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).


January 18, 2012

Schon, Educating the Reflective Practicioner

Schon, Donald. “Educating the Reflective Practicioner.” American Educational Research Association. 1987. Washington, DC. Web. 18 January 2012.

Schon, who sets out a context of contemporary conversations about school reform and teacher accountability and the history of higher education, which draws a line between (high) theory and (low) practice, argues that good teaching is artistic, responsive, and spontaneous in nature. He argues for a change in how teachers are prepared to teach, suggesting that they be taught (or rather coached) through reflective practicums, in the same vein as the practical education doctors, artists, and musicians receive.

Schon highlights that in these practicums, uncertainty and vulnerbility feature prominently: the students (the prospective teachers) are the ones who have to figure out what it is they are learning; their instructors can’t tell them discrete, contained bits of knowledge that then they can transfer. Reflective, spontaneous, artistic teachers experiment, test, and improvise.

Schon points out that this kind of teacher training can only flourish in an environment that grants teachers the freedom to experiment and the permission to be confused.


“But underneath the debate about the schools, as it cycles through our history, certain fundamental questions keep coming up: “What are the competences that teachers should be trying to help students, kids acquire?” “What kinds of knowledge and what sort of know-how should teachers have in order to do their jobs well?” What kinds of education are most likely to help teachers prepare for effective teaching?””

“this capacity to respond to surprise through improvisation on the spot is what I mean by reflection-in-action. When a teacher turns her attention to giving kids reason to listening what they say, then teaching itself becomes a form of reflection-in action, and I think this formulation helps to describe what it is that constitutes teaching artistry. It involves getting in touch with what kids are actually saying and doing; it involves allowing yourself to be surprised by that, and allowing yourself to be surprised, I think, is appropriate, because you must permit yourself to be surprised, being puzzled by what you get and responding to the puzzle through an on-the-spot experiment that you make, that responds to what the kid says or does. ”

“And this is teaching in the form of reflection-in-action. It involves a surprise, a response to surprise by thought turning back on itself, thinking what we’re doing as we do it, setting the problem of the situation anew, conducting an action experiment on the spot by which we seek to solve the new problems we’ve set, an experiment in which we test both our new way of seeing the situation, and also try to change that situation for the better. And reflection-in-action need not be an intellectual or verbalized activity. If you think about–my favourite example of reflection-in-action is jazz, because if you think about people playing jazz within a framework of beat and rhythm and melody that is understood, one person plays and another person responds, and responds on the spot to the way he hears the tune, making it different to correspond to the difference he hears, improvisation in that sense is a form of reflection-in-action. And so is good conversation which must be neither wholly predictable nor wholly unpredictable. If it’s wholly predictable, it’s boring and not good, and if it’s wholly unpredictable, it’s crazy. Good conversation, which all of us have some gift for, involves a moving between those extremes in a kind of on-line observation and action which is so natural and spontaneous to us that we don’t even think about the capacity we have to do it.”

“My experience in other kinds of reflective practicums such as the design studio in architecture is that the phenomena of confusion and mystery and anger are endemic at the beginning”

“But all this depends on there being at the heart of the school a core of people, at least a small group of people, who are prepared to create a new kind of research presence, who want to produce experiences and knowledge which is usable by teachers. I think that’s the crucial feature–that their research would be usable. That it would be engaged collaboratively with teachers, that it would be conducted on line in experience with teachers, and that it would be aimed at healing the splits between teaching and doing, school and life, research and practice, which have been so insidiously effective at deadening the experience of school at all levels. ”


there is an ongoing tradition, dialogue about reforming school – nothing new

difference between school-based knowledge and knowledge acquired outside school (tacit, experimential, improvisational)

argues against the separation of theory and practice

distinguishes between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-reflection-in-action

teaching like jazz improv

June 24, 2009

Tobin and Newkirk, Taking Stock

Tobin, Lad and Thomas Newkirk, eds. Taking Stock: The Writing Process Movement in the 90s. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1994.

This collection comes from a 1992 conference, “The Writing Process: Prospect and Retrospect,” held at UNH and designed both to look at the process movement’s past and where it might go in the future. In his introduction to the edited collection, Tobin predicts that the writing process movement will change in the 90s due to three factors: the influence of gender, race, class, and culture on the teaching and theorizing about writing; the effect of new technologies on the teaching and theorizing of writing (PCs, online teaching, popular media); and the effect of research on teacher and reader response. These three trends will expand the scope of the process movement beyond the individual expressivist writer, giving larger social and political context to writing. The book has five sections: Reading the Writing Process Movement, Teaching the Writing Process, Institutionalizing the Writing Process, Deconstructing the Writing Process, and Narrating the Writing Process.

