Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2009

Hairston, The Winds of Change

Hairston, Maxine. “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 33:1 (Feb 1982) 76-88.

Hairston draws on Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts to declare that the field of composition and rhetoric has experienced a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing, moving from (current-)traditional methods to process pedagogy. She claims current-traditional pedagogy is primarily focused on expository writing; wants students to find form, not ideas, through writing; is a linear composing model; equates teaching editing with teaching writing; and is not connected to research or experimentation. In contrast, Hairston argues that the process model is concerned with writers and their process, not their written products, and so is concerned with teaching students heuristics to invent, compose, and revise; is rhetorically-based; is recursive and holistic; treats writing as a way of learning and communicating; and is informed by other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The process model depends on research in writing and on writers, and requires teachers of writing to be writers. Hairston argues that the process model is the best equip to teach writing to the new populations of American colleges and universities.

Notable Notes

attention to process began in the 1950s and 1960s with generative theories of linguistics (Chomsky) and grammar (Christensen), along with tagmemicists (Pike)

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Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 378-388.

Sommers argues that the field needs to focus and research how writers revise, and offers her case study of twenty students and 20 adult writers (from Boston and Oklahoma City) as a starting point. Each writer wrote three essays, revised them twice, and sat for interviews with Sommers about their revision strategies. Sommers found that students often focus on the word level when revising – they have what she deems a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (381) – while the adults saw revision as an opportunity to shape their thoughts and discover the direction and meaning of their writing. Sommers stressed that the truncated view of writing students have – one in which they have a thesis before they even begin writing – does not allow them to engage in writing as a process of discovery or learning, and that teachers of writing need to show students that good writing allows for a holistic and recursive revision process, one that seeks dissonance and wrestles with meaning.

May 1, 2009

Carter, A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines

Carter, Michael. “A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines.” Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 6.1. (2003): 4-29. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 268-286.

Carter outlines how the Campus Writing and Speaking Program, a WAC-like program at NC State (where Chris Anson is), helped departments establish speaking and writing outcomes for their undergraduate majors. Outcome-based assessment asks programs what skills and knowledge graduates should have, how the program helps students achieve these outcomes, and how the program could assess their outcomes and use their assessment for program development. The essay contains a list of questions departments can use to develop both objectives and outcomes (which, unlike objectives, are teachable and measurable), and gives an extended example of the outcomes from the anthropology department. Carter argues that such a discipline-specific assessment broadens both the responsibility of teaching writing and speaking skills to all departments and the timeline in which a student will be able to achieve these communication outcomes.

Notable Notes

outcomes need to be student-centered, faculty-driven, and meaningful (271)

outcome-based assessment does not assume that students will achieve something based on one course; it looks holistically at a whole program to assess its effectiveness in helping students achieve outcomes

compare to the continual improvement assessment in industry (ISO certification) and accountability movement in K-12 schools

the departments can state the disciplinary goals for their majors

what about students not in a traditional major? at schools with more blending capabilities?

articulate an assessment procedure with each department – including things like tests, exit interviews

the function of a speaking/writing professional (a WPA?) changes with outcome-based assessment

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