Revolution Lullabye

December 20, 2012

Middleton, Recognizing Acts of Reading

Middleton, Holly. “Recognizing Acts of Reading: Creating Reading Outcomes and Assessments for Writing.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 11-31. Print.

Middleton argues for clearer outcome statements for reading comprehension in writing programs, pointing out that good college writing practices are inextricably linked to successful college reading practices. Together with the instructors of her institution’s basic writing program, she wrote specific, measurable reading outcomes for the basic reading course and designed a pre- and post-course assessment to determine whether or not those students’ reading comprehension (tested by true/false reading guide statements and a summary of the problem presented in three related texts) improved over the course of the semester.  Middleton kept data for four semesters (two academic years), and found a positive, statistically significant improvement in students’ reading abilities. She argues for WPAs to develop and align reading outcomes and assessments for their writing programs that fit the needs of their institutions, and calls for further research in the field on the relationship between reading and writing.

Notable Notes

the program was designed for students at New Mexico Highlands University, a university that enrolls a large number of Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation college students.  The English 100 (basic writing) course is one that is an important part of the university’s mission and the subject of administrative interest and oversight.

Middleton instituted a common text (Integrations), a common reading assessment (pre- and post- text), and asked instructors to privilege open-ended, inquiry, problme-solving questions and responses instead of one-answer-is-right reading assessments.  Reading is assessed through writing.

Tehaha O’Reilly and Kathleen Sheehan: framework for reading assessment – “model-building” and “applied comprehension” (15) – assessment not easily accomplished in multiple choice.

consistency in this assessment was key – in course text, assessments, grading practices, teaching strategies

rely on Adler-Kassner/Estrem’s “Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A View from the Field” (The Outcomes Book) and “Reading Practices in the Writing Classroom” (WPA 31 (2007))

increase in word count between pre- and post- test (more fluency, if not better summary/content)

Quotable Quotes

“If we do not recognize the role of reading, the other act of composition, in our writing programs and our field, we aren’t recognizing the complexity of our textual world” (27).

Long-range assessment: the US Air Force Academy mathematics study (instructor/student pairing, Carrell and West): “The study is a compelling one, because it points to the limits of each assessment in the context of a learner’s intellectual life and within a sequenced curriculum. We assess what we value, but that does not mean that everything we value is or can be captured.” (25)

“We would do well to remember that learning to write for a new discourse community requires learning to read for it” (12).

“Rather than an elementary activity, reading comprehension is itself a complex set of practices implied, but not usually elaborated, in our writing programs” (15)…connection to summary writing/using sources

“It is the activity of rereading and returning to the text, of referring to the text in class discussions, that we wanted to prioritize.” (16)

“Students tended to experience each reading as compartmentalized and discrete, rather than as the sequenced intellectual journey we imagined for them” (18).

 

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June 17, 2009

Royster and Williams, History in the Spaces Left

Royster, Jacqueline Jones and Jean C. Williams. “History in the Spaces Left: African American Presence and Narratives of Composition Studies.” CCC 50:4 (June 1999) 563-584.

Any history that is written has important political consequences. Royster and Williams argue that African American contributions to the history of composition and rhetoric, beginning in the 19th century, have been largely ignored by the dominant historical narratives written in the field, which has resulted in a continued representation of African Americans as a marginalized Other, characterized by Open Admissions and basic writing. The research base for understanding the history of the field needs to be broadened, and Royster and Williams showcase this by presenting three cases of African Americans – Alain Locke, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Hugh M. Gloster – who contributed to the theory and practice of rhetoric and composition in the 19th and early 20th century. Royster and Williams also briefly trace the history of African American higher education, highlighting the importance of HBCUs in educating African Americans before the Open Admissions push of the 1960s.

Quotable Quotes

Questions to ask to recover marginalized histories: “For whom is this claim true? For whom is it not true? What else is happening? What are the operating conditions?” (581)

effect of dominant histories: “the other viewpoints are inevitably positioned in non-universal space and peripheralized, and the exclusion of suppressed groups, whether they intend it or not, is silently, systematically reaffirmed.” (565)

Notable Notes

resist primacy

conflation of basic writers with students of color

Morrill Act, HBCUs

students in histories are seen as generic, apolitical, without race or gender or sexuality

review of many of the histories of the field

April 29, 2009

Royer and Gilles, Directed Self-Placement

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation.” CCC 50 (1998): 54-70. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 233-248.

