Revolution Lullabye

January 22, 2015

Reid, Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection

Reid, E. Shelley. “Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection.” College Composition and Communication 61.2 (December 2009): 197-221. Print.

Reid argues that students studying to be writing teachers need to challenged in their pedagogy class with writing assignments that are difficult, that encourage open-ended exploration about questions or inquiries that have no good answers, and that invite students into critical reflection about their writing. Reid’s argument joins a larger conversation about writing teacher pedagogy and the pedagogy course in particular, which she argues has been under-theorized and under-discussed. Her argument uses her own students’ written reflections, collected from her six semesters teaching composition pedagogy at two different institutions.

Reid’s argument for giving students difficult writing assignments and prompts is grounded in her observations that writing teachers are often naturally good writers who don’t practice the same kinds of writing processes they teach their students. By increasing the difficulty of the writing assignments these future writing teachers write in the pedagogy class, they gain empathy and insight into their future students’ struggles with writing. Reid explains difficult writing assignments aren’t just longer. Instead, difficultly can be created schematically (through requirements of certain length or format, or requiring students to adopt a particular stance in an argument); relationally (by requiring a publication or presentation or peer review step); or exploratory (by asking students to connect personal experiences into their arguments, frequent short assignments, or asking them to tackle an unanswered or unanswerable question.)

Notable Notes

Reid makes the argument that the traditional seminar paper often assigned in graduate courses might not be the best format for teaching our students to explore and inquire in their writing. She suggests making the seminar paper a multi-part process that is constantly revised.

importance of learning how to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty in writing (210-211)

Mariolini Rizzi Salvatori’s theories of difficulty (her work is on reading difficulty)

Quotable Quotes

“Encountering difficulties as writers, with opportunities to discuss and respond to those difficulties, prepares pedagogy students to be flexible, engaged classroom teachers who can move between theory and practice, between learning and teaching, as they respond to the needs of their own students.”(205)

“Our goal in designing assignments to favor writing difficulty, of course, is not to make the whole course more difficult, but to privilege the kind of difficulties that increase new teachers’ experience of being writing-learners and thus strengthen their engagement with the teaching of writing” (207).

“We should also preserve space in our pedagogy classes for writing that doesn’t foreground difficulty; for writing that emphasizes play, experimentation, or discovery; and for writing, difficult or not, that is not evaluated. Moreover, while we may not be increasing the number of assignments in a course, we are raising the bar in some of them; difficult writing need not replace other kinds of learning, but we should be aware that we may need to cover less ground with our students in order to fully engage them as writing-learners. Furthermore, we need to design our classes to ensure that writing teachers who are experiencing difficulty in learning to write find support and have the opportunity to experience success. “ (207)

“Students who experience writing as difficult, but who can identify that difficulty as an opportunity for greater learning, and who then can come to see writing-learning as something that may be collaborative, productive, and satisfying, can build those same ideas into their writing class designs. That is, they can identify more strongly as writing teachers and connect more directly to the theories and practices of the field. “ (208)

“If we intend for students to become more astute at noticing how their own writing experiences, and particularly their own encounters with difficult and exploratory writing, help prepare them to be better teachers, we need to directly ask them for such reflection; we may also need to model, discuss, and praise reflective responses that draw the complex connections we hope for. “ (213)

“By highlighting the need for inquiry and flexibility, and positioning everyone as a learner—including ourselves as we remake our own pedagogies—we position everyone as a teacher. “ (218)

“Writing assignments that create difficulty, encourage exploration, and provide opportunity for directed practice in critical reflection thus reinforce one another in preparing teachers to participate fully and flexibly in the discipline of writing education. “ (214)

“Finally, if we are brave enough to argue that there are better and worse ways to teach writing, generally, then we need to be equally courageous in exploring and recommending better pedagogies for educating writing teachers. Composition pedagogy may indeed need to be “remade” for every class, but it should not be remade from scratch, without reference to common goals and practices. Even as I have been creeping along hoping to dodge or hedge this conclusion, I’ve found myself wondering: how can we face our pedagogy students’ ques- tions about what they should all do in their disparate classes, if—despite our necessary reverence for local contexts—we don’t face each other about what we should all do in ours? “ (217)

“Students who become English majors are often “naturally” good writers. The composition pedagogy class may thus be students’ first opportunity to experience writing as a difficult task, and then only if assignments are deliberately designed to challenge them as writers: posing for them serious difficulties, both cognitive and affective, in discovering and then communicating what they mean.”(201).

