Revolution Lullabye

September 7, 2012

Gallagher, The Trouble with Outcomes

Gallagher, Chris W. “The Trouble with Outcomes: Pragmatic Inquiry and Educational Aims.” College English 75.1 (September 2012): 42-60.

Gallagher uses Pragmatism philosophy to argue against outcome-based assessment, which he contends focuses on the ends of the educational experience, not the means, and argues for articulated assessment, which is an ongoing inquiry process that involves all stakeholders (teachers, students, program administrators) in determining what the hoped-for and actual consequences of an educational experience are, and evaluating and refining programs based on those.

Gallagher uses the CWPA’s “Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” and the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing to distinguish between outcomes and consequences. Outcomes, he argues, are fixed and rigid, explain what the conclusion of the educational experience should be, and are often handed down from administrators and professional groups to teachers and students.  Consequences, on the other hand, are more open to what happens, are emergent and developmental, emphasize potentiality, and can be surprising. Gallagher doesn’t demonize outcomes: he argues that the outcomes created by our field were constructed to prevent those not in the discipline from imposing their own outcomes, and he does explain how outcomes give programs a shared sense of common values and goals. However, Gallagher argues that when we read student texts through the lens of outcomes, we lose the student and the text: we search for what we want to find as evidence to meeting an outcome instead of reading what is there (and potentially there.)

Gallagher explains in the final section of his essay how he employed the Pragmatistic concept of atriculation to move the teachers, students, and administrators in his wriitng program away from setting pre-conceived outcomes and towards developing ways individual, internal goals for writing classess can be related to larger outcomes statements. The articulation processes he describes engage multiple people in the process, emphasize conversation that relate the program and classroom work to larger department/institutional/professionalal goals, happen in an ongoing, inquisitive process, and find ways to assess and track progress within the goals and also beyond, to the unintended consequences.

Notable Notes

teachers mapped their hopes/goals for writing classes, and those maps were used to discover areas of overlap or tension

John Dewey – pragmatism, inquiry-based learning and assessment.

need to find the spot between coherence and openness to opportunity, potentiality

Quotable Quotes

“Under these conditions, teachers and students merely receive the outcomes; they experience them as imposed, whether they were formulated by a distant regulatory body, a professional group, or some earlier incarnation of the local faculty” (45).

“If close attention to outcomes tends to narrow our view to what we wish to find, close attention to consequences broadens our view to include what we never thought to look for, opening us up (potentially!) to surprise and wonder” (48).

“Regardles of whether we find ourselves working (or choose to work) within the OA model, the challenge before us is to frame and use educational aims in ways that avoid the pernicious separation of means and ends, the rigidity of fixed ends, the narrow focus on predetermined results, and the imposition of external ends on faculty and students – while addressing institutional demands for assessment of student learning and maintaining program coherence.” (49).

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June 6, 2009

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David S. and Brian S. Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.

Instead of trying to squeeze itself in the confines of an analytical discipline, rhetoric should deliberately define itself as a design art, belonging to the family of production-driven design arts including architecture, engineering, programming, and graphics. Kaufer and Butler’s book traces two streams of inquiry: first, their claim that written argument – words in themselves – are original design and second, their explanation of their theory and argument of rhetoric as design. All design knowledge from the family of design arts has three characteristics: it is modular, it is cohesive (can relate in a working whole), and is problem-focused. They use the Lincoln/Douglas debates as their extended example to expalin the parts of their Architecture of Rhetorical Design. At the end of the book, they argue for the tight connection between criticism and production as the foundation for rhetorical design theory, a rhetorical education that includes multimedia and multigenre writing and production, and finally, challenge the reader to create a simpler architecture for rhetoric as a design art.

Quotable Quotes

“The powerful rhetors of today and tomorrow know words, but they also know film, photography, typography, music, sound, animation, and video production” (297).

Rhetoricians “design the social world around them and bring it to the here and now” – they are the architects of the social world, draw on Burke. It’s not all about persuasion

“A design art is a production process that involves the interdependent development of goals and a material artifact, relying on knowledge about the nature of the artifact to be produced” ( 32).

“Rhetoric is based on a flexibility in the representation of complex social situations, a flexibility required if the individuals in the situation are ever to accomplish practical goals” (23).

Definitions of rhetoric: “the control of events for an audience” and “the strategic organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making” (12).

