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).

 

August 29, 2012

Blakely and Pagnac, Pausing in the Whirlwind

Blakely, Barbara J. and Susan B. Pagnac. “Pausing in the Whirlwind: A Campus Place-Based Curriculum in a Multimodal Foundation Communication Course.”  WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 11-37.

Blakely and Pagnac describe the place-based curriculum of one of Iowa State University’s two multimodal communication foundation courses, arguing that a course that centers on the place students are at (the college campus) results in deep student engagement, attachment, and opportunities for students to analyze and make arguments grounded in history and context across genres and modes.

In their description of the course, Blakely and Pagnac draw on numerous theories of place, space, and place-based pedagogy, including Thomas Grunewald, Yi-Fu Tuan, David Orr, and Robert Thayer. They point out that place is often an ignored part of the rhetorical landscape: it is so ubiquitous it is unseen.  The course they describe helps students see the arguments of their campus architecture, spaces, and organizations, encouraging them to draw connections between the stated educational missions of their institution and how those values are made manifest and interpreted by the lived spaces they occupy.

Notable Notes

one central goal: get students aware, cognizant

assignment sequence:

1. narrative of a place; 2. deep mapping and letter writing about a place on campus (the relationships people form with places); 3. exploring a campus program or orgnaization and analyzing its connection to the university mission; 4. understanding campus art and architecture; 5. repurposing their analyses into visual and oral communication projects; 6. semester reflection

great citations across sociology, higher ed, architecture for place-based pedagogy arguments: Willaim Least Heat-Moon PrairyErth (A Deep Map)

course helped students transition, form attachments, create a new identity – a good time (first-year students) for students to explore campus identities and their own]

course design is flexible but coherent across sections – meets the needs of individual students and instructors

readily accessible and relevent content to write about

Quoatable Quotes

“place is profoundly pedagogical” – Thomas Gruenewald “Foundations” 621 (qtd. 13)

“Campuses are planned and designed to embody educational purpose and institutional mission and values in various ways” (17).

“Place is a central influence in our experiences and developing sense of self.” (18)

 

March 25, 2009

Strenski, Recruiting and Retraining Experienced Teachers

Strenski, Ellen. “Recruiting and Retraining Experienced Teachers: Balancing Game Plans in an Entrepreneural Force-Field.” In Resituating Writing. Eds. Janangelo and Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1995. 82-99.

Strenski argues against the push to departmentalize writing programs by arguing that the traditional departmental model does not serve the mission of the writing program – to teach and serve students across the university. Rather, WPAs should capitalize on the opportunity of creating dynamic writing programs at the margins of the university that can act as change-agents. The tension, then, in the different populations within a writing program (part-time instructors, full-time faculty, students), can be spun into beneficial, entrepreneural energy. She uses an extended case study between two instructors – Eve (a middle-aged part-time instructor) and Adam (a young graduate student) – to show how they might begin to collaborate instead of conflict with each other. Strenski’s argument is different from many who talk about the labor conditions or the place of writing programs in the university; like Phelps, she argues that there can be productive good in the heterogeneous mix. She argues that the best writing programs come when WPAs recruit, train, and develop good teachers who hail from a variety of different teaching philosophies and methods.

Quotable Quotes

“This very marginality is the major source of energy in the writing program force-field.” (83).

“Edges can be cutting; they can be dangerous, exciting places” (83).

“An entrepreneurial model offers explanatory power and hope. It interprets the anomalous, liminal nature of a writing program as essentially dynamic, and uniquely valuable for that very energy” (85).”

“The culture of a writing program is informed primariy by the central activity of teaching (as opposed to expertise in professing a disciplinary subject), and as a result writing program instructors must be perceived by undergraduates as good teachers who care about teaching” (90).

“Any writing program is really nothing but the people we hire, retrain, and retain.” (97)

Notable Notes

a cadre of diverse teachers

ways to select teachers: interview, evaluate their responses to a sample student paper, ask for syllabi

group grading of papers is an extremely simple and valuable professional development activity (See Edward M. White Teaching)

it’s OK – and even good – to have non-tenured writing instructors

March 24, 2009

Hansen, Face-to-Face with Part-Timers

Hansen, Kristine. “Face-to-Face with Part-Timers.” In Resituating Writing: Constructing and Administering Writing Programs. Eds. Joseph Janangelo and Kristine Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1995. 23-45.

Hansen argues for the professionalization part-time instructors by treating them ethically and valuing their teaching expertise as important meaning-making knowledge. In the article, she briefly explains the historical background of part-time instruction and the emergence of the CCCC Statement about part-time and contingent labor through the work of the Wyoming Resolution. After listing several cons of professionalization (sheer number of instructors, those who want to work part-time, the costs of providing a professional work environment, and the anti-democratic, boundaried, and disciplined nature of expertise and professionalization), Hansen shows through both a theoretical understanding of the ethics of care and her own personal case study as a WPA how one might go about improving the conditions of labor for part-time instructors.

Quotable Quotes

“How can [a WPA] in good conscience lead a program that is built on exploitation?” (25)

“The only ethical solution is to professionalize part-time teachers – but to do so in ways that avoid devaluing lore and the practicioners who worked in the field before the certified professoinals arrived.” (32)

Notable Notes

CCCC statement was a compromise of the original Wyoming resolution because it didn’t include the union model of grievance paths

affect of graduate programs on part-time teaching staff

ethics are relational – come about with contact with other people; administrators who talk with and work with part-timers are more likely to treat them ethically

moves for change: writing memos, arranging meetings with part-timers and deans, providing professional development, securing funding to pay those for professional development, highlighting work publically through symposiums and conferences, survey other surrounding institutions

February 7, 2009

George and Trimbur, Cultural Studies and Composition

George, Diana and John Trimbur. “Cultural Studies and Composition.” 71-91.

