Revolution Lullabye

October 9, 2013

Symposium on Massive Open Online Courses

“Symposium on Massive Open Online Courses.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 688-703. Print.

This CCC symposium brings together two short essays by Steven D. Krause and Jeff Rice who reflect on their experiences as students enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) sponsored by Coursera. This seven-week MOOC offered in July 2012 was entitled “Listening to World Music” and led by University of Pennsylvania professor Carol Muller. The purpose of the symposium is to understand how MOOCs change (or replicate) the traditional face-to-face classroom learning environment and to speculate on how MOOCs or other forms of distance/digital learning could impact the teaching and learning of writing.

“It seemed wise to learn more about MOOCs, and it seemed wise to learn about them from learners – who continue as perhaps the most consistent source of information about writing and learning to write in the field” (689).

Krause, Steven D. “MOOC Response to ‘Listening to World Music.'” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 689-695.

Krause’s response focuses on the MOOC’s writing assignments and the evaluation of those writing assignments. The writing assignments (2-3 paragraph responses to a choice of weekly prompts), coupled with the video-taped lectures and the discussion boards, were part of the course’s basic curricular structure, not really all that different from the structure of lecture-driven courses. At the beginning of the course, the MOOC had registered over 36,000 students; however, only a small percentage (2,731) of that number actually finished the course. To deal with the vast number of writing assignments that needed to be assessed, Muller and her graduate assistants turned over the grading to the students themselves in a kind of “crowdsourced” assessment, with peers evaluating each other’s writing responses based on an (under-explained) 10-point rubric.

Krause notes the problems of this kind of under-directed peer evaluation and response and contrasts it with the research on peer evaluation in the classroom, which does work well given the correct guidelines and constraints. He points out that one of the key issues of this crowdsourced grading is accountability – there is no mechanism to reward or correct good responses or peer evaluations.

In his conclusion, Krause moves beyond discussing and critiquing the MOOC’s writing assignments to comment on the failures of MOOCs and some of their untapped potential. The MOOC he experienced was “content without teaching,” focused only on the delivery of prescribed content, and that delivery itself had a pretty low production value.  However, Krause contends, MOOCs could break out of this static pedagogical delivery model and tap into the collaborative, social, and multimodal possiblities afforded in the digital sphere.

“After all, a MOOC is first and foremost a content delivery platform, one significantly more interactive and dynamic than a traditional printed book. Perhaps future Coursera MOOCs will do better at breaking out of what is essentially a nineteenth-century pedagogy of lectures, tests, and writing prompts that go nowhere. Perhaps it will turn out that writing ‘papers’ for a MOOC makes no sense because it doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities of networked writing” (694).

“So the writing assignments in ‘Listening to World Music’ left me with a feeling I fear some of my own students might share: it didn’t really matter what I wrote because no one (including myself) cared, and I was destined to get the same grade no matter what I did. It was garbage in/garbage out” (694).

“And as we all know as both educators and students, a textbook is not the same as a teacher. If education were merely about content delivery, then Socrates would have been the last teacher and Phaedrus his last student” (694).

The crowdsourcing grading: “It was a strange feeling: even though the class consisted of thousands of students from all over the world, this review process was oddly lonely, even more anonymous than the discussion forums” (693).

Writing assignments in a MOOC: “simulataneously a bold effort at thinking outside the box and a foolish exercise that was doomed for failure at the start, an example of both the grand promise of MOOCs to challenge education orthodoxy and the delusional, wishful thinking of pundits and administrators who think MOOCs will solve various education crises” (690).

 

Rice, Jeff. “What I Learned in MOOC.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 695-703.

Rice, who was enrolled in the same MOOC as Krause, questions why he ended up not completing the course. He points to the lack of affect in the MOOC structure: the MOOC relied on “nonsocial” videotaped lectures, multiple choice quizzes, anonymous discussion boards, and short writing assignments that failed to keep him engaged in the course (699). He draws on Richard Lanham’s argument about the attention economy, arguing that the interactive, networked, and inventive environment of the Web cultivates more desire and attention than the packaged content available in MOOCs like “Listening to World Music.” Rice argues that digital writing invites participation through aggregation, and that participation leads to occupation and desire. In their current form, MOOCs treat participants as spectactors, unable to invent and truly engage affectively in the material.

