Revolution Lullabye

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).


August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

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

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

June 16, 2009

Enoch, Refiguring Rhetorical Education

Enoch, Jessica. Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Enoch offers an alternative understanding to what rhetorical education is and is for through her analysis of the pedagogical and rhetorical practices of white and minority women teachers teaching marginalized American students from 1865-1911. Her case studies include Lydia Maria Child, who wrote The Freedman’s Book, a post-Civil War textbook for freed slaves, a book that offered freed slaves multiple perspectives and rhetorical models from black and white authors; Zitkala-Sa, a Sioux teacher who wrote autobiographical essays in the Atlantic Monthly that questioned the aims of Indian education; and Jovita Idar, Marta Pena, and Leonor Villegas de Magnon, three Chicana teachers in Laredo, Texas, who wrote articles in the Spanish-language newspaper La Cronica that argued for bicultural rhetorical education that places Anglican and Mexican heritages in conversation with each other, into a new kind of cultural citizenship. Enoch’s purpose is to complicate the field’s understandings of what rhetorical education meant in the late 19th-early 20th century (the field relies on accounts of what was happening in American universities) and where that education was taking place. Enoch elevates the female teacher from a passive transmitter of the dominant culture to a potential advocate, shaping pedagogies and rhetorical strategies to better teach and empower her students. Enoch also points out that rhetorical education does not have to be about full participation and engagement in the dominant political and cultural sphere: rather, it can be quieter and more personal, forming communal and civic identites and teaching rhetorical strategies that marginalized members of society can use to begin to disrupt the dominant hegemonic space.

Quotable Quotes

Enoch invites other scholars at the end of the book to find other historical and contemporary sites of rhetorical education by asking questions like “How have people learned to participate in civic, communal, and cultural discussions? How have teachers and students responded to models and skills for participation designated for them? How have they invented different strategies for participation? WHat did these strategies (dis)enable?” (173).

“A rhetorical education aimed at change and disruption rather than acceptance and submission” (32) – Lydia Maria Child’s work

rhetorical education = “any educational program that develops in students a communal and civic identity and articulates for them the rhetorical strategies, language practices, and bodily and social behaviors that make possible their participation in communal and civic affairs” (7-8)

Notable Notes

calls for first-year, rhet/comp to go back to rhetorical education principles – a rhetorical education that is always cultural and political, situated, personal and cultural as well as civic and public, a range of behaviors, skills, and practices

draws on rhet/comp scholarship in African-American, Native America, Chicano/a rhetorical practices and pedagogies; critical pedagogy; history of composition and rhetoric

June 10, 2009

Giroux, Ideology, Culture, and the Process of Schooling

Giroux, Henry A. Ideology, Culture, and the Process of Schooling. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1981.

In this collection of essays, Giroux advances his neo-Marxist theory of American education, which is situated as a sort of meso-level, between a micro-level theory of Freirian liberatory pedagogy that places potential change in the hands of individuals and a macro-level theory along the lines of Bourdieu that shows that change is impossible because of inscribed institutional relationships and politics. Giroux rejects one-sided determinism, arguing that schools themselves are sites of action and structure, sites where people negotiate contradictions and forge identities through actions and the effects of actions (curriculum, textbooks, spatial structures, etc.) Giroux calls on educators to take action, not just critique, and reconstruct their schools. His theory is not a student-centered theory of individual education like Freire – it is a call for reflective praxis for educators.

Quotable Quotes

“The entirety of the educational process will have to be analyzed for its normative and ideological meanings. Curriculum, teaching methods, forms of evaluation, textbooks, school organization, and the organization of teachers will have to be seen as componets of the educational process, shaped by the latter’s dialectical role as a representation of a vital human need and as a class-based instrument of the established power structure” (79)

“Schools are social sites whose particularity is characterized by an ongoing struggle between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces” (15).

his is a “radical pedagogy that connects critical theory with the need for social action in the interest of both individual freedom and social reconstruction” (8).

Notable Notes

investigate the hidden curriculum (75)

people can be critically conscious but cannot not, ultimately, escape objective and subjective realities, cultures, ideologies, and histories

radical pedagogy teaches an integration (an investigation) into ideology, hegemony, and culture – both the daily, individual material practices of these and macro relationships and power structures in society….have students think across these two levels

three modes of American educational scholarship (that he sees are problematic): 1. technocratic rationality (scientific, managerial, ahistorical) 2. interpretative rationality (how people use language to make meaning, rejecting positivism, embrace subjectivity and individuality, divorced from institutions) 3. reproductive rationality (institutions shaping society, one-sided determinism)


February 20, 2009

Robillard, Young Scholars Affecting Composition

Robillard, Amy E. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68:3 (January 2006) 253-270.

