Revolution Lullabye

July 2, 2015

Harrington, Fox, and Hogue: Power, Partnership, and Negotiations: The Limits of Collaboration

Harrington, Susanmarie, Steve Fox, and Tere Molinder Hogue. “Power, Partnership, and Negotiations: The Limits of Collaboration.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 21.2/3(Spring 1998): 52-64.

The writers, who are all part of a collaborative WPA structure at their institution, use situations at their institution to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of collaborative administration. They maintain that collaborative administration is possible, and the diverse perspectives it invites has helped unite and strengthen their writing program. The writers do acknowledge that collaborative administration is difficult, and name four potential problems that emerge from collaborative administration:

  1. The tendency to focus inward instead of also collaborating with partners outside the writing program/department;
  2. The issues of authority and expertise created inside and outside the program because members of the collaborative administration have different titles, roles, positions, and responsibilities;
  3. The desire to avoid conflict in the decision-making process, which can create false consensus and silence dissenting opinions
  4. “Twin citizenship,” or how members of the writing program administration committee are torn between obligations and identities in the program, the institution, the community, and the discipline.

Notable Notes

They explain that there are few arguments/analyses of collaborative administration that address “how such partnerships come to be created in a hierarchal university environment, how power (even the decentralized, facilitated kind) is acquired, and how collaboration works on a daily basis” (53-54).

Collaborative administration is difficult, made more difficult because administration is not always recognized work/labor/scholarship in institutions, comp/lit divides in academic departments.

Gives their local context: there is no WPA, but rather a Writing Coordinating Committee

The Writing Coordinating Committee – both TT and NTT faculty. Partly conceived as a way to get NTT/adjunct faculty involved, “decentralize decision-making,” increase connection between composition research and teaching. (54)

Explanation of the composition of the Writing Coordinating Committee. 10 members. The chair (TT) rotates every two years. No release time for the chair. The NTT faculty have a 4/4 load, the TT have a 3/3 load, and some of the members of the Writing Coordinating Committee get a 1-2 course release per semester for WPA work. The NTT faculty do most of the WPA work on the committee

Uses Molly Wingate’s discussion of writing center politics to look at the collaboration, Wingate’s work draws on Werner Rings’ description of four kinds of collaboration: neutral collaboration, unconditional collaboration, conditional collaboration, and tactical collaboration (57)

Quotable Quotes

“Living the experience of a postmodern WPA can be complicated and troubling” (52) – arguing that the theories of postmodern WPA leadership – of being situated, contextual, in networks, collaborative – might be more difficult than we’re giving it credit in our scholarship.

“While the arguments for collaborative administration are clear, the political dimensions of collaboration and partnership have been undertheorized, and we use our insitituion’s administrative structure as a starting point for analysis” (54).

“On a broader level – and this is where the collaborative structure makes a difference – the committee seeks to coordinate the work of writing program faculty; to represent the interests of adjunct faculty in the department and the university; and to link the writing program with other offices on campus with an interest in writing” (56).

“The mix of experience, expertise, and perspective on the committee provides much-needed diversity, and compensates for individual shortcomings…No single person dominates the overall policy-making responsibility of the committee. The writing program does not speak with a single voice, but it does, on the whole, speak from consensus” (56).

Collaborative administration creates “a web of relationships” (56)

“Much of our energy (and specific responsibilities delineated by the department) is devoted to collaborating with each other; little to collaborating with other academic units” (58).

“Composition, like math or reading if not more so, invites Monday morning quarterbacks” (59).

“Individual committee members (and likely individual members of the writing faculty as well) have sometimes chosen silence over conflict, enabling what appears to be consensus, but actually creating imposed orthodoxy. The imposition of orthodoxy is no less unfortunate if accomplished via collaboration than if directed by a single person” (60).

“A cooperative administrative structure will not automatically promote pluralism. Without an agreement to converse and a willingness to explore disagreements, shared administration can degenerate into a front, masking the will to power of some dominant person or group on the committee or in the department. Our collective leadership must be authorized by the conversation of committee members – and by the conversation of the whole writing faculty” (61).

“Writing program administration is, in many ways, an exercise in power. As long as wirting programs are staffed by teaching assistants or part-time faculty, and as long as required writing courses are a key element of university general education requirements, writing program administrators will possess a great deal of power over the curriculum, teachers, and students. This power, something we don not often acknowledge in a discipline which privileges cooperation, collaboration, and empowering others, is not necessarily evil” (62).

“The unitary WPA retains certain advantages over a shifting, collaborative, contextual writing program administration. The locus of power is clear in the unitary model, and that clarity speeds communications (especially outside the department)” (63).

June 9, 2015

Phelps, Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace

Phelps. Louise Wetherbee. “Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace.” Feminine Principles and Women’s Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric. Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and Janet Emig. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1995. Print. 289-339.