Directed self-placement is an assessment practice that shifts the responsibilty of placing students in the right first-year composition section from the teachers/WPA/administration to the students themselves. Gilles and Royer describe how they developed the idea and explain its benefits: cost-effectiveness, efficiency, a decrease in complaints by students and teachers, positive attitudes in basic writing and first-year courses, and, most importantly, a sense of “rightness,” telling and showing students that they can be entrusted, with guidance, to making decisions about their own education. They argue that directed self-placement is as (or more) valid and reliable than placing students into sections based on their standardized test scores or the score on a timed essay. Directed self-placement is grounded in pragmatic (Dewey) educational philosophy and looks inward, to the needs of students, giving them power and control and starting a culture of communication from the first day on campus..

Quotable Quotes

“Our placement program thus relies on honest student inquiry and interactive participation” (246).

“Normally, the placement universe revolves around teachers; we choose the methods, we score the essays, we tell students what courses to take. Now we began to envision students at the center” (239).

Notable Notes

In the first few years that their writing program implemented directed-self placement (explained and conducted at freshman orientation), 22% of incoming freshman self-placed themselves in basic writing.

simplicity and elegance, honesty about directed self-placement

narrative at beginning about how students are introduced and guided through directed self-placement at orientation

placement tests should be future-directed, about a student’s education, not focused on what teachers might learn about students from one decontextualized sit-down writing prompt

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

February 8, 2009

Mutnick, On the Academic Margins

Mutnick, Deborah. “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy.” 183-202.

How to teach and understand basic writers has developed from studying them through their errors (Shaugnessy), to in-depth cognitive research to understand how their thinking and writing practices, to finally seeing them in the larger political and social context, analyzing how they learn to appropriate and use academic language, and how academic language affects their home language and culture. Basic writing pedagogy is interested in how students from diverse cultures and backgrounds come into and work in the university, the relationship between language and meaning, linguistic theories of error, and the writing and learning processes of adults. New pushes in basic writing pedagogy include mainstreaming basic writers in “regular” first-year composition classrooms and developing competency requirements that aren’t tied to a particular university course.

Notable Notes

First forays: Mina Shaughnessy – CUNY Open Admissions; Horner “Discoursing Basic Writing”

Cognitive process studies: Perl “Unskilled”; Sommers; Lunsford “What We Know” – showed problems in analysis and synthesis

Social and rhetorical theories: Bartholomae Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts and “Inventing”; Gilyard Voices of the Self; Students’ Right to Their Own Language; Bizzell biculturalism; Tom Fox “Standards and Access”; Alice Horning “Teaching Writing as a Second Lanuage”

students on the social margins change through education but must develop their own consciousness, the new discourses they learn affect their home ones. Basic writing courses can transform the students, teachers, administration, and institutions

January 28, 2009

Tate, Teaching Composition

This blog entry is a comparison of the table of contents across two editions of Gary Tate’s bibliographic essay collection, Teaching Composition. I’m looking at a couple of these composition guides intended for beginning composition teachers and/or entering graduate students in the field to see how they change over different editions and to correlate the publication dates with major movements and trends in the history of composition pedagogy. I see the table of contents and the terms that the chapter titles use as a map that can suggest these transformations in how we view the field of composition and its pedagogy.

Tate’s collection pulls together bibliographic essays that scan the literature written about different parts of the field. Each is written by an “expert,” and it’s interesting to see what constituted different areas and specialties in the field in 1976 and in 1987. There hasn’t been an edition published since, probably due to the sheer number of articles, books, reviews, and other scholarship published in rhetoric and composition since 1987. Plus, there are more databases and other ways of finding relevant scholarship now that weren’t in place in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Ten Bibliographic Essays. Forth Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1976.

Young, “Invention: A Topical Survey”
Larson, “Structure and Form in Non-fiction Prose”
Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
D’Angelo, “Modes of Discourse”
Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Comprone, “The Uses of Media in Teaching Composition”
Winterowd, “Linguistics and Composition”
Korder, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Writing”
Kinneavy/Kline, “Composition and Related Fields”
Giannasi, “Dialects and Composition”

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1987.