With the publication of an all-undergraduate research and scholarship journal in composition (Young Scholars in Writing), composition has changed (whether scholars have noticed it or not) in two distinctive ways. First, that students can publish in the field has marked a shift from treating writing as a verb, a pedagogical focus (how does one learn how to write) to treating writing as a noun, a more objectified, researched scholarship focus (what is writing and should it be studied.) Second, student scholarship, scholarship that compositionists can take up, argue with, and use in their own scholarship, creates a contradiction in the ways we think about students and how we cite them. It is common practice to protect students in our scholarship by assigning them first-name pseudonyms, but now that they do contribute to the knowledge of our field (are not just products of our pedagogy), we need to consider both the legal and, more importantly, affective functions of citation. How we choose to cite student writing and student work in our own scholarship affects how we think of them – as authors or as passive products of our pedagogy.

Quotable Quotes

“To analyze student writing for what it demonstrates about a particular pedagogy – this is an authorizing move in the discourse of composition studies, perhaps the authorizing move.” (256).

“Citation practices vary, too, according to the status of the person being cited” (262).

“To cite Sahra Ahmed or Silas Kulkarni or Alicia Brazeau is to align oneself with students, to forward the argument that students contribute to the knowledge of composition studies as more than examples of particular pedagogies. To cite students is to forward the argument that writing as a mode of learning (Emig) is a dialogic process; teachers teach students to write, but students, in their writing, teach teachers about more than the results of particular pedagogies” (263).

“To name is to control. To withhold a student’s name is a form of that control” (268).

Notable Notes

Connors and Howard – citations practices

categories for functions of citation for readers, authors, and authors who will be cited (258)

categories for functions of citation of students on both students and composition scholars (266)

we need to teach students about the affective aspects of citation practices

legitimate relationship to students’ work

deep acting

February 19, 2009

Scott, “The Practice of Usability”

Scott, J. Blake. “The Practice of Usability: Teaching User Engagement through Service-Learning.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.4 381-412.

Teaching about user-centered design and usability is different from practicing it. This article, categorized as teacher research by the author, centers on the author’s introductory technical writing students, who are asked to enact user-centered design principles in their service learning projects at an Orlando-area HIV planning council (which distributes services to HIV patients in the area.) The students demonstrate knowledge of user-centered design principles, which (like participatory design) integrate the user in the process of design, treating the user(s) not as clients but rather as collaborators. This kind of design process is complex, messy, and complicated, and the author finds that even though students intellectually understand the merits and values of the process, they do not succeed in enacting it. Scott concludes that more time is needed in the classroom – and in the scholarship of the field – dedicated to discussing and talking about the practices of user-centered design. These practical issues, which he describes as metis (flexible intelligence) are breezed over, but they (how to gain access to users, how to communicate with them, how to set deadlines, how to research the institution and the potential users) are the key to implementing a user-centered design and having a successful service-learning experience for both the students and the community organization.

Quotable Quotes

The study shows how his students “gradually came to understand usability as a situated, dynamic, messy, and difficult process and set of practices involving various user-engagement challenges and requiring the flexible adaptation of usability methods” (384).

Our scholarship on user-centered design or service learning “often stop short of foregrounding or even addressing practice-level issues” (406). We need to make “such practices visible” (406)

“By foregrounding the context-specific, complex, difficult, and dynamic practice of usability for students, we can help them develop a flexible intelligence that can serve them as technical communicators and rhetors more generally” (406).

Notable Notes

Cited works: Spinuzzi, Robert Johnson (user-centered design), Huckin (service-learning and technical writing), Linda Flower, JT Grabill

connection between participatory design and user-centered design

data included student assignments, interviews with the students, and pre-and post-course questionnaires, coding responses

25 students from two sections of introductory technical writing in Spring 2005 (research done the following semester)

best to introduce concept of usability in advanced technical writing class or as part of a two-semester sequence because of how much time a complicated service project takes incorportating user-centered design.

ease-based v. user-based design (401)

focusing on practice-level issues is like the classical pedagogical technique of imitation (mimesis) – not straight imitation but rather “a creative process of rearranging and reconstructing rhetorical elements in light of kairos” (404)

February 15, 2009

Marsh, Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education

Marsh, Bill. Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education. Albany, SUNY Press, 2007.

