Revolution Lullabye

September 7, 2012

Gallagher, The Trouble with Outcomes

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

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

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

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

Notable Notes

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

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

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

Quotable Quotes

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

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

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


June 12, 2009

Britton, The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing

Britton, James. “The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing.” In Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Eds. Cooper and Odell. Urbana: NCTE, 1978. 13-28.

Britton, who had previously articulated his theory of discourse, uses this essay to answer two questions about writing: Who is it for? and What is it for? He finds that the answers to those questions differ based on the kind of writing the writer is engaging in. Transactional writing, one of his categories of discourse, places the writer in the role of the participant whose writing is a communicative goal that is interpreted piecemeal by a reader. Poetic writing, on the other hand, places the writer in the role of the spectator whose writing is an end in itself that is interpreted globally by the reader. Expressive writing – placed in the middle of the transactional and poetic spectrum – requires both the spectator and participant persepective, and writers must be able to negotiate the cognitive and affective ordering that is inherent to both to write a successful composition.

Notable Notes

draws on Langer: cognitive and affective order – art is the combination of our congitive and affective responses to experiences, expressive writing requires both

three stages of writing process: preparation, incubation, articulation

organizing power of generalization – concern with the global, nto the details (physiognomic perception)

April 15, 2009

Broad, What We Really Value

Broad, Bob. What We Really Value: Beyond Rubrics in Teaching and Assessing Writing. Logan: Utah State UP, 2003.

Broad introduces the practice of dynamic criteria mapping (DCM) as an inquiry-driven alternative to static, traditional rubrics that have a normative rather than descriptive function, not even addressing many of the things are taught in writing classes (therefore not a valid assessment). His book is a case study of the use of DCM at “City University,” a university with 4000 students in a 3-course English sequence that is assessed through portfolios, graded collectively by 3-teacher teams. Instead of starting with certain textual features to check off, DCM asks teachers and assessors to describe what they see in a text (good and bad.) Together, the instructors find synonyms and antonyms for what they notice, categorize similar ones, and create a visual map that illustrates the values about good writing that the program’s teachers hold collectively. This method, though time-consuming and messy, better articulates the complex processes and ideas that students are showing in their writing. The process is locally, site-baed: though the method of DCM can be used, individual maps cannot be transported across institutions or even across years; it should be a conversation about values that happens continually.

Quotable Quotes

“We can now face the truth equipped with tools (qualitative inquiry) and attitudes (hermeneutics) that help us tap the energy of apparant chaos without being consumed by it. We can embrace the life of things” (137).

“In their rush toward clarity, simplicity, brevity, and authority, traditional scoring guides make substantial knowledge claims based on inadequate research” (3)

“In pursuit of their normative and formative purposes, traditional rubrics surrender thier descriptive and informative potential: responsiveness, detail, and complexity in accounting for how writing is actually evaluated” (2).

“The age of the rubric has passed” (4)

Notable Notes

Vinland map – not appropriate now

move to validity(not the same as reliability)

the DCM finds textual criteria and contextual criteria (things not found in text but have an impact on assessing, before DCM these have not been visible)

benefits of DCM: 1. student learning (shows writing is more complex, they have a better understanding of what they’re doing well and  what teachers are looking for); 2. professional development and community; 3. program development and evaluation; 4. more valid assessment; 5. better relations with the public (values are made public, written down)

drawbacks? time-consuming and needs constant reflection and revisiting

must happen in communal writing assessment so there will be debate, disagreement, and discussion of values.

once the values are visible, you can start having conversations about whether you should value what you do.

a search for truth through hermeneutics, not psychometrics

Huot, (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment

Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Assessment needs to be rearticulated by composition and rhetoric scholars as an important, necessary part of writing scholarship and teaching. Huot addresses assessment in a different way in each chapter (highlighting its connection to student response, teaching students self-assessment, need to create a field of writing assessment, and a history of writing assessment practices), but all of his studies and discussion point to central principles for his new theory and practice of writing assessment. Assessment must be site-based, locally controlled, context-sensitive, rhetorically-based, and accessible (to students, public, teachers, adminstrators.) Composition and rhetoric scholars and teachers are doing themselves no favors by abdicating assessment to education or to self-appointed writing assessment specialists; assessment is an issue that must be taken up by every WPA and teacher.

Quotable Quotes

“Instead of envisioning assessment as a way to enforce certain culturally positioned standards and refuse entrance to certain people and groups of people, we need to use our assessments to aid the learning environment for both teachers and students” (8).

“People who write well have hte ability to assess their own writing, and if we are to teach students to write successfully, then we have to teach them to assess their own writing” (10)

Notable Notes

assessment is articulating what we value; it marks our identities as teachers, programs, and a field; how do our judgments get articulated into our assessments?

Chapter 2 – need to connect comp/rhet with K-12 assessment to create  a writing assessment subfield, pooling knowledge and methods, talk about validity

Chapter 3 – need to teach students how to assess their own writing; writing as reflective judgment; use portfolios to full advantage

Chapter 4 – history of assessment practices

Chapter 5 – teacher response to student writing (draw on Phelps) and the contraint inherent in the act of reading

Chapter 6 – writing assessment is treated like a technology. It needs to be reimagined as research. This changes the role and activity of the assessors (151)

Chapter 7 – the practice of writing assessment needs to be reflective, conscious, theoretical, and instructive. Assessment can be social action, something that the field claims again, led by WPAs and teachers. (175)

movement away from objective rubric-like assessments, more based on community questions, inquiry, research, and practice

technocentric argument (Hawshier) – the tool of the assessment should not drive the practice

February 3, 2009

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

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