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).


February 4, 2013

Scholes, The Transition to College Reading

Scholes, Robert J. “The Transition to College Reading.” Pedagogy 2.2 (Spring 2002): 165-172. Print.

In this essay, which is a revised version of a talk Scholes delivered at the 2001 NCTE conference in Baltimore, Scholes argues that teachers of English need to spend more time teaching students how to read more critically, which he defines as two related activities: 1. being able to accurately focus on the words, the language of the text and 2. understanding the author as outside the reader (as an other.) (166)

Scholes argues that this reading problem he sees as an educator is symptomatic of a larger problem of American culture: the inability of people to imagine the other – being able to listen to a person’s arguments and reasons without instantly critiquing or dismissing that argument. He contends that rhetoric depends on hearing the other, and a society that can’t understand perspectives other than their own cannot function as a true democracy.

Scholes believes that incorporating more literary criticism in the literature/English curriculum will address this reading problem becuase he believes criticism can model to students how to read and write for differences, how to interpret the other.  Scholes also notes that the task of imagining the other is rooted in rhetorical education: he cites McGuffey’s Reader (5th ed 1879) as explaining the purpose of reading as hearing the “ideas and feelings of the writer” (qtd. 167).

Notable Notes

solution must start in secondary schools, in the curriculum

importance of asking students to read things that they might not agree with – practicing listening to the arguments and reasons of the writer, not themselves.

Quotable Quotes

“The reading problems of our students can themselves be read as a symptom of a larger cultural problem.  We are not good, as a culture, at imagining the other” (167).

“I want to say that a good person, in our time, needs to have the rhetorical capacity to imagine the other’s thought, feeling, and sentiments. That is, though not all rhetoricians are good people, all good citizens must be rhetoricians to the extent that they can imagine themselves in the place of another and understand views different from their own. It is our responsibility as English teachers to help our students develop this form of textual power, in which strength comes, paradoxically, from subordinating one’s own thoughts temporarily to the views and values of another person” (168).

“If rhetoric is a schooling in textual virtue as well as in textual power, as I believe it is, this virtue consists largely in our being able to assume another person’s point of view before criticizing it and resuming our own” (169).

“The basis of an education for citizens of a democracy lies in that apparently simple but actually difficult act of reading so as to grasp and evaluate the thoughts and feelings of that mysterious other person: the writer” (171).

January 29, 2013

Buckingham, Digital Media Literacies

Buckingham, David. “Digital Media Literacies: Rethinking Media Education in the Age of the Internet.” Research in Comparative and International Education 2.1 (2007): 43-55.

Buckingham, a well-known media education scholar from the UK, argues that the notion of media literacy must be extended beyond a the idea of a functional skill set based on search and evaluation techniques and instead, move towards critical understanding of how information online is authored, produced, and circulated amid social and ideological forces. 

In order to help media educators build students’ critical understanding of digital literacy, Buckingham offers his own framework (2003) of key concepts through which to analyze digital media: representation, language, production, and audience.  He argues that this framework resists the reductive checklists that are given to students to analyze and evaulate the internet and digital media.  These checklists, Buckingham contends, assume that there is some sort of objective truth that can be found in digital media – that the Internet is a neutral tool.  Instead, Buckingham argues, educators need to teach students how digial media (like all forms of rhetoric) is inherently biased and socially and culturally situated.  He points out that the Internet is more shaped by commerical interests than other forms of media.

Buckingham also argues that in order to truly build complex, critical digital literacy, students must not only consume (or read) media, but also produce (write) it. Production, he claims, gives students a deeper understanding of how digital media is built and functions.

Finally, Buckingham complicates the definition of access to include not just physical access to digital technology (computers, software, space), but also certain cultural and social competencies and awareness of digital media.  For example, he argues that even in technologically-rich cultures (like the US and UK), boys and white children have more access and greater compentencies online than girls and minorities.

Notable Notes

His framework (page 48-49)

  • representation – media don’t report, they represent reality.  What is represented? What is not?
  • language – how sites are designed, constructed, and how they function rhetorically (for example, the rhetorical function of hyperlinks)
  • production – who/why are sites produced for? who (or what institutions) affect and shape the information and what you see? impact of commercialization
  • audience – how to readers access sites? who are sites targeted to? how is this interactive online?

has literacy been reduced to a set of skills? Is the term meaningless when juxtaposed with so many other words? (43-44)

differences between functional and critical literacy (44)

the internet is not just an educational tool; how is it really used and consumed by people? how can we draw on that understanding, these grounded behaviors? (45)

functional digital literacy skills quickly become obsolete (like checklists) (46) – we’re looking to build lasting habits of mind

focus of Internet literacy is often safety (esp for children) – European Commission’s “Safer Internet Action Plan” (46)