“By insisting that rhetoric be treated as design, we are also insisting that the appropriate way to approach rhetoric is to seek the minimal and general in an art of overwhelming complexity” (11)

Notable Notes

good rhetoric is both predictable and adaptive

production without criticism is “hollow and uninformed,” the opposite is “armchair and wishful” (298).

rhetorical design includes

  • plans – how the speaker builds and understands his world, predictiveness
  • tactics – how the speaker will deal with disruptions of their vision, anticipate different perspectives, responsiveness
  • events – moment-by-moment interaction with the audience, language performatives (anecdotes, wit, irnoy, sayings, regionalizing, promises, threats), identifying with the audience – humanness

Knowledge and Goals → Rhetoric Strategies and Rhetorical Design Space (Plans, Tactics, Events) → Presentation Actions (graphic on page 72).

their book focuses just on words – to see how just words can do on their own as design

productive, not practical, art

March 31, 2009

McAllister and Selfe, Writing Program Administration and Instructional Computing

McAllister, Ken S. and Cynthia L. Selfe. “Writing Program Administration and Instructional Computing.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Brown and Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 341-375.

McAllister and Selfe argue that the issues in instructional computing are intellectual as well as pragmatic, encompassing broader theoretical and pedagogical issues including rhetoric, social theory, social justice, education, and the social and literacy aspects of technology. WPAs, then, should see instructional computing as part of their intellectual administrative work. McAllister and Selfe identify five “moments” in which WPAs might work in expanding their program’s use of instructional technologies: focusing on programmatic and curricular goals (professional development and conversations about program objectives); focusing on issues of access (number of computers, availability of technical support, what those computers and classroom offer); focusing on issues of administration (scheduling, conducting assessments); focusing on issues of professional development and support (creative ways to give instuctors support the skills they need); and focusing on issues of funding (program and university-wide).

Notable Notes

best programs are started slowly and have wide, broad university support and funding (362)

programs need to train instructors who will be teaching computer-intensive classes (356)

do to issues of classroom and computer access, it’s best not to require large courses (university-wide 1st year comp) to have mandated computer-intensive assignments or requirements (355)

WPAs should start by assessing what their program already has, their needs and their goals

two questions to ask: “What are the instructional goals of the writing program? How can these goals be made to drive a computer-based program/course/activity/facility/decision?” and “Who is being served by these goals and the computer-based instruction that is derived from them? Who is not?” (345)

February 13, 2009

Hansen, Consuming Composition

Hansen, Kristine. “Consuming Composition: Understanding and Changing the Marketplace of College Writing.” In Market Matters: Applied Rhetoric Studies and Free Market Competition. Ed. Locke Carter. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. 243-269.

The public school system and higher education need to establish K-U partnerships and state curriculum boards that will allow them a space in which to develop and share goals, values, and curricula, enabling them to together reframe education in terms of outcomes rather than as a commodity. Hansen shows the need for such collaboration by illustrating how the lack of communication between secondary schools and colleges (highlighting writing curricula and expectations) leads to the rise of for-profit corporations offering college credit for courses that aren’t equivalent, intellectually and developmentally, to college courses. She targets AP classes and dual enrollment classes, arguing that their popularity stems from a new consumer perspective on education: students and parents see them as economical and efficient, the chance to get three college credits for under $80. The belief that it is possible to buy an education, that courses offered at an online-only institution like University of Phoenix or by under-trained AP high school teachers offer the same educational value to students as a college course, is false and disadvantages students. Compositionists need to work to establish these K-U partnerships if they hope to compete against the attractive, if low-quality, opportunities being endorsed at the high school level.

Quotable Quotes

“With more diverse offerings and better articulated purposes and outcomes for writing instruction, it would be easy to persuade (or require) students to get more education in writing at college regardless of the kind of instruction they had in high school or how good it was” (267).

“[Parents and students] take the credit hours the student has earned as a token of preparation, rather than asking for other evidence of the students’ readiness to write successfully in college” (259).

“When the private good of selective higher education bumps up against the quasi-public good of nearly universal secondary education, the latter is seen as outdated, inefficient, and weak” (255).

“Universities are construed as sites of production, professors as laborers, courses as products, and students as consumers of those products” (246).

“Education is increasingly viewed as tantamount to a product to be purchased, rather than as a long-term process that promotes the development of individuals’ intellectual, social, and personal abilities, preparing them for the demands of participation in a democratic society” (243).

Consumer culture: it is possible to buy an education – not go through a “laborious process of maturing and developing under the guidance of mentors” (248).

Notable Notes

public good v. private good

the actual economic value (not even counting educational value) of selective higher education institutions is much, much higher than less selective higher education institutions (more scholarships, resources, etc.) High school merit is crucial for success in higher education in this way

capitalist economic marketplace goals and pressures have been folded into education

commodification, consumer culture

the junior year of high school is the last one that counts for college entrance; the senior year is largely wasted – final stage of secondary school is mismanaged and allows for AP and dual enrollment programs to enter the high schools, offering credit hours to be used to exchange.

issues with AP and dual enrollment: teacher training, inconsistent curriculum, supervision, no screening of students, some students taking it for high school credit and some for college, the money made in the system

need to understand developmental needs of students K-U – create appropriate outcomes for writing at all levels. Expand writing courses at the higher education level.

