Revolution Lullabye

January 18, 2012

Pytlik and Liggett, Preparing College Teachers of Writing

Pytlik, Betsy P. and Sarah Liggett. Preparing College Teachers of Writing: Histories, Theories, Programs, Practices. New York: Oxford, 2002.

This edited collection brings together a wide variety of essays centered on the preparation of college teachers of writing (specifically focused on TAs.) They discuss what teachers of writing need to know about writing and what kinds of structures help support them in their learning about composition theories and practices. The collection is organized into four sections, addressing these questions: “What are the historical contexts for TA preparation programs? What theories inform TA preparation programs? How are successful TA programs structured? What teaching practices have proven effective in preparing TAs for college writing classrooms?”

The editors do not argue for best practices; rather, they insist that TA preparation must be dynamic to local needs and constraints.

Fulkerson, Richard. “Preface: Preparing the Professors.” xi-xiv

In the preface (“Preparing the Professors”), Richard Fulkerson notes that recent trends in teacher preparation share three common practices or concepts: the idea of teaching as a reflective practice, the role of mentoring in teacher preparation, and the creation and use of teaching portfolios as representation of a teacher’s practice and development.


reflection has its roots in Dewey, Donald Schon – “It is an activity characterized by the conscious and conscientious attention of a prepared practicioner, rather than the essential mindlessness of a trained organism. As such it absolutely demands the use of writing as a tool.” (xiii)


sources to get:

Schon Educating the Reflective Practicioner

essays to look at in this collection:

Weiser, Irwin. “When Teaching Assistants Teach Teaching Assistants How to Teach” – looks at Purdue’s 30-year-history of mentoring new TAs with experienced TAs

Rose, Shirley K. and Margaret J. Finders “Thinking Together: Developing a Reciprocol Reflective Model for Approaches to Preparing College Teachers of Writing.”

Bamberg, Betty. “Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice: A Program for Continuing TA Preparation after the Practicum.”

Ebest, Sally Barr “Mentoring: Past, Present, Future.” – how mentoring arrangements and relationships are made, the power differential that occurs

Bender, Gita Das “Orientation and Mentoring: Collaborative Practices in Teacher Preparation” – year-long staff development with collaboration between administration and teachers

Wanda Martin and Charles Paine. “Mentors, Models, and Agents of Change.” how veteran TAs help with teacher training and preparation

Lindgren, Margaret. “The Teaching Portfolio: Practicing What We Teach” – how the TA’s teaching portfolio can help analyze the effectiveness of TA training programs

May 1, 2009

Hamp-Lyons and Condon, Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment

Hamp-Lyons, Liz and William Condon. “Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment.” CCC 44.2 (1993): 176-190. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 315-329.

The authors argue that portfolio-based assessments are not inherently better, more valid, or more ethical than other kinds of writing assessments. It takes much critical reflection and work on the part of WPAs and writing instructors to make portfolio grading, which is more time consuming, a better assessment. They point out that more texts and genres doesn’t always make scoring decisions easier, that pedagogical and curricular values aren’t taken into account because they are not articulated, and that collaborative portfolio grading is often conflict-ridden, for it is hard to build consensus over assessment and instruction values. They do not argue to abandon portfolios, just to warn that certain stipulations – like criteria and conversations about program goals and values – must be in place to make portfolios a better assessment.

Quotable Quotes

“Increased accuracy is not an inherent virtue of portfolio assessment” (327).

Elbow and Belanoff, Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams

Elbow, Peter and Pat Belanoff. “Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams.” CCC 37 (1986): 336-339. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 97-101.

Elbow and Belanoff describe the process and the benefits of the portfolio evaluation system they piloted at Stony Brook University. Instead of focusing on scoring and ranking essays, the portfolio system they put in place, which is a pass/fail (C or not) from the student’s teacher and another instructor, is mastery- and competency-based. The focus of the assessment and the course turns to comments, feedback, advice, and revision as well as collaboration among teachers. Students see the portfolio assessment (which has a dry run mid-semester) as a hurdle to overcome. Elbow and Belanoff argue that even though the assessment process leads to much debate among teachers during the assessment, this disagreement and chaos is key to learning and the development of community standards and values.

April 28, 2009

Yancey, Looking Back as We Look Forward

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Looking Back as We Look Forward: Historicizing Writing Assessment.” CCC 50 (1999): 483-503. Reprinted in Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 131-149.

Yancey divides the history of writing assessment into three “waves.” The first wave (1950-1970) focused on objective, non-essay testing that prioritized efficiency and reliability. The second wave (1970-1986) moved towards holistic scoring of essays, based on rubrics and scoring guides first developed through ETS and AP. The third wave (1986-present) expanded assessment to include portfolios (consisting of multiple examples of student writing) and larger, programmatic assessments. She looks at these waves from several perspectives: at how the concepts of reliability and validity are negotiated and valued; at the struggle between the knowledge of the assessment expert (and psychometrics) and the contextual, local knowledge of the non-expert teacher (and hermeneutics); and the move of assessment from outside and before the classroom to within and after the class. She voices concerns and directions for further scholarship and practice in writing assessment, challenging the field to look for ways to use assessment rhetorically and ethically to help students and programs develop and to produce scholarly knowledge.

Quotable Quotes

“It is the self we want to teach, that we hope will learn, but that we are often loathe to evaluate. What is the role of the person/al in any writing assessment?” (132).

Notable Notes

The role of the classroom teacher moving into writing assessment: in the 1st wave, testing specialists evaluated, but through the 2nd and 3rd waves, the roles of teacher and evaluator overlapped into the new discipline of writing assessment.

Questions: Who is authorized to speak about assessment? What is the purpose of writing assessment in education? Who shuold hold hte power?

the use of portfolios shifts the purpose and goals of the assessment: using pass/fail instead of scoring and communal grading moves more towards assessing a program and establishing community values than individual student assessment. Use different stakeholders to read?

waves fall into each other, aren’t strict lines that categorize what’s happening.

Blog at