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).



January 8, 2013

Brent, Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write

Brent, Doug. “Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 558-592. Print.

Brent, through a study of how six university students adapted to the new rhetorical challenges of a professional work environment, argues that it is the conglomerate experiences of their academic careers – not just the discrete bits of rhetorical knowledge they might learn in writing or communication classes – that prepare students to transfer academic rhetorical knowledge to solve professional rhetorical problems.

Brent followed six students from the University of Calvary who participated in four-month-long co-ops in a variety of professional careers.  He interviewed them about their work experiences and asked them to reflect on how their rhetorical education at the university helped them write in their new professional environments.  Although he noted that the students had widely differing experiences, he was able to glean several common threads from their experiences.  The most prominent, which the students cited often, was how their professional communication course helped them write clearly and concisely, which they perceived as a valuable skill in the workplace.  Other common themes Brent noticed was how they all had to do some sort of research, adapt their writing to different audiences, read critically, and multitask.  Brent argues that these general rhetorical skills are not just taught in writing courses – students develop them holistically across their academic experiences – but, Brent also contends, writing teachers have a particular place in this larger experience, because they are in a position to help students think consciously about the skills and knowledge they bring to bear to different rhetorical situations.

Brent reviews the literature of transfer, showing the limitations of emprical studies that seem to suggest that the transfer of rhetorical skills and knowledge from the academic enviroment to the workplace happens infrequently or not at all.  Brent contends that what we should value is not the transfer of discrete skills – like how to write a proposal or another particular genre – but instead, we as educators should be concerned with developing flexible schemas and habits of mind that allow students to transform their rhetorical knowledge to meet new situations.

Notable Notes

the research in professional environments is not as slow or meticulous as the research students are expected to do in academia: in fact, “the professional research process as described by the students sounds suspiciously like the process of desparate last-minute searching that is often cited as the one really used by many students, as apposted to the more meticulous process that mirrors what scholars do and teachers espouse” (587).

the six students were not selected because their jobs were writing-specific; writing is required in most all work environments.

what students took away from their professional writing/communication courses: 1. writing concisely; 2. sense of how professional documents are formatted/organized for some sort of hierarchy; 3. “highly general strategies for managing new task environments” (586).

helpful review of studies of learning transfer in writing studies and cognition

rhetorical performance/competence (560).

his definition of rhetorical education is limited to postsecondary rhetorical education and extracurricular experiences that might contribute to it (559-560).

Carl Bereiter: the transfer of dispositions or “habits of mind” (563).

when students are confronted with new genres/rhetorical situations, they often turn to Google (a strategy also used by professionals.) – a common “survival skill” (571)

Quotable Quotes

“If our goal in teaching writing (particularly but not exclusively professional writing) is to facilitate learning transformation rather than learning transfer, the implications for both research and pedagogy are enormous. One: although we may scale back any hope of teaching nuggets of rhetorical knowledge that can be unproblematically applied to new situations, we need not despair of being able to teacher more general rhetorical knowledge that can help our students perform rhetorcially outside our classrooms. Two: we need more research to refine our understanding of what knowledge is most amenable to transformation, and how we might help students acquire it” (565).

“They demonstrated good rhetorical survival instincts that had been developed in order to survive varied academic writing tasks, but that appeared to carry over as a means of dealing with new workplace genres” (586).

“Put more simply, it appears that the academic discourse environment as a whole, not just isolated courses on writing, had helped them learn how to learn” (588).

“While the case studies I have presented don’t settle any details of exactly what a rhetorical education might look like, the study does suggest that an understanding of how to extract genre features from models, how to analyze an audience, and how to use genre knowledge to interpret information will help students develop rhetorical knowledge that they can transform when thrown in the deep end of new rhetorical environments. In addition, if we can help them become more conscious about what to observe and what questions to ask in new rhetorical environments, we will have gone a long way toward helping them transform, if not simply transfer, this knowledge” (590).

May 25, 2009

Price, Beyond “Gotcha”

Price, Margaret. “Beyond ‘Gotcha!’: Situating Plagiarism in Policy and Pedagogy.” CCC 54.1 (Sept 2002): 88-115.