Phelps explores how women in the academy, specifically women writing program administrators, can take up, assume, and use power. She points out that when she became a writing program administrator, she did not have a model or theory available to her about how she, as a woman and as a compositionist, could accept and use the institutional power invested in her administrative position. Phelps argues against the idea that power is antithetical to feminist principles; rather, she argues for a conception of feminist power that is productive, generative, and expansive, one that allows for both a strong executive leader and distributed, collaborative, asymmetrical authority. She works in this essay to “construct a more adequately complex and nuanced feminism” (300). She asks “what it might be meant by feminist” in the context of assuming power and writing program administration (300).

Phelps uses her own experiences as the writing program administrator and Director of the Syracuse Writing Program to investigate the paradoxes and complexities of power for women, composition/writing programs, and female leaders in the academy and writing program administrators. Phelps discusses how she worked to create layered, asymmetrical groupings through the coordinating groups and other Writing Program task forces and committees. Phelps also describes the resistance she faced from her teachers when she asserted power or used rhetoric in a centralized, directed way (through talks to the program or published director’s writings.)

Phelps draws on the work done to explain the multifaceted feminization of composition within the academy (teaching as women’s work, nurturing work of the writing classroom, composition without institutional power or control, practice v. theory, low status of contingent faculty who teach composition, writing as skill.) She defines power as productive and generative, not coercive. Power, according to Phelps, can allow for positive influence, though she avoids sweeping utopian positions and generalizations. Phelps argues for the role of a strong executive in program leadership – a strong leader who can wield centralized authority can represent and argue for the program as a whole in an institutionally-recognizable way. At the end of her piece, Phelps calls for more work that interrogates her central paradox: the necessity of power within institutions and for leadership, and the implications of that power and its creations for feminists, for women, and for composition.

Notable Notes

Central architecture of the argument:

  1. “Invitation to Power” – reviews the feminization of composition, WPA work, and sexism in the academy. Calls for a definition/understanding of the feminist power, a model for how a feminist might use and assume power ethically and for good.
  1. “Constructing and Complicating the Feminist Workplace” – argues that the workplace of composition is already feminist (writing/English classroom gives discursive authority to women; composition classroom has embraced feminist pedagogical principles; the predominance of women within the workplace of composition means that women have a disproportionate chance to benefit from composition workplaces that give them opportunities to lead and learn). Explains her decision to become the WPA at Syracuse: “it was vaguely but genuinely a moral decision responding to the summons to take up responsibility toward others, to act on my convictions” (306). Describes how she envisioned developing an inquiry-based writing program that depended on the creative power of the teachers and her emerging ideas of what it meant to be a leader. Explains the paradox of power and agency and responsibility: agency is not ultimately freeing, with power comes discipline, rules, and responsibility, and professionalization will not improve the working conditions of all because not all will be able to participate. Explains how she built the program purposefully around asymmetry, not symmetry.
  2. “Lessons of the Feminist Workplace” – organized complexity, bravery

The WPA role itself is feminized – it is marginal, instable within the academy’s institutional structure: “More truly marginal than in the feminist sense, we are like animals of the tidal zone, neither sea nor land creatures” (291).

You have a choice, as a WPA, to accept or reject a position of power. But where does rejecting leave us? (292)

Names the problems of a utopian feminist vision, where power is shared equally, symmetrically, without hierarchy (293) – how this is not workable in a workplace. Names the potential negatives of a woman-centered workplace (301).

Explains how in her first few years as the Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, she did not see her situation as gendered (she did not recognize the reaction of others – both those teachers within the program and higher administrators – as rooted in sexism.) Phelps was more focused on the feminized status of composition within the university (specifically at Syracuse.) (296-297)

The reaction to women (and composition) – the reactions of “exclusion” and “devaluation” – “do not go away when the door opens a crack and we squeeze in” (299).

Phelps notes throughout that these memories – writing about these moments – is painful and hard.

De-centering authority (in a classroom, in a program) requires authority (304). To have the choice to de-center authority means that you have the institutional power to make that choice, decision.

Phelps discusses her reasons for taking up the position of Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, why she made this choice (306). At the time, it was not a gendered decision – she wanted to enact her vision of literacy, composition within a teaching community (306).

Discussion of how she thought through the ethics of WPA work, of relying on teacher’s intellectual energy, of coming to terms with contingent labor (308-310; especially her responsibility to the teachers and ethical employment on 313-315; giving teachers options through professional development 317-318).

The teaching community and empowering teachers’ own individual agency is central to her vision of the writing program (309-310)

The program’s most basic right: “Its right to try” (315) – that means the right of the teachers to try, to design, to grow, to experiment.

The material benefits a writing program can offer are never going to be enough to offset the work and low pay and low status of teaching composition (317).

Those teachers “who exploit these opportunities for development will gain options: they will have more choices about staying there or moving on” (318).