Buckingham sees digital literacy as an extension of media literacy, media education

create a heuristic?

sources: Bettina Fabos (2004); Ellen Seiter (2005); Nicholas Burbules and Thomas Callister (2000) (they argue that users need to understand how the Web functions as a system)

Internet’s architecture shaped by “commercial, governmental, and military interests” (from Fabos) (47). – connection to who has power, agency, a voice online

replace the focus on locating/evaluating/producing information – broaden that to understanding digital media as “a cultural form” (45)

what we want users to behave like vs. how they actually behave online (45)

Quotable Quotes

“Rather than simply adding media or digital literacy to the curriculum menu, or hiving off ‘information and communication technology’ into a separate subject, we need a much broader reconceptualisation of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. This is not by any means to suggest that verbal literacy is no longer relevant, or that books should be discarded.  However, it is to imply that the curriculum can no longer be confined to a narrow conception of literacy that is defined solely in terms of the medium of print” (53).

“Most uses of computers in schools signally fail to engage with the complex technological and media-saturated environment in which children are now growing up. For the most part, they are narrowly defined, mechanical, and unimaginative. The answer to this problem is not to import ever more fashionable or ‘child-friendly’ devices, or to sugar the pill of learning with a superficial dose of digital entertainment. Digital media literacy represents a more rigorous – but also more enjoyable and motivating – way of addressing the educational challenges of the digital age” (53).

Access needs to be seen not merely in terms of access to technology or to technical skills, but also to cultural forms of expression and communication, and it needs to be acknowledged that students’ access to (and familiarity with) those cultural forms is itself likely to be quite variable” (52).

“In the context of media education, the aim is not primarily to develop technical skills, or to promote ‘self-expression,’ but to encourage a more systematic understanding of how media operate, and hence to promote more reflective ways of using them” (50).

“Media literacy involves ‘writing’ the media as well as ‘reading’ them” (49).

“Nevertheless, it should be apparent that approaching digital media through media education is about much more than simply ‘accessing’ these media, or using them as tools for learning: on the contrary, it means developing a much broader critical understanding, which addresses the textual characteristics of media alongside their social, economic, and cultural implications” (48-49).

“Digital literacy also involves a broader awareness of the global role of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and how they influence the nature of information that is available in the first place” (48)…..”growing importance of commercial influences – particularly as these are often invisible to the user” (48).

“Digital literacy must therefore involve a systematic awareness of how digital media are constructed [designed/produced], and of the unique ‘rhetorics’ of interactive communication” (48). – rhetorical function of links

Critical information literacy: “This means asking questions about the sources of that information, the interests of its producers, and the ways in which it represents the world, and understanding how technological developments and possibilities are related to broader social and economic forces” (46).

“Literacy education cannot be confined simply to the acquisition of skills, or the mastery of particular practices; it also must entail a form of ‘critical framing’ that enables the learner to take a theoretical distance from what they have learned, to account for its social and cultural location, and to critique and extend it” (45) draws on Cope & Kalantzis, 2000

Literacy education “entails the acquisition of meta-language” (45)

January 4, 2013

Matsuda, Let’s Face It

Matsuda, Paul. “Let’s Face It: Language Issues and the Writing Program Administrator.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 141-163. Print.

Matsuda argues that writing program administrators need to establish clear policy statements for grammar teaching and grading in light of reseach that shows the complexity of second language acquisition.  Matsuda contends that it is unfair to assume language homogenity in the writing classroom – the idea that all students come to the writing classroom with the same linguistic resources – especially in light of the increasing international student population in American universities. Futhermore, Matsuda uses scholarship from second language writing and linguistics to show that even with written grammar feedback on student writing, improvement in a student’s grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awarenss may not take place or may take place very slowly.  Therefore, using the principle of instructional alignment (where outcomes, instructional methods, and assessment strategies align), Matsuda argues that second language writers should not be marked down for their grammatical errors, since it is often impossible for teachers to teach students grammatical correctness or metalinguistic awareness in just a single semester.

Matsuda points to the field’s turn away from language issues as one of the reasons why writing teachers are so confounded with second language writing issues.  He also suggests the adoption of pedagogical grammar, and encourages WPAs and writing teachers to learn methods of pedagogical grammar (which is grounded in applied linguistics) in order to help raise students’ metalinguistic awareness.

