Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2014

Odom, Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn

Odom, Mary Lou. “Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Odom argues that in order to improve students’ reading skills, faculty should adopt some of the pedagogical practices that have worked in writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives. Odom bases her argument on a three-year study of her institution’s WAC program. She looks at student course feedback and reflections from the WAC faculty (called WAC fellows) to describe pedagogical strategies that did work and that did not work to improve students’ reading skills. She shows that just merely asking students to read does not mean they will read well or learn what the faculty want them to learn from the reading.

Among the pedagogical strategies that worked to improve students’ reading were explaining to students the disciplinary conventions of a discipline-specific reading, asking students to engage with a reading on a personal level, and asking students to make connections between the reading they were assigned to read and either other readings or current events. Odom points out that all these strategies are also principles of effective WAC teaching. Among the strategies that did not work was using writing in the classroom or in electronic discussion boards to merely check that students had done the reading. Faculty complained that students in these forums rarely engaged with the texts beyond a cursory level.

Odom argues that problems in student writing can often be traced to students’ poor reading skills, and points out that reading is rarely taught beyond the elementary level: faculty assume students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in college. Reading in the disciplines is as invisible as writing in the disciplines once was, Odom contends, and she suggests that taking a WAC approach might solve this problem and better equip students with the critical reading skills they need to succeed in college and fully participate in contemporary civic life. In order for this to work, faculty need to be willing to reconsider how they ask students to read and what they ask students to do with the reading that they do.

Quotable Quotes

“It has been my experience that when we talk about student literacy struggles and practices in higher education, writing is talked about more frequently, more specifically, and with greater urgency than reading.”

“Reading instruction can be, particularly for faculty who want to move on and teach other content, unintentionally yet easily ignored.”

“Few and far between are the classes that do not incorporate or depend on reading, although reading skills cease to be taught or assessed.”

“Reading has in many ways become an invisible component of academic literacy” – it is not seen as the problem by faculty or students.

“Indeed perhaps the best reason efforts to rethink student reading should look to writing across the curriculum strategies is the WAC movement’s broad goal of improving not just student writing but student learning.”

“In sum, the issue of student reading is more than just complex; it is characterized by a transparency that renders it too easily and too often overlooked. Explicit reading instruction tapers off precipitously after elementary school, and students, teachers, and testing then tend to focus on the texts being read rather than the strategies used to read them. Just as texts alone do not provide meaning in isolation, the act of assigning texts alone does not guarantee that students will read. It is no surprise, therefore, that faculty dissatisfaction with student reading is vocal and widespread across the disciplines. When looking for ways to address this challenge, WAC, already proven to be a transformative force for teachers when it comes to writing, is a natural place to turn. Just as writing across the curriculum encourages faculty to consider the ways they ask students to write, efforts at improving student reading must begin with a conscious awareness that we ask and expect students to read in particular ways that may not always be familiar to them.”

“Our choices as teachers have very real consequences regarding how or if students read.”

How faculty can encourage better student reading across the disciplines: “First and foremost, faculty must see that they have a role – beyond simply assigning texts – to play in student reading behavior. Second, at the heart of this role must be a clear sense of the goals faculty have for student reading as well as a willingness to share those goals with students. Third, faculty must be willing to provide guidance for students reading complex, discipline-specific texts. Such guidance may come in the form of explicit conversation about disciplinary conventions and practices, but more often than not it can be conveyed in thoughtful, authentic assignments that students can connect to on an either a personal or ‘real world’ level. Adherence to these principles will not solve all the challenges of student reading; they can, however, begin conversations and initiate practices about reading that are long overdue.”

Notable Notes

research to look at: Newkirk (2013); Joliffe and Harl (2008); Horning (2007)

When faculty point to a problem in student writing, do they realize that this may be, at its core, a reading problem that is contributing to the lack of student learning?

Reading is an “assumed ability” as writing was in the 1960s and 1970s before composition studies challenged that paradigm (Mina Shaughnessy et al) – writing was shown to be far more complex than what students or faculty assumed.

