Revolution Lullabye

December 3, 2010

Tuman, Unfinished Business

Tuman, Myron C. “Unfinished Business: Coming to Terms with the Wyoming Resolution.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (1991): 356-365. Print.

Tuman points to three unresolved issues in the Wyoming Resolution: 1. How do you both help those who currently teach composition – often without training or scholarly preparation – and increase the professionalism of the discipline and its teaching positions? 2. What constitutes professionalism for college writing teachers?(an academic or a practicioner model) and 3. How can vague promises of reform be made concrete into actual, doable systems and processes? He argues that the Wyoming Resolution “has been to place us on a headlong course toward becoming a two-tiered profession” – one with academic faculty managers and practicioner-teachers – because it will be far easier for the academy to improve the working conditions of the practicioners than change the entrenched academic tenure system. Not accepting the second-tier practicioner instructors means restructuring how writing is taught at the university, including perhaps giving up the first-year writing requirement because TAs and full-time faculty cannot possibly teach the numerous sections required.

Notes and Quotes

requiring composition instructors to have advanced training or degrees does not always work in the interest of the often local instructors who work in these part-time positions who do not and cannot compete nationally for tenure-line jobs.

“Thus, an unexpected outcome of reform has been the prospect of current instructors losing their positions, a far cry in the minds of many instructors from the better treatment they seemed originally promised” (357).

What does it mean to be a professional college writing teacher – do they need to do scholarship and research like faculty or are they practicioner-specialists, attending conferences like those in law and other practicioner fields but not do a lot of research. There needs to be a decision and then a structure put into place that adequately rewards and evaluates these positions – perhaps a “parallel but fully-equal pat of promotion and professional standing for practitioners” (359).

The practicioner idea is appealing because it will allow these teachers to continue teaching multiple sections of composition, whereas converting them to academic faculty positions would result in lower teaching loads, needing to hire more people to teach.

“As a result of these first two conditions [a need to staff small sections of lower-division courses and a desire by faculty to teach upper-division courses and have lower course loads], research institutions are under constant pressure to create (and, if eliminated, to re-create) a second-tier, ad hoc teaching faculty, one not protected by normal tenure provisions – in other words, the very situation the Wyoming Resolution is trying to redress (359-360).

November 18, 2010

Trimbur, The Problems of Freshman English (Only)

Trimbur, John. “The Problems of Freshman English (Only.): Towards Programs of Study in Writing.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 22.3 (Spring 1999): 9-30. Print.

Trimbur argues for vertical writing curricula where the first-year course would be an introduction to the field of composition and rhetoric, a field that studies, examines, and produces the forms of writing people come into contact with and use in the academy, in the public sphere, and in the workforce. He likens the field’s obsession and concentration on the first-year course to a parent’s overattentiveness to an only child and contends that the field is far more rich and complex than required composition, and composition faculty, like faculty in other disciplines, should have the opportunity to teach courses in their expertise rather than exclusively the first-year service course. The consistent use of placement and proficiency tests justify the view that composition is not at the university because it has something to add to college-level curriculum but instead its role is to address a school-to-college transition crisis. Trimbur also contends that the focus of freshman English is almost exclusively monolingual, English-Only, and calls on the field to change the “First Worldism” of first-year composition.

Notes and Quotes

“I can’t think of any other academic field where a single course plays such a dominant role in shaping the work and subjectivities of its practicioners.” (9).

The “oversaturation” of the first-year course, the many goals of the first-year course: “Think for a moment of all the things that the first-year course is commonly being asked to do. It should help entering students survive in a hostile environment, crack the academic code, repair the damage done by high school English teachers, and enjoy writing. It should meet institutional needs by increasing retention and adding value to the ‘freshman experience,’ as well as certifying literacy levels and protecting the credibility of the undergraduate degree. Not only that, the course should meet employer needs for workers who can ‘communicate effectively,’ multitask, operate computers, and work on teams. It should respond to whatever literacy crisis is happening at the moment, negotiate differences in the ‘contact zone,’ denaturalize the media and mass culture, and stop the decline of public discourse by making a generation of slackers into responsible citizens who read the newspaper, vote, and participate in community service” (14).