Notable Notes

nice overview of scholarship in comp/rhet that argues for and against attention to grammar and language issues (147-154)

uses the WPA Outcomes Statement to show that although attention to style and grammar is part of first-year writing outcomes, the extent to which students master style or grammar or the weight placed on style and grammar is not specificied in the outcomes. (145)

writing teachers need to provide grammar feedback – it will not guarantee learning, but it will faciliate it (not giving feedback won’t.)

Quotable Quotes

“The key is to focus on the development of linguistic resources rather than to focus on deficits” (156). Punishing students for errors can backfire when students avoid complex constructions on purpose.

“As a rule of thumb, the proportion of grammar grades should not exceed the proportion of grammar instruction provided that can guarantee student learning. If, for some reason, the program or the institution deems it important and necessary to assess students based on the myth of linguistic homogeneity – that is, to demand that all students meet the standards that can be expected only of life-long users of the dominant variety of English – then reasonable provisions need to be made to accomodate those who do not fit the profile, including second language writers and users of non-dominant varieties of English” (157).

“If grammar feedback does not guarantee learning, is it fair to hold students accountable? If we take the principle of instructional alignment seriously, the answer would have to be negative, and we need to stop punishing students for what they do not bring with them” (155).

May 25, 2011

Hauser, Teaching Rhetoric

Hauser, Gerald A. “Teaching Rhetoric: Or Why Rhetoric Isn’t Just Another Kind of Philosophy or Literary Criticism.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 34.3 (Summer 2004): 39-53

The Association for Rhetoric Societies’ 2003 conference in Evanston led to an alliance among rhetoric scholars to promote the centrality of rhetorical education in civic education. This article lists the five areas where Rhetoric Studies needs sustainable structures in order to reinvigorate rhetoric into the curriculum.

The scholars underscored that rhetoric is inherently tied to teaching: there is no rhetoric without teaching. What has happened in the modern academy, one that values theory and knowledge over praxis, is a divorce of rhetoric from the public and civic sphere, which rhetoric depends on. Hauser and those at the conference call for rhetoric to be reunited to the concerns of the public civic sphere, of preparing citizens and leaders. The Association for Rhetoric Scholars, through Hauser’s article, argues for a manifesto about rhetorical education that can be adopted by institutions, a forum to share rhetorical pedagogy material between scholars, and a way for individual institutions to circumvent the balkanization that happens with rhetorical pedagogy, coordinating it into one collective pursuit.

Notes and Quotes

“Free societies require rhetorically competent citizens. Without rhetorical competence, citizens are disabled in the public arenas of citizen exchange—the marketplace, the representative assembly, the court, and public institutions— and democracy turns into a ruse disguising the reality of oligarchic power.” (52)

Rhetoric has always been a central part in educating future leaders and citizens. Rhetoric is practical, is human, is considered with the right time and right place (kairos.) It seeks to give students a way to pursue and articulate knowedge, not a set content.

Rhetoric is about seeking truth and excellence (aerte), questioning, reflection, learning about values and beliefs, and moving to action. Very similar to Ignatian pedagogy

“Rhetoric is a practical discipline; it has a strong tradition that merges theory and praxis in the concrete conditions of performance, especially as these are realized in democratic societies.” (42)

Students need rhetoric – need to learn how to present their ideas, understand their audience, evaluate their sources and claims, negotiate between different perspectives, see the connection between ethics and action. Rhetoric is needed in a democratic society (so a small elite does not take over power.)

Ideas for the assessment of a first-year writing and speaking course: students develop analytical skills, performance skills (written and spoken), invention skills, an awareness of language, civic skills, consequences of rhetoric

call for K-12 and university educators to come together in the Association for Rhetoric Scholars to talk about rhetorical education, collaborate, work together

June 29, 2009

CCCC, Students’ Right to Their Own Language

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “Students’ Right to Their Own Language.” CCC 25 (Fall 1974).

This publication of the CCCC’s position statement on students’ right to use their own language in their composition classes contains background information and a bibliography about the sociolinguistics research the committee used to create the statement. The statement asserts that there is no one standard dominant American dialect, and to require students to conform to one and abandon their home dialects is discriminatory and assimilationist. The statement also argues that teachers of writing need to be given the training they need to allow them to teach students who bring a wide variety of dialects and languages into the classroom. The statement does allow for the teaching of EAE (educated American English) to help students prepare to get jobs after college, but that instruction of EAE must be done in a way that respects and validates their home langauge. College writing and composition courses should be a place where students learn about code-switching, not abandoning their culture and heritage, which is intrinsic to their language use. English teachers must take the lead in public debates about language use and educate the public through research in and knowledge of modern linguistics.

Quotable Quotes

“A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.”