“A crucial step toward understanding one’s writing students— toward being rooted in the field—comes in sharing an equivalent experience of difficulty, rather than only sharing equivalent topics or genres of writing.”(201)

“The pedagogy class provides an important opportunity to be deliberately guided through difficulty in writing by an expert in the field.” (201-202)

“Writers who don’t perceive that they need such help are unlikely to believe that the benefits of the drafting process are worth its messiness and disruption, even if they experiment with it in a class or workshop. Until writers encounter real problems, not just infelicities, they have no true need for either guidance or revision opportunities; they may offer both to their students, but they can maintain their own identity as nonrevisers and thus remain disengaged from what they’re teaching. Moreover, pedagogy students need to be aware of the difficulties they face and the role of guided learning in meeting those challenges in order to fully engage with the field of composition pedagogy and put down roots from which to grow.”(202)

“Experiencing writing difficulty can also give writing teachers opportunities for increased inquiry into the whole concept of how learning and teaching might happen each day in a writing class. That is, as difficulty breaks down the writing process from a “flow” to a series of trials, queries, reader responses, and revisions, participating in the process can prepare students to see teacher intervention as a planned yet flexible set of assistive activities rather than as an intuitive, Hollywood-staged, “O Captain! My Captain!” ethos. “ (203)

August 29, 2012

Blakely and Pagnac, Pausing in the Whirlwind

Blakely, Barbara J. and Susan B. Pagnac. “Pausing in the Whirlwind: A Campus Place-Based Curriculum in a Multimodal Foundation Communication Course.”  WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 11-37.

Blakely and Pagnac describe the place-based curriculum of one of Iowa State University’s two multimodal communication foundation courses, arguing that a course that centers on the place students are at (the college campus) results in deep student engagement, attachment, and opportunities for students to analyze and make arguments grounded in history and context across genres and modes.

In their description of the course, Blakely and Pagnac draw on numerous theories of place, space, and place-based pedagogy, including Thomas Grunewald, Yi-Fu Tuan, David Orr, and Robert Thayer. They point out that place is often an ignored part of the rhetorical landscape: it is so ubiquitous it is unseen.  The course they describe helps students see the arguments of their campus architecture, spaces, and organizations, encouraging them to draw connections between the stated educational missions of their institution and how those values are made manifest and interpreted by the lived spaces they occupy.

Notable Notes

one central goal: get students aware, cognizant

assignment sequence:

1. narrative of a place; 2. deep mapping and letter writing about a place on campus (the relationships people form with places); 3. exploring a campus program or orgnaization and analyzing its connection to the university mission; 4. understanding campus art and architecture; 5. repurposing their analyses into visual and oral communication projects; 6. semester reflection

great citations across sociology, higher ed, architecture for place-based pedagogy arguments: Willaim Least Heat-Moon PrairyErth (A Deep Map)

course helped students transition, form attachments, create a new identity – a good time (first-year students) for students to explore campus identities and their own]

course design is flexible but coherent across sections – meets the needs of individual students and instructors

readily accessible and relevent content to write about

Quoatable Quotes

“place is profoundly pedagogical” – Thomas Gruenewald “Foundations” 621 (qtd. 13)

“Campuses are planned and designed to embody educational purpose and institutional mission and values in various ways” (17).

“Place is a central influence in our experiences and developing sense of self.” (18)


June 1, 2009

DeSana, Preventing Plagiarism

DeSana, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2007.