“Our current emerging institution, we might argue, is aggregation. Texts, images, ideas, videos, responses, and critiques are aggregating virtually into shifting identites of information encountered in online spaces” (701).

“This aggregation keeps me occupied with a sense of learning unique to network spaces. Being occupied is a feeling, an affective state central to a learning experience or occasion. Being occupied is a state of desire. Being occupied is an occassion for digital aggregation (i.e. learning and expression). When I am occupied, I encounter (as opposed to just ‘watching’). In other words, I want occupation. Pretaped lectures and a message board don’t provide me with that same feeling…My issue with Coursera was not just that its method of content delivery has nothing to do with how content is aggregated online, but that I cannot be aggregated aswell in this particular setup. I am left as spectator. Message board commenter. Watcher of videos. Writer of two paragraphs” (701).

“What Coursera lacks, many higher education courses taught via lecture and graduate student breakout discussion lack as well: emotional occassion” (702).

draw on Jim Corder (the occassion) and Gregory L. Ulmer (avatar)

“The overall question of whether or not to endorse online learning because it will save/destroy higher education – at the level of MOOCs or some other type of iteration – is not a question worth asking because it falls into the cliche trap of face-to-face value or the fear of alleged corporatization. Neither response gets at the issue of desire or occasion regarding learning and how such desire might be facilitated in a digital age where attention functions differently than lecture formats and message boards deliver” (700).

MOOCs as part of a long line of other forms of distance learning (like correspondance courses) (696).

 

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January 31, 2013

Lang and Baehr, Data Mining

Lang, Susan and Craig Baehr. “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (September 2012): 172-194.

Lang and Baehr argue that data mining is a useful research methodology for researchers and administrators in composition and rhetoric because of its inductive nature and its ability to organize and use large sets of data.  Their article defines data mining, explains how current computer technologies make data mining an efficient and useful research tool, describes the process of data mining, gives an example of it in practice (from their work at Texas Tech), and names the limitation of the methodology.  They offer data mining as a tool for researchers to engage in a RAD research agenda, as called for by Richard Haswell and Chris Anson.  They believe that in this age of increased demand for accountability, data mining can help teachers and administrators develop better assessment techniques and argue for their programs.

Notable Notes

data mining allows for categorization, clustering, and the emergence of associations and patterns (178-179).

distinction: data mining is more inductive – the data comes first (not the hypothesis), and the findings emerge (179).

application of data mining to Chris Anson’s taxonomy of six types of research (research categories) (181-184).

example: why do students earn DFW in first-year writing? What are the factors? Data mining study at Texas Tech

limitations: the complexity and scope of the data; longitudinal studies are necessary to increase validity; it cannot completely substitute for other kinds of research methodology; quantitative methods aren’t as accepted in the field (190-191).

data mining process: (185-186)

  1. identify the problem(s)
  2. select raw source of data
  3. decide what measures or criteria to apply to the data
  4. develop a formal procedure (a repeatable process) for sifting through the data
  5. interpret the results

Quotable Quotes

“Data mining is the iterative process of systematically interpreting, organizing, and making meaning from data sources” (191).

“The increasingly accoutnability-focused climate of higher education demands that we at least begin to explore the use of data-mining technologies” (184).

“Data and text mining extend these activities beyond what is possible for us to do as individuals without the assistance of computer technology, as large amounts of numeric or textual data can be examined for various types of relationships, including classes, clusters, associations, and patterns” (178).

January 4, 2013

Matsuda, Let’s Face It

Matsuda, Paul. “Let’s Face It: Language Issues and the Writing Program Administrator.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 141-163. Print.

Matsuda argues that writing program administrators need to establish clear policy statements for grammar teaching and grading in light of reseach that shows the complexity of second language acquisition.  Matsuda contends that it is unfair to assume language homogenity in the writing classroom – the idea that all students come to the writing classroom with the same linguistic resources – especially in light of the increasing international student population in American universities. Futhermore, Matsuda uses scholarship from second language writing and linguistics to show that even with written grammar feedback on student writing, improvement in a student’s grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awarenss may not take place or may take place very slowly.  Therefore, using the principle of instructional alignment (where outcomes, instructional methods, and assessment strategies align), Matsuda argues that second language writers should not be marked down for their grammatical errors, since it is often impossible for teachers to teach students grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awareness in just a single semester.