Notable Notes

extensive bibliography of resources that led to the statement

background information contains basic linguistics information that every English teacher should know (what they said)

June 23, 2009

Knoblauch and Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy

Knoblauch, C.H. and Lil Brannon. Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1993.

Knoblauch and Brannon use stories of critical literacy debates and teaching to illustrate what critical teaching of literacy at the high school and college level entails. The aim of critical teaching is transformation, of teaching students to be self-reflexive about the relationship between language and power, and of foregrounding the politics of representation: how things are named; who names them; the ignored alternatives; and the consequences of the naming act. Critical literacy draws on the theories of postmodernism, feminism, and Marxism and is interested in conscious rasing, in seeing education as part of the larger sociopolitcal world. They argue for critical teachers to unite together and to expand knowledge about the teaching of critical literarcy through a validation of teacher knowledge, inquiry, and research.

Quotable Quotes

“Critical teaching is about the willingness of people to inquire and change and make changes, to accomodate themselves to difference, to read the social world, in its complexity” (49)

Critical teaching “recongizes the political nature of education” (49).

Notable Notes

four different ways literacy is valued over time:

  1. functional literacy
  2. cultural literacy
  3. literacy for personal growth (expressivism)
  4. critical literacy (empowerment and social change)

critical education legitimizes differences in a community, is tolerant of cultural pluralism, rejects the melting pot, characterized by dialogue and negotiation, puts students as critics, not passive consumers

June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

March 28, 2009

Kress, Multimodality

Kress, Gunther. “Multimodality.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 182-202.

The separation of modes in our theories paralyzes us to talk about and design things appropriate for our technologically and culturally diverse world. We need to develop a theory that can take into account the multimodal nature of all human knowledge, one that encourages multimodal design and creation. Preferring one mode over another disserves some members of society and denies them agency.

Quotable Quotes

Need to “treat all text-like objects as multimodal” (184).

“We have to rethink ‘language’ as a multimodal phenomenon. Our present conception of language is revealed as an artefact of theory and of common sense.” (184).

Notable Notes

Objects (websites, artifacts) have insignt into social practices and are semiotic and communicate meaning. We need to read objects more deeply to understand the cognitive and creative work that goes into creating them.

Gives a sample of a grammar/structure, a way to talk about visual literacy.

human senses never act in isolation

The New London Group, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies

The New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 9-37.

This article, published prior to this collection, lays out the New London Group’s fundamental arguments. They see current literacy education as inadequate for preparing students for full participation in their working, community, and personal lives, arguing that because literacies and discourses are central to these “lifeworlds,” and since those literacies aren’t the literacies taught in schools, literacy curriculum needs to change to take into account the multiliteracies inherent in the 21st century communication technology and the multiliteracies of students’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They advocate that literacy curriculum be organized around the concept of Design, teaching students the steps of surveying the available designs, going through the design process, and remaking themselves and society through producing the redesigned. In order for literacy curriculum to be changed in this way, educators need a metalanguage to describe the types of meaning and discourse available to design and create with and pedagogical strategies for encouraging their students to expand their literacies (what they deem the “what” and the “how” of a pedagogy of multiliteracies.)

Quotable Quotes

“An authentically democratic new vision of schools must include a vision of meaningful success for all; a vision of success that is not defined exclusively in economic terms and that has embedded within it a critique of hierarchy and economic injustice” (13).

“the proliferation of communications channels and media supports and extends cultural and subcultural diversity” (9).

no “glib and tokenistic pluralism” (19).

“As curriculum is a design for social futures, we need to introduce the notion of pedagogy as Design.” (19).

“Through their co-engagement in Designing, people transform their relations with each other, and so transform themselves” (22).

“All written text is also a process of Visual Design” (29) – important connection with graphic design, Wysocki, George – desktop publishing

“Designing restores human agency and cultural dynamism to the process of meaning-making” (36).

Notable Notes

working lives and connection with fast capitalism/postFordism, importance of collaboration in schools, sense in society that to be successful is to get to the top even though there’s not enough room up there.

taking diversity and multiliteracies on as a resource in pedagogy and community

people have multiple, overlapping identities because they belong to many different communities and use many different discourses

available designs always include the discoures of those designing and include the grammars of all the semiotic systems and orders of discourse

listening and reading are also productive forms of designing because the listeners and readers make meaning by combining what they are taking in with their own experiences

good graphic of the grammars of the types of meaning on page 26

explains in detail the four methods of the pedagogy of multiliteracies

design requires agency and responsibility (36).

design as both a noun and a verb

children’s childhoods are co-opted by mass gloabl media and invasive global texts (16)

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