The “killer dichotomy” (Ann Berthoff) – that the ideal of a “flattened hierarchy”/symmetry and complete shared power versus the idea of a determinist hierarchy of power, that the power structure in place can’t be challenged or disrupted (320)

In her asymmetrical organization, she relied on three “significant asymmetries” – 1. “institutional authority”; 2. “attributes of competence”; and 3. “commitment or investment of oneself in the program.” Phelps tried to “subvert” #1 with #2 and #3, but maintained that #1 (executive power, authority through position or degree or credential) is important for the program as a whole and the people in it. (322)

Power as influence versus power as coercion (322-323)

She saw the empowerment of her program as emerging from three things: 1. Enabling conditions (both two-way communication and a director that encourages/articulates teachers’ own understandings of the program); 2. Structures (creating, revising structures and starting new traditions that form a community); 3. Exemplification (naming, modeling, “dramatizing” the principles and strategies of the program so that they are visible) (323-326)

Program v. department rhetoric (program as productive, community, cohesive) (327)

Discusses the importance of community in creating a program that works – people want to feel a sense of belonging (though the backlash against insular, “insider” communities.) Belonging to the community is a benefit for its members (327)

the idea that we are not in a utopia – we work in a workplace


Quotable Quotes

“As a writing program administrator, what I find incomplete or inadequate in these characterizations of feminization is that they fail to analyze the problem of empowerment or help us meet it when it actually comes – accompanied by its own paradoxes and discrepancies between appearance and reality, marked by lags, slippages, and regressions, but genuinely different for all that. The meaning of composition’s gendering is not immutably fixed but is suspectible to transformation (though not simple reversal) when its members, and particularly its women, begin to pursue their intellectual projects and enact their values with confidence and some measure of institutional support” (290-291).

“Yet analyses of composition as feminized can never fully anticipate the shift in the problem space that occurs when we begin to move into the tidal zone of power, nor the peculiar challenges of a transitional period. They do not contemplate the guilt and ambivalence and jealousies that will inevitably accompany accession to power; nor do they confront the radical transformation it requires in both strategies and moral understandings” (291-292).

“In short, our current understanding of the feminization of composition provides neither ethical nor strategic guidance in ‘right action,’ either for women who, as senior faculty and administrators, must learn to exercise power wisely or for the field as it begins to acquire resources, centrality to an institution’s mission, and the increased clout that goes with this position. Handling our own power, that is, coming to terms with the ineluctable authority of the writing teacher, is a central, unresolved problem for feminist classroom pedagogy. It becomes acute when the domains and forces involved are larger: programs, departments, institutions, disciplines, and the winds of social change that are sweeping over all of them” (293).

Reject pessimistic visions of power: “For the moment, I will simply say this: if as feminists we are arguing for broadly distributed power and access, we must be prepared to imagine that one can ethically have visions, lead, and wield power despite the imperfectability of institutions and the tragic limitations of human action” (293).

“What I missed here (just as well, since it might have paralyzed me with cynicism or despair) was the triple burden created for the woman leader in composition by the intertwinings of power with gender, teaching, and writing” (297).

“What I had yet to learn, on the bones, was the circuit of devaluation that runs from women in general to women’s work to composition as a feminized discipline and back to the concrete institutional project – the writing program as an enterprise, and its people. The program as a project is ignored as an intellectual force or set of ideas insofar as it is perceived as a bunch of women doing a remedial service; dismissed or critiqued (as requiring structure and external control) insofar as its practices are perceived as soft and feminine; vilified insofar as its values and leaders are perceived as dangerously, powerfully ‘feminist; or simply because it begins to be too successful in a competitive environment. Such attitudes get an extra jolt from the enormous ego investment most people have in their own writing and in moralistic beliefs about what counts as ‘good writing.’

Too often, these intense feelings are concentrated and discharged malevolently on the embodied persons of the women, teachers and leaders alike, who construct their program and teach composition with bravery, fear, and ambivalence.” (297-298). The whole writing program was devalued, suffered from layers of sexism

In the end, the story is about joy:

“Finally, though, these painful emotions are not at the core of my experience as a woman directing a writing program, nor should their distorting effects be allowed to define sourly the enterprise or the community. They are simply the penumbra. The core is joy: the fun, the ingenuity, the collaboration, the exhilaration when something works, the laughter, the leap, the learning. What compels my attention, my passion, and my intellectual interest as a feminist is the thrill of possibility in our accession to power; the moral, practical, and rhetorical complexities that we encounter in daily work on constructive projects in real-world contexts; the feminism that might arise in such a crucible” (299).

The organization of writing programs as unique in the academy: “As organizations, writing programs combine a certain boundedness, recognizability, and clear definition as communities (delimited in space, in membership, in curricular purposes) with diffusion and interpenetration into the academic context through cross-curricular activity and communication with students, faculty, and administrators in many units and at all levels of the university hierarchy” (308).