DeSana, a high school English teacher and part-time writing instructor at NYU, argues that students need to learn how to do original, subjective, interested research, not just retell what their sources say. She relies on an literature-based writing assignment sequence that begins with freewriting responses to a primary source, then analyzing and adding secondary sources. Her goal is for students to be the dominant voice in their thesis-driven researched arguments, controlling their source use with effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. She believes that this kind of assignment sequence, coupled with a range of plagiarism-proof topics that dissuade students from relying on online cheat sources and recycled papers, will teach students to respect the research process and not plagiarize. She has a two-part definition of plagiarism: source of language plagiarism and source of information plagiarism, both equally important to address and curtail through the proper use of citation systems and explicit instruction in paraphrase. She gives teachers seven tools and steps for identifying plagiarism in their students’ papers, often positioning the students as savvy, lethargic, potential cheats who try to pull one over on the teacher because of their Internet expertise.

Quotable Quotes

“For those of us who are vigilant, we will enter the library as dectectives on the trail of a more intelligent theif” (97), on the importance of checking print-based sources in libraries (like secondary sources, CliffsNotes) for student plagiarism attempts

“Individuality self-destructs in endless mirroring” (111), doesn’t see much good in imitation

“We must begin to teach them how to exert control over the chaos – how to shape and academic argument” (7).

“We have to require the higher level of thinking that is achieved through the simultaneous processes of analysis and synthesis” (6).

The retelling that happens in a book report “is useless for several reasons – foremost among them is that it is a shabby mimicking of the original. No one can write Poe’s ‘The Fall of the Usher’ as well as Poe, nor should another writer attempt to” (4).

“Reporting is a retelling of ideas found; it is not an analysis of ideas found” (1)

“As educators, we must teach students to realize that they are required to have their own insights into source materials. They must engage in a dialogue with the sources they consult. Without this dialogue their research is meaningless and becomes a mere exercise of collecting and organizing” (1)

Notable Notes

absolute binary between research and retelling

works cited only includes one thing from rhet/comp, a article from Written Communication about text/source use and ESL students

one of her plagiarism prevention techniques she dubs “non sequitor approach” – having students turn in copies of online study guides to provide them for comparison with their essays

prescriptive writing process and sequence = freewriting, notetaking, outlining, writing

retelling (summaries) are not, in DeSana’s opinion, objective pieces of writing, not subjective researched positions

focus is on how to teach students to write thesis-driven, argumentative, taking-a-stand research essays

May 20, 2009

Bloom, Insider Writing

Bloom, Lynn Z. “Insider Writing: Plagiarism-Proof Assignments.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 208-218.

Teachers need to use “plagiarism-proof” insider writing assignments not because they prevent plagiarism but because they inspire both student creativity and student learning of a discipline’s norms, customs, and values. Bloom gives several examples of insider writing assignments that she uses in her autobiography class, including designing homes for the people whose autobiographies the students read (Franklin, Douglass, etc.) and writing their own autobiography to learn the genre.

Quotable Quotes

“As outsiders suppressing their own judgments, student writers serving as ventriloquists of published scholars are not positioned to own the primary material or to trust their opinions of it. With so little of themselves in their writing, they have little incentive to care very much about their work” (210).

Notable Notes

service learning as an example of insider writing

May 12, 2009

Whiteman and Gordon, The Price of an ‘A’

Whiteman, Sherri A. and Jay L. Gordon. “The Price of an ‘A’: An Educator’s Responsibility to Academic Honesty.” The English Journal. 91.2 (November 2001), 25-30.

This article begins with a short piece by Whiteman, a high school English teacher, where she laments students as unethical, plagiarizing cheaters and calls on teachers to rally against them and those who allow rampant Internet cheating to happen and profit. She is countered by Gordon, a college professor who argues that if students were given more specific assignments that were difficult to plagiarize, a lot of the cheating would, by necessity, disappear. Whiteman answers Gordon by saying the kinds of assignments teachers give are to prepare them for future work in the academy and, good assignment or not, students should behave ethically and not plagiarize.

