Revolution Lullabye

December 7, 2010

Schell and Stock, Moving a Mountain

Schell, Eileen E. and Patricia L. Stock. Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. Urbana: NCTE, 2000.

This collection studies the role of contingent faculty in composition instruction, investigating local and disciplinary perspectives from a variety of stakeholders: administrators, faculty, part-time instructors, and policymakers. It includes a bibliography of scholarship on contingent labor both in composition specifically and in higher education more generally.

Introduction: Schell and Stock, “Working Contingent Faculty in[to] Higher Education.” 1-44

Schell and Stock, seeing the complextiy of the issue of contingent faculty labor, hope that this book will spark conversations among compositionists and others in higher education about the increasing use of contingent faculty to teach the vast majority of lower-division courses at American colleges and universities. Their hope is that these conversations will lead into changes in policies and practices surrounding contingent labor, which they believe is important for both the faculty and the students that they teach. Their introduction to the collection includes an extensive literature review of scholarship on contingent labor beyond composition, from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The collection is a response to the call in the CCCC Statement on Professional Standards for research and case studies on contingent labor conditions and solutions that could serve as guidelines to others in the field and in higher education. Their introduction explains the three sections of the book: 1. a series of personal and institutional case studies about contingent faculty and their working conditions and place in writing programs; 2. chapters that explain the move by contingent faculty toward collective bargaining and coalition building; and 3. a section that argues that it is often the non-tenure-track, contingent faculty that lead the way for innovative teaching practices in higher education (technology, service learning, distance education.)

Notes and Quotes

Increasing student enrollment between 1970 and 1985 (huge rise in underserved and minority populations) led to universities increasingly relying on part-time, contingent faculty to staff lower-division required courses. Why did this work? Also an increase in the number of master’s degree and PhD candidates who were looking for jobs, so universities had plenty of qualified candidates to fill non-tenure-track jobs, which were cheaper (no benefits, no tenure, no long-term contracts.)

Ernst Benjamin, Secretary of the AAUP, wrote in his 1997 paper that non-tenure-track faculty (not including graduate TAs) account for over half the teaching faculty in American colleges and universities (4-5).

The labor problem is an ethical problem. What are responsible and ethical solutions? Are you waiting for a Rosa Parks?

“The growing reliance on contingent employment is not unrelated to what many predict will be the erosion of the tenure and faculty governance system of higher education, the virtual absence of tenure-line faculty in lower-division teaching, and the transformation of a system of higher education that is generally regarded as the finest in the world into one which the long-term benefits of quality education will have been sacrificed for short-term economic gains” (6). 

composition is a good field to start this discussion – there have been contingent faculty working in composition for decades, it offers the most widely offered first-year required course, and the field has been working to improve the working conditions of its contingent faculty.

scholarship on contingent faculty isn’t just from composition; draws on higher education, social science, policy, economics, education, demography, sociology.

part-time faculty are a diverse bunch: those who have full-time careers and teach like consultants, those who want part-time positions, those who are trying to piece together several part-time positions and wait for a tenure-track job to open up, those without the PhD credentials who are still trying to scrap by a living, etc. Women are more often tracked into part-time positions.

scholarship draws a lot on personal narrative, statistics, broad institutional surveys and studies.

Wyoming Resolution: drafted in 1986 by full-time and contingent faculty at the summer Wyoming Conference in English Studies

contingent faculty tied into rising corporatization of the university

moves, rhetoric of unionization and coalition-building in the 1990s, questioning of the purpose of university faculty (where Boyer’s work comes out of)


March 8, 2009

Sirc, Box-Logic

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 111-146.

Instead of teaching linear texts in our classrooms, composition teachers should encourage an aesthetic sense in their students, asking them to see writing as collection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of elements, much like a curator or artist composes. Sirc relies on the box theories and practices of Marcel Duchamp Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas to construct an argument about the validity of such an experimental method in composition classrooms, highlighting how it reflects the non-linear, non-conclusive writing students do outside the colldge classroom. His assignments draw on technologies from pen and paper to HTML web pages and have students create juxtapositions, research boxes, and arcades projects.

Quotable Quotes

We need to ask “What is essential to composition? What are the inescapable, minimal institutional constraints that must be considered?” (126)

“Mainstream writing instruction too often prefers to put students inot contact zones of heightened cultural import. BUt strong art, we seem can be created out of a collection of well-chosen interesting bits of the everyday.” (122)

“If we (finally) journey away from the linear norm of essayist prose, which the texts of the everyday world implore us to do, where do we go, especially in a composition classroom? What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (114)

“text as box=author as collecter” (117)

“My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The box-theorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgram, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal.” (146).

Notable Notes

arrangement, no clear conclusions, just suggestions

stylistic device of the caesura (123)

highlights two activities in the classroom: annotation and note-taking, search strategies

it seems to hearken back to the individual spirit of expressionism, early process movement

students as designers, artists who experiment with blank boxes, pages, and screens to create meanings, free to capture moods, an element of play

January 30, 2009

Bridges, Training the New Teacher of College Composition

Bridges, Charles W. Training the New Teacher of College Composition. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 1986.

