Revolution Lullabye

December 31, 2011

Dobrin, Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum

Dobrin, Sidney. “Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum.” In Don’t Call It That: The Composition Practicum. Ed. Dobrin. Urbana: NCTE, 2005. 1-34.

This introduction sets out the scope of the author’s edited collection, which explores the debates surrounding the graduate (sometimes undergraduate) composition practicum: the place of theory in the course, its curriculum, its aims, its ramifications for institutional politics, and its place in disciplinary research, scholarship, and identity.

Dobrin claims that the composition practicum is not merely about training teachers to teach composition or professionalizing those teachers; rather, what the composition practicum course does is enculturate those students “into the cultural ideologies of composition.” This fact, Dobrin claims, makes “the practicum one of the most powerful and important spaces of occupation in composition studies.” (21). He argues that composition studies should be more aware of the power the practicum has on the field as a whole.

Dobrin argues that the debates about the composition practicum are political in nature and centered on the perpetual divide and debate of theory/practice, and therefore the questions raised by the composition practicum are shared with the questions inherent in composition studies and writing program administration scholarship. Dobrin argues that the composition practicum is a particularly important site for the field to study, as it is where the identity of the discipline is often defined for the next generation of scholars; thus, the composition practicum is where the field’s “cultural capital” is created and perpetuated.

Dobrin surveys the history of the composition practicum at American universities since the turn of the 20th century, noting that not much has changed in regards to the incorporation of both theory and practice in the course and the political arguments that surround the course.

Quotes

“The practicum functions as a primary purveyor of composition’s cultural capital.” (6)

“Let’s face it, as a device through which ideologies are reinforced and programmatic cultures are created and maintained, the practicum course is a powerful tool not only for guiding the ways new teachers learn to think about their teaching, but also for controlling how and in what ways the very discipline of composition studies is perpetuated. The cultural capital of composition studies is maintained and immortalized by way of the practicum.” (4)

“Practica give shape and formula to the identity of programs. This notion of program identity is important because it carries cultural capital through to first-year students and what it means “to write.”” (26)

Notes

focuses on the graduate (TA) composition practicum course, which is often more than day-to-day advice and “how-to” practical help, serving instead as an introduction to composition theories and histories

central issue: legitimization (is the practicum course rigorous enough? Is practice critical enough? should the practicum course be given for credit?)

a challenge of the course: it is often the only course graduate student take in composition theory, history, or practice. It has a lot of ground to cover.

Some problems Dobrin addresses:

Much of the literature about teacher preparation and the practicum is grounded in the local – both because, perhaps, there is little other context, and also because the theory of what we do is so grounded in the relationships and experiences we have – it is practical (30)

1. the composition practicum is seen as an introduction to the field, but the field is not all about teaching and also not all about FYC (22)

2. requiring all English grad students to take a practicum reinforces the subordinate position of composition (as something students must do and be “trained” to do instead of what they want to do) (22)

3. A WPA’s approach in her program can often be traced back to the single composition practicum course that she took as a graduate student (27) – exponential influence

4. confusion of teacher/student identity: are those in the practicum teachers or students?

3. the composition practicum is an argument, forwarding a particular vision of professionalization and the field (through theories, methods, vocabulary) and is also a mechanism for “policing,” control and enculturation (24-25)

Guerra/Bawarshi’s essay in this collection looks at shifts between different WPAs in the same program: “cult of personality”

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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

February 3, 2009

Peeples, Rosinski, and Strickland, Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics

Peeples, Timothy, Paula Rosinski, and Michael Strickland. Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics: The Case of Constructing Elon University’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric Concentration. Composition Studies 35.1 (Spring 2007) 57-76.

Using two scenarios (discussions on new faculty hires and acquiring space), the authors show how the complementary perspectives of chronos/strategy and kairos/tactic work as a theoretical framework for describing how programs are designed, developed, and enacted. Their theory draws on both the ancient Greek notions of time (chronos and kairos) and de Certeau’s terms to describe the space from which a person acts (strategy (one’s own, independent) and tactic (undefined, opportunity-driven.)) Their piece attempts to bring case-study story-telling, a method often used by administrators to explain program design due to the very local, contextual nature of program creation, up to a theoretical level by introducing rhetorical terms that can describe common techniques and methods faculty use to carve out their own institutional spaces through majors, minors, and concentrations.

Quotable Quotes

“What we find most powerful about this framework is the way it emphasizes the rhetorical, productive, compositional nature of program development; we write and re-write our programs. As a heuristic framework, the combination of chronos/kairos and strategy/tactic helps with the ongoing inventional process of program development….gives us a way to move beyond situated awareness and toward applying rhetorical analytical skills to our own efforts at program development.” (58)

Notable Notes

emphasis on tactics is not often talked and theorized about in journals, giving a space for it here. Kairos is a key component in the development of programs.

our action – strategy and tactics – form our social realities and our discourse (58)

we need to be more deliberate and conscious of what courses of action we are taking to develop programs, to be aware of the moves that are available to us.

