Revolution Lullabye

October 4, 2013

Gere et al, Local Assessment: Using Genre Analysis to Validate Directed Self-Placement

Gere, Anne Ruggles, et al. “Local Assessment: Using Genre Analysis to Validate Directed Self-Placement.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 605-633.

Gere et al describe the revised Directed Self-Placement (DSP) system used by the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, arguing that the locally-developed and administered assessment achieves validity based on a study of placement essay that uses rhetorical move analysis and corpus-based text analysis.

The study of students’ placement essays shows that there are key textual and rhetorical differences between the essays written by students who self-selected into the FYW program instead of the credit-bearing PREP preparatory program. By coding the introductory paragraphs of the placement essays, the researchers determined both what constituted a “prototypical” introduction to an academic essay that articulated an argumentative stance in response to a text and what rhetorical and linguistic strategies are used by undergraduate FYW writers (as opposed to those writers less prepared for “college-level” writing.)

This study shows the benefits of using research and methodologies from linguistics in order to develop and evaluate local writing assessments. This essay also helps articulate more precisely what it means to say that undergraduate students are “good college writers” or have “rhetorical knowledge,” a goal stated in the Frameworks for Success in Postsecondary Writing document. In the end, this study also demonstrates what good local assessment looks like: a dynamic feedback loop that impacts instruction and a writing program’s definition of good writing.


Notable Notes

good argumentative writing has a “critical distance” that can be gleaned from the rhetorical and linguistic moves the student writer makes (623)

the revision of the DSP program in 2009 based on ten years of data (1998-2008). Their revision was based on three areas of research: research on writing prompts/assignments (resulted in giving students a reading and a specific prompt to create an academic argument, with explanations of what that means); research on rhetorical genre studies (influenced b Carolyn R. Miller’s ideas of genre as social action – genre not as fixed form but flexible and purposeful); text analysis methods used by ESP/linguistics, including corpus-based text analysis.)

attention to the “meso-level rhetorical actions” and the “micro-level linguistic resources” students bring to their writing (612).

three regularly occurring moves in text-based argument introductions: 1. establishing a background (not always there, so non-prototypical); 2. reviewing the article (either a Review-Summary or a Review-Evaluation); and 3. taking a stand (616). Gives examples from the student placement essays of these three rhetorical moves (617-619).

Used a software program (AntConc) to identify linguistic moves:

  1. “References to and citations from the source text
  2. Code glosses (e.g., in other words; in fact)
  3. Evidentials of deduction (e.g. therefore)
  4. Reporting verbs focused on processes of argumentation (e.g. argues, claims, asserts)
  5. Contrastive connectors (e.g. However, nevertheless) and denials (it is not...)
  6. Specific hedging devices associated with academic registers (e.g., perhaps, likely)…
  7. Self mentions (e.g. I and my), personalized stances (e.g. I agree)
  8. Boosters (e.g. clearly, certainly)”

FYW writers used more of #1-6 than PREP writers; FYW writers were less likely to use #7 and #8 (619-620)

PREP writers more likely to use “says, believes, thinks”; FYW writers more likely to use “argues, discusses, claims, asserts” (620) – reporting verbs

Sample coded FYW and PREP introduction in the appendix

tables of frequencies of certain linguistic features/moves (620-622).

push for genre-based pedagogies, teaching students to use genres as “guideposts” that help them solve rhetorical problems (625).


Quotable Quotes

“What our methods have helped us to do, however, is to tease out several linguistic features that, in this context, help to differentiate between students who are more and less at ease with projecting a novice academic stance” (623).

“By ‘meso-level rhetorical actions’ we mean the collections of communicative purposes in smaller sections of a text – larger than the sentence – that together construct the text’s overall pragmatic value as a message” (612).

“Often underconceptualized by those who create them, assignments play a significant role in students’ ability to perform well on a given writing task and therefore merit special attention in assessment” (610).

“Writing an evidence-based argument in response to a prompt like this requires not just arguing for one’s own opinion, but also identifying important propositions in the reading and then summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, and arguing for or against these propositions for using textual and other sources of evidence. Constructing such an argument also requires control of the necessary discursive resources for building an effective argumentative stance” (615).

“stance-taking” (615).



September 4, 2012

Moneyhun, Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development

Moneyhun, Clyde. “Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development.” WPA 34.1 (Fall 2010): 161-165.

Moneyhun uses his own experience as a WPA who needed to create an evaluation system for his writing instructors as a way to explain how performance evaluation can be viewed as a faculty development opportunity. The yearly evaluation system he designed with much input from the instructors asked instructors to self-assess their work in areas of teaching, service, and research on both a numerical scale and through short reflective answers. Moneyhun argues that including expectations and rewards for service and research gave him room as a WPA to argue for insitutional support for sending instructors to conferences and for their community service.

