Revolution Lullabye

August 27, 2014

Newton, Value-added Modeling of Teacher Effectiveness

Newton, Xiaoxia A, et al. “Value-added Modeling of Teacher Effectiveness: Exploration of Stability across Models and Contexts.” Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 18 (23). 2010. Print.

Newton et al investigate measures of teacher effectiveness based on VAM (value-added modeling) to show that these measures, based on in large part on measured student learning gains, are not stable and can vary significantly across years, classes, and contexts. The study focused on 250 mathematics and ELA teachers and approximately 3500 students they taught at six high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. The researchers argue that measures of teacher effectiveness based solely on student performance scores (those measures that don’t take into account student demographics and other differences) cannot be relied on to get a true understanding of a teacher’s effectiveness because so many other unstable variables impact those student test scores. Models of teacher evaluation that rely heavily on student performance scores can negatively impact teachers who teach in high-need areas. This is especially true with teachers who teach disadvantaged students or students with limited English proficiency.

Quotable Quotes

“Growing interest in tying student learning to educational accountability has stimulated unprecedented efforts to use high-stakes tests in the evaluation of individual teachers and schools. In the current policy climate, pupil learning is increasingly conceptualized as standardized test score gains, and methods to assess teacher effectiveness are increasingly grounded in what is broadly called value-added analysis. The inferences about individual teacher effects many policymakers would like to draw from such value-added analyses rely on very strong and often untestable statistical assumptions about the roles of schools, multiple teachers, student aptitudes and efforts, homes and families in producing measured student learning gains. These inferences also depend on sometimes problematic conceptualizations of learning embodied in assessments used to evaluate gains. Despite the statistical and measurement challenges, value-added models for estimating teacher effects have gained increasing attention among policy makers due to their conceptual and methodological appeal” (3).

Differences in teacher effectiveness in different classes: “An implicit assumption in the value-added literature is that measured teacher effects are stable across courses and time. Previous studies have found that this assumption is not generally met for estimates across different years. There has been less attention to the question of teacher effects across courses. One might expect that teacher effects could vary across courses for any number of reasons. For instance, a mathematics teacher might be better at teaching algebra than geometry, or an English teacher might be better at teaching literature than composition. Teachers may also be differentially adept at teaching new English learners, for example, or 2nd graders rather than 5th graders. It is also possible that, since tracking practices are common, especially at the secondary level, different classes might imply different student compositions, which can impact a teacher’s value-added rankings, as we saw in the previous section.” (12)

“the analyses suggested that teachers’ rankings were higher for courses with “high-track” students than for untracked classes” (13).

“These examples and our general findings highlight the challenge inherent in developing a value-added model that adequately captures teacher effectiveness, when teacher effectiveness itself is a variable with high levels of instability across contexts (i.e., types of courses, types of students, and year) as well as statistical models that make different assumptions about what exogenous influences should be controlled. Further, the contexts associated with instability are themselves highly relevant to the notion of teacher effectiveness” (16).

“The default assumption in the value-added literature is that teacher effects are a fixed construct that is independent of the context of teaching (e.g., types of courses, student demographic compositions in a class, and so on) and stable across time. Our empirical exploration of teacher effectiveness rankings across different courses and years suggested that this assumption is not consistent with reality. In particular, the fact that an individual student’s learning gain is heavily dependent upon who else is in his or her class, apart from the teacher, raises questions about our ability to isolate a teacher’s effect on an individual student’s learning, no matter how sophisticated the statistical model might be” (18).

“Our correlations indicate that even in the most complex models, a substantial portion of the variation in teacher rankings is attributable to selected student characteristics, which is troubling given the momentum gathering around VAM as a policy proposal. Even more troubling is the possibility that policies that rely primarily on student test score gains to evaluate teachers – especially when student characteristics are not taken into account at all (as in some widely used models) — could create disincentives for teachers to want to work with those students with the greatest needs” (18).

“Our conclusion is NOT that teachers do not matter. Rather, our findings suggest that we simply cannot measure precisely how much individual teachers contribute to student learning, given the other factors involved in the learning process, the current limitations of tests and methods, and the current state of our educational system” (20). 

