Revolution Lullabye

October 4, 2013

Gere et al, Local Assessment: Using Genre Analysis to Validate Directed Self-Placement

Gere, Anne Ruggles, et al. “Local Assessment: Using Genre Analysis to Validate Directed Self-Placement.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 605-633.

Gere et al describe the revised Directed Self-Placement (DSP) system used by the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, arguing that the locally-developed and administered assessment achieves validity based on a study of placement essay that uses rhetorical move analysis and corpus-based text analysis.

The study of students’ placement essays shows that there are key textual and rhetorical differences between the essays written by students who self-selected into the FYW program instead of the credit-bearing PREP preparatory program. By coding the introductory paragraphs of the placement essays, the researchers determined both what constituted a “prototypical” introduction to an academic essay that articulated an argumentative stance in response to a text and what rhetorical and linguistic strategies are used by undergraduate FYW writers (as opposed to those writers less prepared for “college-level” writing.)

This study shows the benefits of using research and methodologies from linguistics in order to develop and evaluate local writing assessments. This essay also helps articulate more precisely what it means to say that undergraduate students are “good college writers” or have “rhetorical knowledge,” a goal stated in the Frameworks for Success in Postsecondary Writing document. In the end, this study also demonstrates what good local assessment looks like: a dynamic feedback loop that impacts instruction and a writing program’s definition of good writing.


Notable Notes

good argumentative writing has a “critical distance” that can be gleaned from the rhetorical and linguistic moves the student writer makes (623)

the revision of the DSP program in 2009 based on ten years of data (1998-2008). Their revision was based on three areas of research: research on writing prompts/assignments (resulted in giving students a reading and a specific prompt to create an academic argument, with explanations of what that means); research on rhetorical genre studies (influenced b Carolyn R. Miller’s ideas of genre as social action – genre not as fixed form but flexible and purposeful); text analysis methods used by ESP/linguistics, including corpus-based text analysis.)

attention to the “meso-level rhetorical actions” and the “micro-level linguistic resources” students bring to their writing (612).

three regularly occurring moves in text-based argument introductions: 1. establishing a background (not always there, so non-prototypical); 2. reviewing the article (either a Review-Summary or a Review-Evaluation); and 3. taking a stand (616). Gives examples from the student placement essays of these three rhetorical moves (617-619).

Used a software program (AntConc) to identify linguistic moves:

  1. “References to and citations from the source text
  2. Code glosses (e.g., in other words; in fact)
  3. Evidentials of deduction (e.g. therefore)
  4. Reporting verbs focused on processes of argumentation (e.g. argues, claims, asserts)
  5. Contrastive connectors (e.g. However, nevertheless) and denials (it is not...)
  6. Specific hedging devices associated with academic registers (e.g., perhaps, likely)…
  7. Self mentions (e.g. I and my), personalized stances (e.g. I agree)
  8. Boosters (e.g. clearly, certainly)”

FYW writers used more of #1-6 than PREP writers; FYW writers were less likely to use #7 and #8 (619-620)

PREP writers more likely to use “says, believes, thinks”; FYW writers more likely to use “argues, discusses, claims, asserts” (620) – reporting verbs

Sample coded FYW and PREP introduction in the appendix

tables of frequencies of certain linguistic features/moves (620-622).

push for genre-based pedagogies, teaching students to use genres as “guideposts” that help them solve rhetorical problems (625).


Quotable Quotes

“What our methods have helped us to do, however, is to tease out several linguistic features that, in this context, help to differentiate between students who are more and less at ease with projecting a novice academic stance” (623).

“By ‘meso-level rhetorical actions’ we mean the collections of communicative purposes in smaller sections of a text – larger than the sentence – that together construct the text’s overall pragmatic value as a message” (612).

“Often underconceptualized by those who create them, assignments play a significant role in students’ ability to perform well on a given writing task and therefore merit special attention in assessment” (610).

“Writing an evidence-based argument in response to a prompt like this requires not just arguing for one’s own opinion, but also identifying important propositions in the reading and then summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, and arguing for or against these propositions for using textual and other sources of evidence. Constructing such an argument also requires control of the necessary discursive resources for building an effective argumentative stance” (615).

“stance-taking” (615).


January 11, 2013

Weiser, Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process

Weiser, Irwin. “Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 645-672.