The importance of people in a writing program: “Despite my inexperience as an administrator, I assumed that the single most critical factor in the success of a programmatic enterprise is smart, dedicated people: faculty and staff who are intellectually and morally engaged in working for shared goals” (308)

Phelps’ vision of her role as WPA, in regards to starting an inquiry-based writing program that relied on and valued the teachers: “I tried to place teachers’ own reflective thought and collaboration at the center of curriculum development and their intelligent, caring, and responsible interaction with students at the heart of learning” (309).

And this: Her leadership “lay rather in the idea of forming and orchestrating the activity of a teaching community in which people would be authorized and supported to teach flexibly within a broad framework of common goals, to invent curriculum together, to build a program that would finally have intellectual and educative value not only for the students taught but also for the university, the discipline, and for educational theory and practice” (309).

“Agency does not imply absolute power or freedom to do anything you please. Indeed, I discovered, there is a ratio between power and discipline: the greater your authority, the more visible and multiple the disciplines (rules, orders, structures) you must both accept for yourself and impose on others” (311).

“Leadership involves more than generative (‘maternal’ or enabling power)…It requires leaders also to channel, constrain, and judge the actions of others” (311).

“Diffusion of power is the diffusion of problems of power” (311-312).

“An increase in authority, voice, and autonomy is not an unqualified good in and of itself” (312) What teachers in the Syracuse Writing Program quickly discovered. If professionalization is offered and encouraged, it puts at a disadvantage those who cannot or do not or will not take advantage of these opportunities, even if they are not required.

The writing program is not an utopia: “In treating teachers as moral agents – adults – and providing opportunities for curricular control and leadership, I exposed them, perhaps involuntarily, to new risks and pressures while possibly exploiting their capabilities and energy without adequate reward” (313).

“I assumed that inequalities of power as well as of hierarchy are inevitable in any large social organization, patriarchal or otherwise. The possibilities for sharing power among groups in the writing program are circumscribed by the specific social facts of its membership and the organization of the university as a political and bureaucratic workplace. I proposed to work with, rather than against, these real-world constraints” (320).

The asymmetrical power relations within the Syracuse Writing Program: “The social architecture of this program created new power: it generated or attracted energy, enabled novelty and change, created new order and legitimacy, and gave people more personal autonomy and scope for action” (323).

“In actual life, in political life specifically, I think that institutions and programs, like nations, survive and thrive only when people develop a powerful sense of belonging and loyalty to them, and do indeed serve them partly for their own sake: as embodiment, however flawed and mixed, of noble human purposes, as homes or places of work and life, and as human families and collectivities that they love. If there is any single claim that feminists, in composition and elsewhere, seem to be making, it is that women’s work in families and society (the invisible work of managing social interaction [DeVault; Fishman]) prepares them to understand and build such communities. Many of the ‘feminine principles’ I have described here and tried to follow as a leader (collaborative work, consensus building, conversation, professional development, deconstructive use of asymmetries) enact a conception of relations as intrinsically rewarding” (327).

“We are back to the point that power frightens people. Even the most benign power, and most especially collective power, is in part coercive, whether overtly, through rules and rulers, hegemonically, through structures tacitly assimilated, or interactionally, through rhetorical forces. Perhaps even constructive power made available to ourselves is frightening in the electricity it creates and the demands it generates” (328).

“The issue of power is assuredly among the most difficult that feminists face. Power is most often experienced as oppression, and hence the desire for it is frequently disavowed. Yet, insofar as power is the energy and control that gets things done, it is not only an ineluctable dimension of any situation, it is something that feminists require” Nina Baym, quoted in Phelps (329).

“The key to warriorship…is not being afraid of who you are…Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s greatest problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance and shyness, and face the world” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Remember I asked – and postponed answering – the more fundamental question, whether it is ever right to accept invitations to power in the academy. Given the willingness to teach writing, to work in any institution of American higher learning as a scholar or teacher, but especially in tenured of relative economic comfort and privilege, it seems to me the fundamental choice has already been made; what remains is just responsibility and the specific conditions that make it right or possible to take it” (332).

November 5, 2013

Dixon and Westbrook, Followers Revealed

Dixon, Gene and Jerry Westbrook. “Followers Revealed.” Engineering Management Journal 15.1 (March 2003): 19-25.

The authors argue that employees at higher levels of organizational management (executives) have stronger followership characteristics than employees at the mid-manager level and operational level. Their argument is based on their survey of nearly 300 employees from all organizational levels who work at 17 different engineering and technology firms. Dixon and Westbrook used Chaleff’s theory of courageous followership (1995) and his five followership attributes to frame and design their study. They argue that their finding shows that the most successful leaders know how to be good followers, and they introduce the idea of the leader-follower concept – that employees are neither just leaders nor followers but can switch between the roles as appropriate.