Research shows that there is big discrepancy between what faculty assume students are doing as they read and what students are actually doing.

faculty have “a rather uncomplicated view of how writing and reading might work together,” such as the belief that merely asking students to write about the readings they read will result in critical engagement with those texts.

problem with assigning writing merely to assess or check that students have completed a reading (“quiz/coercion approach”), “reading compliance”

October 28, 2013

Blachard, et al, Followership Styles and Employee Attachment to the Organization

Blachard, Anita L., Jennifer Welbourne, David Gilmore, and Angela Bullock. “Followership Styles and Employee Attachment to the Organization.” The Psychologist-Manager Journal 12 (2009); 111-131. Print.

The authors, interested in the relationship between two followership behaviors identified in Robert Kelley’s 1992 study on followership, argue that strong followership behaviors do not necessarily correlate with positive job satisfaction or organizational attachment.

Through a survey of 331 faculty members at a R1 institution, the researchers investigated the attitudes and behaviors associated with two components of followership: independent critical thinking and active engagement. They found that employees with high levels of active engagement (those with a sense of ownership and responsibility, who take initiative and do high-quality work) generally have high levels of both extrinsic and intrinsic job satisfaction as well as affective and normative organization attachment. However, those employees with high levels of independent critical thinking often have low levels of extrinsic job satisfaction and normative organizational attachment (feelings of obligation toward their employer) because, as the authors state, these “critical thinkers, through the process of
questioning and evaluating information at work, may ultimately become more
aware of the negative aspects of their jobs” (126). The authors warn managers that independent critical thinking – behaviors and attitudes associated with analyzing situations, considering alternatives, critquing, and making evaluations – may not be a desired trait, especially among those employees who have low levels of organizational attachment. The authors suggest to managers that to offset the potential negative effects of independent critical thinking, they should help cultivate high levels of active engagement among their employees.

Notable Notes

testing the validity of Kelley’s followership traits – are they all positive?

relies on organizational behavior theories

Quotable Quotes

“Our results indicate that independent critical thinking can be a double-edged sword” for managers (127)

critical thinking skills – “These highly desirable skills” may be “detrimental to the organization and their employees” (128).

critical thinking – analyze situations, consider alternatives, evaluate and make judgments, give constructive criticism, think for themselves, approach problems creatively (112)

October 24, 2013

Gilbert, The Problem That (Still?) Has No Name

Gilbert, Sandra M. “The Problem That (Still?) Has No Name: Our Brilliant Careers in a World without Work.” College English 76.1 (September 2013): 29-34.

Gilbert comments on Susan Gubar’s essay “Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010,” which is published in the same September 2013 issue of College English. Gilbert and Gubar met as young assistant professors in the English Department at Indiana University and collaborated throughout their careers. In her essay, Gilbert asks whether the present reality of women in the humanities and women in society more broadly measures up to the expectations and hopes of the generations of women who worked to disrupt patriciarchal structures and assumptions and give women opportunities in the workplace, in politics, in business, and in higher education. She questions whether women can “have it all” and names some of the new problems facing women and specifically women in the humanities: eroding departments and support for research; attrition of women on the tenure-track; the feminization of the humanities.

Notable Notes

draws on personal experiences and her own history like Gubar – she was in the first wave of women academics, encouraged by early feminists (Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Kate Millett)

the excitement – bliss – expectations of the early years of the 2nd wave of feminism contrasted with the realities faced today, struggles & challenges that weren’t anticipated

“diminished things” (32)

Quotable Quotes

Getting and keeping a tenure-track job in the 1970s, 1980s: “Yet there [Indiana University], as almost everywhere, the attrition rate of tenure-track women who didn’t make it through complicated professional hoops or had to move (as I did) for personal reasons was high” (31).

About traveling to conferences, giving talks with Gubar around the country and leaving behind children/husbands: “But the pangs of separation often seemed worth it: I used to carry a picture of the Cabinet around with me – a bunch of dark suits circling a long table, backed up by a woman carrying a coffee pot. When I asked myself why am I on this airplane? I took out the picture and told myself, that’s why” (31).

“Still, change is slow; it comes in increments, as wise voices tell us. Our country has a (male) African American president, and we women are now professors, doctors, lawyers in numbers that would have astounded Virginia Woolf. We are Supreme Court judges, we are corporation presidents – and we are a majority of graduate students in English departments. Wasn’t it worth the wait? For here it is, the world we struggled for. But sadly, as Susan so incisively laments, the humanities we sought to change have become ‘a diminished thing.’ In fact, more than a few of the other workplaces to which English PhDs might have aspired – libraries, research foundations, museums, nonprofits – have become diminished things” (32).

