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).

September 4, 2012

Moneyhun, Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development

Moneyhun, Clyde. “Performance Evaluation as Faculty Development.” WPA 34.1 (Fall 2010): 161-165.

Moneyhun uses his own experience as a WPA who needed to create an evaluation system for his writing instructors as a way to explain how performance evaluation can be viewed as a faculty development opportunity. The yearly evaluation system he designed with much input from the instructors asked instructors to self-assess their work in areas of teaching, service, and research on both a numerical scale and through short reflective answers. Moneyhun argues that including expectations and rewards for service and research gave him room as a WPA to argue for insitutional support for sending instructors to conferences and for their community service.

Notable Notes

Moneyhun describes the conditions that must be met for evaluation to benefit instructors’ growth as teachers: instructors should be involved in creating the process; the process should derive from local university faculty handbooks and departmental guidelines; the process should encourage two-way dialogue between the WPA and the instructors; and the WPA should be clear about his role as both student and instructor advocate. (161-162).

The evaluation system involves the self-reports, then Moneyhun writes feedback letters and schedules follow-up conferences with the instructors.

The goals of evaluation: it is high-stakes assessment and also allows the WPA to determine who gets assigned special or desirable courses, helps determine merit pay increases, decides who gets re-hired, leaves a paper trail (positive and negative) (161)

not a peer-review system – but shows how evaluation can be a rhetorical argument to higher administration (the importance of service and research in the evaluation) and to the instructors themselves (expecatation of service and research add to a sense of professional identity) (163)

importance of making evaluation responsive to local conditions (165)

August 29, 2012

Blakely and Pagnac, Pausing in the Whirlwind

Blakely, Barbara J. and Susan B. Pagnac. “Pausing in the Whirlwind: A Campus Place-Based Curriculum in a Multimodal Foundation Communication Course.”  WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 11-37.

Blakely and Pagnac describe the place-based curriculum of one of Iowa State University’s two multimodal communication foundation courses, arguing that a course that centers on the place students are at (the college campus) results in deep student engagement, attachment, and opportunities for students to analyze and make arguments grounded in history and context across genres and modes.

In their description of the course, Blakely and Pagnac draw on numerous theories of place, space, and place-based pedagogy, including Thomas Grunewald, Yi-Fu Tuan, David Orr, and Robert Thayer. They point out that place is often an ignored part of the rhetorical landscape: it is so ubiquitous it is unseen.  The course they describe helps students see the arguments of their campus architecture, spaces, and organizations, encouraging them to draw connections between the stated educational missions of their institution and how those values are made manifest and interpreted by the lived spaces they occupy.

Notable Notes

one central goal: get students aware, cognizant

assignment sequence:

1. narrative of a place; 2. deep mapping and letter writing about a place on campus (the relationships people form with places); 3. exploring a campus program or orgnaization and analyzing its connection to the university mission; 4. understanding campus art and architecture; 5. repurposing their analyses into visual and oral communication projects; 6. semester reflection

great citations across sociology, higher ed, architecture for place-based pedagogy arguments: Willaim Least Heat-Moon PrairyErth (A Deep Map)

course helped students transition, form attachments, create a new identity – a good time (first-year students) for students to explore campus identities and their own]

course design is flexible but coherent across sections – meets the needs of individual students and instructors

readily accessible and relevent content to write about

Quoatable Quotes

“place is profoundly pedagogical” – Thomas Gruenewald “Foundations” 621 (qtd. 13)

“Campuses are planned and designed to embody educational purpose and institutional mission and values in various ways” (17).

“Place is a central influence in our experiences and developing sense of self.” (18)


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).

August 1, 2012

Yagelski, “Writing as Praxis”

Yagelski, Robert P. “Writing as Praxis.” English Education 44.2 (January 2012): 188-202.

Yagelski argues for a more humanistic approach to teaching writing, one that emphasizes praxis. The goal of writing education, Yagelski claims, is to introduce students to the transformational experience of writing, giving them assignments that encourage them to use the act of writing as a way to understand themselves and their world more deeply and to live more humanely. The text is not the goal of the act of writing, Yagelski argues: it is sometimes useful and communicates well, but it is the thinking that happens in the very act of writing that matters the most.

