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).



January 18, 2012

Schon, Educating the Reflective Practicioner

Schon, Donald. “Educating the Reflective Practicioner.” American Educational Research Association. 1987. Washington, DC. Web. 18 January 2012.

Schon, who sets out a context of contemporary conversations about school reform and teacher accountability and the history of higher education, which draws a line between (high) theory and (low) practice, argues that good teaching is artistic, responsive, and spontaneous in nature. He argues for a change in how teachers are prepared to teach, suggesting that they be taught (or rather coached) through reflective practicums, in the same vein as the practical education doctors, artists, and musicians receive.

Schon highlights that in these practicums, uncertainty and vulnerbility feature prominently: the students (the prospective teachers) are the ones who have to figure out what it is they are learning; their instructors can’t tell them discrete, contained bits of knowledge that then they can transfer. Reflective, spontaneous, artistic teachers experiment, test, and improvise.

Schon points out that this kind of teacher training can only flourish in an environment that grants teachers the freedom to experiment and the permission to be confused.


“But underneath the debate about the schools, as it cycles through our history, certain fundamental questions keep coming up: “What are the competences that teachers should be trying to help students, kids acquire?” “What kinds of knowledge and what sort of know-how should teachers have in order to do their jobs well?” What kinds of education are most likely to help teachers prepare for effective teaching?””

“this capacity to respond to surprise through improvisation on the spot is what I mean by reflection-in-action. When a teacher turns her attention to giving kids reason to listening what they say, then teaching itself becomes a form of reflection-in action, and I think this formulation helps to describe what it is that constitutes teaching artistry. It involves getting in touch with what kids are actually saying and doing; it involves allowing yourself to be surprised by that, and allowing yourself to be surprised, I think, is appropriate, because you must permit yourself to be surprised, being puzzled by what you get and responding to the puzzle through an on-the-spot experiment that you make, that responds to what the kid says or does. ”

“And this is teaching in the form of reflection-in-action. It involves a surprise, a response to surprise by thought turning back on itself, thinking what we’re doing as we do it, setting the problem of the situation anew, conducting an action experiment on the spot by which we seek to solve the new problems we’ve set, an experiment in which we test both our new way of seeing the situation, and also try to change that situation for the better. And reflection-in-action need not be an intellectual or verbalized activity. If you think about–my favourite example of reflection-in-action is jazz, because if you think about people playing jazz within a framework of beat and rhythm and melody that is understood, one person plays and another person responds, and responds on the spot to the way he hears the tune, making it different to correspond to the difference he hears, improvisation in that sense is a form of reflection-in-action. And so is good conversation which must be neither wholly predictable nor wholly unpredictable. If it’s wholly predictable, it’s boring and not good, and if it’s wholly unpredictable, it’s crazy. Good conversation, which all of us have some gift for, involves a moving between those extremes in a kind of on-line observation and action which is so natural and spontaneous to us that we don’t even think about the capacity we have to do it.”

“My experience in other kinds of reflective practicums such as the design studio in architecture is that the phenomena of confusion and mystery and anger are endemic at the beginning”

“But all this depends on there being at the heart of the school a core of people, at least a small group of people, who are prepared to create a new kind of research presence, who want to produce experiences and knowledge which is usable by teachers. I think that’s the crucial feature–that their research would be usable. That it would be engaged collaboratively with teachers, that it would be conducted on line in experience with teachers, and that it would be aimed at healing the splits between teaching and doing, school and life, research and practice, which have been so insidiously effective at deadening the experience of school at all levels. ”


there is an ongoing tradition, dialogue about reforming school – nothing new

difference between school-based knowledge and knowledge acquired outside school (tacit, experimential, improvisational)

argues against the separation of theory and practice

distinguishes between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-reflection-in-action

teaching like jazz improv

May 23, 2011

Stenberg, Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies

Stenberg, Shari J. “Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies: Renewing the Dialogue.” College English 68.3 (January 2006): 271-290.

