Revolution Lullabye

April 8, 2009

Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations

Shaughnessy, Mina P. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Basic writers are not unintelligent; rather, their writing is riddled with errors because they are confused about the basic structure and patterns of sentences and academic prose. Shaughnessy defends her focus on the errors of basic writers by arguing that in order to teach basic writers, teachers must understand what the range of basic writing errors are, why students might be making them (shuttling between two different codes, second language issues, unfamiliarity with written English tenses, structures, and punctuation), and how teachers might help their students write better through addressing these errors (assignments and in-class exercises.) Shaughnessy’s drive is to demystify the common errors basic writers make (punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, syntax) so they can move towards expressing their complex ideas and thoughts in equally as complex and intelligent prose. Shaughnessy does not prescribe a curriculum or program, arguing that each basic writing program must be created for the context of the students’, teachers’, and institutional expectations and circumstances.

Quotable Quotes

Errors “are unintentional and unprofitable intrusions upon the consciousness of the reader” (12) Teachers shouldn’t ignore error or argue for theoretical conceptions of the relativity of error (diversity of linguistic structure) in a basic writing classroom because that type of approach dismisses two important points. First, students are hyperconcerned about error and want to know about it and fix their errors. Second, errors force a reader to extend more effort to understand the writer, an effort that not all readers make and thus results in a loss of communication.

Her book wants to cultivate “a readiness to look at these problems in a way that does not ignore the linguistic sophistication of the students nor yet underestimate the complexity of the task they face as tehy set about learning to write for college” (13).

“Far from being eleventh-hour learners, these students appear in many ways to be beginning their lives anew.” (291)

“College both beckons and threatens them, offering to teach them useful ways of thinking and talking about the world, promising even to improve the quality of their lives, but threatening at the same time to take from them their distinctive ways of interpreting the world, to assimilate them into the culture of academia without acknowledging their experience as outsiders” (292)

Notable Notes

Basic writing pedagogy must be taken up seriously as an area of scholarship, study

Context – early 1970s open admissions, City College (CUNY system), no guide for how to teach these students who had never before been in college, instructors just see a “chaos of error”

Data – hundreds of placement essays from entering students at City College 1970-1974

confusion and unawareness lays at the heart of the issue. Students need explicit instruction, need to be shown the patterns and structures, templates of writing sentences and academic prose passages.

need to fix errors without disrespecting the culture and language backgrounds of the students

Chapters: handwriting and punctuation; syntax; common errors; spelling; vocabulary; beyond the sentence; expectations

problem – does not adequately address linguistic differences, boils things down to looking at the errors in the student text without looking outside the actual paper, the larger history and social context

lots of pattern-practice, sentence-combining, learn how to express abstract thoughts and longer arguments


February 23, 2009

McBeth, Memoranda of Fragile Machinery

McBeth, Mark. “Memoranda of Fragile Machinery: A Portrait of Shaughnessy as Intellectual-Bureaucrat.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 31:1-2, 2007.

McBeth, the WPA for ten years at the City College of New York, reconstructs Shaughnessy’s role as an administrator through both the archived material of the program, containing her published and unpublished administrative documents, and interviews with teachers and administrators who worked with her at CUNY. In this recovery project, McBeth presents an alternate perspective on the work of Shaughnessy, explicitly showing how her administrative work informed her ideas about basic writing, development of writers, and literacy, and how her work in managing a large writing program gave her a place where she could conduct and gather data for her research. McBeth describes the work of WPAs positively, contesting the pessamistic attitude that WPAs are just managers over a large system marked by unfair labor practices. McBeth argues that WPAs are more than just managers: they are intellectual-bureaucrats who use their knowledge and expertise in rhetoric and their understanding of the production of writing to lead effective, educationally sound, and progressive programs.

Quotable Quotes

“The oft-tedious bureaucratic labors we will inevitably face may not deter us from the publish-or-perish work we need to complete, but on the contrary, may lead us to it. Applying our scholarly scrutiny and creativity to the administrative positions we hold may prove to make the WPA’s labors both more fruitful and possibly more rewarding (perhaps even pleasurable.)” (62).

The records “show the intersection between her academic life as a scholar, teacher, and administrator and, additionally, how those roles necessarily coexist and inform one another.” (62).

Notable Notes

shows how Errors and Expectations is more than a pedagogy manual – it is an administrative argument about how to teach basic writing students and structure a program that will meet their needs.

mid-term and end-of-term evaluations were a key resource and research pool for Errors and Expectations

February 8, 2009

Mutnick, On the Academic Margins

Mutnick, Deborah. “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy.” 183-202.

