhetoricians, can prepare professional reports, materials, etc
  • understand that all learning, writing is rhetorically situated
  • interest in how people learn
  • WPA work is oriented to teaching/educating, not just managing
  • work often with instructional technology and digital media
  • familiar with networking through WAC, WID, writing centers

How faculty development scholarship can impact writing education

  • research on student motivation
  • research on student development, especially young adult/adult education
  • research on the impact of the holistic student experience on student performance in individual courses

how a faculty developer can be an “intellectual bureaucrat” (Richard E. Miller, 1998) – make change at higher institutional levels (171), opportunity to be a campus leader.

Problems with the faculty developer position – sometimes seen as an inferior scholar, funding issues (necessary to build strong relationships and connections across campus) (176-177)

Possibilities for graduate education: courses dedicated to faculty development, include faculty development as a possible career path and area of scholarly inquiry, internships in CTL (centers for teaching and learning) or other faculty development positions (training TAs, WAC and WID work, etc.)

Quotable Quotes

“Success in faculty development begins with admitting that we have more questions than answers and with accepting the challenge of continually revising our teaching and reassessing our learning” (177).

“These courses [in composition theory and pedagogy], we feel, could benefit from a closer alignment with insights developed in the field of faculty development: principles of learning from a general perspective, explicit discussion of institutional politics beyond the writing program, inclusion of models for leading and adapting to change within institutions, and broad exploration of curriculum design and assessment. Such training will prepare students to be effective participants in a wide range of institutional and department cultures as well as potentially providing them with access to an alternative (and greatly satisfying) career path” (176).

“Both groups [faculty developers and comp/rhet scholars] believe that continued professional learning is a desirable professional norm” (174).

“We [WPAs} know that teaching and learning are not the same thing, and this insight is central to faculty development work” (168).

“In order to be effective, professional development needs to be sustained not only over the course of a year but over the course of a career” (168).

 

October 24, 2013

Gilbert, The Problem That (Still?) Has No Name

Gilbert, Sandra M. “The Problem That (Still?) Has No Name: Our Brilliant Careers in a World without Work.” College English 76.1 (September 2013): 29-34.

Gilbert comments on Susan Gubar’s essay “Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010,” which is published in the same September 2013 issue of College English. Gilbert and Gubar met as young assistant professors in the English Department at Indiana University and collaborated throughout their careers. In her essay, Gilbert asks whether the present reality of women in the humanities and women in society more broadly measures up to the expectations and hopes of the generations of women who worked to disrupt patriciarchal structures and assumptions and give women opportunities in the workplace, in politics, in business, and in higher education. She questions whether women can “have it all” and names some of the new problems facing women and specifically women in the humanities: eroding departments and support for research; attrition of women on the tenure-track; the feminization of the humanities.

Notable Notes

draws on personal experiences and her own history like Gubar – she was in the first wave of women academics, encouraged by early feminists (Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Kate Millett)

the excitement – bliss – expectations of the early years of the 2nd wave of feminism contrasted with the realities faced today, struggles & challenges that weren’t anticipated

“diminished things” (32)

Quotable Quotes

Getting and keeping a tenure-track job in the 1970s, 1980s: “Yet there [Indiana University], as almost everywhere, the attrition rate of tenure-track women who didn’t make it through complicated professional hoops or had to move (as I did) for personal reasons was high” (31).

About traveling to conferences, giving talks with Gubar around the country and leaving behind children/husbands: “But the pangs of separation often seemed worth it: I used to carry a picture of the Cabinet around with me – a bunch of dark suits circling a long table, backed up by a woman carrying a coffee pot. When I asked myself why am I on this airplane? I took out the picture and told myself, that’s why” (31).

“Still, change is slow; it comes in increments, as wise voices tell us. Our country has a (male) African American president, and we women are now professors, doctors, lawyers in numbers that would have astounded Virginia Woolf. We are Supreme Court judges, we are corporation presidents – and we are a majority of graduate students in English departments. Wasn’t it worth the wait? For here it is, the world we struggled for. But sadly, as Susan so incisively laments, the humanities we sought to change have become ‘a diminished thing.’ In fact, more than a few of the other workplaces to which English PhDs might have aspired – libraries, research foundations, museums, nonprofits – have become diminished things” (32).

“Yet still: still, as I look around me, brooding on the hopes of my children and their children, my students and their students, I can’t help thinking, ‘Never such innocence,’ to quote Philip Larkin in an even more dreadful manner” (33).

Gubar, Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010

Gubar, Susan. “Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010.” College English 76.1 (September 2013): 12-28.