Weiser’s essay, included in this issue’s Symposium on Peer Review, describes the role of peer review in the tenure and promotion process. Weiser’s explanations, taken from his experiences as a faculty member, WPA, department chair, and dean at two different universities (Purdue University and York College of Pennsylvania), show the variance of the tenure and promotion process at American colleges and universities. Wesier argues that this variance is not a drawback: institutions have different missions, and their expectations for tenure (scholarship, teaching, and service/engagement) need to reflect those particular university and department-level missions.

Weiser organizes his essay through a series of questions: Who is reviewed? Who reviews? What is reviewed (and by whom)? What are the criteria for review? Are reviews (always) confidential?  He spends considerable time in the essay describing the purpose and function of external letters of evaluation, a requirement for tenure that is not universal yet increasing (almost all research, PhD-granting universities require external letters.) He distinguishes between external letters of support and external letters of evaluation, and argues that these external letters should only guide the internal committees who are ultimately charged with the decisions of tenure and promotion.

At the end of his article, Weiser offers a series of questions that can be used as a heuristic for developing clear, objective, and fair tenure and promotion processes.  The questions are addressed to the multiple stakeholders in the process: candidates up for tenure; members of a tenure and promotion committee; external reviewers.

Weiser also argues that the processes for tenure and promotion need to be revisable so that they continue to reflect current expectations, values, and realities.  He specifically cites the shrinking opportunties to publish scholarly monographs, the advent of digital journals and digital publication venues, and the emergence of scholarship of teaching and engagement as contemporary realities that need to be addressed in the construction of tenure and promotion guidelines.

Notable Notes

history of peer review in tenure and promotion tied to AAUP tenure guidelines (1940) and the history of peer review in publication.

“peer” can mean multiple things (654)

the local levels of review are the most important – future committees and levels base their recommendations off of them (653).

Quotable Quotes

“Peer review, both internal and external, serves two important purposes in the academy. First, it provides the opportunity for the work of colleagues to be evaluated and acknowledged for its contributions in the classroom, in the profession, and in the wider culture. Second, through the system of checks and balances that assures that work is being evaluated by numerous people, many of who base their evaluations only on the accomplishments of a candidate and not on their personal knowledge of her or him, peer review provides a level of protection for candidates from personal or intellectual biases. Peer review supports the foundation of tenure: the preservation of academic freedom and the protection of faculty from unwarranted dismissal” (670).

“And it should be clear that variation in policies and practices is appropriate, because it acknowledges the impracticality and unfairness of a one-size-fits-all set of criteria that are applied regardless of institutional mission. Evaluation for candidates for tenure and promotion must be viewed in context of mission, with recognition that different emphases on research, teaching, and service are appropriate” (665).

“There appears to be an increasingly common agreement that faculty are members of multiple communities – communities of engaged teachers whose work can be – perhaps best can be – evaluated locally, but also of communities of scholars whose discursive work is best evaluated by other members of those communities, people who present at the same conferences, publish in the same journals (or edit them), and are members of the same professional organizations” (655).

January 3, 2013

Ryan, Thinking Ecologically

Ryan, Katherine J. “Thinking Ecologically: Rhetorical Ecological Feminist Agency and Writing Program Administration.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 74-94.

Ryan argues against the “rootlessness” mentality of academics and, in contrast, defines a counter-position, rhetorical ecological feminist agency, and explains how it can help WPAs theorize their work.  Rhetorical ecological feminist agency is grounded and takes into consideration the various relationships and patterns that consistute a place.  Ryan describes how rhetorical ecological feminist agency could have helped her negotiate a new first-year writing placement procedure at her new institution, how it can help connect often-transplanted new WPAs to the people and places at their new home institution, and how she used rhetorical ecological feminist agency to redesign the first-year writing program at her Montana institution so that it helped both students at teachers investigate sustainability and the ecological issues of the place they lived in.

Notable Notes

draws on various feminist and environmental/ecological theorists: Christopher Preston (Grounding Knowledge, how place helps create knowledge); Lorraine Code (Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Thinking, situated citizens concerned with the ethics and politics of interconnected relationships); Chris Cuomo (moral agency)

GenAdmin:Theorizing WPA Identities in the Twenty-First Century

Quotable Quotes

Definition: “In brief, a rhetorical ecological feminist agency is socially constructed, ecologically located and enacted, ethically responsible, rhetorically directed, and pragmatically oriented. It values experiential knowledge alongside disciplinary knowledge and recognizes that place and situation constitute knowledge” (80).

