Revolution Lullabye

May 11, 2015

Rhodes, When Is Writing Also Reading

Rhodes, Lynne A. “When Is Writing Also Reading?” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013.) Web. 11 May 2015.

Rhodes, the Writing Assessment Director at University of South Carolina Aiken, argues for more explicit reading instruction across the disciplines. She describes how pre- and post-course reading diagnostic assessments in the first-year writing program at her university helped raise awareness of students’  poor reading skills, which she argues affects their ability to write researched arguments. Rhodes maintains that teaching students how to read research is the responsibility of all at the university, and she suggests looking toward strategies developed by K-12 teachers to help teach students how to read. She explains that her university’s decision to assess reading has helped her writing faculty develop a language to talk about and describe what they mean by “good reading.”

Notable Notes

the appendix contains a helpful rubric for the pre- and post-reading assessments, looking at students’ reading skills in term of comprehension, analysis, and interpretation on a scale of 1 to 5.

Rhodes draws on Randy Bass (1998) who advocates for doing “diagnostic probing” at the beginning of the semester. Where are our students? Do they understand the purposes of reading (Horning)

Students especially need help reading academic journals, and they need to be told why they are reading something – for content, for a model, to critique, etc (this makes connections with Horning 2007).

Quotable Quotes

“Post-secondary instructors rarely understand how unfamiliar student readers are with any kind of text beyond short, simple expository and creative works.”

“Our colleagues in K-12 have long understood the syntactical differences that make texts more or less accessible to readers, but most college instructors do not have the flexibility that primary and secondary grade-level teachers have when accommodating readers with weaker skills.”

“It is time to ask what faculty can and should learn about teaching students how to read complex texts by examining practices and assumptions. In our reading and writing classrooms, we should explain explicitly why and how we want students to address the texts we assign.”

Rhodes found that “over half of our students demonstrate perennial difficulties with researched writing tied specifically to their poor reading skills. Students who read poorly when they enter FYC currently do not improve significantly as readers and writers and continue to struggle in their major programs.”

“We simply must not give up on making assignments that challenge students to struggle and engage with texts.”

“We don’t often define expectations for ‘good reading.’”

“Reading processes are recursive, requiring dialogue and feedback, along with revisions of perceptions and readjustments. Just as instructors expect that student writers will need time and consultations to rewrite their papers, instructors should also understand that student readers will need supportive class discussions and time to reflect on reading selections.”

“Teachers across the disciplines will have to engage in dialogue with students and with faculty in other disciplines to make our expectations more obvious and clear to students when they work with texts, to read and write across the disciplines, as well as to explore our own practices as academic readers.”

“We must explicitly share our expectations with students about performances that we identify as good reading in our classrooms.”

“Assessment of student reading should be a common concern across a university’s campus, not a singular skill to be housed in an English department or a First Year Writing program.”

January 31, 2013

Lang and Baehr, Data Mining

Lang, Susan and Craig Baehr. “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (September 2012): 172-194.

Lang and Baehr argue that data mining is a useful research methodology for researchers and administrators in composition and rhetoric because of its inductive nature and its ability to organize and use large sets of data.  Their article defines data mining, explains how current computer technologies make data mining an efficient and useful research tool, describes the process of data mining, gives an example of it in practice (from their work at Texas Tech), and names the limitation of the methodology.  They offer data mining as a tool for researchers to engage in a RAD research agenda, as called for by Richard Haswell and Chris Anson.  They believe that in this age of increased demand for accountability, data mining can help teachers and administrators develop better assessment techniques and argue for their programs.

Notable Notes

data mining allows for categorization, clustering, and the emergence of associations and patterns (178-179).

distinction: data mining is more inductive – the data comes first (not the hypothesis), and the findings emerge (179).

application of data mining to Chris Anson’s taxonomy of six types of research (research categories) (181-184).

example: why do students earn DFW in first-year writing? What are the factors? Data mining study at Texas Tech

limitations: the complexity and scope of the data; longitudinal studies are necessary to increase validity; it cannot completely substitute for other kinds of research methodology; quantitative methods aren’t as accepted in the field (190-191).

data mining process: (185-186)

  1. identify the problem(s)
  2. select raw source of data
  3. decide what measures or criteria to apply to the data
  4. develop a formal procedure (a repeatable process) for sifting through the data
  5. interpret the results

Quotable Quotes

“Data mining is the iterative process of systematically interpreting, organizing, and making meaning from data sources” (191).

“The increasingly accoutnability-focused climate of higher education demands that we at least begin to explore the use of data-mining technologies” (184).

“Data and text mining extend these activities beyond what is possible for us to do as individuals without the assistance of computer technology, as large amounts of numeric or textual data can be examined for various types of relationships, including classes, clusters, associations, and patterns” (178).

December 30, 2010

Phelps, Fitting the Institution That’s There

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Fitting the Institution That’s There.” National Conference of Teachers of English, Los Angeles, November 1987.