“Yet still: still, as I look around me, brooding on the hopes of my children and their children, my students and their students, I can’t help thinking, ‘Never such innocence,’ to quote Philip Larkin in an even more dreadful manner” (33).

July 30, 2013

Tarabochia, Negotiating Expertise

Tarabochia, Sandra L. “Negotiating Expertise: A Pedagogical Framework for Cross-Curricular Literacy Work.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 117-141.

Tarabochia argues that cross-cultural literacy theories (CCL) offers WPAs a helpful framework for working on curricular projects with faculty in other disciplines. She uses her own experiences working with two different faculty members from biology to illustrate how cross-cultural literacy theories, which emphasize collaborative relationship-building over the notion of expertise, helps to foster productive working relationships in WAC efforts. She argues against the “culture of expertise” and suggests that instead of being hierarchal, faculty who work with another can embrace a pedagogical approach, in which both members teach and learn from one another.

Notable Notes

index contains questions that faculty can use to help define what forces are at work in faculty collaboration

power dynamics in faculty collaboration (124)

Quotable Quotes

“A pedagogical approach to CCL work empowers WPAs to recognize and resist the dominant culture of expertise” (126).

“I choose to theorize faculty relationships as pedagogy in order to actively disrupt conventional, hierarchical, one-directional conceptions of teaching and learning both within and outside the classroom. Doing so challenges our dominant culture of expertise by resisting static binaries between teacher as powerful expert and student as passive notice and supports revisionary approaches to teaching and learning inspired by the WAC movement” (125).

May 25, 2011

Jesuit Pedagogy, The Notebook

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“Jesuit Pedagogy.” The Notebook 11.4

This is a special issue about Jesuit pedagogy published by The Notebook, a publication at Saint Louis University through the Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence. It includes reflections from faculty across a wide variety of disciplines about how they incorporate Jesuit and Ignatian principles in their teaching.

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)

November 17, 2010

Howard, Hess, and Darby, A Comment on ‘Only One of the Voices’ and ‘Why English Departments Should ‘House’ Writing Across the Curriculum’

Howard, Rebecca Moore, David J. Hess, and Margaret Flanders Darby. “A Comment on ‘Only One of the Voices’ and ‘Why English Departments Should “House” Writing Across the Curriculum.'” College English 51 (April 1989): 433-5. Print.

The authors comment on recent articles published by Blair and Smith about how best to constitute a WAC program, drawing on their experience from the Colgate University Department of Interdisciplinary Writing, recently founded in 1989 as a stand-alone program whose faculty are from a range of disciplines who don’t just assign writing but teach it in the disciplines.

Notes and Quotes

“The experience at our institution demonstrates that the interdisciplinary composition faculty is an achievable ideal.”

November 16, 2010

Maid, More than a Room of Our Own

Maid, Barry M. “More Than a Room of Our Own: Building an Independent Department of Writing.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Handbook: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Change and Practice. Ed. Stuart C. Brown, Theresa Enos, and Catherine Chaput. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 453-466. Print.

Maid explains the considerations a WPA must think about when creating an independent writing program or department. He addresses institutional, faculty, and budget issues in creating a stand-alone program. He argues that WPA must always be aware of how their institutional context both constrains them and gives them opportunities, urging WPAs creating stand-alone programs to tap into their institution’s missions, which they could use in an argument for how an independent program could better serve the institution’s mission.

Notes and Quotes

“Far too many faculty in English Departments think that specializing in rhetoric and composition means specializing in First Year students” (460).

“What we can say, I think, is that minimum requirements for teaching FYC be training in rhetoric and composition and continuing professional development” (458).

cites Katherine Adams A History of Professional Instruction in American Colleges (stand-alone programs started from the turn of the century.)

faculty issues: reconstitute what service is, all faculty do administration, rewrite tenure guidelines (like Syracuse did)

institutional issues: what’s in the writing program (WAC, FYC, writing center, other), create and offer upper division courses to extend composition beyond the identity of first-year composition, think about where you place it and name it. Argues for using rhetoric.

budget issue – tap into student service fees for writing center; faculty development for WAC. Don’t build a program on one-time grants.

June 29, 2009

Veysey, The Emergence of the American University

Veysey, Laurence R. The Emergence of the American University. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1965.

