Revolution Lullabye

October 15, 2013

Dadas, Reaching the Profession

Dadas, Caroline. “Reaching the Profession: The Locations of the Rhetoric and Composition Job Market.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 67-89. Print.

Dadas argues that the discipline and specifically hiring committees need to investigate the locations  in which the composition and rhetoric job market process occurs and work to make hiring practices in these spaces more humane, ethical, and non-discriminatory. Dadas interviews 57 rhetoric and composition scholars who have either gone on the job market and/or have been a member of a hiring committee within the past ten years. She codes the transcripts of her interviews through grounded theory in order to find trends and patterns in the responses. Dadas’ article is organized around three locations of the composition and rhetoric job market: the phone interview, the Internet (including video/Skype interviews and the academic job wiki), and the MLA convention. She notes how each of these locations have embedded discriminatory practices: the phone interview, with its lack of visual cues, relies on the auditory modality and can force candidates to disclose disabilities that they otherwise wouldn’t; video/Skype interviews overemphasize appearances, visual cues, and the use of a sometimes spotty and new technology; the academic job wiki can increase candidate anxiety and spread false information about searches; and the MLA convention is cost prohibitive to many graduate student candidates who wouldn’t have normally attended the conference because it is not a central one to hte field.

Dadas focuses on the MLA convention timeline, asking whether or not it is in the best interest of candidates and search committees to have a coordinated timeline for the job search process. She points out that having a common timeline helps candidates compare and negotiate job offers, but questions whether or not the MLA conference – a conference that can be seen as marginalizing the field of composition and rhetoric – is the appropriate fulcrum for the comp/rhet job search process.

Dadas argues that hiring committees should practice empathy and think from the candidate’s perspective when deciding on the job hiring process and the locations in which they will interview candidates.  Dadas points out that one simple way to do this is for hiring committees to ask candidates what hiring practices could help them perform their best in the job search process, and that fair and ethical hiring practices don’t necessarily mean the same hiring processes for all candidates.

Notable Notes

need to look at timing and structure of job searches (84)

2008 recession led to an increase in phone/internet interviews over MLA convention and a jumping of the job search timeline by many institutions (80).

looks at the literature on the job market – almost all the scholarship focuses on the health of the market, the number of jobs, not the job search itself

relies on theories of location/place/space, both virtual and non-virtual (68)

Quotable Quotes

“We need to educate [equal opportunity offices] that ‘fair’ does not mean ‘the same for all.’ Only in challenging these institutional constraints can we work toward a more flexible process that allows all candidates to perform their best.” (85).

“Based on the dissatisfaction of many of the survey participants and on a decades-long acknowledgement that rhetoric and composition occupies a marginalized position within English studies, I pose a question to our discipline as a whole: is it best that we make MLA the center of our hiring universe?” (83).

“We have to talk about [the job market]. We have to theorize it. We have to give grad students some control over the parts that they can control so that the parts that they can’t control don’t feel so overwhelmingly difficult. And I think we should do that as a discipline, not just program to program” (Survey participant, qtd in Dadas 67).

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October 7, 2013

Cleary, Flowing and Freestyling

Cleary, Michelle Navarre. “Flowing and Freestyling: Learning from Adult Students about Process Knowledge Transfer.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 661-687.

Cleary cites a gap in the research on writing transfer in adult students, arguing that adult students (students older than the traditional college student) have significant personal and professional writing experiences that impact how they approach academic writing situations, tasks, and assignments. She studies a group of 25 adult students enrolled in an introductory course at a college dedicated to adult students at a larger university. Her methodology relies on interviews, which are based on discussions of the students’ own writing assignments and drafts and their descriptions of their writing processes. Her article includes two case studies from the larger sample size – Tiffany and Doppel. These two students, who have different academic identities and professional/personal backgrounds, approached the academic writing process in markedly different ways. Cleary argues that Doppel, whose has a more varied background in writing situations and genres, has a more robust store of writing process analogies to draw upon in order to succeed in academic writing. Doppel, as compared to Tiffany, does more prewriting, drafting, revising, and peer cuing (asking peers/supervisors for feedback on his writing), which makes him more comfortable with academic writing tasks.

Cleary argues that writing teachers should not just focus on their students’ writing processes themselves but how the students frame, think about, and describe their writing processes (the analogies that they use.)