“A rhetorical ecological feminist agency calls for a shift in perspective from an autonomous and linear approach to implementing a task with a deadline to negotiating the best version of a policy implementation possible at the time, knowing it can be adapted over time as we learn more about the local implications of the policy” (85).

“A rhetorical ecological feminism helps WPAs value and build connections to a new life place and campus colleagues as well as link local to global issues” (87).

“If we ask students to interrogate the issues of place, ecology, and sustainability in their composition courses, so too can we ask ourselves, as WPAs, where these issues surface in writing program administration.” (92).

Flourishing: “A WPA ethics of flourishing includes three interrelated dimensions: committing to hope, enacting epistemic responsibility, and seeking eudaimonia or the ‘good life'” (79).

September 7, 2012

Heard, Cultivating Sensibility in Writing Program Administration

Heard, Matthew. “Cultivating Sensibility in Writing Program Administration. WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 38-54.

Heard argues for WPAs to adopt a theoretical posture and ethos of sensibility, which he defines as a constant, embodied attuneness and attention to the constraints that shape the decisions they make and the subsequent consequences of their decisions. Heard maintains that if WPAs cultivate sensibility, it can help them understand the ways writing shapes their local decisions and practices. In addition, Heard contends that writing program administrators take a theoretical lead in the field, helping composition studies as a whole develop a writing sensibility.

Heard draws his argument about writing as “a living habit of being” from philosopher Carlo Sini (The Ethics of Writing.) Heard believes that writing helps us be more human, and this larger consequence of writing – as part of a thoughtful, deep life – needs to be incorporated into our pedagogy and scholarship. Writing helps us, he argues, be attune to the values and practices that we take on and their effects in our lives.

Notable Notes

writing instruction isn’t just about learning how to communicate to others

administrative advantage of this approach- be in the moment, attentive to the local

cultivate sensibility through recognition and naming, self-advocacy, public intervention

argues for changing TA training to reflect ethos of writing, attentiveness, local constraints

Quotable Quotes

“As ethos, writing becomes a force of being that not only shapes our communicative abilities, but also more profoundly impacts the way we see the world, interrelate with others, and find personal and social meaning.” (41)

Sensibility can “position WPAs to attune more consciously to the ways that our material, political, and other constraints affect the ways that the ethos of writing is put into practice through us and around us” (43)

“Instructors and students need to be able to see their study of writing as part of something bigger – part of how they learn to live and not simply how they learn to communicate more effectively” (50).

December 29, 2011

Reid, “Preparing Writing Teachers”

Reid, E. Shelley. “Preparing Writing Teachers: A Case Study in Constructing a More Connected Future for CCCC and NCTE.” CCC 62.4 (June 2011): 687-703.

In the CCC Special Symposium on the NCTE/CCCC Relationship

Reid argues that the research, scholarship, and practice in the training of writing teachers, which she terms “writing pedagogy education,” can be fruitful ground for future collaborations between NCTE (focusing on K-12 English education) and CCCC (college composition and rhetoric.)  Reid claims that as a professional organization, CCCC has turned away from the practical issues of training teachers to teach writing.  She insists that scholarship on writing teacher preparation, instead being regulated to the margins of the field, as a solitary-institution specific practice or “sub-field” special interest group,  can bring together a variety of members of NCTE and CCCC in order to work on developing policy and practices for the training of writing teachers. In this way, Reid sees potential for a sub-field (writing pedagogy education) to revitalize larger disciplinary organizations.

Reid uses her own efforts to chair a SIG on the Education and Mentoring of TAs and Instructors in Composition and her work on the CCCC Committee on Preparing Teachers of Writing to show how difficult it was, with limited time and resources, to weave together local experiences of writing pedagogy education into a coherent, useful, and theorized whole about the preparation of teachers of writing. Reid calls on WPAs and those who train writing teachers to stop seeing themselves as “local practitioners” and rather, as part of a national, scholarly organization whose aim is to “articulate a larger vision” about writing pedagogy education (692-693). She argues that forums like SIGs and commissioned committees are not stable or sufficient enough to provide writing pedagogy education practicioners and researchers what they need: momentum and diversity of members. She suggests that CCCC follow NCTE’s lead and form a task force on writing pedagogy education, which could help create and support research grants, national studies, or online clearinghouses.