In this 1987 NCTE presentation, Phelps describes how program design is an extension of process theory and argues for WPAs to define and see program construction as a design problem. Phelps explains how starting an independent writing program from the ground up involves working in and through chaos. She points out that writing program design has a “human element,” and that WPAs must design programs, balance costs and plan long-term goals always with the thinking of how changes and systems will affect the people working in them. She uses the first two years of the Syracuse Writing Program to explain her theory of writing program design.

Notes and Quotes

“But if teachers are taking such active roles in the Proqram, we need a model of program administration that empowers them to act on their ideas. For this reason among others we are designing a collaborative, entrepeneurial, decentralized administrative structure, cultivating leaders among the faculty of teaching assistants and part-time instructors, trying to diffuse authority and responsibility throughout the Program. Besides the intellectual and ethical justification, we need a much more professional, committed, expert faculty if we are to move the Program out into the university at large, working with other faculty, not to mention the reforms we are undertaking within our own course responsibilities.” (4)

November 17, 2010

Lindemann, Three Views of English 101

Lindemann, Erika. “Three Views of English 101.” College English 57.3 (March 1995): 287-302. Print.

Lindemann uses the CCCC debate between herself and Gary Tate (who debated the place of literature in the first-year composition course) as a way to explore what those in the field believe is the purpose and identity of the first-year course. She uses Young, Becker and Pike’s heuristic procedure of viewing an element as a particle, wave, or field (static, dynamic, or as part of a larger network) to explain three ways to teach first-year writing (she focuses on pedagogy, not theory or institutional relationships or departmental politics). Seeing writing as a particple – a product – results in a course that is based in the reading of texts (content) with the idea that reading enough good literature will give students stylistic models to imitate in their own essays and themes, a course where the teacher is the expert, the student is the novice, and that relies on grammar exercises and emphasizes form over invention. Seeing writing as a wave – a process – results in a course that based in process and expressivist pedagogy, where students write on subjects of their own choosing, where a variety of kinds of writing are assigned and encouraged, and where the teacher is placed as a coach or mentor for the student. Invention, practice, and drafting are given primary importance in a process course, and the course is interested primarily in the development of the individual student writer and his search for truth. Seeing writing as a field – a system of social actions – sees student writers as involved in multiple social systems that use writing to communicate and to make meaning (drawing on Cooper’s ecological argument.) It rejects the overarching emphasis on the individual in process theory and instead tries to teach students that they are part of several discourse communities, either through inquiry readings, connections across the curriculum, or connections across the community. How readers and writers relate to one another dependes on the context of the discourse and the values and norms of the community from where that discourse came out of. Lindemann makes the argument that compositionists must understand how they see writing – and how their programs and departments do – in order to have meaningful conversations and assessments.

Notes and Quotes

“Until we can find some common ground in instructional practices (or articulate our differences when we cannot), other discussions seem irrelevantly secondary. Until we can say why teachers and students meet together to read and write in a place called college, we cannot address other practices: placement tests, teacher training, program administration, hiring, and so on, meant to advance this work.” (289).

“Because product-centered courses assign primacy to texts, teachers pay considerable attention to form” (291).

July 6, 2009

Cooper, The Ecology of Writing

Cooper, Marilyn. “The Ecology of Writing.” College English. 48:4 (April 1986): 364-375.

Cooper critiques the process movement for focusing on the individual, ahistorical and context-free writer and advocates for a new way to understand and research writing: by considering writing as a social act that takes place within ecologies of overlapping systems. She names five systems through which people interact with each other through writing: the system of ideas, of purposes, of interpersonal interactions, of cultural norms, and of textual forms. Cooper argues that writing is more than a way of thinking; it is an action and a social act.

Quotable Quotes

“The belief on which [process] is based – that writing is thinking, and, thus, essentially a cognitive process – obscures many aspects of writing we have come to see as not peripheral.” (365).

Systems “are made and remade by writers in the act of writing…writing changes social reality” (368).

Notable Notes

full understanding of the process movement? was it all about isolated individual writers?


June 24, 2009

Harris, A Teaching Subject

Harris, Joseph. A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Harris traces the history of the teaching of writing and how the teaching of writing was talked about through five key terms: growth, voice, process, error, and community. His account begins with the 1966 Dartmouth Conference, and it relies on published articles, books, and textbooks in the field for historical evidence, debates over the terms, and trends. He does not present an argument for composition as a theoretical field of inquiry; rather, he sees composition’s inherent ties to education and the classroom as important and needing to be asserted and validated. He traces the process movement through the 1960s and 1970s, and then uses community as the key term to organize his history about the social and political turn in composition. The last chapter is a reprint of his CCC article “The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing,” in which he problematizes the term, saying that it posits an ideal, homongenous, warm and happy view of a community. Instead, Harris argues that we need to move even beyond contact zones – which give people fixed cultural identies and affinities – to recognizing the multiple identites and voices that writers and students negotiate at all times.