Notable Notes

Always more followers than leaders – always more to the conversation than your own argument

Followers work with leaders to produce knowledge and find meaning

Argues that managers need to cultivate followership attributes in their organizations, give strategies for doing so

References a change in 21st work – less employee/employer attachment, desire of managers to reduce overhead. Employees are different and are motivated differently in today’s global workplace.

Chaleff’s five behaviors of courageous followership: courage to assume responsibility, to serve, to challenge, to participate in transformation, and to leave/take moral action. These behaviors drive action in a successful organization.

Quotable Quotes

“But preoccupation with leadership hinders considering the nature and importance of the follower and the interrelationship and interdependence required between leaders and followers” (20).

“Being a follower is a condition, not a position” (20).


Cox, Plagens, and Sylla, The Leadership-Followership Dynamic

Cox, Raymond W. III, Gregory K. Plagens, and Keba Sylla. “The Leadership-Followership Dynamic: Making the Choice to Follow.” The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 5.8 (2010): 37-51. Print.

The authors give a framework for a follower-centric definition of leadership, putting the focus on the followers, not the leaders. They argue that it is followers, not leaders, who determine an organization’s success, and in order for an organization to be effective, both leaders and followers need to trust one another and understand each other’s roles. Following and followership are not the same – following can be passive, but followership is an active choice. The authors draw on leadership studies in history, psychology, management, political science, business administration, and public administration and present an in-depth overview of leadership and followership theories from the early twentieth century onward.

Notable Notes

Leaders have to solve problems, so one of their jobs is to recruit problem solvers (46). – leaders have to find someone to follow them (47)

James MacGregor Burns (1978) – argued for two kinds of leadership: transactional v. transformative. Their definition of a follower-centric idea of leadership depends on Burns’ scholarship and definitions

Challenges the notion that leaders alone can make an organization better (38) – acknowledges that there has been a shift from transactional leadership to transformational leadership (38)

Defines leadership, followership, leading, following

Gives a detailed overview of the history of leadership theory – the evolution, corrections, recorrections: leadership as command, cooperative leadership, leadership of groups, the psychology of leadership, organizational leadership, the new public management, the leadership-followership dynamic

Leadership-followership dynamic: cites early and mid-20th century theorists that were interested in worker motivation and their affinity to the organization, the human/follower component to leadership. Leadership requires legitimacy (ethos) (44)

Quotable Quotes

“followership is an a priori choice (self-conscious) of the individual in the context of his or her relationship to the nominal leader” (48) – followership is not compelled by rank or hierarchy; following is (48).

“Leadership means understanding how to promote excellence and protect values in the workplace. This collaboration requires changes in the assumptions about leadership and its definition. Leadership emerges through a stance of flexibility and adaptability, trust from the followers, and accommodation to inevitable change. This creates a partnership instead of a hierarchal relationship” (43).

“In summary, leaders and followers both must have the ability to interchange their role. Meaning that the leader must be decisive and desirous of becoming the follower, and the follower must be capable as well as desirous of leading. In addition, leadership is not only a behavioral attitude but it also includes ethics and intention” (45).

“The follower is no longer a mere subordinate who accepts and obeys the dictates of the leader. The leader or leadership also is transformed due to the complexity and the necessity of collaboration. Understanding each other’s role and values is essential in this transformation of the traditional view in organizations” (47).


October 25, 2013

Artze-Vega et al, Privilgeing Pedagogy

Artze-Vega, Isis, et al. “Privileging Pedagogy: Composition, Rhetoric, and Faculty Development.” College Composition and Communication 65:1 (September 2013): 162-184.

This article, written by seven scholars who work in the “border” between comp/rhet and faculty development, demonstrates the connections between comp/rhet scholarship and faculty development work and argues for more collaboration between these two fields. The authors define faculty development as a “transdisciplinary site,” (166) list the ways comp/rhet theory and work prepares scholars for faculty development work, explain how faculty development research has informed their own teaching and scholarship, and argue for greater emphasis on faculty development theory and training in comp/rhet graduate programs. Their article includes an annotated bibliography for faculty development scholarship.

The essay makes a case for the political importance of comp/rhet scholars taking on faculty development roles: these administrative positions give comp/rhet scholars the opportunity to affect change on the institution and influence higher education in directions that could privilege teaching and learning.

Notable Notes

How comp/rhet scholarship and training prepares people to take on faculty development positions:

  • “established focus on pedagogy and the trend toward preparation for administrative duties” (166)
  • valuing of teaching and learning
  • insights into how students learn that can be applied across contexts and disciplines
  • good writers/rhetoricians, can prepare professional reports, materials, etc
  • understand that all learning, writing is rhetorically situated
  • interest in how people learn
  • WPA work is oriented to teaching/educating, not just managing
  • work often with instructional technology and digital media
  • familiar with networking through WAC, WID, writing centers

How faculty development scholarship can impact writing education

  • research on student motivation
  • research on student development, especially young adult/adult education
  • research on the impact of the holistic student experience on student performance in individual courses

how a faculty developer can be an “intellectual bureaucrat” (Richard E. Miller, 1998) – make change at higher institutional levels (171), opportunity to be a campus leader.