Notable Notes

Moneyhun describes the conditions that must be met for evaluation to benefit instructors’ growth as teachers: instructors should be involved in creating the process; the process should derive from local university faculty handbooks and departmental guidelines; the process should encourage two-way dialogue between the WPA and the instructors; and the WPA should be clear about his role as both student and instructor advocate. (161-162).

The evaluation system involves the self-reports, then Moneyhun writes feedback letters and schedules follow-up conferences with the instructors.

The goals of evaluation: it is high-stakes assessment and also allows the WPA to determine who gets assigned special or desirable courses, helps determine merit pay increases, decides who gets re-hired, leaves a paper trail (positive and negative) (161)

not a peer-review system – but shows how evaluation can be a rhetorical argument to higher administration (the importance of service and research in the evaluation) and to the instructors themselves (expecatation of service and research add to a sense of professional identity) (163)

importance of making evaluation responsive to local conditions (165)

June 11, 2009

Wysocki, The Multiple Media of Texts

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” In What Writing Does and How It Does It. Eds. Bazerman and Prior. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 123-161.

Wysocki’s chapter addresses students and has three main parts: first, she lays out her basic argument for the visual, rhetorical nature of all texts, printed and onscreen; second, she introduces elements of visual texts that students can identify (typography, shapes, pictures, video, animation, and sound) and gives an outline about how a student might analyze a visual text; and third, she uses extended examples of visual textual analyses to argue that composing with images and visual features shouldn’t just anticipate and provide for easy audience reading. Rather, the visual nature and elements of onscreen and paper texts should be used rhetorically and deliberately to make points and challenge readers to consider the cultural and historical frameworks through which they read and interpret texts.

Quotable Quotes

move from making user-friendly, predictable texts that serve the audience’s purpose to “making visual and interactive compositions that ask audiences to question, first, how they came to have their expectations, and, then, the limitations and constraints of those expectations” (157).

learning to compose visually is “learning to observe well” (159).

Notable Notes

analysis: identify elements, name their relationships, and then expand to consider how those relationships and element connect to larger contexts and arguements

basic points: 1. all texts are visual in nature 2. a text’s visual nature gives a clue to its genre 3. a text’s visual components perform important rhetorical and persuasive work 4. cultural attitudes to visual elements change over time 5. choices in visual presentation have to be seen through cultural frameworks 6. composing a text means making deliberate choices for how to shape the page or screen to direct the audience. (123-126)

move from analyzing what’s on the page or screen to asking how that elicts readers’ responses, the cultural frames through which readers respond, why some texts are more accessible than others, the politics and economics of text production and circulation – who we are and who we will become

June 10, 2009

Ritter, Yours, Mine, Ours

Ritter, Kelly. “Yours, Mine, Ours: Triangulating Plagiarism, Forgery, and Identity.” JAC 27:3/4 (2007) 731-742.

Ritter’s essay is responding to an article from the previous issue of JAC, “Toward a New Content for Writing Courses: Literacy, Forgery, Plagiarism, and the Production of Belief,” by Amy E. Rollibard and Ron Fortune. Rollibard and Fortune argue that forgery and plagiarism are connected by the central idea of belief, and when students whole-text plagiarize, they do so not as an act of anti-writing but as an act of writing to forge certain authorial identities and to produce belief in a Bourdieuian way (through cultural capital legitimization.) Ritter unpacks their argument and draws connections between how Robillard and Fortune position college student acts of forgery and plagiarism (read by the culture as criminal) and younger student acts of forgery and plagiarism (read by the culture as mimicism, imitation, and part of the learning process.) College students, Ritter argues, must negotiate the slippery slide between the expectations of the college classroom and academic community and what they have relied on throughout their childhood. Ritter goes on to argue that students whole-text plagiarize not because they want to forge an authorial identity in individual assignments, but rather, they place value in the end result of all those assignments – the degree – and the identity that the degree forms. Ritter also contends that neither process pedagogy nor portfolios can prevent students from deliberately, knowingly plagiarizing.

Quotable Quotes

“how students resitst authorship vis-a-vis whole-text plagiarism” (741)

Notable Notes

how do we construct student plagiarists? What labels do we give them? What’s behind those names?

Ritter: whole-text student plagiarizers aren’t always just lazy – they are smart, industrious, purposefully drawing on the identites and cultural capitals of other authors, imitating those they admire and want to be connected to

simulation is more than copying

student texts already have little cultural value – plagiarism and forgery make them have a negative value

May 25, 2009

Valentine, Plagiarism as Literacy Practice

Valentine, Kathryn. “Plagiarism as Literacy Practice: Recognizing and Rethinking Ethical Binaries.” CCC 58.1 (Sept 2006): 89-109.