“The first-year course simply begins and ends, and in some colleges and universities where students can test out on a placement exam, at least a portion of them just skip over it” (15). It is unconnected to any larger curriculum. Any other upper-divsision courses are not linked to the first-year course in a meaningful way.

Those who test into freshman English are a “stigmatized majority” (16) – they lack something. It’s better not to take the course.

figuring curriculum design as “a rhetorical practice to redistribute expert knowledge and expand the forums and languages available for writing” (24).

“To my mind, the relation of the study and teaching of writing to English departments is both accidental and overdetermined – the result not of a necessary belongingness between the two but of a particular historical conjuncture when written composition replaced rhetoric just as English departments were taking shape in the modern university” (27).

May 31, 2009

McClure and Baures, Looking In by Looking Out

McClure, Randall and Lisa Baures. “Looking In by Looking Out.” Computers and Compositon. (Fall 2007).

McClure, a WPA, and Baures, a librarian, argue for greater collaboration between librarians and compositionists to revise first-year composition curriculum to better serve the information literacy needs students have in today’s digital world. They illustrate their collaborative method for curriculum revision in this article, the triangulation of WPA standards, ACRL standards, and institutional individual course objectives. They argue that librarians and compositionists have similiar literacy concerns and challenges when working with students, and a rich collaboration with library and information science can enrich the content of the first-year composition course.

Quotable Quotes

“Therefore, to better understand the complexities of information literacy and provide instructional strategies to help students develop information literacy skills, composition might once again be served by exploring other fields, in this case the field of Library and Information Science. This field not only acknowledges the complexity of researching in the digital age and crafts a whole series of standards for information literacy, but it also give teachers something they often search for—content for composition.  ” (emphasis mine)

“the disconnection between “college-eligible and college ready” must be addressed, but it cannot be done by correlating high school and college level standards, irrespective of whether they are information literacy or subject content standards. Nor can systemic needs for remediation be ignored. Yet in the absence of a viable solution to this problem, librarians and writing composition instructors must design and develop curricula to provide students with the basic research and writing skills to succeed academically.”

Notable Notes

Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)

new need: how to evaluate, analyze, synthesize sources. Learning how to use and analyze sources will make students better researchers and writers.

May 2, 2009

Crowley, Composition in the University

Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1998.

Crowley forwards her abolitionist argument through this collection of essays, which gives a detailed investigation of the history of higher education, the history of the relationship between literature and composition, and the development of the first-year course in American universities. She focuses on the divide in English studies between literature and composition and maintains that as long as the first-year course exists, literature will be held superior, intellectually and institutionally, over composition. First-year composition, she argues, exploits its teachers (unfair labor practices), exploits its students (has no measurable effect), has negative curricular effects (isolated out of a curricular sequence); contributes to negative classroom climates (gatekeeping role); prevents the field from achieving full professionalization and disciplinarity; and finally, hurts the professional careers of its teachers. (241) It is an anamolous, ill-fitting course in the modern American university. Instead of the first-year course, Crowley suggests offering a vertical sequence of writing electives, informed by the discipline of comp/rhet, which will answer more truthfully students’ needs instead of imposing needs on them from above. Crowley relies primarily on textbooks used in the classroom and published articles and books in the field about composition history to make her argument.

Quotable Quotes

First-year composition must “become part of a sequenced curriculum of courses that introduce students to discipline-specific principles and practices” (9).

difference of comp vs. lit and other fields: “Composition scholarship typically focuses on the processes of learning rather than on the acquisition of knowledge, and composition pedagogy focuses on change and development in students rather than on transmission of a heritage” (3)

“Over the years, then, first-year composition has been remarkable vulnerable to ideologies and practices that originate elsewhere than in its classrooms” (6) – those outside the field in power set the agenda; political ideologies make their way in the classroom, teachers/administrators use the class as an opportunity to forward their own agenda, regardless of its connection to first-year comp

“I doubt whether it is possible to radicalize instruction in a course that is thoroughly implicated in the maintance of cultural and academic hierarchy” (235)