Matsuda points to the field’s turn away from language issues as one of the reasons why writing teachers are so confounded with second language writing issues.  He also suggests the adoption of pedagogical grammar, and encourages WPAs and writing teachers to learn methods of pedagogical grammar (which is grounded in applied linguistics) in order to help raise students’ metalinguistic awareness.

Notable Notes

nice overview of scholarship in comp/rhet that argues for and against attention to grammar and language issues (147-154)

uses the WPA Outcomes Statement to show that although attention to style and grammar is part of first-year writing outcomes, the extent to which students master style or grammar or the weight placed on style and grammar is not specificied in the outcomes. (145)

writing teachers need to provide grammar feedback – it will not guarantee learning, but it will faciliate it (not giving feedback won’t.)

Quotable Quotes

“The key is to focus on the development of linguistic resources rather than to focus on deficits” (156). Punishing students for errors can backfire when students avoid complex constructions on purpose.

“As a rule of thumb, the proportion of grammar grades should not exceed the proportion of grammar instruction provided that can guarantee student learning. If, for some reason, the program or the institution deems it important and necessary to assess students based on the myth of linguistic homogeneity – that is, to demand that all students meet the standards that can be expected only of life-long users of the dominant variety of English – then reasonable provisions need to be made to accomodate those who do not fit the profile, including second language writers and users of non-dominant varieties of English” (157).

“If grammar feedback does not guarantee learning, is it fair to hold students accountable? If we take the principle of instructional alignment seriously, the answer would have to be negative, and we need to stop punishing students for what they do not bring with them” (155).

Adler-Kassner, The Companies We Keep

Adler-Kassner, Linda. “The Companies We Keep or The Companies We Would Like to Keep: Strategies and Tactics in Challenging Times.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 119-140.

In this article, based off of the author’s 2012 CWPA conference keynote address, Adler-Kassner calls on WPAs and writing studies scholars to be more proactive in the national conversations about what “college preparation” means (specifically what it means in terms of writing) and how that can and should be assessed.  WPAs need to articulate what it is that writing studies does (why the content of writing studies matters) and offer curricular and assessment strategies based on those basic writing studies principles.

Adler-Kassner points out that the conversations are already happening, and she describes five corporate organizations who are central in the drafting of education legislation and the construction and assessment of the Common Core State Standards.  These organizations are more powerful politically and financially than NCTE, MLA, and CWPA.  However, Adler-Kassner contends that this fact is not a reason why WPAs should give up. Rather, this is the time – while the Common Core is in its initial implementation – that WPAs need to work with K-12 educators to take ownership of writing curriculum and assessment.

Adler-Kassner points to the specific outcomes outlined by the DQP (the Degree Qualification Profile, developed by Lumina) to show that writing is cast as merely a skill – students are asked to produce forms of writing.  If writing is only seen as a tool, Adler-Kassner argues, then the discipline of writing studies is erased.  Adler-Kassner argues that WPAs need to emphasize the disciplinarity of writing studies in all writing classes, especially first-year writing classes, teaching students and other stakeholders the value of the central inquiries of the field.

Notable Notes

5 organizations that Adler-Kassner describes:

  • ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council)
  • VSA (Voluntary System of Accountability)
  • Lumina Foundation
  • DQP (Degree Qualification Profile)
  • Common Core State Standards

shift in the purpose of education to “college and career readiness,” a readiness achieved through emphasis of liberal-arts like skills (writing, communication, critical thinking.)  The ultimate purpose of 21st century education, as seen through these national discussions, is economic competition for employment (127-128).  Uses David Larabee’s analyses of public and higher education.

Her major three suggestions:

  1. “no vampires” – make writing courses focused on writing
  2. define what we think is college readiness (through documents like the Framework)
  3. build alliances with K-12 educators, even if we’re not thrilled with the standards they now must work with.