Gubar uses her own personal career trajectory – her work as a professor in the Indiana University English Department from 1973 through 2010 – to comment on the state of the humanities in 21st century U.S. higher education and the shifting forces that have affected women’s careers in the humanities over this span of 37 years. She calls in her article for women to protect and advocate for the gains they have made in the academy for the sake of future generations of women scholars and their students. She also argues for the necessity of the humanities in 21st century American society, contending that its decreased influence and presence on college campuses today threatens our democratic society and culture. Her article shows in vivid detail the specific challenges women faced in the academy, ranging from professoinal dress to juggling the demands of family and spousal commitments with increased service and administrative expectations as funding and time for research diminished in the 1980s and 1990s.

Notable Notes

“the wives” – juxtaposition of the English faculty gatherings in 1973 and 2010. “The wives” formed a collective, many had just as stellar credentials as their husbands or the newly hired female faculty, but they were relegated to a supporting cast. There was tension between these “wives” and the new female faculty – the “wives” were never able to be, never allowed to be, what the new female faculty were. (contrast to today’s “mommy wars”)

In contrast, the “husbands” and the “partners” of faculty in the 1990s and 2000s never formed the same kind of collective, as the husbands, wives, and partners often had their own careers. What this marks is a shift in departmental culture from 1973 to 2010 – now it is much more disperse.

change in departmental male/female ratio – in 1973, there were 73 faculty (4 women). In 2010, there were 47 faculty (23 women)

the feminization of the humanities (13) – referring to the place of the humanities at institutions of higher education, but how does that term serve to blame women entering the profession for the demise of the humanities? (13)

central question – what has happened to women in English as the humanities have become devalued, and what has happened to feminist criticism in the humanities? (13)

long lists of names of former female colleagues who left IU, left the profession

Gubar was in the first wave of women hires – early 1970s

touches on issues of dress, pregnancy, nursing, having children in the midst of a career, being single v. married in a college town

change in faculty replacement hires: instead of one-for-one or growing the department in the 1970s, less and less tenure-track faculty were hired – cutbacks (18)

When less faculty are hired, the workload remains the same, so the younger (and more female) faculty teach more and larger classes, direct more theses and dissertations, and take on higher service loads (18). At the same time, tenure expectations were raised.

increased specialization leads to less focus on a local institution/department and more attention to research, a national discipline and conversation (and empty department hallways). Problem of faculty retention (20; 22).

as women rose in ranks, woman-woman rivalry increased: women were torn between protecting younger women and giving honest evaluations, increased competition for limited research funds, salary compression and inversion (21).

today’s problems: gulf btwn K-12 and university education, international and multilingual students, tension btwn education and comp/rhet field, online education (26)

Quotable Quotes

“The conjunction of women’s successful integration into the humanities and the attenuation of the humanities is not causal, I believe, but rather concurrent and coincidental” (13).

“In retrospect, I sometimes think of my cohort as ‘the lost generation’; for a variety of reasons, few of them could or would stay the course” (17).

“As the ranks of senior male professors dwindled through retirement, mid-level women often had to become what is called ‘heavy lifters’: they had to staff so many service-oriented activities or engage in so much advising and mentoring that their research tended to suffer” (18).

“People became less grounded in local university business, more active with colleagues around the country who shared their fields of specialization” (19).

“To use a buzzword that encapsulates the situation, the erosion of herteronormativity that began first with the disappearance of ‘the wives,’ and then with the appearance of lesbians on the faculty, gained momentum” (23).

“the contraction or depopulation of the humanities at the present moment” (24) – less students, graduate TAs/PhD candidates, faculty…focus on vocational, job training, sciences, business, etc. More reliance on contingent faculty to teach, fewer tenure lines

“For all our activism inside the academy, feminists have failed to surmount the multiple forces that conspired to marginalize the profession, and therefore we have failed to insure the future of our sucessors or, indeed, of our own benefits and environments” (25).

“How do I honor the equity that women have attained in the beleaguered humanities without worrying that their presence has contributed to the feminization of the profession, driving men from it and thereby further downgrading its prestige and currency in the culture?” (26).

“Never has a democratic culture needed the critical reading, writing, and interpretive skills practiced and taught by our profession more than now” (26).

“We must sustain what we fought so hard to attain” (27).

October 22, 2013

Toth, Griffiths, and Thirolf, Professional Identities of Two-Year College English Faculty

Toth, Christina M., Brett M. Griffiths, and Kathryn Thirolf. “‘Distinct and Significant’: Professional Identities of Two-Year College English Faculty.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 90-116.

This article brings together three separate studies that investigate the professional identities of two-year college English faculty. Together, the studies assert that two-year college English faculty members have a distinct identity and specific professional challenges and opportunities unique to their institutional positions. The authors call for more inclusivity and attention to the needs of two-year college faculty in the discipline’s main professional organizations (CCCC, NCTE, etc.); better graduate student training to prepare two-year college faculty for their particular profession; and more disciplinary action directed at the contingent labor issue, which is one reason why two-year college English faculty feel marginalized and lack professional autonomy.