Notable Notes

there aren’t jobs in comp because it’s thought of as “an exciting new field in which new academic priorities are being set” – there are jobs because of the universal requirement. That’s problematic. (3)

no motivated writing tasks in first-year composition; it exists outside of all other vertical curriculums and sequences in the university, isolated

comp’s relationship with pragmatism (Peirce, William James, Dewey, Emerson) v. literature’s relationship with humanism. This leads to the question whether literature should be taught in composition classrooms (a huge difference in ideology…product v. a process; reading over writing, suspicion of rhetoric, elite v. democratic education) – look at the College English Tate-Lindemann exchange

history of the connection between communication and composition (founding of CCCC) and the impact of WWII and the Cold War on the purpose of composition instruction

history of the process movement, affected by research funded through federal grants on pre-writing (D Gordon Rohman and Albert O. Wleche Project English study.) There was a real attempt to understand how students and writers discover, invent, and think. This led to research in developmental psychology and on the creative processes of artists and scientists. Writing to discover was seen as the first way to see this (thus the emphasis on personal expressive writing). Then, the influence of Emig, who actually looked at her and her students’ writing processes. Also, turn to classical rhetoric for invention heuristics. Cannot underestimate the impact of student war protests in 1960s and 1970s to redistribute power and authority. Crowley’s essay is “Around 1971: The Emergence of Process Pedagogy” – two moves: attention to student’s whole composing process (students as writers) and a student-centered classroom. Process and current-traditional pedagogy are complementary.

the curriculum of composition is debated turf; it is owned by the community (U of Texas Austin’s difference curriculum)

Nancy Fraser – needs claims, the movement from thin needs (mythology) to thick needs (ideology.) The claim is that students need first-year composition. Who really needs it? The university only requires a course if they think the students won’t elect to take it (258)

April 29, 2009

Royer and Gilles, Directed Self-Placement

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation.” CCC 50 (1998): 54-70. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 233-248.

Directed self-placement is an assessment practice that shifts the responsibilty of placing students in the right first-year composition section from the teachers/WPA/administration to the students themselves. Gilles and Royer describe how they developed the idea and explain its benefits: cost-effectiveness, efficiency, a decrease in complaints by students and teachers, positive attitudes in basic writing and first-year courses, and, most importantly, a sense of “rightness,” telling and showing students that they can be entrusted, with guidance, to making decisions about their own education. They argue that directed self-placement is as (or more) valid and reliable than placing students into sections based on their standardized test scores or the score on a timed essay. Directed self-placement is grounded in pragmatic (Dewey) educational philosophy and looks inward, to the needs of students, giving them power and control and starting a culture of communication from the first day on campus..

Quotable Quotes

“Our placement program thus relies on honest student inquiry and interactive participation” (246).

“Normally, the placement universe revolves around teachers; we choose the methods, we score the essays, we tell students what courses to take. Now we began to envision students at the center” (239).

Notable Notes

In the first few years that their writing program implemented directed-self placement (explained and conducted at freshman orientation), 22% of incoming freshman self-placed themselves in basic writing.

simplicity and elegance, honesty about directed self-placement

narrative at beginning about how students are introduced and guided through directed self-placement at orientation

placement tests should be future-directed, about a student’s education, not focused on what teachers might learn about students from one decontextualized sit-down writing prompt

February 20, 2009

Robillard, Students and Authors in Composition Studies

Robillard, Amy E. “Students and Authors in Composition Studies.” In Authorship in Composition Studies. Eds Tracy Hamler Carrick and Rebecca Moore Howard. Wadsworth Publishing, 2005.

Composition scholarship, by not citing student writing and by calling students by pseudo first names only, constructs students as non-authors, as children. This deficiency model has several problems. First, it perpetuates the idea of the teacher as hero, defined by her students’ successes and failures. Second, it places teachers in an hierarchal position in the classroom, one in which she possesses students (aka “my kids.) Third, it conditions the student to take on the role of a passive reader whose own texts are never circulated and always compared (negatively) to the work of professional writers. Last, by acting as if our students are children in both our teaching and our research, we are continuing the low perception and status of composition in the academy, for our attitudes towards our students are more in line with the attitudes of secondary and elementary teachers than those of our colleagues in other disciplines. Robillard surveys and reviews a number of works in the field, showing how they position and represent students in their discussions, choice of diction, and citation methods.