Quotable Quotes

“The invaluable benefits of abundant access to the information superhighway have been outweighed by its ability to create non-thinking, non-reading patrons of plagiarism” (26).

“How do we as educators reconcile our ability to teach effectively with our students’ ability to cheat and steal without our knowledge?” (26)

“Students do not plagiarize in a vacuum” (27)

Notable Notes

Whiteman gives up, says she should only focus on the “potential of my more ambitious and honest students” (26)

high school v. college perceptions on the issue

still demonizing, infantilizing students

investigate the problem – what can teachers do to prevent plagiarism? Is changing the assignment enough? What about schools’ overreliance on papers, essays, to evaluate students? Are their too many grades? (mine) connection to what plagiarism is – is it all about students being unethical?

it’s not about baffling, bewildering, upsetting, disheartening teachers. it’s bigger than that (me)

April 8, 2009

Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Basic writers are not unintelligent; rather, their writing is riddled with errors because they are confused about the basic structure and patterns of sentences and academic prose. Shaughnessy defends her focus on the errors of basic writers by arguing that in order to teach basic writers, teachers must understand what the range of basic writing errors are, why students might be making them (shuttling between two different codes, second language issues, unfamiliarity with written English tenses, structures, and punctuation), and how teachers might help their students write better through addressing these errors (assignments and in-class exercises.) Shaughnessy’s drive is to demystify the common errors basic writers make (punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, syntax) so they can move towards expressing their complex ideas and thoughts in equally as complex and intelligent prose. Shaughnessy does not prescribe a curriculum or program, arguing that each basic writing program must be created for the context of the students’, teachers’, and institutional expectations and circumstances.

Quotable Quotes

Errors “are unintentional and unprofitable intrusions upon the consciousness of the reader” (12) Teachers shouldn’t ignore error or argue for theoretical conceptions of the relativity of error (diversity of linguistic structure) in a basic writing classroom because that type of approach dismisses two important points. First, students are hyperconcerned about error and want to know about it and fix their errors. Second, errors force a reader to extend more effort to understand the writer, an effort that not all readers make and thus results in a loss of communication.

Her book wants to cultivate “a readiness to look at these problems in a way that does not ignore the linguistic sophistication of the students nor yet underestimate the complexity of the task they face as tehy set about learning to write for college” (13).

“Far from being eleventh-hour learners, these students appear in many ways to be beginning their lives anew.” (291)

“College both beckons and threatens them, offering to teach them useful ways of thinking and talking about the world, promising even to improve the quality of their lives, but threatening at the same time to take from them their distinctive ways of interpreting the world, to assimilate them into the culture of academia without acknowledging their experience as outsiders” (292)

Notable Notes

Basic writing pedagogy must be taken up seriously as an area of scholarship, study

Context – early 1970s open admissions, City College (CUNY system), no guide for how to teach these students who had never before been in college, instructors just see a “chaos of error”

Data – hundreds of placement essays from entering students at City College 1970-1974

confusion and unawareness lays at the heart of the issue. Students need explicit instruction, need to be shown the patterns and structures, templates of writing sentences and academic prose passages.

need to fix errors without disrespecting the culture and language backgrounds of the students

Chapters: handwriting and punctuation; syntax; common errors; spelling; vocabulary; beyond the sentence; expectations

problem – does not adequately address linguistic differences, boils things down to looking at the errors in the student text without looking outside the actual paper, the larger history and social context

lots of pattern-practice, sentence-combining, learn how to express abstract thoughts and longer arguments

March 7, 2009

Selfe, Toward New Media Texts

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Toward New Media Texts: Taking Up the Challenge of Visual Literacy.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 67-110.