Price analyzes and compares three plagiarism policies (UMass, Michigan, and Howard’s suggested policy from “Plagiarisms”) to illustrate ways in which university plagiarism policies might better reflect the field’s complex understanding of plagiarism. Since she advocates for situated, local policies, she offers no universal guidelines for universities to adopt, rather focusing on making both the writing of the policy and the teaching of plagiarism open, dynamic, ongoing and dialogue-centered processes that involve students and faculty. Policies need to express the contextual and contested nature of seemingly stable terms like “common knowledge,” “facts,” “your own work/words,” and “sources.” She shows how the policies could be read and understood as institutional genres, and their composing processes (no individual author, borrowing from other policies) contradicts the expectations they state for students.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to stop treating plagiarism like a pure moral absolute (“Thou shalt not plagiarize”) and start explaining it in a way that accounts for the shifting features of context” (90).

“A situated understanding of plagiarism will preserve, not harm academic values of honesty and integrity” (90).

“Plagiarism is a dynamic and locally mediated idea, not an unmoving, absolutely knowable rule” (101).

Notable Notes

leave spaces (literally) in the plagiarism policies for students to write in definitions, examples, questions – use this in class discussions

have students underline on a peers’ paper quotes, paraphrases, and own work in different colored pencils

university policies state expectations for both the academic community at large and novice students

February 15, 2009

Marsh, Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education

Marsh, Bill. Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education. Albany, SUNY Press, 2007.

Instead of focusing on student motivation for plagiarism, this book looks at student plagiarism in higher education from a broader historical and theoretical perspective, investigating the evolution and ideologies of plagiarism prevention and internet-based plagiarism detection software. These software systems simultaneously cling to a model of authorship, reading, and writing that does not take into account the networked literacies and composing practices of today’s students and use these literacies and practices to detect improper source use by copying, scanning, and keeping student texts for their own profit. Both plagiarism and plagiarism detection are authoring activities with particular perspectives, with software detection services operating out of disciplinary, power, rehabilitation, control, and enforcement motives (43). The networked computer challenges these assumptions and calls for a new way of thinking about student research, writing, and reading.

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism detection services “already use remediation techniques to produce student texts toward the formulation of safe, healthy, and legitmate writing subjects. In today’s institutions of higher learning, the time may have come to turn those techniques around – literally and figuratively – to better serve today’s post-media, multimodal learners” (156)

“I approach the plagiarism problem as an instance of social and political contestion mader real in the micromechanisms of composition pedagogy, intellectual property law, and, more recently, computer technology” (7)

The new media composer has new conventions and techniques that “revamp or remediate a range of authoring practices not altogether lost in our new media age” (148)

“Plagiarism detection services promise more generally to correct, or right, errant information flows while also teaching the prevailing lessons of modern authorship and intellectual property in the digital age” (4).

Notable Notes

The software which reads for “high-value” words remediates reading practices and calls to mind alchemy, “a new methodology for determining (reading for) authorial orginality.” Through ordering information, it orders human beings. (151)


Chapter 1: plagiarism scandals of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, compare to how student plagiarizers who don’t have power are treated.
Chapter 2: definitions of plagiarism as failed authorship and the stealing of intellectual property; plagiarism detection software as a form of social control, 2 wrongs of plagiarism: stealing property and appropriating authorial originality
Chapter 3: early 20th century plagiarism prevention and management of student writing, 1913 U of Minnesota instructions
Chapter 4: Renaissance understandings of plagiarism through metaphors of alchemy and literary change
Chapter 5: inadequacy of handbooks to teach techniques for avoiding plagiarism because they rely on genre and insider knowledge
Chapter 6: inquiry as essential to late 20th century composition pedagogy, Ballenger’s research paper, influcenced by Montaigne
Chapter 7: internet plagiarism detection services (4 of them), how they regulate student writing and draw upon the alchemical, rhetorical, and legal traditions of plagiarism prevention
Chapter 8: how this all plays out with the networked internet and computer as a compositional tool

Research paper: contradictary because it requires students to create something original in an exercise that requires them to recognize the originality of other authors and to cite it in their papers. (88)

February 8, 2009

McLeod, The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum

McLeod, Susan. “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum.” 149-164.