Veysey’s history of the American university, which he tries to write on a middle level (not about one institution, but not oversimplified) is divided into two parts: 1. the competiting academic philosophies that shaped the American university in the second half of the 19th century and 2. the development of the university’s structure, a bureaucratic administration and the administration’s relationship to the faculty and students of the emerging university. The American university was in a crisis immediately after the Civil War: it was not a place young men went to move up the social ladder (they went to the cities to learn business, law, and medicine), and it was seen to many as an archiac institution. The available conditions at the time – the promise and potential of European universities, the presence of new capital and philanthropic giving, and a desire to keep the university as an important part of American life – helped turn the university around, so that by the 20th century, it was as influential as the Church was in the 1700s. The modern American university is a distinct system, not directly modeled after the German research university. It is an institution that is not coherent or cohesive, but its tensions allow for constant negotiation, flexibility, and vitality.

Quotable Quotes

The university administrators “might almost as easily have promoted any other sort of American enterprise.” (443).

for the faculty: “the university offered a convenient intermediate pattern of behavior, somewhere between a business career and exile” (443).

Notable Notes

four educational philosophies that competed in the late 19th century:

  1. Discipline and Piety – the old college model, concerned with the soul, manly character, mental powers, Chirstianity, study the ancient classics, discipline and codes for students, little academic freedom. This died out and was replaced by the other three models.
  2. Utility – practical education for a wide variety of fields, workshops, connection to the outside world, democracy, vocations, John Dewey, elective system, secular, applied science, Morrill Act, civil service and civic duty, progressive era
  3. Reseach – experimentation, labs, German research model (Americans changes this into specialized disciplines), professional autonomy, research for its own sake, pursuit of knowledge, skeptism, science, not concerned with undergraduate teaching.
  4. Liberal Culture – humanities in the new university, new modern classics, culture, taste, unity of all life, breadth, cultivation, character, aesthetics, Oxford and Cambridge, English models, philosophy and literature, well-rounded, humanity, Western Civ, rescue the boorish American, charismatic lecturer, successful in small colleges with research or graduate programs.

academic administrators were bureaucrats, businessmen who planned and managed the university

academic freedom – progressive era reform that allows for flexibility – move towards tolerance, a blended university that allows for eccentric intellectuals

April 21, 2009

Mentkowski, Learning That Lasts

Mentkowski, Marcia and Associates. Learning That Lasts: Integrating Learning, Development, and Performance in College and Beyond. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

This book explains an educational theory of learning, growth, and performance that was developed through 24 years of research into the abilities and activities of Alverno College students and alumna. The goal of college education, they argue, should be learning that is lasting, and the results of that kind of learning take time to emerge, but continue past graduation. Alverno College’s entire curriculum and assessment is built around the idea of learning that lasts; students are evaluated based on their proficiencies in eight compentency areas. Students are not given traditional grades; rather, their assessment is activity-based through continuous observation, judgment, self-reflection, and feedback. Their educational theory places a large emphasis on performance: real learning does not take place until it is performed through an integration of doing and knowing, both during college and after.

Quotable Quotes

Performance – “The integration of knowing and doing – in class and off campus.” (228) not just application of knowledge

“The way graduates solve problems, interact with others, communicate, and express their values in actin tell us about hte quality of their education and how that education counts in their lives and the lives of those they touch” (175).

“From a systems point of view, the true outcomes of college occur in the interaction of the college experience with the postcollege environment” (175).

“Learning that is lasting – that is, mindful and emotional, intellectual and committed – characterizes the lifelong learner who becomes a seeker, a pligrim, a pathfinder to integrity” (1)

Notable Notes

8 competencies measured along six developmental levels

Communication; Analysis; Problem Solving; Valuing in Decision-Making; Social Interaction; Global Perspectives; Effective Citizenship; Aesthetic Responsiveness

Alverno is all-women

how do students construct meaning out of their education? sustain this meaning?

the ability to self-assess, to reflect and evaluate one’s work is a mark of intellectual maturity, be a performer and contributor in work, civic, and personal lives

move to validate the scholarship of teaching, establish a college culture and faculty that value teaching, create an environment with a constant awareness of reflection and assessment (266)

Principles of learning that lasts  – Chapter 7

four domains of learning that lasts: reasoning, performance, development, self-reflection

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