Notable Notes

The three studies (all use interviews, coding of transcripts as main methodology)

1. “Professional Organizations and Transdiciplinary Cosmopolitanism” – looks at the professional organizations that two-year college English faculty belong to. Findings: many belong to several (national/regional/local) and many two-year college English faculty members more readily identify with the professional organizations that focus on the needs of two-year college faculty and students (like TYCA or developmental education organizations) than disciplinary ones like CCCC because two-year college issues seem marginalized in the discipline-specific organizations.

2. “Positioning and Footing of Two-Year College English Faculty” – examines how two-year college English faculty assert their professional identity and autonomy at their own institutions. Findings: participation in professional organizations or in professional activities like research/textbook writing increases faculty members’ ability to enact change at the departmental level of their institution (things like curriculum, assessment, placement.) Many faculty members at two-year institutions feel constrained by outdated departmental policies and curriculum – these faculty members have more autonomy in the classroom rather than the department.

3. “Organizational Socialization of Part-TIme English Faculty” – looks at how beginning two-year college English faculty (3 years or less) are socialized in the profession by their local institution and department. Findings: departments/programs need to make an effort to introduce new faculty into the institutional and disciplinary norms and values of teaching English at a two-year college, but this is best done through informal connections/mentoring that encourages the professional identity of two-year college faculty instead of more patronizing, forced workshops or mentoring.

70% of two-year college faculty are contingent (106)

50% of all college composition courses are taught at two-year schools (93)

Quotable Quotes

“[The studies] demonstrate that two-year college English faculty face distinct constraints – as well as opportunities – in enacting their professional identities” (111).

“Activities that positioned incoming adjunct faculty as professoinals and colleagues fostered professionalization more than mandatory trainings and required mentoring” (110).

“Together, these studies suggest that professional autonomy is a compex construction derived not only from professional expertise, but also from shared recognition of that expertise by departmental colleagues, administrators, and policymakers” (112).

“Even though faculty drew on disciplinary knowledge within their classrooms, they often did not perceive themselves to have the authority- the footing – to assert their understanding of those norms and goals to effect departmental change” (104-105).

“This cosmopolitan translation from national disciplinary conversations to local context reflects the distinctive professional profile of two-year college English faculty: the kinds of pedagogical and administrative knowledge required in the two-year college English profession are often highly situated and context-specific” (98).

October 15, 2013

Dadas, Reaching the Profession

Dadas, Caroline. “Reaching the Profession: The Locations of the Rhetoric and Composition Job Market.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 67-89. Print.

Dadas argues that the discipline and specifically hiring committees need to investigate the locations  in which the composition and rhetoric job market process occurs and work to make hiring practices in these spaces more humane, ethical, and non-discriminatory. Dadas interviews 57 rhetoric and composition scholars who have either gone on the job market and/or have been a member of a hiring committee within the past ten years. She codes the transcripts of her interviews through grounded theory in order to find trends and patterns in the responses. Dadas’ article is organized around three locations of the composition and rhetoric job market: the phone interview, the Internet (including video/Skype interviews and the academic job wiki), and the MLA convention. She notes how each of these locations have embedded discriminatory practices: the phone interview, with its lack of visual cues, relies on the auditory modality and can force candidates to disclose disabilities that they otherwise wouldn’t; video/Skype interviews overemphasize appearances, visual cues, and the use of a sometimes spotty and new technology; the academic job wiki can increase candidate anxiety and spread false information about searches; and the MLA convention is cost prohibitive to many graduate student candidates who wouldn’t have normally attended the conference because it is not a central one to hte field.

Dadas focuses on the MLA convention timeline, asking whether or not it is in the best interest of candidates and search committees to have a coordinated timeline for the job search process. She points out that having a common timeline helps candidates compare and negotiate job offers, but questions whether or not the MLA conference – a conference that can be seen as marginalizing the field of composition and rhetoric – is the appropriate fulcrum for the comp/rhet job search process.

Dadas argues that hiring committees should practice empathy and think from the candidate’s perspective when deciding on the job hiring process and the locations in which they will interview candidates.  Dadas points out that one simple way to do this is for hiring committees to ask candidates what hiring practices could help them perform their best in the job search process, and that fair and ethical hiring practices don’t necessarily mean the same hiring processes for all candidates.

Notable Notes

need to look at timing and structure of job searches (84)

2008 recession led to an increase in phone/internet interviews over MLA convention and a jumping of the job search timeline by many institutions (80).

looks at the literature on the job market – almost all the scholarship focuses on the health of the market, the number of jobs, not the job search itself

relies on theories of location/place/space, both virtual and non-virtual (68)

Quotable Quotes

“We need to educate [equal opportunity offices] that ‘fair’ does not mean ‘the same for all.’ Only in challenging these institutional constraints can we work toward a more flexible process that allows all candidates to perform their best.” (85).