The literacy “crisis” of the 1970s, coupled with open admissions policies, led college administrators and writing instructors to discussions on how to improve students’ writing. One solution, pioneered by Barbara Walvoord and informed by British and American curricular movements spearheaded by James Britton and Toby Fulwiler, was writing across the curriculum, which has two complementary agendas: writing to learn and writing to communicate (often called WID, writing in the disciplines.) A WAC coordinator has the tricky job of modeling the pedagogy they are trying to get the faculty, who hail from all different disciplines, to teach: not to dictate what is correct and incorrect writing (rather, invite a discussion); have faculty write themselves; and encourage opportunities for faculty to talk with each other about their expectations and reactions to student writing. Some of the benefits of WAC and WID is that it increases students’ awareness of the conventions of different discourse communities and genres, it shows them that different fields (and workplaces) write differently based on their fundamental theories, missions, and values; and it highlights the fact that good writing is important in all disciplines.

Notable Notes

Attributes: student-centered, active learning, reflective, constant feedback loop from students to teachers to faculty

Berkenkotter and Huckin (genre theory); Elaine Maimon; Patricia Lindon; Britton (Language and Learning); Fulwiler (The Journal Book); Russell (“Rethinking Genre in School and Society”); Emig (Writing as a Mode of Learning)

WID emphasizes learning discourse conventions, genres, and the processes of acquiring knowledge in that particular field.

apprenticeship model

January 28, 2009

Griffin, Teaching Writing in All Disciplines

Griffin, C. Williams, ed. Teaching Writing in All Disciplines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1982.

This edited collection centers around the early writing-across-the-curriculum movement in composition and serves as a guide to teachers as to how they might implement writing-for-learning assignments and initiatives in their own classrooms and in their institutions. The collection contains a balance of more practically-oriented pieces (about how different assignments can help students learn math by writing about it, how teachers can respond to all the writing they’re now asking their students to do, and what kinds of mixed reactions teachers and students give to WAC initiatives) and more theoretical essays, like Fulwiler’s “Writing: An Act of Cognition,” which argues that since language makes meaning, we need to ask our students to use and produce writing in order to understand and learn, not just to communicate what they already know. One of the last essays of the collection, by Maimon, likens the WAC movement as a move back to ancient rhetorical training, a grounding in rhetoric that was required for students going into all fields.

January 24, 2009

Park, “The Meanings of Audience”

Park, Douglas P. “The Meanings of Audience.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 233-242.

Park argues that the concept of an audience is complex and asks for students to understand more than who they’re planning to “write to”: they must have an understanding of the context of the piece, see themselves both as writing to and constructing an audience, and have a conception of discourse conventions and genre. Park uses the same binary that Lunsford and Ede base their essay on (an audience addressed (real people) and an audience invoked (one created by the writer who’s anticipating reader expectations.) When teaching writing, then, instructors need to see audience as a metaphor of sorts and focus on the concerns of context and convention as an intregal part of helping their students write meaningful, appropriate pieces.

Quotable Quotes

“The truth is that we demand from students – often without making it clear to them or to ourselves – a considerable rhetorical virtuosity in dealing with and inventing audience contexts” (241).

Understanding audience stems from “a clear understanding of the kinds of discourse to be served and their purpose in society” (242).

“‘Audience’ is a rough way of pointing at that whole set of contexts” (237)

“Powerful the idea of audience is, it may block thought to the extent that it presents as unified, single, locatable, something that, in fact, involves many different contexts dispersed through a text” (237).

Notable Notes

teachers need to be aware of the multiple meanings of the term “audience”

doesn’t use the term genre, but the discussion around context and conventions points to it.

January 19, 2009

Swarts, “Mobility and Composition”

Swarts, Jason. “Mobility and Composition: The Architecture of Coherence in Non-places.” Technical Communication Quarterly 16.3 279-309.