A good first step in incorporating and teaching new media texts in composition classrooms is through focusing on visual literacy in print and digital texts. Composition teachers, because many are not formally trained in the applications associated with many digital new media texts (Dreamweaver, desktop publishing, photo editing), feel like they don’t have the expertise to teach and guide students in composing new media texts. The assignments Selfe offers connect visual and alphabetic literacies (which composition teachers are more comfortable with), use rhetorical approaches, not entirely Web-based, and position the teacher and the students as co-learners. Though teachers will probably feel outside their comfort zone at first, Selfe argues for the importance of bridging to visual literacies and to begin to question the privileging alphabetic texts in our society and in the structuring of our writing programs and pedagogies.

Quotable Quotes

“By adding a focus on visual literacy to our existing focus on alphabetic literacy, we may not only learn to pay more serious attention to the ways in which students are now ordering and making sense of the world through the production and consumption of visual images, but we may also extend the usefulness of composition studies in a changing world.” (72)

Notable Notes

faculty feel like they lack the necessary skills to teach new media literacies, to help students compose with it – the faculty has an illiteracy that they have to come to terms with, will “force us to acknowledge gaps in our own literacy sets” (72)

change “author” to “composer/designer” and the reader to “reader/viewer”

assignments include a visual essay, visual argument, visual exhibition, and a text re-design and re-vision for the Web

composition studies needs to continue to be relevant to our students, so we have an obligation to learn about them and use them (new media literacies) in our classrooms as we ask our students to compose

Selfe, Students Who Teach Us

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Students Who Teach Us.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 43-66.

Selfe uses a case study of a student of hers, David Damon, a young black man interested in hip-hop and website design, to show that students are bringing extensive knowledges of new media to our classrooms, and we as writing teachers, in order to stay relevant and important, have a responsibility to both learn these new media literacies and incorporate them into our classrooms and assignments. She pulls out three lessons from Damon’s story: 1. that literacies naturally change and grow at differing rates; they all have lifespans 2. new media literacies play a role in the development of identity, in the construction of power relationships, and the creation of social codes and 3. composition teachers need to move beyond alphabetic texts and learn about composing in other modalities. Composition studies needs to look to students to teach us the kinds of literacies necessary to be successful in the 21st century.

Quotable Quotes

“If, however, English composition teachers recognize the insufficiency of maintaining a single-minded focus on conventional alphabetic texts – which generally comprise hte officially sanctioned literacy in our contemporary society – and, indeed, have an increading level of interest in such texts as they encounter them in their personal and professional lives, they do not necessarily know how to design a meaningful course of study for composition classrooms that accommodates a full range of literacies, expecially those literacies associated with new media texts” (56).

Students’ “enthusiasm about reading/viewing/interacting with and composing/designing/authoring such imaginative texts percolates through the sub-strata of composition classrooms, in direct constrast to students’ laissez faire attitudes towards more conventional texts” (44)

Notable Notes

assignments include literacy autobiography, looking at new media texts identified by students, providing alternative means to composing, affect of new media on different genres

need to pay attention to the literacies our students bring to the classroom

what does it man to be literate in the 21st century?

what to we as writing teachers need to learn and teach?

plagiarism and copying code

Wysocki, Opening New Media to Writing

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 1-41.

Pointing out the divide in new media studies between the study of how to design and compose individual texts (through graphic design maxims) and the study of the broad effects of media structures, Wysocki argues that composition studies can fill the gap between the two by focusing on the material and social conditions of the production and consumption of all texts, both textual, visual, and digital. She forwards five major claims: 1. compositionists have the unique pedagogical expertise to teach students how to think critically about their design and composition choices when writing a text because we already highlight the situated nature of writing. 2. we need to think about the specific material circumstances and choices of the texts we produce, consume, and circulate because no technology is a neutral carrier; our texts contain, in their design and construction, our attitudes, beliefs, and values, both individually and as a society 3. new media texts are any texts, digital or not, whose composer thought deliberately about the range of material design choices they had and who, in their design, highlight the materiality of the text 4. we need, as teachers, to move beyond analysis of new media texts and ask our students to craft and produce them in our classrooms, thinking of new media texts not as objects but rather as material practices, and 5. we need to adopt a generous spirit in our reading, knowing that composing these new media texts requires experimentation, patience, and exploration, and in order to appreciate these efforts, we need to realize that texts need not look identical to what we’re accostomed to in order to be useful, that what we might deem mistakes should be thought of in terms of choices. Her chapter ends with numerous activities writing teachers might use in their classrooms, from undergrad to grad students, to have students think more critically of the materiality of producing and reading texts.