Notable Notes

The problem of variables impacting the calculation of teacher effectiveness: the students’ background (socioeconomic, cultural, disability, language diversity), the effects of the school environment, how teachers perform year-to-year, the curriculum

VAM makes assumptions that schools, teachers, students, parents, curriculum, class sizes, school resources, and communities are similar.

The variables the researchers collected and measured included CST math or ELA scaled test scores, students’ prior test scores for both average and accelerated students, students’ race/ethnicity, gender, and ELL status, students’ parents’ educational level and participation in free or reduced school lunch, and individual school differences. Tries to look at the issue longitudinally by looking at student prior achievement (7). They were able to link students to teachers (8).

August 25, 2014

NCTE Position Statement on Teacher Evaluation

NCTE Position Statement on Teacher Evaluation. National Council of Teachers of English. 21 April 2012. Web. 25 August 2014.

This 2012 position statement on K-12 evaluation argues that teacher evaluation is important and necessary way to improve schools, teachers, and student learning. NCTE bases this position statement on the belief that teaching is a complex process that must take into account the socioeconomic, political, cultural, and linguistic contexts of the students teachers teach and the schools and communities that they teach in. The position statement explains that the conversation surrounding teacher evaluation falls into two areas, distinguished by the end purpose of the teacher evaluation. The first purpose is “Test-Based Accountability,” which NCTE defines as using standardized student test scores to rank teachers and identify (and remove) ineffective teachers solely through student test score performance. The second purpose is “Professional-Development-Based Accountability,” which NCTE defines as using teacher evaluation as a way to promote ongoing teacher professional development. Ongoing teacher professional development helps teachers be better by allowing them to continually learn more about their subject matter, pedagogical methods, and their students. This position statement warns that an overreliance on this first kind of teacher evaluation – one based on student test scores – will take the craft out of teaching, resulting in cookie-cutter approaches to student learning and a curriculum focused on testing. The position statement also outlines principles for creating fair and effective evaluations for English Language Arts teachers.


Quotable Quotes

Epigraph: “For more than two decades, policymakers have undertaken many and varied reforms to improve schools, ranging from new standards and tests to redesigned schools, new curricula and new governance models. One important lesson from these efforts is the repeated finding that teachers are the fulcrum determining whether any school initiative tips toward success or failure. Every aspect of school reform depends on highly skilled teachers for its success.” – Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010

“NCTE recognizes that quality assurance is an important responsibility of school leaders and accepts that a successful evaluation system must assist school leaders in making major personnel decisions such as retention, tenure, and dismissal. Still, it firmly believes that an overemphasis on accountability rooted in testing sets the bar much too low for school improvement and leads to a curriculum too heavily devoted to test preparation.”

NCTE believes that multifaceted teacher evaluation is a significant component for student, teacher, and school improvement and advocates strongly for a system that emphasizes professional growth. English teachers must continually study their subject along with the craft of teaching in their efforts to make learning happen.”

“Student test scores are unreliable indicators of teacher performance and should play a very small role in evaluation.”


Notable Notes

Principles for creating teacher evaluation systems for ELA teachers:

  1. “based on a comprehensive review of effective teaching behaviors”
  2. “relies on a wide range of evidence”
  3. “aligns quality assurance purposes to professional growth”
  4. “is fair and nonthreatening”

January 30, 2013

Hayles, How We Read

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 62-79.

Hayles defines three kinds of reading – close, hyper, and human-assisted machine – and argues that all three, used synergistically, can help students and literary studies scholars discover patterns, meaning, and context in and across texts.  Her argument is written in resposne to the widely-held notion that digital, onscreen reading has a lasting detrimental affect on reading comprehension skills, as seen through K-12 testing scores, cognitive research on the brain, and anectodal evidence.

Hayles uses her own definition of hyperattention (as opposed to deep attention) to explain how hyperreading is different from close reading, which she argues is one of literary studies’ central values and practices.  Instead of condemning hyperreading, she argues that it is a valuable reading practice, helping students and scholars alike scan and skim large amounts of information quickly, thus identifying the most helpful sources and texts to use. 