How to teach and understand basic writers has developed from studying them through their errors (Shaugnessy), to in-depth cognitive research to understand how their thinking and writing practices, to finally seeing them in the larger political and social context, analyzing how they learn to appropriate and use academic language, and how academic language affects their home language and culture. Basic writing pedagogy is interested in how students from diverse cultures and backgrounds come into and work in the university, the relationship between language and meaning, linguistic theories of error, and the writing and learning processes of adults. New pushes in basic writing pedagogy include mainstreaming basic writers in “regular” first-year composition classrooms and developing competency requirements that aren’t tied to a particular university course.

Notable Notes

First forays: Mina Shaughnessy – CUNY Open Admissions; Horner “Discoursing Basic Writing”

Cognitive process studies: Perl “Unskilled”; Sommers; Lunsford “What We Know” – showed problems in analysis and synthesis

Social and rhetorical theories: Bartholomae Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts and “Inventing”; Gilyard Voices of the Self; Students’ Right to Their Own Language; Bizzell biculturalism; Tom Fox “Standards and Access”; Alice Horning “Teaching Writing as a Second Lanuage”

students on the social margins change through education but must develop their own consciousness, the new discourses they learn affect their home ones. Basic writing courses can transform the students, teachers, administration, and institutions

February 6, 2009

Tobin, Process Pedagogy

Tate, Gary, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick, eds. A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

After reading this entire collection, I will pick 3-4 pedagogies to focus on, and using the essays’ bibliographies as a starting point, I will read the underlying theories that speak to the particular pedagogies and the debates in the field about the pedagogies. The essays (so far) have been extremely dense with historic and bibliographic information, so most of my note entires will have extensive keywords and phrases. 

Table of Contents:
Lad Tobin, “Process Pedagogy”
Christopher Burnham, “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice”
William A. Covino, “Rhetorical Pedagogy”
Rebecca Moore Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy”
Diana George and John Trimbur, “Cultural Studies and Composition”
Ann George, “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy”
Susan Jarratt, “Feminist Pedagogy”
Laura Julier, “Community-Service Pedagogy”
Susan McLeod, “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum”
Eric Hobson, “Writing Center Pedagogy”
Deborah Mutnick, “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy”
Charles Moran, “Technology and the Teaching of Writing”

So – here goes.

Tobin, Lad. “Process Pedagogy.” 1-18.

Process pedagogy is a pedagogy that believes students should be treated like real writers, and so a course designed with process pedagogy is centered around the production of student texts, emphasizing in-class workshops, conferencing, peer review, invention and revision heuristics, and reading that supports these goals. The text of a process pedagogy classroom is the students’ own writing. Process pedagogy developed in the early 1970s and is a backlash against current-traditionalist pedagogy. In the 1980s, compositionists studied writers writing in all contexts and turned to cognitive science and developmental psychology to articulate theoretical foundation to support process pedagogy. Scholarship with process headed in four different directions: basic writers, processes of novice vs. skilled writers; writing as a cognitive act; social nature of composing. There are several critiques of process pedagogy: 1. it, too, has become just as rule-driven as current-traditionalist pedagogy by teaching a single “writing process”; 2. it does not explicitly teach students writing skills, grammar, or a content; 3. it does not critically look at differences in writing due to race, class, and gender; 4. it does not emphasize context (more internally-driven than externally-driven.) Such critiques have led to the post-process movement, which argues that process pedagogy, though valuable in the 1970s, does not answer students’ needs today because it’s devoid of content, complication, and context, things that are better taught through cultural studies.

Quotable Quotes

“I was now reading not for error and assessment but for nuance, possibility, gaps, potential. For the first time, I realized that student essays were texts to be interpreted, discussed, marveled at, and that writing students were, amazingly enough, writers.” (6)

“It may be enormously useful for a student writer (or any writer for that matter) to believe at certain moments and stages of the process that she actually has agency, authority, an authentic voice, and a unified self.” (15)

Notable Notes

Murray, Learning by Teaching; Elbow, Writing without Teaching and Writing with Power; Berthoff; Macrorie, Telling Writing and Writing to Be Read; Emig, The Web of Meaning; Hairston, Winds of Change; Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work; Atwell, In the Middle; Britton, The Development of Writing Abilities 11-18; Faigley; Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations; Flower and Hayes, Writing as a cognitive act; Britton, Writing to Learn; LeFevre, Invention; Gere, Writing Groups; Newkirk, Performance of Self in Student Writing, Flower Reader-based/Writer-based.