Quotable Quotes

“A student reads; an author is read” (51)

“In the institutionalized constrast between Author and student, the Author is originary, the student imitative (as is a child). If an Author is autonomous, a student is dependent (as is a child). If an Author is solitary and originary, a student depends on the work of others and is easily influenced (as is a child). If an Author is precise, a student is messy (as is a child). If teachers do not attend to the constructions of students that the discursive practices of the classroom encourage, if they continue to reproduce the constructions of students that they have been working with, they can do no better than to enact this dysfunctional binary” (54).

“Citation of one’s work – positive or negative – is a mark of respect for any writer” (48).

“WIth the respect that is entailed in citation comes the authorial loss of control over the text. To insist on students’ retaining control over their texts is to deny them authorial status” (48).

The “unwritten belief that teachers are judged by the work their students do” (43).

Notable Notes

uses student quote and cites it as we would an author, full name

composition is a field about its students – what other field is?

author/student binary

February 3, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, Burton, A Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton, eds. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing.”

This chapter explains the history of the gradual separation of writing and composition duties from the rest of an English department faculty and the subsequent creation of an independent department in academic, creative, and professional writing at Grand Valley State University. Over the course a of decade in the 1990s, the English department hired eight new tenure-track faculty in rhet/comp (in a large department of 40 full-time faculty), and with this cohort of writing specialists, teamed with part-time instructors and full-time, post-doc composition fellows, the literature faculty gradually opted out of teaching the required composition courses. When the administration discovered this imbalance, they told the English chair that until more faculty taught composition, there would be no new hires, as it was clear by their attitude that composition was low on the department’s hierarchy. The faculty then were faced with three choices: give up teaching elective speciality courses so everyone could teach a section of composition, hire new comp/rhet faculty into the department to teach it, or reduce the number of sections by allowing some students to opt out of the course. The faculty, realizing that none of these solutions was desirable, agreed to allow academic, creative, and professional writing become its own department, one completely focused on the discipline of writing studies, able to branch out and make partnerships across campus without having to be moderated by a large English department that wasn’t interested in rhetoric and composition as a legitimate field of study.

Quotable Quotes

“Indeed, separate from English, writing can finally begin to see itself once again within the context of the liberal arts more generally – rather than as a ‘basic skill’ relegated to preliberal education. It can now exist alongside other parts of the liberal-arts whole, rather than beneath them, servicing them, holding them up.” (36).

Notable Notes

A rhet/comp PhD is trained to teach more than first-year composition; advertising for a job that only teaches first-year (because the rest of the faculty don’t want to teach it) isn’t going to attract quality candidates.

Developing the culture of the program – valuing writing as the central organizing concept – is essential for new departments

confidence for making an independent department worked came from developing a successful university-wide writing program and writing assessment/evaluation system.

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing and What the External Conflict Resolution Consultants Recommended.” 38-49.

This chapter shows the problems of a top-down administrative decision to create an independent writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University in 1997. The administration decided that the large, 75-faculty member department of English and Philosophy needed restructuring, and the faculty submitted three models for consideration: stay a single department with three program directors (writing, literature, graduate studies); become two separate departments (philosophy and literature, writing and linguistics); become two separate departments under a new school. The administration picked the second model, thus divorcing the faculty from each other and withholding any collaboration and collection that would have come from being part of the same school. The faculty were not consulted about what department they would be placed in, so the department of writing and linguistics inherited several literature instructors with their MAs along with new rhet/comp hires. The diversity of viewpoints about pedagogy, content, research expectations, compounded by different salaries and degrees (PhDs and MAs) created a department rife with internal conflict. An external conflict resolution team came in and suggested structural changes, such as developing two associate chair positions, and joint projects, like the National Writing Project and a new BA in writing and linguistics have united the department somewhat since.

Quotable Quotes

“The faculty in our department were polarized based largely on degree and background – Ph.D’s versus master’s, composition-rhetoric background versus literature background, new hires versus veterans. But we wonder if it is possible that the fighting and one-upping were exacerbated because of the low status, low salaries, and perception as a service department, which both groups have in the whole academic system” (47).

Notable Notes

Warning – don’t go with restructuring just because administration pushes for it. Faculty need to be on board and know what is happening, understand the identities and cultures being made and reinforced.

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