Problems with the faculty developer position – sometimes seen as an inferior scholar, funding issues (necessary to build strong relationships and connections across campus) (176-177)

Possibilities for graduate education: courses dedicated to faculty development, include faculty development as a possible career path and area of scholarly inquiry, internships in CTL (centers for teaching and learning) or other faculty development positions (training TAs, WAC and WID work, etc.)

Quotable Quotes

“Success in faculty development begins with admitting that we have more questions than answers and with accepting the challenge of continually revising our teaching and reassessing our learning” (177).

“These courses [in composition theory and pedagogy], we feel, could benefit from a closer alignment with insights developed in the field of faculty development: principles of learning from a general perspective, explicit discussion of institutional politics beyond the writing program, inclusion of models for leading and adapting to change within institutions, and broad exploration of curriculum design and assessment. Such training will prepare students to be effective participants in a wide range of institutional and department cultures as well as potentially providing them with access to an alternative (and greatly satisfying) career path” (176).

“Both groups [faculty developers and comp/rhet scholars] believe that continued professional learning is a desirable professional norm” (174).

“We [WPAs} know that teaching and learning are not the same thing, and this insight is central to faculty development work” (168).

“In order to be effective, professional development needs to be sustained not only over the course of a year but over the course of a career” (168).


December 8, 2010

Lipson and Voorheis, The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts

Lipson, Carol and Molly Voorheis. “The Material and the Cultural as Interconnected Texts: Revising the Conditions for Part-Time Faculty at Syracuse University.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 107-131.

Lipson and Voorheis describe the new teaching culture established through the independent Syracuse Writing Program, focusing on the 1. mechanisms that were put into place that allowed part-time faculty to take leadership positions that included compensation; 2. the merit pay system that allowed for part-time teaching careers; and 3. the peer evaluation portfolio system of part-time teachers. They argue that the changes in the material conditions for part-time instructors go hand-in-hand with the cultural change in the program and at the university for valuing writing instruction – one does not occur before another; they happen in dialogue. Voorheis and Lipson argue that the Syracuse Writing Program was not just interested in changing the material conditions of its instructors; rather, the director (Phelps) worked with the members of the Program to radically shift the culture of the Writing Program and the university to one that visibly valued writing pedagogy, scholarship, and administration.

Notes and Quotes

Written 15 years after the first moves towards making the Syracuse Writing Program – after the “honeymoon” period.

The Writing Program (through the leadership of Phelps) used innovative, opportunistic ways to provide money for leadership and professional development activities, finding flexibility through packing sections to capacity and using extra ones, that were budgeted for, as release or discretionary sections (these were reigned in with the Syracuse University campus-wide budget cuts.)

In addition to working on part-time instructor working conditions in the Writing Program, there has been work towards opening up opportunties campus-wide for part-time instructors (can propose for funding, representation on the University Senate)

have not been able to create full-time instructor positions because of lawsuit potential: university faculty handbook says anyone who has taught for 6 years get tenure unless they are officially denied tenure.

“The merit awards helped established the basic values of the new teaching culture” (114).

created a 4-tier merit pay plan in the 1989-1990 school year: allowed for a sequence of advancement, identify those activities that were worthy of merit reward (115)

Introducing merit pay does create a tension: there are some who believe that all should be treated equally and others who think that those who contribute differently should be compensated differently.

Problems of the tiered merit pay plan: 1. the tiers were supposed to lead to full-time positions, which never materialized, so now they are dead-ends. 2. it takes a long time to progress, so beginning teachers are still not paid very well; 3. the merit pay increases cut into the yearly across-the-board raises, esp. those at the top of the pool – “The problem is inherent in a process bounded by a fixed salary pool that must accommodate both annual raises and merit tier upgrades” (118).

A system based on merit pay depends on evaluation (the TEC, put into place in spring 1990). This is expensive. It was redesigned years later to be sort of like tenure: once a part-time instructor passes through a certain level, they do not have to be evaluated, and the TEC does no longer include full-time faculty or adminstrative members. This new plan creates a new category of PWI: veteran intstructor, attainable after teaching in the Program for 5 years.

“The force of the new teaching culture was to emphasize the professional status of part-time faculty, and to underline their value to the program and to the profession.”

problem with coordinating groups: some of the instructors who taught in the old program saw it as top-down supervision and monitoring, not independence and professional (121-122). The structure of the coordinating groups changed to meet these concerns and needs of instructors, Program.

Suspicion: “While the program identiied these sites as generative places for the creation of a new culture, the part-time faculty viewed them through lenses ground in the old teaching culture – or in similar hierarchical environments” (121).