Yagelski draws on Freire, Elbow, Emig and others to construct his argument for writing as an ontological act (as a way of being in the world.) He contends that the recent Common Core Standards, and more specifically, the move away from personal writing and narration towards technical form and objective argument shortchanges students because it doesn’t introduce them to how writing can help them live their lives. He points to how people turn to writing to make sense of life, and shows how this kind of writing matters. Students, he argues, do not invest themselves in meaningless writing assignments: the act of writing in these becomes formulaic, a procedure to be followed.

Yagelski questions the assumptions behind the Common Core Standards and standards-driven schooling, aruguing that a primary goal of education is to create a more humane society through asking students to deeply understand their complex selves and complex world. The act of writing encourages slow, deep, and reflective thinking as it shuttles the writer through the past, present, and future. He gives examples of assignments that encourage students to think of writing as praxis – to value the experience as much as the product.

Notable Notes

Yagelski places primary importance on praxis, the writer, the self, the individual writer discovering truth about herself and her world through world. He de-emphasizes the communicative nature of rhetoric – the idea that rhetoric acts within a community.

those who teach teachers – emphasizing the praxis of writing matters because how you teach teachers affects how they teach their students. Ripple effect (202).

Quotable Quotes

“Powerful experiences like Katie’s or Alicia’s students’ are dismissed as somehow tangential or even irrelevant to the real work of schooling – as if schooling should not be about living life, confronting the complexity of life, understanding our experiences in the world, being human.” 201

“Writing should be about seeking happiness. It should be about well-being. It should be a practice of living, a part of what Freire (1994) called the struggle to improve human life. And it can be such a practice – it can be a praxis – if we value the experience of writing as much as we value the text.” 199

“Ask students to write meaningless texts, and writing will be meaningless for them. But let the write in ways that matter to them, and they will embrace the opportunity; they will take advantage of the capacity of writing to help them make sense of their lives.” 195

“When we write, no matter what we are writing about, we call on the past and anticipate the future even as we inhabit the present” 192

“But writing is more than communication. It is a vehicle for sustained inquiry into our experiences, a means of understanding who we are. Ultimately, writing is a deeply human act that can help us better understand what it means to be human” 193

“I am proposing that we understand writing ontologically, as a way of being in the world, as an act of living. IN this regard, the purpose of writing is simply to live more fully. And that can be a step toward living together more peacefully, more humanely.” 190


January 18, 2012

Schon, Educating the Reflective Practicioner

Schon, Donald. “Educating the Reflective Practicioner.” American Educational Research Association. 1987. Washington, DC. Web. 18 January 2012.

Schon, who sets out a context of contemporary conversations about school reform and teacher accountability and the history of higher education, which draws a line between (high) theory and (low) practice, argues that good teaching is artistic, responsive, and spontaneous in nature. He argues for a change in how teachers are prepared to teach, suggesting that they be taught (or rather coached) through reflective practicums, in the same vein as the practical education doctors, artists, and musicians receive.

Schon highlights that in these practicums, uncertainty and vulnerbility feature prominently: the students (the prospective teachers) are the ones who have to figure out what it is they are learning; their instructors can’t tell them discrete, contained bits of knowledge that then they can transfer. Reflective, spontaneous, artistic teachers experiment, test, and improvise.

Schon points out that this kind of teacher training can only flourish in an environment that grants teachers the freedom to experiment and the permission to be confused.


“But underneath the debate about the schools, as it cycles through our history, certain fundamental questions keep coming up: “What are the competences that teachers should be trying to help students, kids acquire?” “What kinds of knowledge and what sort of know-how should teachers have in order to do their jobs well?” What kinds of education are most likely to help teachers prepare for effective teaching?””

“this capacity to respond to surprise through improvisation on the spot is what I mean by reflection-in-action. When a teacher turns her attention to giving kids reason to listening what they say, then teaching itself becomes a form of reflection-in action, and I think this formulation helps to describe what it is that constitutes teaching artistry. It involves getting in touch with what kids are actually saying and doing; it involves allowing yourself to be surprised by that, and allowing yourself to be surprised, I think, is appropriate, because you must permit yourself to be surprised, being puzzled by what you get and responding to the puzzle through an on-the-spot experiment that you make, that responds to what the kid says or does. ”