“Based on the dissatisfaction of many of the survey participants and on a decades-long acknowledgement that rhetoric and composition occupies a marginalized position within English studies, I pose a question to our discipline as a whole: is it best that we make MLA the center of our hiring universe?” (83).

“We have to talk about [the job market]. We have to theorize it. We have to give grad students some control over the parts that they can control so that the parts that they can’t control don’t feel so overwhelmingly difficult. And I think we should do that as a discipline, not just program to program” (Survey participant, qtd in Dadas 67).

Rose, Mastrangelo, and L’Eplattenier, Directing First-Year Writing

Rose, Shirley K, Lisa S. Mastrangelo, and Barbara L’Eplattenier. “Directing First-Year Writing: The New Limits of Authority.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 43-66.

The authors repeated and expanded a study conducted by Gary A. Olson and Joseph M. Moxley in 1989 on the responsibilities, power, influence, and authority held by directors of first-year writing programs. The study is based on 312 responses to an online survey distributed through the WPA-L listserv and a direct-email list of department chairs, and respondents included WPAs, chairs of English or independent writing programs, directors of college writing programs or writing centers, and those who report to directors of first-year writing. In this article, the authors focus on two trends in their results: 1. the perceptions of the most important roles and responsibilities of the first-year composition director and 2. how administrative responsibilities differ among WPAs with tenure, WPAs without tenure but on the tenure track, and those WPAs who hold non-tenure-track administrative lines. What Rose, Mastrangelo, and L’Eplattenier note in their results is that, compared to Olson and Moxley’s 1989 study, the responsibilities that WPAs take on – hiring and training teaching staff, determining curriculum, developing assessment models, writing policy statements, and managing student/grade/personnel issues – are more often shared and negotiated among several people (most notably the chair and other members of a faculty council) depending the particular contexts of the institution, department, and the WPA herself (especially in regards to whether or not the WPA has tenure.) The authors argue that the WPA is not a powerless position (as Olson and Moxley contend); rather, through both new articulations of WPA theory through postmodern and feminist lenses as well as the growth of the discipline in the past 25 years, the WPA position has become more situated, negotiated, and nuanced.

Notable Notes

NTT WPAs (those not on the tenure track) are often given roles “related to management and supervision” like supervision and hiring of teaching staff, scheduling and staffing, establishing common syllabi, handling disputes and political problems (61-62)

not-yet-tenured WPAs are often given responsibilities that are “clearly pedagogical rather than political in focus,” probably out of a desire to protect new faculty pre-tenure and because many are fresh out of graduate school with a current understanding of comp theory and pedagogy (60).

as compared to the 1989 Olson and Moxley survey, many respondents noted curriculum and assessment as WPA responsibilities, probably due to pressures on higher education and accreditation (55)

most important responsibility of the first-year writing director (as noted by chairs in the 1989 survey, chairs in the 2012 survey, and 2012 directors of first-year writing) is communicating well (which includes staying in touch with the chair, being accessible, etc.) (53)

explains definitions of power, authority, and influence described by David V.J. Bell and used by Thomas Ambrose in his article “WPA Work at the Small College or University.” (51)

interesting power dynamic present in many of the responses: female WPA/male chair

limitations – very few (5) responses from two-year schools, which further emphasizes the invisibility of the 2-year college WPA in our scholarship (47)

WPAs as “middle management” (45).

Quotable Quotes

“Although Olson and Moxley defined power in the duties of a writing program director and concluded that composition directors were relatively powerless, respondents to our survey suggest that our understanding of the situated and strategic negotiation of WPA agency has become more nuanced, accounting for the agency of others with whom we work as well as our own” (63).

“Our discipline’s understanding of power, especially as it relates to writing program administration, and how it functions has shifted dramatically in the last quarter of a century due to feminist, Foucauldian, and post-Foucauldian theory, as well as our own maturing as a discipline. THe power of writing program directors, whether they are first-year program directors or other program directors, continues to be a topic of interest to composition studies scholars because power itself is so fluid and complicated” (63).

“The WPA’s job is now recognized as collaborative and inter relational, with the WPA observing and interacting daily with constituencies who have multiple – and sometimes contradictory – agendas” (50).

“We draw from the survey results, respondents free-text comments, and the literature to suggest that a more useful method of thinking about WPA’s agency is to recognize that these different political instruments are always negotiated, that they are consistently and constantly changing, and that the rhetorical situation in all of its complexity always impacts a WPA’s ability to make change. A rhetorically and politically astute WPA can examine which political instrument – influence, power, or authority – would have the greatest impact, as well as the compromises and negotiations she or he is willing to make to accomplish his or her long- and short-term goals” (51-52).

“A WPA’s activities create cultural capital that determines his or her role within the institution” (45).

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.