In order to pursue the goals of liberatory pedagogy, academics and teachers need to more fully understand its connection to liberation theology and the religious values, traditions, and ideas that underscore the pedagogy. Critical pedagogy, Stenberg contends, has split the connection between faith and politics that forms the foundation of liberatory pedagogy, part of a larger historical trend in US higher education. Students’ religious literacies may serve as points of departure, inquiry, and as resources for their thinking and writing.

Notes and Quotes

 “If we are to truly start where students are, it makes sense to discover ways to value and build upon students’ faith-based knowledge, rather than asking them to overcome these backgrounds.” (272)

Idea (based in Exodus) that God is on the side of the oppressed – taken up by Latin American Catholics who were being colonized by Europeans

“Liberation theologians that humans abide by free will and are responsible to work with God to create a just and equitable world” (273)

“What is the cost of a pedagogy of dismissal?” (283)

Compassion as a root in the prophetic tradition (where liberatory theology comes out of)

Community and solidarity – working together for justice – are themes in liberatory theology, commitment to other people in a God-like love

Liberatory pedagogy requires praxis: action and reflection, no distinction between theory and practice, ongoing, continual work

Need to treat faith as knowledge – not as an impediment for students to “get over” – need to make room for the possibility of religious discourse

How to treat religious belief as inquiry – not as dogma…linking intellectualism and faith

“Too often, missing in the discourse of critical pedagogy is reflection on the effects of our hands. How do we use them not only to challenge, but also to support? Not only to critique, but also to validate? Not only to deconstruct, but also to reconstruct?

The prophetic tradition of liberation theology offers us visions that may not only enrich our understanding of critical pedagogy, but may also help us enact it more fully. To place these traditions back in dialogue is not to espouse theology in the critical classroom, it is to return to roots that might better allow us to realize the goals of liberatory education: valuing student knowledge, enacting a reciprocal teacher-student relationship, enriching critique with both compassion and action, and participating in ongoing reflection and revision. And these goals, to my mind, represent a pedagogy that is truly critical.” (288-289).

June 11, 2009

Newman, The Idea of a University

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1947.

First published in 1873, this is the collection of lectures and addresses Newman gave to an Irish Catholic audience in the early 1850s, when he was commissioned to argue for the establishment of an Irish Catholic university in Dublin, a modern, secular university that included theology as a course of study but not a universal frame of study, a university that would provide a Oxford- or Cambridge-level education. His campaign failed, but his articulation of an educational mission – one that would educate the entire person in a liberal tradition – has influenced educational thought since. Full, holistic, liberal education cultivates a habit of mind that lasts a lifetime, with the acquisition of knowledge, not professional training, as the ultimate end. The university’s mission, according to Newman, was not the creation of knowledge, but the dissemination and teaching of it.

Quotable Quotes

liberal education will cultivate a habit of mind with attributes of “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom” (90).

“A University is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill” (128).

“If a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other. Works indeed of genius fall under no art; heroic minds come under no rule; a University is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations. It does not promise a generation of Aristotles or Newtons, of Napoleons or Washingtons, of Raphaels or Shakespeares, though such miracles of nature it has before now constrained within its precincts. Nor it is content on the other hand with forming the critic or the experimentalist, the economist or the engineer, though such too it includes within its scope. But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end…It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant” (157)

Notable Notes

the importance of educated laity

connections to Freire, Shor, process

June 9, 2009

Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramus. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Freire believes that only through liberatory education can the poor and oppressed begin to understand and reflect upon their social position and then take action towards permanent liberation and the restructuring of society. He distinguishes between the antidialogic banking model of education, whose passive, narrative education with content alien to students’ context mirrors oppressive society, and dialogic liberatory pedagogy, an active, praxis-oriented pedagogy that treats students and teachers as joint partners in critically investigating generative themes and problems in society. Dialogic liberatory pedagogy is subjective and humanist, founded in commitment to others through love, humility, faith, and hope.

Quotable Quotes

methodology of liberatory pedagogy: conscientizacao – “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (19).

pedagogy of the oppressed – “makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation” (33).

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it” (76).

“Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men” (69).