Hayles also challenges the idea that human-assisted machine or computer reading (the use of algorithms to detect patterns across a large corpus) is inherently anti-humanistic; she cites Moretti’s application of distant reading principles and argues that the challenge for literary studies scholars is to find useful ways to integrate close, hyper, and machine reading in their interpretive work.

Notable Notes

critiques Carr’s argument that the Internet is changing brain structure (67, 71)

readers scan digital texts differently than print ones (F-shaped scan for digital text, more linear back and forth for print texts, Jakob Nielson) (66)

current students are ‘digitally native’ (62)

close reading defined the discipline of literary studies in the 1970s/1980s- it was a way for the field to congregate around a common value.  Does digital reading change that? Is close reading sufficient? (63)

problem: our classrooms don’t reflect the kinds of reading practices our students engage in – there’s a divide that is probably affecting how much our students learn (63; 65). Connection to Vygotsky’s learning theories.

James Sosonoski (1999) – hyperreading: “Examples include search queries (as in a Google search), filtering by keywords, skimming, hyperlinking, ‘pecking’ (pulling out a few items from a longer text), and fragmenting (163-172)” (66). – Hayles’ update includes juxtaposition (comparing across several open windows) and scanning (66).

what do we make of distraction of hyperreading? clicks, navigating, short bursts of info like tweets, tons of material (67)

hyperreading affects long-term memory (67-68), but is long-term memory a necessary part of the research process? Does every bit of information need to be committed to long-term memory for it to be valuable? (my response)

reference to Moretti as adopting machine reading-like characteristics to literary studies (73-74)

machine reading – relies on visualization, algorithms, mapping, diagramming  (73-75)

definition of a pattern: similarities as well as differences: “I therefore propose the following definition: a pattern consists of regularities that appear through a series of related differences and similarities” (74).

scale (close/hyper/machine) affects pattern, context, meaning (74) – the emphasis changes with the scale (74).

pedagogical examples of teaching hyper/machine reading (75-77): example of the analysis of Time Magazine covers.

Quotable Quotes

“I argue that we cannot do this effectively [convey to students our engagement with complex literary texts] if our teaching does not take place in the zone of proximal development, that is, if we are focused exclusively on print close reading. Before opinion solidifies behind a new version of close reading, I want to argue for a disciplinary shift to a broader sense of reading strategies and their interrelation” (65).

“In digital environments, hyperreading has become a necessity. It enables a reader quickly to construct landscapes of associated research fields and subfields; it shows  range of possibilities; it identifies texts and passages most relevent to a given query; and it easily juxtaposes many different texts and passages” (66).  scholars use these techniques – we need to teach them to students.

“Hyperattention is useful for its flexibility in switching between different information streams, its quick grasp of the gist of the material, and its ability to move rapidly among and between different kinds of texts” (72).

“The problem, as I see it, lies not in hyperattention/hyperreading as such, but rather in the challenges the situation presents for parents and educators to ensure that deep attention and close reading continue to be vibrant components of our reading cultures and interact synergistically with the kind of Web and hyperreading in which our young people are increasingly immersed” (72).

“Indeed, skimming, scanning, and pattern identification are likely to occur with all three reading strategies; their prevalence in one or another is a matter of scale and emphasis rather than clear-cut boundary” (72).

“The large point is that close, hyper, and machine reading each have distinctive advantages and limitations; nevertheless, they also overlap and can be made to interact synergistically with one another” (75).

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)


August 2, 2012

Brent, Rogerian Rhetoric: An Alternative to Traditional Rhetoric

Brent, Douglas. “Rogerian Argument: An Alternative to Traditional Argument.” In  Argument Revisited, Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition Classroom. Eds. Barabara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Beborah Tenny. Sage, 1996. 73-96. Web.