February 3, 2009

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

January 3, 2009

Csikszentmihaly, Flow

Csikszentmihaly, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.

Csikszentmihaly explains the principles a person must follow in order to achieve flow, the optimal experience which leads to true happiness. His theory of flow is based on the data collected by his team of researchers through the University of Chicago, who interviewed experts in diverse fields (surgeons, dancers, philosophers, mountain climbers, musicians), and gathered personal testaments from hundreds of other ordinary people around the world through a method called experience sampling, where a person wears a pager for a week and writes down their feelings and thoughts each time the pager goes off (eight randomized times a day.) His concept of flow and optimal experience builds on the theories developed by other scholars in psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and is used by those in fields as varied as occupational therapy, education, design, and criminal justice.

Csikszentmihaly’s theory of optimal experience is grounded in the belief that an individual must control their own consciousness (their perception and reaction to reality) in order to achieve happiness. The universe cannot be controlled or predicted; therefore, instead of only reacting to it as a passive responder, a person who wants to achieve flow must confront the challenges life brings and find a way to make meaning out of them. That way of meaning must be intrinsically developed through a set of personal goals and purposes, for societal goals and the “shields of culture” society develops in response to the chronic frustration humans face in nature can fall apart, leading to further disillusion and anxiety. What people can control is their attention: what bits of information they choose to focus on and pay attention to.

Happiness, Csikszentmihaly argues, is achieved through participation in autotelic activities, defined as “a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward” (67). Autotelic activities have several characteristics: they are challenging activities that require skills, they occur during the merging of action and awareness, they have clear goals and feedback, they require complete concentration on the task at hand, they give the person a sense of non-threatened control, they allow the person to experience a loss of self-consciousness as the person becomes one with the activity, and they often involve a transformation of time (time slows down or speeds up.) The purpose of life, Csikszentmihaly argues, is to create a systematic pattern of optimal experiences, which can be achieved by setting goals, becoming immersed in activities that you care about, paying attention to what happens around you, and enjoying the immediate experiences of life. In the book, Csikszentmihaly shows how people can experience flow in physical activities, symbolic activities, work, relationships, and during times of extreme stress and tragedy.

Quotable Quotes

“Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their life, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy” (2).

Flow: “The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (4).

“We create ourselves by how we invest this energy” – psychic energy, attention (33)

“Cultures are defensive constructions against chaos, designed to reduce the impact of randomness on experience” (81) Cultures create goals and rules about how people should order attention.

“People without an internalized symbolic system can all too easily become captives of the media. They are easily manipulated by demagogues, pacified by entertainers, and exploited by anyone who has something to sell” (128).

“Taking up each new challenge not as something to be repressed or avoided, but as an opportunity for learning and improving skills” (172)

“Learning how to use time alone, instead of escaping from it” (171)

Notable Notes

Csikszentmihaly’s notes are contained in the back of the book, with references to the literature behind his claims for each chapter. The notes are extensive and are a condensed scholarly-referenced version of the book.

Optimal experience, flow, attention are not passive – they call on people to participate in life.

Csikszentmihaly believes that religion is not the answer for finding true happiness because it is a construct of culture, not an individually-determined creation. Old methods of liberation (from societal controls) don’t always work in different historical contexts (example: yoga in modern-day California) because the needs and purposes of people are different.

Consciousness = “intentionally ordered information” (26) because lots of information enters our brain (7 bits at a time, 40 bits a second), but we have to choose what we pay attention to and make part of our consciousness, our version of reality.

Plane of happiness: boredom — flow — anxiety/frustration

Autotelic families instill clarity, centering, choice, commitment, and challenge to their children.

The autotelic personality is created both individually and by a society that allows autotelic individuals to function and work.

History is important and enjoyable because it exercises memory. The ability to memorize allows for self, internal stimulation because the mind “is stoked with patterns of information” – an independent, autonomous mind (124).

Autotelic jobs are independent, skill-driven, challenging, and constructed like games.

People who get through ordeals well have dissipative structures that can recycle waste into order and energy: unselfconscious self-assurance, can focus attention on the world rather than themselves, and are open to discover new solutions and alternatives. (201-202)

Making all of life have meaning involves finding purpose, choosing a path of resolve, and moving in harmony with the world.

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