Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2013

Halpern, The Preceptor Problem: The Effect of Undisciplined Writing on Disciplined Instructors

Halpern, Faye. “The Preceptor Problem: The Effect of ‘Undisciplined Writing’ on Disciplined Instructors.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 10-26.

Halpern uses her experience as a preceptor (full-time instructor) in the Harvard Expository Writing Program, an independent writing program that hires instructors from across the disciplines to teach an ‘undisciplined’ approach to academic writing, to discuss the effects of programmatic philosophies on the professional development and disciplinary identity of their instructors. Much of the scholarship on independent writing programs have focused on how stand-alone programs affect the identity and working conditions/relationships of the full-time faculty; Halpern’s article provides an in-depth look at how administrative decisions like the creation of independent writing programs or the adoption of particular writing curriculum affect instructors both while they are teaching in the program and after they leave and teach or work elsewhere.

Halpern argues that there is a problem with freestanding/independent writing programs like Harvard’s or Duke’s because the transdisciplinary nature of the programs leaves instructors without a solid disciplinary identity. Halpern points out that these independent writing programs often function as happy intellectual islands, developing their own theories, terms, and language. When instructors (whose positions are really not meant to be permanent positions but rather post-doc-like instructorships) leave, they are not well-prepared to enter into the disciplinary conversations and debates that characterize most academic departments. Halpern argues that WPAs and full-time faculty at independent writing programs need to consider the professional development needs and disciplinary identities of their instructors, preparing them not just to be successful teachers in that particular environment but also at other institutions.

Notable Notes

transdisciplinarity (11) – what writing shares across disciplines instead of what makes each discipline’s writing distinct

the effect of liberation, freedom, and independence on all stakeholders

the many ways it is difficult for an instructor to move from an instructorship to a tenure-track position (16-17)

characteristic of American colleges/universities/academic departments; thinking in terms of disciplinarity (20-21)

important effect: your graduate school training and early jobs have a profound effect on how you view yourself as a teacher and and academic, where you place yourself in the field (22-23)

connection to Duke (in article), possible connection to Syracuse and the Writing Program’s effect on the professional development and identity of the instructors

list of terms used by the Harvard Expos program – creation of a discourse community (13)

Quotable Quotes

“Academic expertise usually involves learning a discipline, but that is precisely not what I learned at Expos: I learned how to move beyond my discipline” (15).

“Perhaps one of the hardest things for a program to do is to acknowledge its own partiality. I mean ‘partiality’ in two senses: programs are partial to their own methods, and their methods constitute only one approach, an approach that intersects inevitably with the work of others” (23).


November 17, 2010

Lindemann, Three Views of English 101

Lindemann, Erika. “Three Views of English 101.” College English 57.3 (March 1995): 287-302. Print.

Lindemann uses the CCCC debate between herself and Gary Tate (who debated the place of literature in the first-year composition course) as a way to explore what those in the field believe is the purpose and identity of the first-year course. She uses Young, Becker and Pike’s heuristic procedure of viewing an element as a particle, wave, or field (static, dynamic, or as part of a larger network) to explain three ways to teach first-year writing (she focuses on pedagogy, not theory or institutional relationships or departmental politics). Seeing writing as a particple – a product – results in a course that is based in the reading of texts (content) with the idea that reading enough good literature will give students stylistic models to imitate in their own essays and themes, a course where the teacher is the expert, the student is the novice, and that relies on grammar exercises and emphasizes form over invention. Seeing writing as a wave – a process – results in a course that based in process and expressivist pedagogy, where students write on subjects of their own choosing, where a variety of kinds of writing are assigned and encouraged, and where the teacher is placed as a coach or mentor for the student. Invention, practice, and drafting are given primary importance in a process course, and the course is interested primarily in the development of the individual student writer and his search for truth. Seeing writing as a field – a system of social actions – sees student writers as involved in multiple social systems that use writing to communicate and to make meaning (drawing on Cooper’s ecological argument.) It rejects the overarching emphasis on the individual in process theory and instead tries to teach students that they are part of several discourse communities, either through inquiry readings, connections across the curriculum, or connections across the community. How readers and writers relate to one another dependes on the context of the discourse and the values and norms of the community from where that discourse came out of. Lindemann makes the argument that compositionists must understand how they see writing – and how their programs and departments do – in order to have meaningful conversations and assessments.

Notes and Quotes

“Until we can find some common ground in instructional practices (or articulate our differences when we cannot), other discussions seem irrelevantly secondary. Until we can say why teachers and students meet together to read and write in a place called college, we cannot address other practices: placement tests, teacher training, program administration, hiring, and so on, meant to advance this work.” (289).

“Because product-centered courses assign primacy to texts, teachers pay considerable attention to form” (291).

May 18, 2009

England, The Dynamic Nature of Common Knowledge

England, Amy. “The Dynamic Nature of Common Knowledge.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 104-113.

What is common knowledge is not fixed; it depends on discipline and discourse community. Students who overcite (for fear of plagiarism accusations) are marking themselves as novices within a discourse community. Students need to be taught that common knowledge is rhetorical and need to frame their writing within a discourse community.

January 25, 2009

Reither, “Writing and Knowing”

Reither, James A. “Writing and Knowing: Toward Redefining the Writing Process.” The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 162-169.

In order to have students write from a discourse community, Reither argues, they must learn how to belong to that discourse community’s knowledge community. Good writing depends on learning how to acquire information through research and inquiry, and writing teachers need to make reading and thinking heuristics more central in their teaching and highlight the social nature of knowledge-making, acting as a co-investigator with their students.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to bring curiosity, the ability to conduct productive inquiry, and an obligation for substantive knowing into our model of the process of writing. To do that, we need to find ways to immerse writing students in academic knowledge/discourse communities so they can write from within those communities” (166).

“Academic writing, reading, and inquiry are inspearably linked” (166)

“Because we routinely put our students in arhetorical situations in which they can only write out of ignorance” (167).

Writing is not “a self-contained process that evolves essentially out of a relationship between writers and their emerging texts” (163).

“Writing is, in fact, one of those processes which, in its use, creates and constitutes its own contexts” (163).

Notable Notes

calls for the return of statis theory

knowledge community and discourse community

WAC can immerse students in a discipline and a discourse community, learn scholarship and literature

curiosity and productive inquiry

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