Reid points out specifically that “few studies of writing pedagogy education are data-driven, longitudinal, or inclusive of more than one program.” (692)

Notable Notes

Argues that scholarship in writing pedagogy education can address Patricia Stock’s 3rd question in what English education is: “(1) What is English? (2) How is English best taught and learned? and (3) How are teachers of English best prepared for their professional work?” (368, Stock “NCTE and the Preparation of Teachers of the English Language Arts,” 2010)

common problem in writing pedagogy education: the local: the isolation of individual writing programs, institution-specific needs and policies. No national network or conversation.

problems facing writing pedagogy education: How do you quantify teacher quality (tie in with national discussions on teacher tenure)? How can you measure writing learning as connected to teacher quality? How long does it take to develop good writing practices?  (692)

Move beyond the discussion of “what worked for us.” (692)

May 25, 2011

Gold, Rhetoric at the Margins

Gold, David . Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press , 2007.

Gold challenges a monolithic history of rhetorical education based on Eastern liberal arts institutions by describing the rhetorical education practices at three Texas institutions between 1873-1947. By showing the unique, context-specific rhetorical education at Wiley College (private all-black liberal arts college), Texas Women’s University in Denton (public women’s university), and East Texas Normal College in Commerce (independent teacher-training school), Gold argues that the history of rhetorical education is far more complex than we think. At all these institutions, rhetorical education played a key role in encouraging community and civic responsibility and connecting education to students’ day-to-day realities. The rhetorical pedagogy in these three institutions helped to educate previously underserved students (blacks, women), preparing them to take on leadership roles in their local communities.

Historiography discussion in the Introduction – microhistory, local history, third-wave history, archival history

December 7, 2010

Wyche-Smith and Rose, One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality

Wyche-Smith, Susan and Shirley K Rose. “One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality: A Guide to Personal and Political Action.” College Composition and Communication 41.3 (1990): 318-325. Print.

Wyche-Smith and Rose, recognizing that the conditions outlined by the CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing and the actual working conditions of writing teachers at American colleges and universities seem far apart and almost incompatible, list one hundred local, institutional ways writing teachers, tenured professors, non-tenured instructors, and WPAs can work to make the Wyoming Resolution a reality. The list is organized by actor: first things students can do; then things composition instructors can do; then things a part-time faculty member can do; things a graduate teaching assistant can do; then things a writing-program and writing-center administrator can do; things department heads can do; things deans can do; things professional organizations can do; things editors of professional journals can do.

Notes and Quotes

Wyoming Resolution drafted by writing teachers at a conference in Laramie, Wyoming. It addressed the working conditions of writing teachers in college and argued that their unprofessional treatment had an impact on students’ education. The resolution was endorsed by CCCC in 1987, which appointed the Committee on Professional Standards for Quality Education, which then issued the Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing in 1989.

What’s interesting to me is the organization of this hierarchy: it assumes a writing program model built with WPAs managing TAs and part-time instructors. There’s no departmental structure, full-time faculty roles here.

December 2, 2010

Merrill, Farrell, et al, Symposium on the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards

Merrill, Robert, Thomas J. Farrell, et al. “Symposium on the ‘1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards.’”  College Composition and Communication 43.2 (1992): 154-175. Print.

These five articles form a symposium to discuss the publication of the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards, which was published in CCC in May 1992. I’m going to briefly summarize each one.

Robert Merrill, “Against the ‘Statement'”
Merrill, a full-time professor and chair, argues against the Statement because of the implications and consequences of its recommendations. Universities could never afford hiring tenure-track professors to cover all the sections of composition that they teach, and even if they did, tenure-track professors would no longer be able to offer upper-division courses because their loads would be filled up with composition. Tenure-track literature professors are not trained to teach composition or hired to teach composition. Merrill argues that lecturers and instructors do a better job of teaching composition than , tenure-track faculty, and he would support tenuring them if they continued teaching their loads of composition. Instead of trying to get rid of the two-tiered system, he argues for making “the two tiers fit closer together” by improving the working conditions of writing specialists in English departments (158).

Thomas J. Farrell, “The Wyoming Resolution, Higher Wizardry, and the Importance of Writing Instruction.”
Farrell, an associate professor, argues that teachers and professors of composition and rhetoric need to be aware of their own rhetoric and use it more effectively in order to improve the status of the teachers of writing at the academy. He points out what the Progress Report is missing – a condemnation of the expensive growth in non-teaching managerial administrators at the academy, an argument of the value of good writing instruction for students to be successful in the workplace, which depends on deliberative rhetoric, and the intellectual value of learning rhetoric in order to be adaptable to different audiences and purposes.