Notable Notes

don’t forget the context – 1960s, poor Catholic peasants in Brazil

even with the dialogical model, leadership is necessary and important – connection to administration (167).

June 8, 2009

Lessig, Free Culture

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. The Penguin Press, 2004.

Lessig argues that current copyright law, coupled with digital technologies that allow big media corporations to regulate how their copyrighted content is used, is quickly eroding the public commons and our national tradition of a free culture. He uses an anecdotal, qualitative approach in this book intended for a general public audience, centering his argument on how piracy and property are defined and argued about. He focuses on peer-to-peer file sharing, showing that only a percentage of the P2P sharing that occurs actually is copyright infringement. Lessig argues that copyright law must adapt to the new technology of the Internet and be reduced in term and scope. He has lobbied (unsuccessfully) for the adoption of the Eldred Act, an act that does not change the long length of copyright protection given in the Sonny Bono Copyright Act of 1998, but does require copyright holders to register and pay a nominal $1 fee to renew their copyright. Lessig argues that copyright law with more formalities (digital registration and renewal), required renewal periods, a reduced term and scope for derivative protection, and a regulated compensation system to pay artists through P2P sharing is a copyright law that will restore the balance between protection and freedom, a balance that has been lost. He also advocates for authors and other creators of IP material to choose to protect their work under a Creative Commons license, a license that allows creators to extend the fair use of their work by others.

Quotable Quotes

“the future will be controlled by this dead (and often unfindable) hand of the past” – the problem with long copyright terms with uncertain owners, no one wants to risk expensive litigation.

“That while the Internet has indeed produced something fantastic and new, our government, pushed by big media to respond to this ‘something new,’ is destroying something very old” (13) – the tradition of free culture, copyright law and balance

“Free cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon; unfree, or permission, cultures leave much less” (30).

Notable Notes

importance of balance

allow for copyright protection for works that have commercial value. Since most of the works that are currently covered do not have value, free them up for cultural use

we need to teach our students to be producers of culture, not just consumers – this is hard in an increasingly copyrighted American world

copying – a central theme of both copyright and plagiairsm

corporations are using their political power to change copyright law in order to stifle Internet-based creativity, which will democratize the creative process and competition

43 million Americans do P2P sharing. Are they all criminals? The four different kinds of piracy, of P2P file sharing. HOw can it be good?

anticircumvention provisions of DMCA is restricting how we use content and be creative

March 8, 2009

Sirc, Box-Logic

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 111-146.

Instead of teaching linear texts in our classrooms, composition teachers should encourage an aesthetic sense in their students, asking them to see writing as collection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of elements, much like a curator or artist composes. Sirc relies on the box theories and practices of Marcel Duchamp Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas to construct an argument about the validity of such an experimental method in composition classrooms, highlighting how it reflects the non-linear, non-conclusive writing students do outside the colldge classroom. His assignments draw on technologies from pen and paper to HTML web pages and have students create juxtapositions, research boxes, and arcades projects.

Quotable Quotes

We need to ask “What is essential to composition? What are the inescapable, minimal institutional constraints that must be considered?” (126)

“Mainstream writing instruction too often prefers to put students inot contact zones of heightened cultural import. BUt strong art, we seem can be created out of a collection of well-chosen interesting bits of the everyday.” (122)

“If we (finally) journey away from the linear norm of essayist prose, which the texts of the everyday world implore us to do, where do we go, especially in a composition classroom? What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (114)

“text as box=author as collecter” (117)

“My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The box-theorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgram, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal.” (146).

Notable Notes

arrangement, no clear conclusions, just suggestions

stylistic device of the caesura (123)

highlights two activities in the classroom: annotation and note-taking, search strategies

it seems to hearken back to the individual spirit of expressionism, early process movement

students as designers, artists who experiment with blank boxes, pages, and screens to create meanings, free to capture moods, an element of play

February 7, 2009

George, Critical Pedagogy

George, Ann. “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy.” 92-112.