The teaching culture’s drawbacks are also its strenghs: it is a teaching culture (threatened by the new PhD program, which introduces a different cultural ethos); 2. it is resistant to change; 3. it relies on part-time – not full-time – positions.

peer control in evaluation

attached is the first and revised merit pay plan for PWIs

November 19, 2010

Phelps, Mobilizing Human Resources

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Mobilizing Human Resources.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 73-96. Print.

Phelps gives a case study of “Cicero University,” a university that is at the same time shrinking its enrollment by 20% and developing a new writing program. She points out that the most glaring resource problem might seem to be financial, but in fact, the biggest challenge that this WPA faces is one of human resources – the WPA must tap into the talents and potential of the instructors and TAs of the program to pull off a revision of the curriculum. She argues that the part-time faculty instructors who worked in the program before are the WPA’s faculty – they are the ones that will either buy in or buy out of the program. The WPA in this position must work to create out of this “disparate group of people” a “community of teachers with the skills and commitment to plan the changes, adapt to them, and work together to successfully implement new goals” (83). She argues that this WPA challenge can be approached with three tasks: 1. create intellectual capital and make it accessible (the program’s knowledge base and practical expertise as represented by all members.) 2. create social capital (a social network of commmuniation and trust); 3. reorganize work roles and work processes to fit a new instructional plan and 4. determine how to fund these solutions.

Notes and Quotes

“Human resources in a literal sense may refer to the number of personnel lines or dollars you have on budget, the types of employees, or the person hours you can tap for some task. But more fundamentally they are the talents and human potential represented among people who work for or with the program. Like any resource, they can be cultivated, expanded, and deployed effeciently and ethically; or they can be squandered, misdirected, underestimated, or diminshed. Human capital is a more crucial resource than dollars, technology, or even time. By investing energy, pride, and commitment in their work, people provide the knowledge, imagination, motivation, and skill without which the program cannot use other types of resources effectively, or at all” (82).

You can’t just replace the whole corps of part-time instructors. “They are your faculty” (83) They have varing backgrounds, but you must cultivate them into a teaching community, one that proposes, implements changes. That’s your job as a leader – not to impose some theory but to allow them to build it.

Argues that you can’t just come up with a plan for yourself and then ask for the money. Program building is a dynamic process and an effective WPA has to seek out synergies.

1990s was a time of change in higher ed – change brought on by troubled economic times, shifting demographi

cs, changing technologies, weak economy, shrinking pool of undergraduate students, move to making “student centered” universities, emphasis on interdiciplinary learning and cooperation between units

build intellectual capital through professional development (87) that involves and serves everyone in the program. List of professional development options on pg 88

opportunity costs of offering professional development to different constituencies (TAs, PhDs in comp/rhet)

the importance of being transparent about information and ideas in the program

April 6, 2009

Phelps, Turtles All the Way Down

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Turtles All the Way Down: Educating Academic Leaders.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Brown and Enos. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.

Leadership education should be an integral part of any graduate student’s program, and composition and rhetoric programs are positioned to be leaders in that movement because many of their graduates will go on to quickly assume administrative roles (WPA, writing center, WAC director.) Phelps explains that the WPA straddles the “bright line” between faculty and administration, and the way to negotiate this line is to have a positive understanding of leadership. Phelps argues for WPAs to embrace their leadership roles by recognizing power as productive, ethical, and legitimate. Power does not reside with the individual; it is a force, an action that organizations depend on for survival. Phelps advocates for practical and reflective education in leadership and explains the “administrative fellow” model she piloted at Syracuse, which drew on Lave and Wagner’s theories of situated learning to allow for legitimate peripheral practice.

Quotable Quotes

“What is needed is an ethical ideal that envisions responsible, strong leadership as a conceptual possibility, not an oxymoron.” (19)

:The authority of an administrator is not a personal attribute or possession, despite those who improperly personalize it. The administrator with integrity assimilates personal motives to the social motives of the enterprise” (25) – James Madison, for the good of the office/the institution

Notable Notes

Gertrude Himmelfarb – need to recognize the good inherent in central leadership and power; distributed, collaborative power is not always good or effective. Don’t assign gender to kinds of power

new university – professionalization, recognizing administrative work as scholarship – leads to needing more faculty as leaders

systems are leaders on top of leaders (turtles all the way down) at a variety of scales

Lave/Wagner’s theories don’t account for the necessity of continued reflection and some direct learning

three spheres of activity in professionalization – the discipline, the collegium, and the workplace – WPAs negotiate their identity in all three of these, always changing and dynamic – it is an activity system

WPAs fear power from above and their own power

February 22, 2009

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth Anniversary  Speech.” In The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry into Action and Reflection. Eds. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1998.


This version that I am reading and taking notes on is the uncut version. The  speech was significantly cut in the collection.