Quotable Quotes

Compositionists can help “composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, to help composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6)

“this materiality – which takes part in the construction of readers – occurs in all texts we comsume, whether print or digital, research essay or technical instruction set. ANd this material functioning occurs when we produce any text as well” (7)

“any material we use for communication is not a blank carrier for our meaning” (10)

“We should call ‘new media texts’ those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text – like its composers and readers – doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that mark as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Technologies do matter because “They are in our worlds and they have weight – but we probably ought not give up our own agency by acting as though technologies come out of nowhere and are autonomous in causing effects” (19)

Notable Notes

classroom activities include writing with crayons, discussing what you need to know to read and produce a “normal” piece of academic text (an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, double spaced, academic essay – type.) They get at appreciating and being aware of the materiality of writing

use of the word “crafting” about producing academic texts (drawing on Andrew Feenberg)

it’s important in new media texts – defined “in terms of materiality instead of digitality” (19) – that we look to how and why we use digital media, not that we do it. A new media text isn’t new media because it’s online. It’s a greater understanding and attention to materiality.

Materiality draws on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition (she quotes that long passage from his introduction)

Creating your identity as a writer – when you’re aware of hte materiality, the technology, you can see your own self and identity as situated in a larger world of choices, making your own choices in those structrues in your text (22)

the subtle, silent, quiet, but real effects of the choices that define our existence

the interplay between agency and materiality

interface design (folders, desktop) as a Western-business centric design, intuitive only to some

February 7, 2009

Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy”

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Collaborative Pedagogy.” 54-70.

Howard, tracing the rise of collaborative pedagogy to Kenneth Bruffee and open admissions policies, explains several kinds of collaborative writing and learning used in the composition classroom: collaborative learning (the kind that happens in whole-class or small-group discussion); student collaboration in solo-authored text (through peer workshops and writing groups), collaborative writing assignments, and the collaboration that happens between a writer and text when a writer engages in source-based writing. Collaborative pedagogy contends the romantic notion of the solitary author, instead foregrounding the inherent social nature of language, meaning-making, and knowledge. It provides a social context for students to think and write in, flattens the hierachy in a classroom(which empowers students), and models the kinds of writing tasks students will have to do in the workplace.

Quotable Quotes

Writer/text collaboration – “re(formative) composition” that allows students to play with the language in sources without worrying about textual ownership issues: it could have “the potential for expanding students’ linguistic repertories and increasing the authority of their academic prose voices” (67).

Movement “away from a normative solitary author and toward an appreciation for collaboration” is necessary for the acceptance of and success of the pedagogy in the eyes of the discipline (56)

Notable Notes

Bruffee’s 3 principles: 1. thought is internalized conversation 2. writing is internalized conversation re-externalized 3. collaborative work is establishing and maintaining knowledge among a community of knowledgable peers.

Rorty – social-constructivist, knowledge is a “socially justified belief”

Ann Ruggles Gere; Kris Bosworth and Sharon Hamilton; Diana George, Marilyn Cooper, and Susan Sanders; Chet Meyers and Thomas Jones; Lusford and Ede; LeFevre, Glynda Hull and Mike Rose; Mary Minock; Keith Miller (African-American preaching)

With collaborative pedagogy, a teacher needs to discuss methods and problems of collaborative learning before the assignment, have the sutdents commit to a timetable and schedule, prepare for dissent and conflict, discuss the grading policy, and allow room for minority opinions/counterevidence in the project.

Question of plagiarism and cheating

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