Critical pedagogy acknowledges that teaching is a political act, that education is one of the primary ways that thought and knowledge are socially constructed into the ideologies that strucure society. Based in the writings of Freire, critical pedagogy centers around the struggle against dominant, oppressive institutional forces, seeking to liberate students by encouraging a critical stance towards society and encouraging them to develop a class consciousness. The ultimate goal is to transform society. Critical pedagogy in composition drew out of the work of Jonathan Kozol and as a reaction to 1980s conservatism (A Nation at Risk), often coupling with cultural studies to form a decidedly political and social agenda in the writing classroom. Critics of critical pedagogy argue that the often white middle-class students who are taught in this method are hardly the oppressed that Freire was writing about, and that critical pedagogy takes the focus off of writing, positions the teacher as “hero,” and is not answering to student needs (the outcome of the course is pre-determined and students aren’t given instructions on how to write and succeed in the hegemonic, dominant society.)

Quotable Quotes

Critical pedagogy “enables students to envision alternatives” (97) – schools need to be critical, dialogic democracies, public spheres of knowledge.

Simon Roger: “To propose a pedagogy is to propose a political vision,” a “dream for ourselves, our children, and our communities” (371).

Notable Notes

Important Sources: Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope; Giroux, Theory and Resistance in Education, Education Under Siege, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life; Jonathan Kozol; Ira Shor, Empowering Education, When Students Have Power; Aronowitz; Macedo; McLaren; A Nation at Risk; Action for Excellence; Dewey, Democracy and Education; George Counts, John Childs, William Kirkpatrick

Critical Pedagogy and Composition: Alex McLeod, Critical Literacy; Hurlbert/Blitz, Composition and Resistance; Jay/Graff, A Critique of Critical Pedagogy; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing; Jeff Smith, Students’ Goals; Knoblauch/Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy; Finlay/Faith; Stephen North, Rhetoric, Responsibility, and the ‘Language of the Left’; Villanueva, Considerations of American Freireistas

hidden curriculum, false consciousness, cultural production, education, schooling, literacy

tension between freedom and authority must be negotiated in the classroom

January 23, 2009

Weathers, “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy”

Note: For my major exam in composition pedagogy, history, and administration, I am surveying some of the popular texts used by beginning instructors and TAs. One of them is The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, a collection that, over its four editions, has been edited by Gary Tate, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers. I reviewed the table of contents of all four editions and selected the essays and articles that were repeated across the editions. Only three – Weathers, Ohmann, and Lunsford/Ede – were in all three editions. I will read all the articles that appeared in 3 or 4 of the editions. The following essays appeared in the third edition:

Tate, Gary, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers, eds. The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.

Weathers, Winston. “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy.” 294-299.

Weathers frames his essay around asking how composition teachers can make the teaching of style relevant, viable, and credible for students. He advocates three complimentary approaches for teaching style. First, he argues for explaining to students how style, which can be described as “the art of choice and option” is what allows people to be better communicators by allowing them to express themselves as individuals. This theoretical argument for the importance of style underpins, Weathers hopes, the relevancy of style as a way to exercise freedom of expression in a democratic society. Second, Weathers points out that ideological arguments about why style is important don’t help students enact stylistic techniques in their own writing, so he argues that instructors need to spend practical, hands-on time in the classroom teaching their students how to recognize, imitate, use, and adapt stylistic techniques. Third, Weathers encourages teachers to make a practice of composing in front of their students, such as on the blackboard. This intimate experience gives students an inside view of how writing happens – a perspective they need but don’t often see.

Quotable Quotes

“Style is the proof of a human being’s individuality; that style is a writer’s revelation of himself; that through style, attitudes and values are communicated; that indeed our manner is part of our message” (294).

“Style has something to do with better communication, adding as it does a certain technicolor to otherwise black-and-white language” (294).

“Style, by its very nature, is the art of selection” (294).

“We are an amazing lot of piano players refusing to play the piano” (298) – about not composing in front of our students.

“Believe me, the teacher’s struggle amidst the chalk dust can become the student’s education” (299).

Notable Notes

no reference to social context in constructing style; style as part of a social culture, not just an individual expression

refers to Corbett in discussion of imitation

writing and composition as a practical art

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