George and Trimbur argue that when composition instructors use cultural studies to organize their pedagogy, they are continuing the movement in the field from focusing on individual writers (process theory) to acknowledging the social and political context of the world the students are writing, thinking, and learning in. This politcal turn, proponents of cultural studies in the composition class argue, represents the diversity of the students, allows for rhetoric to be incorporated in the writing classroom, and accommodates the postmodern goal of recognizing and analyzing fragments and subsets of culture. Cultural studies began as a phenomenon in the UK in the 1960s with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham, and the major New Left thinkers there (Hoggart, Williams, Thompson) looked to Althusser and Gramsci to destroy the power dynamic inherent in the high/low culture split and to begin investigating how people’s cultural practices in turn create the social order and class consciousness. This decidedly white, male, middle-class movement expanded with feminist and race critiques of cultural studies in the 1980s. Those in favor of using cultural studies as the content of a composition class argue that its use of popular culture is inviting to students, it teaches close analysis of texts and artifacts, and leads to civic and public writing. Those against it contend that a focus on cultural studies as a content in the composition classroom leads to a devaluing of writing itself, as the textbooks used don’t include a lot of student texts and the work of producing and writing isn’t foregrounded in the curriculum. Some also see cultural studies as an attempt for leftist teachers to politically indoctrinate their students.

Quotable Quotes

Shift: “emphasis from the personal experience of the individual to the lived experience of participants in the larger culture” (83).

“The arrival of cultural studies marks a wider resurfacing of political desire in academic work”, “a need on the part of American leftist academics to articulate a role for themselves in public formus and to cope (at least rhetorically if not actually) with the globalization of capital and its relentless war against working people and the poor” (72).

Problem with cultural studies pedagogy: “uncritical populist celebration of popular culture, in which the audience is ‘never wrong’ and the practice of everyday life is persisently resistant to the dominant culture” (84).

Notable Notes

Lidna Brodkey 1st year course, “Writing About Difference” at the University of Texas, recounted in “Federal Case”

Cultural studies in composition on the scene in the late 198s, 1990s

Sources about foundational cultural studies theory: Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy; E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class; Raymond Williams, Culture and Society and The Long Revolution; Stuart Hall “Two Paradigms”; Althusser; Gramsci; Lawrence Grossberg “The Formation of Cultural Studies”; Johnson “What Is Cultural Studies, Anyway?”; Baudelaire, Paris Spleen; Engel, Conditions of Working Classes in 1844; Frankfurt School; Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor; Bourdieu; Habermas; Barthes; deCerteau; Walter Benjamin; Women Take Issue: Aspects of Women’s Subordination; Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack

Cultural Studies and Composition: Raymond Williams, The Future of Cultural Studies; Gere, Long Revolution; Ohmann, Graduate Students; Trimbur, Writing Instruction, Cultural Studies, Articulation Theory, Radical Pedagogy; Berlin, Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures; Schilb, Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition; Faigley, Fragments of Rationality; Berlin/Vivion; Fitts/France; Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone; Sullivan/Qualley, Pedagogy in the Age of Politics.

Critiques of cultural studies: Richard Miller, As If Learning; Joseph Harris, Other Reader; Frank Farmer; Susan Miller, Technologies; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and the Teaching of Writing.

January 31, 2009

Lindemann, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers

I’m beginning to see the value (you would hope!) in reading through all these guides for beginning teachers of composition. I now know the basic issues that new teachers face, what the field (in general) thinks that it’s important for them to learn or know about (and in turn what their students should learn and know about.) The same common theories and many of the same texts are referenced in both, both in the book and in attached bibliographies, creating sort of a “canon” for important texts for beginning composition teachers (I’ll be reading some of them next.) But, most importantly I think, from an administration point of view, I now know a lot of the approaches taken to instruct beginning teachers about the teaching of writing, and I can draw on these texts in creating a syllabus for that kind of course (or for less formal, less intensive teacher-training.) I like the theoretically-grounded approach Lindemann takes in this text, and I think the one-author (rather than anthology) approach makes the text more coherent and cohesive, a more intimate and straightforward guide for new teachers, but one with a lot of meat and nuances.

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

This guide for writing teachers, in its fourth edition, approaches the teaching of writing from a rhetorical perspective, emphasizing teaching a rhetorically and theoretically-grounded concept of writing to students and seeing the act of teaching (and all that is part of that job) as a rhetorical enterprise. The book is divided into three major sections. The first, “The Composing Process,” defines key terms like context, code, and message, and explains the stages of the writing process, highlighting the social nature of writing. The second, “Rhetorical Theory and Practice,” offers three chapters about the fundamental concepts in rhetoric, linguistics, and cognition that writing teachers must know, citing major names and theories, and goes on with other chapters about invention and revision strategies and the study of discourse and style (paragraphing, sentences, and words.) The third section, “Teaching as Rhetoric,” has chapters on assignment creation, response, evaluation, course design, and writing with computers (added for this edition.) Lindemann points out why writing instruction is so important for students – for economic power, social necessity (to live and interact with others in society), and for personal meaning-making – in the introduction of the text. She sees students and their instructors as writers both struggling to make meaning and urges teachers to have the “courage” to give up some of the control and authority those teaching other disciplines might have in order to meet and interact with their students as writers.

Quotable Quotes

“Theories give coherence and direction to the practical. They demonstrate the complexities of the writing process and the importance of teaching it well” (9).

Inspiration from Donald Murray: We, like our students “wrestle with the difficult process of creating meaning through language” (305).

“What is truly basic to composition – a person communicating with another person” (305).

Notable Notes

end of the book contains an extensive timeline of important dates in rhetoric and composition and a bibliography of selected texts

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

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