Plagiarism needs to be understood and treated more broadly as a literacy practice rather than a black-and-white ethical binary, for the ethical lens through which we talk about plagiarism casts our students’ identities in particular ways they cannot dictate and does not validate certain kinds of student writing and work. Valentine uses an extended example of Lin, a 3rd year international PhD student who was accused of (and admitted to) plagiarism on a literature review. Valentine sees his lack of citation and original argument not as a criminal, unethical, and dishonest act, but rather as a an unawareness of American graduate education citation and literacy expectations. It is important to see the bigger picture teach plagiarism, then, not just as an ethical problem – one in which all students are in danger of being dishonest – but as a negotiation of cultural and social contexts and literacy practices.

Quotable Quotes

“Plagiarism is a literacy practice…something that people do with reading and writing” (89).

“Plagiarism becomes plagiarism as a part of a practice that involves participants’ values, attitudes, and feelings as well as their social relationships to each other and to the institutions in which they work” (89-90).

“The problem with teaching citation and plagiarism as rule following is that it is not enough for students to know the textual practices of citation. Rather, students need to know citation and plagiarism as literacy practices – as complicated ways of making meaning” (105).

Notable Notes

Butler – performative identites – you have your identity by what you do (students’ identities are formed by whether or not they adhere to textual citation practices and expectations)

students live in fear of plagiarizing. They aren’t safe – even honest students can unknowingly trip up and plagiarize, then labeled as dishonest (fear of going to jail as a kid)

ethical morality (Zygmunt Bauman) – being moral because you are following a rule, not because you are acting on what you think is right…no personal individual moral responsibility or choices needed

May 10, 2009

Kessler, Helping High School Students Understand Academic Integrity

Kessler, Kate. “Helping High School Students Understand Academic Integrity.” The English Journal. 92.6 (July 2003), 57-63.

Kessler, a high-school-English-teacher-turned-assistant-professor, argues that students approach cheating in college differently than in high school for three different reasons: 1. punishments in college are more severe than in high school 2. what constitutes cheating in college is different (and more ambiguous) than in high school and 3. college students act more ethically, independently, and responsibly toward their academic work than high school students. She offers several suggestions for high school English teachers to help their students understand the differences in academic honesty and ethics they will encounter in college, claiming that the students will be best served when the expectations remain consistent and high.

Quotable Quotes

“While high school teachers are rightfully more nuturing and less punitive than college counterparts, students respond like any other life form: constant reinforcement is much more effective in producing a desired behavior than intermittent reinforcement. Consistent adherence to academic integrity in high school prepares students for academic integrity in college” (59).

“Teaching students how to avoid plagiarism by citing quotations, paraphrases, and summaries is a fairly simple endeavor” (61)

Notable Notes

cheating is rampant in high school, largely because of the competition associated with getting high grades and high ranks to get into college

cheating is more than plagiarism – cheat sheets, writing vocab words on something, collaborating with the class on multiple-choice answers

collaboration  v. collusion

plagiarism = unauthorized use of someone’s own words, students need to cite everything, even a roommate’s phrase or term

assignment ideas – bring in a college professor, research college honor codes

January 26, 2009

Bartholomae, “The Study of Error”

Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 338-352.

Instead of dismissing the writing of basic writers as illogical and/or meaningless, Bartholomae argues for using the linguistic strategy of error analysis (often used by second language learners research) to learn the patterns of langauge use that basic writers rely on to think and compose so that composition teachers can track their progress and know better how to help them with their writing. Error analysis isn’t a perfect fit for composition, however, because it was intended for speaking exercises, and many basic writers’ errors come from the actual physical work of writing, the performance of composition rather than the conceptualization of arguments and ideas. However, the technique, which involves students reading back and consciously correcting their own prose, has three positive outcomes for composition instructors: it can help diagnose the problems a student writer is having, it can teach students a method for reading and self-correcting their errors, and it can help teachers see how their students, over the course of a semester, are growing and developing as academic writers.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to refine our teaching to take into account the high percentage of error in written composition that is rooted in the difficultly of performance rather than in problems of general linguistic competence” (349).

Errors that come from the “physical and conceptual demands of writing” and “the requirements of manipulating the print code” (351).

Errors are “stylistic features, information about this writer and this language” (342).

“When a basic writer violates our expectations, however, there is a tendancy to dismiss the text as non-writing, as meaningless or imperfect writing” (339).

“We have read, rather, as policemen, examiners, gate-keepers” (339)

We need to “treat the language of basic writing as language and assume, as we do when writers violate our expectations in more conventional ways, that the unconventional features in the writing are evidence of intention and that they are, therefore, meaningful, then we can chart systematic choices, individual strategies, and characteristic processes of thought” (340)

Notable Notes

All language use is idiosyncratic. The distance between a text and the accepted convention is just greater with a basic writer.

interlanguage/ intermediate system

have a writer read his own text to see what the maning is.

problem with error analysis: people learn correct written English not just aurally, but also visually. Also, the difficulty of intention: written error analysis asks for interpretation and analysis of the reason behind the error. The analyst has to first interpret the text, not just describe what’s there.

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