This article combines the tenth anniversary speech Phelps gives to the Syracuse University Writing Program in 1997 with her analysis and reflection on speech as a form  of administrative rhetoric and highlights the intellectual work of both administration and leadership. The speech is divided into three sections – narrative, analysis, and reflection – which are based on the common moves taught in the Syracuse writing studios. Phelps shows how the Writing Program, founded in 1986, can be described as a sort of “Great Group,” who risked chaos in a outpouring of inventiveness and creativity in the early  years of the program. This complex open system became self-organizing, subcritical, and more orderly as the Program reached relatively high “fitness peaks.” However, in order to remain responsive and relevant to changing context, Phelps argues that the Program must be inventive still by bringing in new faculty and new leadership, developing new programs like the graduate program and a major, and by constantly searching out large and small opportunities to connect with other departments, colleges, and outside organizations that will allow the Program to grow, expand, and evolve. Phelps then steps outside her speech and analyzes it as a form of administrative rhetoric, arguing that WPAs, especially women, must not cede their authority as a leader. Rather, they should embrace the public form of administrative rhetoric in the form of speeches for they provide an opportunity to explain to the community that they lead the ideas and principles inherent in their organizing narrative. Strong reflective leadership is not coercive; it is necessary for the survival of a complex, dynamic organization like a writing program.


Quotable Quotes


“The Writing Program chose the Great Group model, where disparate people are drawn together by mutual commitment to a project and became energized by the power of collaboration, because we believed that it is a social structure more conducive to creativity and more successful in the long run.

In that choice, we risked chaos.”


“If the early development of the Writing Program represented the gamble of falling into chaos, after ten years one must imagine that we now risk the possibility of too much order. We are likely to find ourselves trapped on relatively high fitness peaks, where there is a big cost for coming down and trying another one that isn’t likely to prove that much better.” – reminds me of Jefferson/Adams, a  revolution every generation, tension and questioning whether the next wave is going to be as good as what you got already


“I came ever more strongly to believe that it is right for writing program administrators to aspire to leadership as an honorable role, to explore and analyze the role of rhetoric in administration, to make creative and ethical use of the rhetorical power their office (and their training) lends them.”



Notable Notes


Great Groups


Important sources: Bennis and Biderman (Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration); Gould (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History); Kaufmann (At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity); Senge (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization)


Reference to working on institutional invention piece


Used reflections from people who were in the early years of the program


WP wasn’t an  exact Great Group  because the people involved were so heterogeneous; not everyone bought into the idea, so that caused conflict and pain.


Ecological/systems  model


In a complex open system, there must be smaller, more local groups with autonomy that can grow and evolve, together creating a network to form the entire system


Evolution isn’t a linear path – there comes a point where there is an explosion of creativity (supracritical) that then is tamed by a learning or S-curve, when you reach high fitness peaks.


That “cascade of novelty in uncoordinated, chaotic interactions” was the fear of those who wanted a common text and curriculum.


Coevolving systems


Move from romance into a fruitful marriage


WPA is a “convenient euphemism” for administrators who don’t want to take on the name of leader – why are we so reluctant to use power wisely?


Speech as intellectual work of a writing program administrator

February 17, 2009

Phelps, Institutional Invention

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Institutional Invention: (How) Is It Possible?” In Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention. Eds. Janet M. Atwill and Janice M. Lauer. Knoxville: The U of Tennessee P, 2002.

Phelps argues that institutions can be sites of invention in two ways: they themselves can constantly restructure their ideals, governance, finances, and curriculum, and second, universities can consciously structure itself so that it provides a creative environment for all those who work there. Her argument is situated in the move on many American colleges and universities to restructure to a more bueracratic system, one where administrators and staff instead of the traditional full-time faculty have governance over the institution. In this type of system, distributed leadership is key.Writing program administrators need to realize the power of seizing leadership in order to make institutional change within their own programs to provide environments for creativity, collaboration, and community among the students, faculty, staff, and part-time instructors. Phelps looks at the institution through a system approach, showing how it is both chaotic/creative and structured simulatenously.

Quotable Quotes

University as a creative system: The “refreshing focus on the inventiveness of a human system rather than exclusively on its function of distributing and controlling power” (80).

“I find it fruitful to juxtapose an nderstanding creativity as systemic wiht a concept of sufficiently complex systems as inherently creative. Together they provide a new metaphorical frame that helps us define problems and generate specific questions about institutional invention.” (79)

Notable Notes

combining practical experience of WPA and a rhetorician’s knowledge of understanding how to react and communicate in changing circumstances. The importance of rhetoric in institutional leadership

further questions to explore at the end of the article

goals: develop concept of invention as emergent phenomenon of institutions; how this concept changes how we think of leadership; the barriers to institutional invention in institutions today (71)

practical art of institutional invention (71)

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