Change in teacher role from evaluator to co-discoverer, mentor, coach, etc.

January 28, 2009

Tate, Teaching Composition

This blog entry is a comparison of the table of contents across two editions of Gary Tate’s bibliographic essay collection, Teaching Composition. I’m looking at a couple of these composition guides intended for beginning composition teachers and/or entering graduate students in the field to see how they change over different editions and to correlate the publication dates with major movements and trends in the history of composition pedagogy. I see the table of contents and the terms that the chapter titles use as a map that can suggest these transformations in how we view the field of composition and its pedagogy.

Tate’s collection pulls together bibliographic essays that scan the literature written about different parts of the field. Each is written by an “expert,” and it’s interesting to see what constituted different areas and specialties in the field in 1976 and in 1987. There hasn’t been an edition published since, probably due to the sheer number of articles, books, reviews, and other scholarship published in rhetoric and composition since 1987. Plus, there are more databases and other ways of finding relevant scholarship now that weren’t in place in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Ten Bibliographic Essays. Forth Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1976.

Young, “Invention: A Topical Survey”
Larson, “Structure and Form in Non-fiction Prose”
Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
D’Angelo, “Modes of Discourse”
Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Comprone, “The Uses of Media in Teaching Composition”
Winterowd, “Linguistics and Composition”
Korder, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Writing”
Kinneavy/Kline, “Composition and Related Fields”
Giannasi, “Dialects and Composition”

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1987.

Richard Young, “Recent Developments in Rhetorical Invention”
Richard Larson, “Structrue and Form in Non-narrative Prose”
Edward P.J. Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
Frank D’Angelo, “Aims, Modes, and Forms of Discourse”
Richard Lloyd-Jones, “Tests of Writing Ability”
Mina P. Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Andrea Lunsford, “Basic Writing Update”
Jennifer Giannasi, “Language Varieties and Composition”
W. Ross Winterowd, “Litearcy, Linguistics, and Rhetoric”
Joseph Comprone, “Liteary Theory and Composition”
Jim Corder, “Studying Rhetoric and Literature”
James Kinneavy, “Writing across the Curriculum”
Hugh Burns, “Computers and Composition”

Some things I notice: “dialects” turns into “language varieties;” the “basic writing update;” Winterowd’s chapter now includes literacy and rhetoric in the title; “media” becomes specifically computers; addition of writing across the curriculum as an area of interest and research; introduction of the term “rhetoric” in two of the chapter titles; “modes” of discourse becomes “aims, modes, and forms”; new chapter on assessment with “tests of writing ability.”

What these might suggest: turn away from linguistics and toward rhetoric; beginning of interests in cultural studies and the rhetorical practices of minority groups; seeing composition as an administrative force in the academy (with both chapters on WAC and assessment); move away from traditional notions of style, arrangement, and structural form to a more social approach to the teaching of writing; lots of growth in the reseach in basic writing and literacy.

January 23, 2009

Shaughnessy, “Diving In”

Shaughnessy, Mina P. “Diving In: An Introduction to Basic Writing.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, 3rd ed. 321-326.

Citing that it is the teachers of basic writing, not the students, who need to change in order to succeed in the academy, Shaughnessy outlines four stages teachers of basic writing progress through in learning about basic writers and accepting the challenge of teaching them. The four stages, as Shaughnessy describes them, are Guarding the Tower (exclusionary policies and attitudes); Converting the Natives (trying old pedagogical techniques to help a few students who seem promising); Sounding the Depths (confronting the contradictions in the expectations of students’ many discourse communities); and finally, Diving In (committing to study and change teaching practices to answer the challenges of the new student populations.)

Quotable Quotes

“Are they aware, for example, after years of right/wrong testing, after the ACTs and the GEDs and the OATs, after straining to memorize what they read but never learning to doubt it, after “psyching out” answers rather than discovering them, are they aware that the rules have changed and that the rewards now go to those who can sustain a play of mind upon ideas – teasing out the contradictions and ambiguities and frailities of statements?” (324)

“The greatest barrier to our work with [basic writing students] is our ignorance of them and the very subject we have contracted to teach” (325)

“Diving in is simply deciding that teaching them to write well is not only suitable but challenging work for those who would be teachers and scholars in a democracy” (326)

“By underestimating the sophistication of our students and by ignoring the complexity of the tasks we set before them, we have failed to locate in precise ways where to begin and what follows what” (325).

Notable Notes

medical terminology used to describe basic writers

put onus on teachers, not students, to find the solutions.

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