Notable Notes

survey of literature on writing transfer/adult education (662-664) – depends on developing rhetorical flexibility, problem solving (not specific genres)

peer cuing – peer feedback comes not just from classmates but from a student’s already-developed network of friends, advisors, family, co-workers

the more varied the writing background, the more analogies/frames a student has to think about the writing process

appendix with interview questions, sample writing log, descriptions of global v. dimensional analogies.

Quotable Quotes

“Transfer occurs when people make use of prior experiences to address new challenges; the significance of prior experience is a central theme in adult education” (662).

“The case studies…revealed that a sense of academic identity, peer cueing, and anaological reasoning all played significant roles in whether these students transferred useful process knowledge” (667).

“Simply put, students with more expreiences making things for which others will pay had more ways to think about the various parts of their writing process” (670). – low-stakes v. high-stakes (audience-centric) writing tasks

 

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).

December 16, 2010

Schell, Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers

Schell, Eileen E. Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998.

Schell argues that there is a deliberate connection between the low status of women in the academy and in the workforce in general, the devaluing of the teaching of writing, and the part-time contingent status of those who teach college composition (who are overwhelmingly female.) She draws on feminist methodology and uses interviews, surveys, published narratives, and studies to try to represent the many perspectives of women who hold contingent faculty positions, to explain the social phenomenon of why so many women get tracked into contingent faculty positions, and to argue for collective feminist change, one that is grounded into modern economic, political, and historical realities. Schell argues that the thrust of change, which has been led and conducted in a “pragmatic professional context” through national organizations like AAUP, CCCC, and MLA, needs to be transformed to a strategy that specifically addresses the needs of women teaching in contingent faculty positions (81-82). In her final chapter, she identifies, through her research in the field’s literature and through her surveys, four of the popular solutions to the contingent labor problem and then explores their benefits and consequences: 1. the conversionist solution (converting part-time to full-time tenure-line positions); 2. the reformist solution (reforming the working conditions of non-tenure-line faculty); 3. the unionist/collectivist solution (organizing unions and building coalitions through professional organizations); and 4. the abolitionist solution (getting rid of the first-year course, which relies on exploitive contingent labor. Schell contends that change will only come from a deeper understanding of the forces that affect higher education – that the solutions batted about by those in the field and others outside will not work if the field’s higher education illiteracy – a responsibility to be aware academic citizens, literate in discourse and practices of higher education administration – is not addressed.

Notes and Quotes

teaching was one of the first acceptable professions for women – 19th century

naming: “Composition instructors are often described in gendered terms as handmaids, wives, mothers, and midwives, thus making women’s work as composition teachers a biological and social extension of unpaid, undervalued domestic labor” (62).

culled from her interviews of part-time instructors themes that many implied or talked about in reference to their contingent labor positions, teaching writing, and being a woman in a male-centered university system.

1995 Feminist Workshop at CCCC: “Women in the Academy: Can a Feminist Agenda Transform the Illusion of Equity into Reality” – to investigate the unique challenges of women juggling their professional and personal lives (82).

Other CCCC organizations that attended to women’s working lives and conditions: The Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession (1997) and the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (1990, a caucus): goals to network, encourage mentorship, research the professional status of women in the field. (83-84)

Draws on Hansen’s “Face to Face with Part-Timers” to again argue that one way that WPAs can work towards improving the professional status and working conditions of women part-timers is by offering professional development and encouraging these part-timers to pursue professional and research opportunities (87)

need to challege, redefine the motherly caretaker teacher role that puts women at a professional disadvantage in the academy

“imperfect solutions to imperfect problems”: Schell’s subtitle to Chapter 5 (90).

“Fundamentally, though, a lack of knowledge of current labor trends and higher education management and economic policies is a form of crippling illiteracy” (119).

June 12, 2009

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 29, 2009

American University Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion

American University Center for Social Media. “The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.” September 2007.

This code is designed to educate teachers and administrators about their right to appropriate fair use of copyrighted materials. Because fair use is misunderstood and there is a rampant fear of copyright litigation, educators don’t utilize all the possible resources they could when teaching and creating media literacy curriculum and limit their students’ own educational and creative, critical and productive projects. The authors of the code argue for teachers to educate themselves about their fair use rights and to create codes of best practices that can be used as guidelines for media literacy educators (hence the NCTE one.)