This study, which looks at how veternarian students use their PDAs to find information and solve problems in the hospital, asks how mobile technologies like PDAs have challenged traditional notions of genre and interpretation and offers suggestions about how these technologies can be better designed to capitalize on the constraints and possibilites inherent in them. Swarts makes a distinction between places (actual physical locations) and non-places (virtual, transit reality), arguing that genres “point to and belong to places,” making it difficult for mobile technologies, situated in non-places, to translate them easily or usefully. The students using the PDAs in the study used elements of the technology, such as the search function, to find information quickly, but by doing so, they bypassed the content that could have given them a contextual grounding of the information, which would be useful in making their medical decisions. Swarts argues that when people design information for PDAs and mobile technologies, it should be in fundamental information units instead of traditional text (from Barthes), provide some contextual information (like publication, date, and audience), and allow for descriptive connective bookmarks between chunks of information to allow the user (who carries the burden for the interpreatation of the information) to create a “meaningful configuration of information” that can be saved and accessed again (306).

Quotable Quotes

“Place implies agents that are stationary and that are working in a stable environment. Non-place implies movement and action across environments” (281).

“Genres point to and belong to places. They embody routine work practices and habits of mind that are supported by surrounding props…The same genres also regularize activities by reinforcing habits of mind shared by those who inhabit a workplace. This ability to regulate and regularize…” (281).

“Mobile technologies accelerate the production of non-place” (282).

Notable Notes

Two kinds of movement in symbol-analytic work: distribution and coordination. “Distribution implies the movement of information outward, across space and time, and through different representational and technological forms. By contrast, coordination is movement toward consolidation, toward synchronization, toward control. The effort behind coordination is one that we often delegate to technologies that comprise the architecture of our work places” (279) Bahktin?

January 1, 2009

Hodge and Kress, Social Semiotics

Hodge, Robert and Gunther Kress. Social Semiotics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1988.

The authors, who developed a theory of usable (or critical) linguistics in their 1979 book Language as Ideology, wrote Social Semiotics to address two limitations in their linguistic theory: the lack of focus on “the primacy of the social dimension in understanding language structures and processes” and the inattention to the meanings inherent in non-verbal messages (such as in aural, behavioral, and visual codes.) Their study, which begins with an overview of twentieth-century linguistic theory, explaining the structuralist foundations of Saussure and Peirce, highlights the importance of social context in the meaning-making process. That context includes ideology, the current logonomic system, history, and social relationships. Drawing from Durkheim (and Marx), Hodge and Kress point out that there are two parts of every social message – power and solidarity – and show, through examples ranging from sub-population accents and antilanguages to the Biblical debate over the pronounciation of “shibboleth” and from classic Davy Crockett and Two-Gun Lil cartoons to the traditional Greek familial relationships showcased in Sophocles’ plays, that every meaning-making act is a social strategy to position one person or group in power and authority over another, who confirms their power through by going along and acting in solidarity with the rest of society. For both social control and an understanding of truth and reality, there is an interdependence between those in power and those being controlled.

There is a good appendix with definitions of Hodge and Kress’s key terms and concepts from pages 261-268.

Quotable Quotes

“Meaning is produced and reproduced under specific social conditions, through specific material forms and agencies. It exists in relationship to concrete subjects and objects, and is inexplicable except in terms of this set of relationships” (viii).

“Genres only exist in so far as a social group declares and enforces the rules that constitute them” (7). What is captured in genres is the relationship between the participants.

“Meaning is always negotiated in the semiotic process, never simply imposed inexorably from above by an omnipotent author through an absolute code” (12). Social semiotics is interested in what happens (expected and not) in the action between participants.

“Every semiotic act has an ideological content” (40).

“Every semiotic structure inevitably exists in space and time” (163). You cannot ignore the temporal dimension, for with history, you can understand large-scale structures that inform the meaning of small, individual semiotic acts.

Notable Notes

Jokes are a reversal of the logonomic code – they are broken rules, subversive, oppoistional discourse, drawing from Halliday’s antilanguage (78)

Logonomic code – a set of rules about meaning-making and communication, based on an entire system of thought, which orders society by explaining who may make and receive messages and knowledge under what circumstances and with what behaviors (4)

Key words: formality, informality, constraint, energy, open, close, accents, T form/V form, truth, reality, modality, genre, logonomic, ideology, message, semiotic, act, participants, power, solidarity, social construction, system, history, context, control, style, grammar, metasign, group, cohesion

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