Notable Notes

Dartmouth Conference: British (K-12) interested in growth and teaching; Americans (university) were interested in professionalization of the field, research, becoming recognized academics

two different ideas of voice: that of the individual writer, emerging from inside (expressivist movement, Elbow, Murray) v. voices that are outside the writer that the writer must learn to orchestrate and control (Barthes, Bakhtin, Derrida, Bartholomae, influenced by Theodore Baird at Amherst)

goal of composition, process: critical thinking, habits of mind, arete (virtues necessary for democracy)

June 12, 2009

Britton, The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing

Britton, James. “The Composing Processes and the Functions of Writing.” In Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Eds. Cooper and Odell. Urbana: NCTE, 1978. 13-28.

Britton, who had previously articulated his theory of discourse, uses this essay to answer two questions about writing: Who is it for? and What is it for? He finds that the answers to those questions differ based on the kind of writing the writer is engaging in. Transactional writing, one of his categories of discourse, places the writer in the role of the participant whose writing is a communicative goal that is interpreted piecemeal by a reader. Poetic writing, on the other hand, places the writer in the role of the spectator whose writing is an end in itself that is interpreted globally by the reader. Expressive writing – placed in the middle of the transactional and poetic spectrum – requires both the spectator and participant persepective, and writers must be able to negotiate the cognitive and affective ordering that is inherent to both to write a successful composition.

Notable Notes

draws on Langer: cognitive and affective order – art is the combination of our congitive and affective responses to experiences, expressive writing requires both

three stages of writing process: preparation, incubation, articulation

organizing power of generalization – concern with the global, nto the details (physiognomic perception)

Cooper and Odell, Research on Composing

Cooper, Charles R. and Lee Odell. Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Urbana: NCTE, 1978.

This collection, from the 1975 Buffalo Conference on Researching Composing, wants to expand the nature and scope of research on the writing process. The editors argue that to do so, scholars in composition need to question their basic assumptions about how writing happens and be open to changing and revising their theories. Writing researchers, they argue, need to look at writers, not written products of published writers, for models of composing, and should look beyond English for answers to research questions – to rhetorical theory, developmental and cognitive psychology, education, and discourse theory. The essays – including those written by Britton, Young, Emig, and Murray – are therefore speculative and broad in scope, trying out new theories and ideas to open the door for further research and questioning in the composing process.

Quotable Quotes

purpose: “redirecting and revitalizing research in written composition” (xiii)

Notable Notes

value of teacher-research

Hairston, The Winds of Change

Hairston, Maxine. “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 33:1 (Feb 1982) 76-88.

Hairston draws on Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts to declare that the field of composition and rhetoric has experienced a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing, moving from (current-)traditional methods to process pedagogy. She claims current-traditional pedagogy is primarily focused on expository writing; wants students to find form, not ideas, through writing; is a linear composing model; equates teaching editing with teaching writing; and is not connected to research or experimentation. In contrast, Hairston argues that the process model is concerned with writers and their process, not their written products, and so is concerned with teaching students heuristics to invent, compose, and revise; is rhetorically-based; is recursive and holistic; treats writing as a way of learning and communicating; and is informed by other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The process model depends on research in writing and on writers, and requires teachers of writing to be writers. Hairston argues that the process model is the best equip to teach writing to the new populations of American colleges and universities.

Notable Notes

attention to process began in the 1950s and 1960s with generative theories of linguistics (Chomsky) and grammar (Christensen), along with tagmemicists (Pike)

Flower and Hayes, A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing.” CCC 32:4 (Dec 1981) 365-387.

Flower and Hayes introduce their theory of the congntive processes involved in writing, hoping that with their articulation of this theory, they will lay the groundwork for further research and study in how writing happens. They culled the results from five years of protocal analysis research, in which writers were given a set prompt (like write an article for Seventeen magazine), to form their four-part theory. Their theory states: 1. the process of writing is actually an entire set of distinctive thinking processes that the writer organizes while writing 2. any of these processes can be embedded in another, organized hierarchly by the writer 3. the act of writing itself is a goal-directed activity, one of a network of goals that grows and emerges through writing, and 4. the goals are created by the writer and can be changed during the writing process. Flower and Hayes also label three parts of the act of writing: the task environment (rhetorical situation); the writer’s long-term memory (of audience, topic, and writing plan); and the writing processes (planning, translating, and reviewing grounded in self-reflective monitoring.) Flower and Hayes hope their model shows that writing is at the same time purposeful and open to change, direction, and finding meaning, and argue for their model (as opposed to linguistic, rhetorical, or educational models) as better positioning researchers to answer how writers make writing choices.

Quotable Quotes

answer this question: “What guides the decisions wrters make as they write?”

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