Brent argues that Rogerian argument, a way to structure and conceive of argument based on psychiatrist Carl Rogers’ theories, is most beneficial for students not because of its form but because it introduces them to principles of invention and inquiry that help them construct more effective and ethical arguments. Rogerian argument asks students to read and argue with empathy, considering how alternative perspectives from their own may be valid and then constructing their arguments to account for their validity in a larger, holistic context.

Brent surveys Carl Rogers’ theories (grounded by his research in psychology) and the history of Rogerian argument’s adoption (and criticism) by the field of composition and rhetoric. Rogerian argument rejects the traditional adversarial and even evaluative approaches to argument. Instead, the theory is connected to the psychiatric principle of “saying back”: of restating the situation and sides of the position. It is not really argument – it is more of a method of communication that underlines the importance of understanding all perspectives on an issue as a tool for reaching a consensus. Scholars, though, have criticized Rogerian arugment for being manipulative, idealistic, detached from emotion, or not emphasizing understanding of the self.

Rogerian argument was introduced to the field by Young, Becker, and Pike, and it has been useful in negotiations about highly charged and emotional issues (Camp David, Northern Ireland.) It is based on the principle that reducing threat or vulnerability is critical in having conversation and encouraging sides to listen to one another.

Brent explains how he uses principles of Rogerian argument in his classroom to give students a new way to see how their arguments are situated in a larger context. Argument isn’t a straightforward statement of claims and evidence; it has to address the slippery grayness of human issues. Rogerian argument principles help students uncover assumptions under their arguments and the perspectives they might be arguing against.


Notable Notes

big difference between rebuttal and genuine re-stating of the opposition’s viewpoint.


Quotable Quotes

“But we certainly cannot make informed ethical choices without being able to explore other points of view.”


“Rogerian rhetoric is a broad rubric for a way of seeing, not just a specific technique for structuring a text.”


“It is still possible for students to learn how to apply a form of Rogerian principles in writing. To do so, they must learn how to imagine with empathy and how to read with empathy.”


“The challenge for the composition teacher, of course, is how to teach students to put Rogerian principles into practice. Rogerian rhetoric is often tried and dismissed as impractical, too difficult for students to use, too difficult to teach, or too easy for students to misinterpret as a particularly sly form of manipulation.

I believe that some of these problems stem from a failure to recognize just what Rogerian rhetoric really is. The basic model of Rogerian argument, particularly when abstracted from the rich context of heuristic techniques in which Young, Becker and Pike originally embedded it, looks like a form of arrangement: a recipe for what to say first. But arrangement is only part of the business of any rhetorical system. Logically prior to arrangement–and as I will argue, embedded in the process of arrangement, not separate from it–is the process of invention. In Rogerian terms, this means exploring an opposing point of view in sufficiently rich complexity that it is possible to reflect it back convincingly to an audience”

May 25, 2011

Gold, Rhetoric at the Margins

Gold, David . Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press , 2007.

Gold challenges a monolithic history of rhetorical education based on Eastern liberal arts institutions by describing the rhetorical education practices at three Texas institutions between 1873-1947. By showing the unique, context-specific rhetorical education at Wiley College (private all-black liberal arts college), Texas Women’s University in Denton (public women’s university), and East Texas Normal College in Commerce (independent teacher-training school), Gold argues that the history of rhetorical education is far more complex than we think. At all these institutions, rhetorical education played a key role in encouraging community and civic responsibility and connecting education to students’ day-to-day realities. The rhetorical pedagogy in these three institutions helped to educate previously underserved students (blacks, women), preparing them to take on leadership roles in their local communities.

Historiography discussion in the Introduction – microhistory, local history, third-wave history, archival history

May 23, 2011

Ignatian Pedagogy A Practical Approach

International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education. “Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach.”

The goal of this whitepaper is to make the 1986 document The Characteristics of Jesuit Education more usable for teachers,  more attuned to daily pedagogical practices. It is meant to be a flexible document, one that should be adopted to local cultures and constraints and infused into existing curriculum. The paper defines Ignatian pedagogy and explains the goals of Jesuit education, the role of the student-teacher relationship, the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, and the challenges of implementing Ignatian pedagogy.