Richard Young, “Recent Developments in Rhetorical Invention”
Richard Larson, “Structrue and Form in Non-narrative Prose”
Edward P.J. Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
Frank D’Angelo, “Aims, Modes, and Forms of Discourse”
Richard Lloyd-Jones, “Tests of Writing Ability”
Mina P. Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Andrea Lunsford, “Basic Writing Update”
Jennifer Giannasi, “Language Varieties and Composition”
W. Ross Winterowd, “Litearcy, Linguistics, and Rhetoric”
Joseph Comprone, “Liteary Theory and Composition”
Jim Corder, “Studying Rhetoric and Literature”
James Kinneavy, “Writing across the Curriculum”
Hugh Burns, “Computers and Composition”

Some things I notice: “dialects” turns into “language varieties;” the “basic writing update;” Winterowd’s chapter now includes literacy and rhetoric in the title; “media” becomes specifically computers; addition of writing across the curriculum as an area of interest and research; introduction of the term “rhetoric” in two of the chapter titles; “modes” of discourse becomes “aims, modes, and forms”; new chapter on assessment with “tests of writing ability.”

What these might suggest: turn away from linguistics and toward rhetoric; beginning of interests in cultural studies and the rhetorical practices of minority groups; seeing composition as an administrative force in the academy (with both chapters on WAC and assessment); move away from traditional notions of style, arrangement, and structural form to a more social approach to the teaching of writing; lots of growth in the reseach in basic writing and literacy.

January 26, 2009

Rose, “Remedial Writing Courses”

Rose, Mike. “Remedial Writing Courses: A Critique and a Proposal.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 353-369.

Mike Rose points out five problems of the typical remedial writing course and suggests how basic writing courses can be changed to better serve the students in them. First, they are self-contained courses, not connected to larger writing contexts students will encounter at the university. Second, they rely on assignments based on simple, unmotivating topics that don’t produce academic prose. Third, they are not grounded in the writing process, rather focusing almost exclusively on error avoidance. Fourth, they do not expand their scope to include reading and thinking heuristics in conjunction with writing assignments. Finally, they stay in the realm of personal writing, never challenging students to write academic prose. Instead of this model of a remedial writing course, teachers need to give students real discourse patterns to write with and in, grounded in meaningful context. Those patterns should be taught as strategies, not structures, and be sequenced to build to more and more complex writing situations and assignments.

Quotable Quotes

We need to start “conceiving of composition as a highly complex thinking/learning/reading/writing skill that demands holistic, not neatly segmented and encapsulated, pedagogies” (362).

“The reflexive, exploratory possibilities of engaging in academic (vs. personal) topics are not exploited, and instruction in more complex patterns of discourse is delayed or soft-pedaled” (362).

“The nature of our programs is nearly synchronized with the narror reality created for them by our institutions” (369).

Notable Notes

reflexive writing tied to Emig

January 23, 2009

Shaughnessy, “Diving In”

Shaughnessy, Mina P. “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, 3rd ed. 321-326.

Citing that it is the teachers of basic writing, not the students, who need to change in order to succeed in the academy, Shaughnessy outlines four stages teachers of basic writing progress through in learning about basic writers and accepting the challenge of teaching them. The four stages, as Shaughnessy describes them, are Guarding the Tower (exclusionary policies and attitudes); Converting the Natives (trying old pedagogical techniques to help a few students who seem promising); Sounding the Depths (confronting the contradictions in the expectations of students’ many discourse communities); and finally, Diving In (committing to study and change teaching practices to answer the challenges of the new student populations.)

Quotable Quotes

“Are they aware, for example, after years of right/wrong testing, after the ACTs and the GEDs and the OATs, after straining to memorize what they read but never learning to doubt it, after “psyching out” answers rather than discovering them, are they aware that the rules have changed and that the rewards now go to those who can sustain a play of mind upon ideas – teasing out the contradictions and ambiguities and frailities of statements?” (324)

“The greatest barrier to our work with [basic writing students] is our ignorance of them and the very subject we have contracted to teach” (325)

“Diving in is simply deciding that teaching them to write well is not only suitable but challenging work for those who would be teachers and scholars in a democracy” (326)

“By underestimating the sophistication of our students and by ignoring the complexity of the tasks we set before them, we have failed to locate in precise ways where to begin and what follows what” (325).

Notable Notes

medical terminology used to describe basic writers

put onus on teachers, not students, to find the solutions.

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