Quotable Quotes

different explanations of copyright protection and restrictions = “copyright folklore” – you need to know the law yourself and make your own judgments

Notable Notes

co-principal investigators are the same as those on the NCTE Code of Best Practices: Renee Hobbs, Peter Jaszi, Pat Aufderheide

Principles of media literacy education:

  • “All messages are constructions, created by authors for specific purposes.”
  • “People use their knowledge, skills, beliefs, and experiences to construct meaning from messages.”
  • “Different forms and genres of communication use specific codes, conventions, and symbolic forms.”
  • “Values and ideologies are conveyed in media messages in ways that represent certain world vies, sharing perceptions of world reality.”
  • “Media messages, media industries, and technologies of communication exist within a larger aesthetic, cultural, historical, political, economic, and regulatory framework”

fair use is an extension of 1st amendement rights; is critically important to educators

2 ways teachers cope with copyright and fair use: deliberate ignorance; hiding & trangression; hyper-compliance

methodology: interviewing teachers, producers, administrators, organizational leaders. All their names are in the back of the document.

April 25, 2009

Varnum, Fencing with Words

Varnum, Robin. Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College during the Era of Theodore Baird, 1938-1966. Urbana: NCTE, 1996.

Varnum presents a counternarrative to the mainstream history of 20th century composition instruction through her archival investigation of the Amherst freshman writing program directed by Theodore Baird from 1938 to 1966. Her history, unlike other histories written in the field, has three distinct differences: first, she spends much time looking at how outside social and political forces (institutional, national, and global) affected the pedagogy in Amherst’s writing courses; second, she depends on the archives of the program (assignments, student papers, memos, reports, as well as interviews) instead of textbooks and journals to sketch a picture of what was happening in the classrooms; and third, she brings to light a much-misunderstood era of American composition, one that is usually conflated and simplified to be “current-traditional.” Baird’s first-year writing courses were designed by the entire team of teachers (everyone used the same collaboratively-written assignment sequence), and student writing, not textbooks, were the centerpiece of the course. Baird believed that writing was a process of self-discovery, a process through which unexpressible (and unknown) truths could be expressed. Varnum’s history does not sugarcoat or reify Baird’s administration or pedagogy, pointing out that his high-priest attitude was decidedly masculine and top-down, perceived by some students and fellow faculty to be a bully who ran a “boot camp” course.

Quotable Quotes

“The tendancy among composition historians has been to look at practice in the classroom, or at the materials and ideas presented there, without acknowledging the larger forces that created the classroom itself” (7).

Notable Notes

great model for dissertation

Baird’s constant metaphor of running orders through chaos (taken from The Education of Henry Adams and science, philosophy, Burke, Richards that he read)

the Amherst course was taken by all freshman at the same time with the same assignments so that each assignment was a campus-wide event.

focused on conflict, constant questioning and revision

saw student writer as individual who possessed his own voice, the goal was to free that voice and the imagination; break them of writing what he dubbed “the Perfect Theme” (41) influenced heavily by The Education of Henry Adams

Baird’s ideal was to create a community of teachers

all the work that went into teaching and planning the course (assignments were re-invented each year) took away the time the instructors and professors could do their own research

how do policies and politics outside the classroom affect what is being taught?

impact of WWII, GI Bill, co-education, change in American university system, Civil Rights, move towards general education requirements

Varnum interviews professors who taught with Baird, 7 alumni of the program, looks at student papers, essay contest winners, uses letters she writes to Baird and recieves from him, assignment sequences (in appendix)

March 5, 2008

Brandt Literacy in American Lives

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Brandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives. New York: Cambridge UP, 2001.

Brandt develops the analytical lens of literacy sponsors to explain how larger economic and social forces impact the development of an individual’s literacy. Her study, conducted in the 1990s, consists of 80 interviews of people, ranging in age from 10 to 85, who live in the southern Wisconsin area. She shows how the rapid expansion of technology and the increased reliance on documents and texts (the contractarian society) has changed Americans’ literacy habits. Brandt shows this change in American society by looking at the literacy sponsors of four generations of an American family (the Mays) and by investigating how specific moments in history corresponded to an individual’s ability to acquire a new literacy (both in reference to the union and labor movement in the 1970s and the prison reform/rehabilitation at the same time.) Another one of Brandt’s chapters deals with the differences in attitudes towards reading and writing. Brandt asserts that writing plays an important role in the new 21st century economy, an economy that is centered around production. She argues that the public schools, who are supposed to be institutions of democracy and equal opportunity, need to be re-evaluated in terms of literacy sponsors to see what literacy learning they are offering their students and what, due to inadequate funds and poor technology resources, are they not giving their students.

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