The Ignatian pedagogical paradigm includes these five activities, which, in a Jesuit education, are constantly happening: context (or understanding where the student, the institution is coming from and is located in the larger world), experience (acquiring facts, knowledge, and experience), reflection (seeing the connections between one set of experiences and another – academic or otherwise), action (feeling compelled to move that knowledge towards action), and evaluation (seeing where the student has come and how the students needs to develop further – both in an academic and “whole person” idea.)

Notes and Quotes

The goal of Jesuit education: to form men and women for others, men and women who are challenged to grow as whole persons who will be called to actively serve and lead others. Jesuit education pursues excellence, a commitment to justice, a discerning mind, a belief in the dignity and holiness in all life.

The model in Jesuit education is Christ himself – finding and working towards God’s love in communion with others. Students educated in the Jesuit tradtion are encouraged to move beyond ordinary ways to express their love for each other and their neighbor.

The academic disciplines in Jesuit education have a human centerness: they relate to what it means to be human.

Education that is both intellectual and moral: creating “competent, conscious, and compassionate commitment” (5)

Education in faith and for justice “means helping [students] to understand and appreciate that other people are their richest treasure” (7)

Students in the Ignatian tradition need to be actively pursuing knowledge – need to have the freedom and the drive to acquire knowledge and reflect on it. Teachers are the guides to help students do that, giving them opportunities to engage in all of the activities on the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, with clear, scaffolded objectives that meet students where they are and lead them to become more. Also the importance of repetition (37-38)

Ignatian pedagogy depends on a close student-teacher relationship, where the teacher forges personal connections with the students.

Has a central concern for the human being in all things.

“To be successful in bringing the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm into regular use in Jesuit schools, members of the International Commission are convinced that staff development programs in each province and school are essential. Teachers need much more than a cognitive introduction to the Paradigm. They require practical training that engages and enables them to reflect on the experience of using these new methods confidently and effectively.” – ongoing professional development that emphasizes reflective practice is key for implementing Ignatian pedagogy.

“And I am personally greatly encouraged by what I sense as a growing desire on the part of many in countries around the globe to pursue more vigorously the ends of Jesuit education which, if properly understood, will lead our students to unity, not fragmentation; to faith, not cynicism; to respect for life, not the raping of our planet; to responsible action based on moral judgement, not to timorous retreat or reckless attack.” (40, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, “Ignatian Pedagogy Today” 1993).

November 22, 2010

CCCC Committee on Professional Standards, A Progress Report

CCCC Committee on Professional Standards. “A Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 330-344.

In response to the 1987 Wyoming Resolution (which provisions were adopted unanimously by CCCC), CCCC established a Committee on Professional Standards, whose job was to circulate and oversee implementation of the CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards in the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing (passed in 1989 in response to the Wyoming Resolution.) This statement has been controversial, and this progress report is intended to clarify the CCCC’s position on professional standards for the postsecondary teaching of writing for the purpose of both discussion among members of the field and help in implementing the provisions of the statement and the Wyoming Resolution. This progress report outlines three recommendations to the field: 1. that CCCC follow case studies of faculty, administrators, and instructors trying to implement the Statement at their own institution; 2. that noncompliance be understood as actual resistance to change proposed at institutions; 3. that CCCC authorized a raise in dues to pay for an attorney/administrator to track the implementation of the statement. The CCCC Committee links good working conditions for teachers to good teaching and quality student education. The report argues that the treatment of writing teachers – who are denied time for research, scholarship, and pedagogical invention – is linked to the erosion of tenure, the disappearance of faculty governance, and the corporatization of the university. Thus, the poor treatment of writing instructors at many institutions should be of concern to all faculty. They argue that all teachers of writing should have access to full-time, tenured positions, and that untenured full-time positions or part-time positions should only be used as stop-gap measures as the university is working toward the conversion to tenure lines. They point out that it is the field’s job to argue for the importance of writing and good writing teachers at the university, citing that the field remains invisible to those in English departments and higher administation because the discipline doesn’t often overtly argue for its critical place in student education and many of the freshman English courses in higher education have little to no intellectual, scholarly grounding.