Instead of focusing on student motivation for plagiarism, this book looks at student plagiarism in higher education from a broader historical and theoretical perspective, investigating the evolution and ideologies of plagiarism prevention and internet-based plagiarism detection software. These software systems simultaneously cling to a model of authorship, reading, and writing that does not take into account the networked literacies and composing practices of today’s students and use these literacies and practices to detect improper source use by copying, scanning, and keeping student texts for their own profit. Both plagiarism and plagiarism detection are authoring activities with particular perspectives, with software detection services operating out of disciplinary, power, rehabilitation, control, and enforcement motives (43). The networked computer challenges these assumptions and calls for a new way of thinking about student research, writing, and reading.

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism detection services “already use remediation techniques to produce student texts toward the formulation of safe, healthy, and legitmate writing subjects. In today’s institutions of higher learning, the time may have come to turn those techniques around – literally and figuratively – to better serve today’s post-media, multimodal learners” (156)

“I approach the plagiarism problem as an instance of social and political contestion mader real in the micromechanisms of composition pedagogy, intellectual property law, and, more recently, computer technology” (7)

The new media composer has new conventions and techniques that “revamp or remediate a range of authoring practices not altogether lost in our new media age” (148)

“Plagiarism detection services promise more generally to correct, or right, errant information flows while also teaching the prevailing lessons of modern authorship and intellectual property in the digital age” (4).

Notable Notes

The software which reads for “high-value” words remediates reading practices and calls to mind alchemy, “a new methodology for determining (reading for) authorial orginality.” Through ordering information, it orders human beings. (151)


Chapter 1: plagiarism scandals of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, compare to how student plagiarizers who don’t have power are treated.
Chapter 2: definitions of plagiarism as failed authorship and the stealing of intellectual property; plagiarism detection software as a form of social control, 2 wrongs of plagiarism: stealing property and appropriating authorial originality
Chapter 3: early 20th century plagiarism prevention and management of student writing, 1913 U of Minnesota instructions
Chapter 4: Renaissance understandings of plagiarism through metaphors of alchemy and literary change
Chapter 5: inadequacy of handbooks to teach techniques for avoiding plagiarism because they rely on genre and insider knowledge
Chapter 6: inquiry as essential to late 20th century composition pedagogy, Ballenger’s research paper, influcenced by Montaigne
Chapter 7: internet plagiarism detection services (4 of them), how they regulate student writing and draw upon the alchemical, rhetorical, and legal traditions of plagiarism prevention
Chapter 8: how this all plays out with the networked internet and computer as a compositional tool

Research paper: contradictary because it requires students to create something original in an exercise that requires them to recognize the originality of other authors and to cite it in their papers. (88)

February 9, 2009

Rose and Weiser, The WPA as Researcher and Archivist

Rose, Shirley and Irwin Weiser. “The WPA as Researcher and Archivist.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 275-302.

Writing program administrators need to see archiving the program’s records as an intregral and necessary part of their job, for it provides a rich source for future WPAs to understand the history and development of the specific program, and it invites questions that result in further WPA-led research in the program. Archiving takes more than just scanning documents and saving them or throwing them in a file cabinet; every writing program needs to develop documentation strategies that create systems in which to evaluate, analyze, and store records so that they can be both a usable and accessible archive. It is vital that the WPA oversees the archival process, for only she has the disciplinary knowledge through which to understand the potential rhetorical importance of a document (both currently and for future WPAs.) Futhermore, creating an archive of WPA documents demonstrates that WPA work is important knowledge that should be kept and looked at in the future.

Quotable Quotes

“Records become an archiveand thus a potential resource for research when intellectual control has been exercised over them; that is, they must be organized and accessible to use. Thus, archiving, like research, is a deliberate activity, one requiring the exercise of agency” (277).

“Writing program research and writing program records management are essential and interdependent responsbilities of every WPA” (276).

WPA work “merits documentation, preservation, and subsequent investigation” (284).

Notable Notes

work with professional archivist, but take responsibility of record storage and documentation strategy in your own hands

document-event relationship; shifting significance of a document with different audiences over time

importance of collaboration with document creators to create a dynamic documentation system that retains records as they are being made

the outcome of WPA research (through archiving) is immediate with obvious impact

difficulty of carving out the time with all other more immediate WPA duties to go about creating and maintaining an archive, requires long-range vision for the future of the program

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