Quotable Quotes & Notable Notes

Lisa Ede “Reading the Writing Process.” 31-43

The writing process movement should stop being labeled “good” or “bad” – it was a rhetorically situated movement, created due a particular time and place (the literacy crisis of the 1970s led to the theory if we understand how students write we can teach them better and composition asserting itself as a discipline.) The problem is that all that research was oversimplified into a “process” that was only taught in one course; the British theories of growth and education were ignored as process was mechanized and the diversity of students was eliminated. Process is actually a conglomerate of lots of contradictory pedagogies and methods: freewriting, formal heuristics, sentence combining, protocol analysis, case studies, and theory. Ede argues that the field must look at writing beyond the classroom, especially those kinds of workplace writing that don’t follow our idea of process; abandon the individual writer focus and look at collaboration; and question our models and metaphors in our research. The focus, she argues, needs to be on doing what needs to be done in regards to teaching and understanding writing – not focusing on being a discipline.

James Marshall, “Of What Skill Does Writing Really Consist?” 45-55

“In our youth as a movement we were rebels, or tried to be. We did inhale. We self-consciously set ourselves up as outsiders, and then we gloried in it” (48).

“The one serious mistake we could make, I think, would be to maintain the rhetorical and political positions that we took in our youth. They worked then; I don’t think they can work today. We are facing a different set of problems, and we are working now from the center and not from the margins.” (54)

Three things to do:

  1. deal with our authority and our disciplinary place in the academy – no longer rebels. We’re established.
  2. search for theoretical roots in education and the progressive movement to have models and understand what we do.
  3. open up larger contexts and sites to study and teach writing.

Thomas Newkirk “The Politics of Intimacy.” 115-131.

Looks at how Barrett Wendell’s English 12 course at Harvard was not a course in what we think as current-traditional rhetoric. Rather, Wendell tried to open up relations with his students, talk with them as emerging writers, read student writing aloud in class as models, encouraged critique of the course, and gave them choices for topics. His curriculum, though, was doomed because it never received institutional support and was defeated by a heavy, impossible teaching load that made current-traditional pedagogy the only viable way to teach.

Mary Minock. “The Bad Marriage: A Revisionist View of James Britton’s Expressive-Writing Hypothesis in American Practice.” 153-175.

James Britton argued that expressive writing will naturally lead to other forms of writing over time, as a student grows and matures through years of schooling. American writing educators took that hypothesis and combined it with the American ideal of linear progress. What results is a one-semester course in writing that tries to bring college students from expressive writing to academic argument in fifteen short weeks. When this fails (as it often does, because the important quotient of time is left out), students and teachers alike feel like failures. Writing teachers need to stop trying to formalize and speed up the process of learning how to write: a student might do well on one paper and bomb the next, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t growing and learning. Instead of using expressive writing as an end to itself(which the British do), we use it as a means to an end, an end of academic discourse.

June 19, 2009

Dewey, Democracy and Education

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1961.

In this book, originally published in 1915, Dewey forwards his philosophy of education in a democratic society. Dewey, known as a pragmatist, believes that the purpose of education is growth, and that growth happens as a child interacts with a social environment and continuously reconstructs his or her knowledge through purposeful activities and experiences. He dismisses the binary between the pursuit of pure knowledge and vocational education, arguing that vocations and occupations do not limit a child but rather give them a direction, and organizing principle through which to experience education. Education forms fundamental intellectual and emotional dispositions, which are learned through the social community of school, but no one state should enforce a standard disposition – the strength of democratic societies is intellectual freedom and individual choice. Dewey believes that education within the school should reflect the experiences and learning that takes place outside of school.

Quotable Quotes

“Learning is the accompaniment of continuous activities or occupations which have a social aim and utilize the materials of typical social situations” (360). – continuous readjustment and growth

education = “the continuous reconstruction of experience” (80) and “that reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience” (76).

Notable Notes

classroom as a social learning community

connection to norms (Green)…acquisition of habits (Newman)

April 29, 2009

Royer and Gilles, Directed Self-Placement

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation.” CCC 50 (1998): 54-70. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 233-248.