Notes and Quotes

problem: the unfair labor practices in the teaching of college writing are tied to 1. the position of the field at the university 2. the large percentage of women and minorities teaching writing: “the unjust class lines in the academy reproduce those of the culture at large. We do not think it is too far-fetched to describe most teachers of composition as professionally homeless persons” (336).

argues for all writing to be taught by full-time, tenure-track faculty (their ideal)

part-time positions should only constitute 10% of a institution’s writing faculty (336).

What did the Wyoming Resolution (1987) do? “The Wyoming Resolution contained three provisions: it asked for a definition of the minimum standards under which postsecondary writing teachers should be employed; it asked for the creation of some mechanism that would help teachers implement the standards on their campuses; and it asked that some means be found to enforce institutional compliance
with the standards. The Resolution called upon professional organizations to provide support for those who sought changes or reforms relevant to the teaching of writing at individual institutions.” (330).

Institutions (liberal arts, state universities, research universities, two-year colleges, etc) are funded and structured differently, and changes to the position of writing instructors must reflect the local context. But, conversations about the position of untenured and untenurable teaching assistants and part-time instructors must be had (in a way that does not jepordize their employment) with the entire teaching force, not just those who are tenured or who are tenurable.

Universities are increasingly relying on part-time instructors: tenure is drying up because the university is responding to market forces, drawing a larger percentage of their teaching labor from the pool of underpaid part-time instructors and graduate TAs.

The poor treatment of writing instructors is tied to the low regard of the field of composition and rhetoric.

November 11, 2010

Maid, Creating Two Departments of Writing

Maid, Barry M. “Creating Two Departments of Writing: One Past and One Future.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Ed. Peggy O’Neill, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 130-149. Print.

Maid explains the difficulties and pitfalls in creating independent writing departments, using his experiences at University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arizona State University East, where he helped develop stand-alone writing and rhetoric departments.

 Notes and Quotes

3 independent departments of writing in spring 1993: University of Texas at Austin, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and San Diego State University (w/ Shirly Rose and Sherry Little, discussed in Hindman’s article in this same collection.)

Methodology: insider account, was the WPA from 1982-1987; chair of the huge English Department from 1987-1993.

Warns that every story is individual to the institution, must be taken into context.

“In many ways, it’s easier to start a new program from scratch than to try to piece together remnants of other programs” (147).

Heartache, in-fighting, anger, ugliness

position of non-tenure-track instructors in the governance of a department

November 9, 2010

Crow and O’Neill, Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change

Crow, Angela and Peggy O’Neill. “Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Eds. O’Neill, Crow, and Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 1-18.

This introduction provides an overview for some of the issues present in independent or stand-alone writing programs and departments. They argue that the move toward independent programs and departments allows the field the opportunity to define themselves as something other than different from literature. The authors, who along with Larry Burton have co-edited this edited collection, focus the book on the question, “What happens when rhet/comp separates from literature, forming two different departments?” They emphasize the importance of local context and histories in the formation and development of independent programs and departments, local situations that shape what the program or department looks like administratively, what kinds of programs it is responsible for, and how it is seen intellectually by itself and on campus. The chapters include descriptions of how individual independent writing programs were created and developed, relying on the case study and narrative to explain the challenges that the faculty and administrators of the stand-alone writing units faced. These local histories point to some of the issues and implications for the field to consider as writing faculty move into independent programs and departments, such as questions regarding tenure, staffing, and composition’s connection to service and teaching. The collected essays in show that, with independence, there is both loss and gain. The third section has scholars from the field comment on the implications for the discipline of independent writing programs and departments.

Quotes & Notes

“The creation of stand-alone writing units – whether programs or departments – provides us with an opportunity to define ourselves in new ways instead of against literature and literary scholarship. It is a chance to begin new and better academic traditions where we can enact what we value instead of spending our energy defending it” (9)

thinking of Latour – how the field is defined by how it is acting in each particular local context.

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