The training of TAs and beginning composition instructors happens at almost every college and university (especially those with MA and PhD programs), but it is rarely discussed across institutions or theorized about in the field’s journal. This collection brings together essays by rhetoricians and writing directors to answer two questions: how do you, at your institution, train beginning teachers, and what advice do you give new teachers about the teaching of writing. The essays, some by well-known members of the field, run the gamut from discussing how new teachers should be taught through the writing process they will teach their students to specific suggestions for grading, making assignments, and managing a classroom. I’ll include the table of contents with some notes for reference:

Richard Gebhardt “Unifying Diversity in the Training of Writing Teachers” – tremendous diversity in who these beginning teachers are and what content can form a teacher-training course and the composition course. A “responsible training course in composition” sees the students as writers, showing them how to teach others to be writers through the writing process. The writing process should form the foundation of composition instruction. Lots of valuable references to comp articles.

Charles Bridges “The Basics and the New Teacher in College Composition” – teach teachers that writing isn’t just a basic skill but a valuable “way of knowing, of discovering, of experiencing.” Student-centered, writing-intensive curriculum/

William Irmscher “TA Training: A Period of Discovery” – the importance of a stability in a writing program through a director who is grounded in and is interested in the research and practice of the teaching of writing. Give TAs independence over their own teaching

RIchard VanDeWeghe “Linking Pedagogy to Purpose for Teaching Assistants in Basic Writing”

Nancy Comley “The Teaching Seminar: Writing Isn’t Just Rhetoric” – the training course should look beyond composition (because not all TAs are studying comp/rhet) to show how writing can be incorporated in all different disciplines

Don Cox “Fear and Loathing in the Classroom: Teaching Technical Writing for the First Time”

O. Jane Allen “The Literature Major as Teacher of Technical Writing: A Bibliographical Orientation”

John Ruskiewicz “The Great Commandment” – don’t lecture away the class; the focus should be on writing, have the students write

Mary Jane Schenck “Writing Right Off: Strategies for Invention” – journals, freewrite, heuristics, small groups

Ronald Lunsford “Planning for Spontaneity in the Writing Classroom and a Passel of Other Paradoxes” – importance of the teacher’s role in planning and implementing group workshopping sessions

Richard Larson “Making Assignments, Judging Writing, and Annotating Papers: Some Suggestions”

Maxine Hairston “On Not Being a Composition Slave” – argues against the model of the good comp teacher as marking up all papers and holding non-stop conferences. It’s a huge, draining workload and a cognitive overload for students, putting too much emphasis on correction. Teachers should only mark up a paper on the 2nd read, teach students how to revise, have students work on papers in class, do peer editing.

Christopher Burnham “Portfolio Evaluation: Room to Breathe and Grow”

Timothy Donovan, Patricia Sprouse, Patricia Williams “How TAs Teach Themselves”

Quotable Quotes

Teacher training needs to be “an important and rewarded part of a given department’s activities” (viii)

There needs to be more communication so theories and methods can be developed or else “teacher training will remain a hit-or-miss process that departments assign to lower-ranking faculty members and then ignore” (viii) – in isolation

January 29, 2009

Newkirk, To Compose

Newkirk, Thomas. To Compose: Teaching Writing in High School and College. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.

This, an expanded edition, contains essays by both compositionists and teacher-practicioners (high school and college) about teaching the writing process. It focuses on seeing students as writers and working as teachers to give them latitude to work as writers do, experimenting with style, finding entry points for starting to write, using journals to practice and learn knowledge, and developing their own critical lens through which they can revisit and revise their own writing.

Here’s an overview of the sections and the notable (to me) essays in each one:

1. Prologue: Arthur Daigon, comparing the writing process to current-traditionalist model of writing instruction (product-based)

2. Getting Started
2 essays about writers and their own individual writing process, emphasizing trusting your own instincts (Stafford and Cormier)
Donald Murray – the forces that help a writer get started: finding more information, caring more about the subject, having a audience waiting, and having a deadline
Sondra Perl – the recursive nature of writing, how writers negotiate through the forces of retrospection and projection, moving by felt-sense between the two

3. Responding
Donald Murray – the teacher’s job is to help students devleop the “other self,” teaching them how to critically analyze and understand their writing from outside themselves. We model this through our own writing and by responding to students in conferences, in class, and in discussions.
Linda Flower – the importance of writer-based prose at the beginning of the writing process, allowing an intimate personal connection to the writing and opportunities for invention and conscious thinking about writing. The shift then must happen to reader-based prose, as writers must concern themselves with how their writing is received and understood by the audience.

4. Writing and Literature – four essays about using writing as a driving force in teaching literature, making the learning of literature not just about reading texts.

5. WAC
Bryant Fillion – Canadian school survey that showed skills like reading and listening are emphasized over productive activities like speaking and writing in classrooms, the need for a shift to using language for productive ends – learning through writing across the curriculum
Toby Fulwiler – how student journals can be used across the curriculum as a commonplace notebook for students to gather and mine ideas for both personal and academic growth.

6. Style and Grammar
Tom Romano – a unit about teaching students to explictily break “Grammar A” (referencing Winston Weathers) rules and encourage the conscious development of style through innovation and experimentation.

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

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.

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