February 1, 2009

Miller, Expertise and Agency

Miller, Carolyn R. “‘Expertise and Agency’: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction.” In The Ethos of Rhetoric. Ed. Michael J. Hyde, U of South Carolina P, 2004. 197-218.
 
Miller explores the two complementary modes of human-computer interaction in the post-Cold War era: expert systems and intelligent agents. Using a grounding in twentieth century US history and an understanding in the computer systems and programs developed from the 1950s onward, Miller shows how the ethos in the human-computer interaction changes from an ethos interested in rational reliability (phronesis) to one concerned with interaction with the user (eunoia.) Ethos is not just a normative function; it is descriptive as well and can shed light on the kind of rhetorical community participants belong to. The shift from a rhetoric of domain-specific expert systems to one of intelligent agents happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when public trust in institutions and authority figures took a nose dive (Vietnam, Watergate) and when rapidly evolving technologies allowed for the development of a more complex, more diverse (in markets and knowledge), and more distributed world. Intelligent agents, as opposed to expert systems that are concerned with the accumulation of one domain of knowledge, are semi-autonomous, have choices, and interact with the environment. Their “expertise” and knowledge is collected in a distributed fashion. Miller argues that the ethos of rational reliability and that of sympathy are on two ends of a pendulum and must be balanced with virtues and moral reasoning (arete.)
 
Quotable Quotes
 
“A discourse…delinieates a rhetorical community and consequently an ethos – a sensus communis and a locus communis – a place where interlocutors abide, about which they contest, and from which they draw appeals. Those who dwell within a rhetorical community acquire their character as rhetorical participants from it, as it educates and socializes them. The community does this in part by supplying the Aristotelian components of ethos – the judgment (phronesis), values (arete), and feelings (eonoia) that make a rhetor persuasive to other members of the community” (198)
 
This is important because it’s about how the discourse that we create in turns creates the community – the hive. The writing that happens in blogs, del.ic.ious, GoogleDocs, tagging, etc. – imparts both a community and a shared ethos that is carried out in different projects.
 
Looking at ethos “can help us determine aspects of our community and our communal character” (198)
 
Notable Notes
 
Distrust in authority is historically and culturally grounded, leads to these bottom-up, more user-need sensitive human-computer interaction systems. People aren’t (usually) crazy domain experts. Their expertise is distributed and can be documented and used most efficiently in more of an intelligent agent system.
Ethos is normative and descriptive.

January 26, 2009

Chaput, “Lest We Go the Way of Vocational Training”

Chaput, Catherine. “Lest We Go the Way of Vocational Training: Developing Undergraduate Writing Programs in the Humanist Tradition.” WPA 31.3 (Spring 2008) 15-31.

Chaput argues for structuring undergraduate writing majors around the conjunction between cultural studies and rhetoric, citing that this politically-active theoretical foundation will best serve students, who must communicate in a globalized, interdisciplinary, integrated world of sign-symbols and discourse systems. Rhetoric has been treated as a sub-sub-discipline (of composition and English), thus fracturing and fragmenting its study at the university, but the undergraduate writing major has the possibility of allowing students to focus on rhetoric with a cultural studies inquiry (as is done in many graduate programs.) The Writing and Culture concentration at Georgia Southern University is used as the model in the article; it is one of four concentrations in the Writing Department and is the most theoretical and humanist of all of them. Chaput is concerned with the professionalization of writing majors, arguing that undergraduate students should be trained to see the connection between rhetoric and democracy in all spheres of public discourse.

Quotable Quotes

“In an interdisciplinary world, writing programs need to interact with the rhetorical functions of politics and entertainment as they emerge in both public and private spaces” (16).

“foundation in liberal, rather than mechanical, arts” (16).

“continually working at the intersections of rhetorical humanism and cultural studies” (16).

wants majors to “be based exclusively on rhetorical humanism and cultural studies. Such a curriculum would move beyond the professionalizing, reproductive mechanism of traditional rhetorical practices, at least within the domain of composition, and embrace rhetoric as a dynamic that produces the material and textual world through cultural, political, and economic valuations” (22).

such a major gives students “the theoretical and practical tools necessary to engage, negotiate, and transform a world in which textuality dominates our personal and public lives, encouraging a politics and culture of engagement” (26).

Notable Notes

other concentrations in the major are linguistics, creative writing, and professional and technical writing.

service/applied/outreach courses

theory courses are cross-listed graduate

uses Freire to talk about rhetorical humanism goals

writing majors can’t just prepare students for workplace writing

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