Directed self-placement is an assessment practice that shifts the responsibilty of placing students in the right first-year composition section from the teachers/WPA/administration to the students themselves. Gilles and Royer describe how they developed the idea and explain its benefits: cost-effectiveness, efficiency, a decrease in complaints by students and teachers, positive attitudes in basic writing and first-year courses, and, most importantly, a sense of “rightness,” telling and showing students that they can be entrusted, with guidance, to making decisions about their own education. They argue that directed self-placement is as (or more) valid and reliable than placing students into sections based on their standardized test scores or the score on a timed essay. Directed self-placement is grounded in pragmatic (Dewey) educational philosophy and looks inward, to the needs of students, giving them power and control and starting a culture of communication from the first day on campus..

Quotable Quotes

“Our placement program thus relies on honest student inquiry and interactive participation” (246).

“Normally, the placement universe revolves around teachers; we choose the methods, we score the essays, we tell students what courses to take. Now we began to envision students at the center” (239).

Notable Notes

In the first few years that their writing program implemented directed-self placement (explained and conducted at freshman orientation), 22% of incoming freshman self-placed themselves in basic writing.

simplicity and elegance, honesty about directed self-placement

narrative at beginning about how students are introduced and guided through directed self-placement at orientation

placement tests should be future-directed, about a student’s education, not focused on what teachers might learn about students from one decontextualized sit-down writing prompt

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 10, 2009

Shedroff, Experience Design

Shedroff, Nathan. Experience Design 1. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Press, 2001.

Experience design seeks out the common elements that make “superior” experiences, those that are successful and memorable. Shedroff includes all experiences in his analysis, both online and off-line, and his goal is to define principles of good experiences so that they can be consciously reproduced. Experiences are contained by their boundaries and usually consist of three major phases: attraction, engagement, and conclusion. The principles Shedroff discovers by evaluating and analyzing superior experiences (those he deems superior) connect to all three of those phases and include attributes like consistency, usability, interactivity, feedback, control, creativity, adaptivity, and community and identity creation. These types of good experiences have developed cognitive models, which is a structure based on how the designer predicts how the audience might understand the information, find meaning in it, and remember it. Shedroff also argues that good design is derived from insight, which is created by thoughtful, contextual structured information, developed along a continuum of information, stretching from pure data (which has no context), to context-driven, organized information, to generalized knowledge, to personalized, non-transmittable wisdom.

Quotable Quotes

“The elements that contribute to superior experiences are knowable and reproducible, which can make them designable” (2).

“[Seduction] has always been a part of design” (8)

“Information is really data transformed into something more valuable by building context around it so that it becomes understandable” (34) and “Information is data put in context with thought given to its organization and presentation” (42).

“The path to wisdom is not even open until we approach understanding with an openness and tolerance for ambiguity” (54).

“The most important aspect of any design is how it is understood in the minds of the audience” (cognitive model) (60).

Notable Notes

Experiences must “compete for the attention of the audience and partcipants” – novelty isn’t enough to keep a person interested for long. Compare with Lanham The Economy of Attention. (4) “Successful digital media are those that offer experiences unique to their medium and complete with traditional media in usefulness and satisfaction” (4)

Look at experiences throughout history to inform the design of present and future things (23)

Important experiences include birth, death, and the takeaway moments – those important experiences that you take away with you as you die as your lasting memories of Earth (rarely have anything to do with modern digital technology)

Information overload is really information anxiety – there is too much information out there as just data, no context or insight to put it into perspective or communication with others (34)

Ways to organize data (only 7) – magnitude, time, numbers, alphabet, category, location, randomness. Many presentation possibilities for the same data (example of the periodic table of the elements.) (66)

There is a need for multiplicity for different learning styles, redundancy, different levels of understanding and meaning (example of Vietnam memorial in DC), navigation routes.

Clear navigation and cognitive models are key in design.

Important design considerations: consistency, usability (learnability and functionality), design must create meaning, interactivity (audience are participants), feedback (audiences know that their participation matters), control (audience has control over experience – or thinks they do), creativity (people feel valuable, satisfied when asked to be creative), productivity (usefulness), adaptivity (customized, personalized), community membership, authentic identity formation, storytelling, narrative, perspective and point-of-view.

Sensorial design (276) – smell, taste, touch, sound, sight

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