Eileen E. Schell, “Teaching Under Unusual Conditions: Graduate Teaching Assistants and the CCCC’s ‘Progress Report'”
Schell, a graduate student at the time of writing this, argues that the Progress Report does not “fully address the complexities of the GTA’s position” (165). The title of the graduate teaching assistant is a misnomer, Schell argues, as the GTA in composition is often a full-fledged teacher but treated as a less-than-professional. GTAs also have a double work burden: being graduate students and university teachers.

Valerie Balester, “Revising the ‘Statement’: On the Work of Writing Centers”
Balester, an assistant professor, argues that the Statement does not address the unique needs of instructors and non-tenure-track administrators who work in writing centers and contends that the Statement sees writing centers as centers of service instead of locations where writing theory and pedagogy is dynamicly enacted.

Chris M. Anson and Greta Gaard, “Acting on the ‘Statement’: The All-Campus Model of Reform”
Anson, an associate professor, and Gaard, an assistnat professor, argue that in order to carry out the reforms included in the Statement, the field should not rely on individual actions of teachers and administrators alone nor on the broader moves of CCCC (as argued by James Sledd) but instead pursue local changes within institutions by collaborating between administrators, faculty, and instructors. They use their campus-wide retreats and workshops at the University of Minnestota in 1989 and 1991 as an example of this kind of reform.

Notes and Quotes

July 6, 2009

Gold, Rhetoric at the Margins

Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Gold researches the rhetorical education that took place at three Texas institutions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to challenge and complicate master narratives of current-traditional pedagogy and the history of rhetorical education, hoping to draw connections between past the past and present to develop pedagogies to serve underrepresented student populations. The three colleges – Wiley College (an classics-oriented HBCU), Texas Women’s University (residential college for women with vocational training), and East Texas Normal College (independent teacher-training school) – each employed a rhetorical education that was nuanced and spoke directly to the liberatory needs of their marginalized student populations. Gold’s introduction and conclusion explains his methodology of historiography and archival research, arguing that the future of the discipline lies in understanding its diverse pedagogical and theoretical (progressive movement) past. American higher education is decentralized, so local histories are necessary for understanding what happened in rhetorical education.

Quotable Quotes

“We cannot make broad claims about the development of rhetorical education without examining the diverse range of student bodies and institutions that participated in such education” … “It is often in provincial regions where demographic and social changes are first felt and where innovation and progressive change may first take place” (7).

“When it comes to rhetoric and composition studies, schools that have traditionally formed the basis for historical study may be among the least productive places to look” (7)

Current-traditional pedagogy is actually a collection of many practices: “both conservative and radical, liberatory and disciplining, and subject to wide-ranging local and institutional variation” (5).

Notable Notes

his study validates vocational, practical education – it is liberatory for some students

June 17, 2009

Trimbur, The Problem of Freshman English (Only)

Trimbur, John. “The Problem of Freshman English (Only): Toward Programs of Study in Writing.” WPA 22:3 (Spring 1999) 9-30.

Trimbur articulates two of the problems of the first-year writing course: first, it tries to compact an entire field’s inquiry, research, discussion, and debates into a single course and second, it perpetuates a First-World English-Only attitude in American colleges and universities by privileging English vernacular literacy over other languages. He argues for the creation of larger curriculum in writing (minors, concentrations, and majors) to solve both of these problems. First, it will rescue the first-year course from being the only child of the discipline – the sole site of study and pedagogy in writing and rhetoric – transform it into an introduction to the discipline, where ideas and theories can be introduced and built on in later courses. Second, this major can and should reach beyond the traditional English department and seek interdisciplinary connections across the campus, finding ways to connect disciplines, faculty, and students toward the study of writing in the context of global, international, multilingual literacies. Such minors and majors need to be locally constructed and situated, and must be designed through answering hard questions of disciplinary identity: what do we study? what are our theories? how to our courses connect and build upon each other?

Quotable Quotes

“the relation of the study and teaching of writing to English departments is both accidental and overdetermined – the result not of a necessary belongingness between the two but of a particular historical conjuncture when written composition replaced rhetoric just as English departments were taking shape in the modern university.” (27)

“curriculum planning that looks for interfaces between disciplines, programs, students, and faculty” (25).

Notable Notes

first-year course is overpacked, overprogrammed like an only child

grad programs churning out students to teach and administer one course – what other field is so centered around a single course? shouldn’t our research, theories inform more than a single course?

composition and literature have worked together to promote vernacular, English-Only literacy and a homongenous national culture

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