Quotable Quotes

Definition of writing studies:  “Writing Studies focuses on three things: 1. The roles that writers and writing perform in particular contexts; 2. The values reflected in writing and in those roles, and 3. The implications extending from relationships between roles, writing, and values” (131).

“This is because from a content-vacant, skills-oriented perspective, our discipline of Writing Studies is erased. Until we develop and act from principles about the meaning of what composition and writing studies is as a discipline, and then link what happens in composition courses – which exist within our discipline – to those principles, we are at the mercy of the companies seeking to keep our company. And to me, that’s a problem” (130).

“No vampires policy” – “Writing classes, especially first year classes, must absolutely and always be grounded in Writing Studies, must always be about the study of writing” (132).

“The key is to frame the study of writing wtihin the larger principle: that writing classes focus on the study of writing within particular contexts, the values reflected in that writing, and the implications of relationships between writing and values. Not vampires” (134).

“We must build alliances with colleagues who are immersed in efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards in Writing, especially K-12 colleagues, no matter how problematic we find those standards to be” (135). – if we don’t, there’s no chance of our voice being heard.  That’s the price we pay.

“I’ll begin, then, by updating the narrative that I’ve contended extends from documents like the Spellings Report. This narrative says that the purpose of postsecondary education is to prepare students for participation in the 21st century economy, but that faculty aren’t doing a good job with this preparation because we don’t understand what’s necessary for success.

“As I’ve said, answers to two key questions – what is meant by ‘preparation?’ And how should ‘how well’ be indicated? – are critical, because the responses provided to these questiosn will shape curriculum (and assessments)” (120).

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

 

 

May 1, 2009

Carter, A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines

Carter, Michael. “A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines.” Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 6.1. (2003): 4-29. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 268-286.

Carter outlines how the Campus Writing and Speaking Program, a WAC-like program at NC State (where Chris Anson is), helped departments establish speaking and writing outcomes for their undergraduate majors. Outcome-based assessment asks programs what skills and knowledge graduates should have, how the program helps students achieve these outcomes, and how the program could assess their outcomes and use their assessment for program development. The essay contains a list of questions departments can use to develop both objectives and outcomes (which, unlike objectives, are teachable and measurable), and gives an extended example of the outcomes from the anthropology department. Carter argues that such a discipline-specific assessment broadens both the responsibility of teaching writing and speaking skills to all departments and the timeline in which a student will be able to achieve these communication outcomes.

Notable Notes

outcomes need to be student-centered, faculty-driven, and meaningful (271)

outcome-based assessment does not assume that students will achieve something based on one course; it looks holistically at a whole program to assess its effectiveness in helping students achieve outcomes

compare to the continual improvement assessment in industry (ISO certification) and accountability movement in K-12 schools

the departments can state the disciplinary goals for their majors

what about students not in a traditional major? at schools with more blending capabilities?

articulate an assessment procedure with each department – including things like tests, exit interviews

the function of a speaking/writing professional (a WPA?) changes with outcome-based assessment

January 13, 2009

Schwalm, “The Writing Program Administrator in Context”

Schwalm, David E. “The Writing Program Administrator in Context: Where Am I, and Can I Still Behave Like a Faculty Member?” In The Allyn and Bacon Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Eds. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Longman, 2002. 9-22.

Schwalm argues that the WPA position is a unique faculty and administrative positition because it requires a faculty member (usually a junior faculty member) to give up part of their independent, autonomous faculty identity and engage in administrative work that they may not have been trained to do. With that in mind, he offers a guide for new WPAs, organized through questions that many WPAs either have (or should have) to understand their new administrative role. His questions include “Where am I” (institutionally situated in what program or school), “Is my job real?”, “What do I direct”, and other questions that get at the structure of the university administration, how your institution is connected to and related to other universities and colleges, and a brief overview of how the budget works. Schwalm strongly suggests that WPAs read higher education administration literature so that they can anticipate trends and participate more fully in adminstration instead of always reacting to directives that they might not fully understand.

Quotable Quotes

“Authority and accountability usually go hand in hand” (14)

Notable Notes

The difference between cost and fund accounting

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