“And this is teaching in the form of reflection-in-action. It involves a surprise, a response to surprise by thought turning back on itself, thinking what we’re doing as we do it, setting the problem of the situation anew, conducting an action experiment on the spot by which we seek to solve the new problems we’ve set, an experiment in which we test both our new way of seeing the situation, and also try to change that situation for the better. And reflection-in-action need not be an intellectual or verbalized activity. If you think about–my favourite example of reflection-in-action is jazz, because if you think about people playing jazz within a framework of beat and rhythm and melody that is understood, one person plays and another person responds, and responds on the spot to the way he hears the tune, making it different to correspond to the difference he hears, improvisation in that sense is a form of reflection-in-action. And so is good conversation which must be neither wholly predictable nor wholly unpredictable. If it’s wholly predictable, it’s boring and not good, and if it’s wholly unpredictable, it’s crazy. Good conversation, which all of us have some gift for, involves a moving between those extremes in a kind of on-line observation and action which is so natural and spontaneous to us that we don’t even think about the capacity we have to do it.”

“My experience in other kinds of reflective practicums such as the design studio in architecture is that the phenomena of confusion and mystery and anger are endemic at the beginning”

“But all this depends on there being at the heart of the school a core of people, at least a small group of people, who are prepared to create a new kind of research presence, who want to produce experiences and knowledge which is usable by teachers. I think that’s the crucial feature–that their research would be usable. That it would be engaged collaboratively with teachers, that it would be conducted on line in experience with teachers, and that it would be aimed at healing the splits between teaching and doing, school and life, research and practice, which have been so insidiously effective at deadening the experience of school at all levels. ”


there is an ongoing tradition, dialogue about reforming school – nothing new

difference between school-based knowledge and knowledge acquired outside school (tacit, experimential, improvisational)

argues against the separation of theory and practice

distinguishes between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-reflection-in-action

teaching like jazz improv

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 25, 2011

Hauser, Teaching Rhetoric

Hauser, Gerald A. “Teaching Rhetoric: Or Why Rhetoric Isn’t Just Another Kind of Philosophy or Literary Criticism.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 34.3 (Summer 2004): 39-53

The Association for Rhetoric Societies’ 2003 conference in Evanston led to an alliance among rhetoric scholars to promote the centrality of rhetorical education in civic education. This article lists the five areas where Rhetoric Studies needs sustainable structures in order to reinvigorate rhetoric into the curriculum.

The scholars underscored that rhetoric is inherently tied to teaching: there is no rhetoric without teaching. What has happened in the modern academy, one that values theory and knowledge over praxis, is a divorce of rhetoric from the public and civic sphere, which rhetoric depends on. Hauser and those at the conference call for rhetoric to be reunited to the concerns of the public civic sphere, of preparing citizens and leaders. The Association for Rhetoric Scholars, through Hauser’s article, argues for a manifesto about rhetorical education that can be adopted by institutions, a forum to share rhetorical pedagogy material between scholars, and a way for individual institutions to circumvent the balkanization that happens with rhetorical pedagogy, coordinating it into one collective pursuit.

Notes and Quotes

“Free societies require rhetorically competent citizens. Without rhetorical competence, citizens are disabled in the public arenas of citizen exchange—the marketplace, the representative assembly, the court, and public institutions— and democracy turns into a ruse disguising the reality of oligarchic power.” (52)

Rhetoric has always been a central part in educating future leaders and citizens. Rhetoric is practical, is human, is considered with the right time and right place (kairos.) It seeks to give students a way to pursue and articulate knowedge, not a set content.

Rhetoric is about seeking truth and excellence (aerte), questioning, reflection, learning about values and beliefs, and moving to action. Very similar to Ignatian pedagogy

“Rhetoric is a practical discipline; it has a strong tradition that merges theory and praxis in the concrete conditions of performance, especially as these are realized in democratic societies.” (42)

Students need rhetoric – need to learn how to present their ideas, understand their audience, evaluate their sources and claims, negotiate between different perspectives, see the connection between ethics and action. Rhetoric is needed in a democratic society (so a small elite does not take over power.)

Ideas for the assessment of a first-year writing and speaking course: students develop analytical skills, performance skills (written and spoken), invention skills, an awareness of language, civic skills, consequences of rhetoric

call for K-12 and university educators to come together in the Association for Rhetoric Scholars to talk about rhetorical education, collaborate, work together

Byron, Why Jesuits Are in Higher Education

Byron, William J. “Why Jesuits Are in Higher Education.” In Jesuit Saturdays: Sharing the Ignatian Spirit with Friends and Colleagues. Ignatian

Byron explains that the root of Ignatian spirituality is cultivating discernment through a search of God’s will. Through discernment, people are prepared to choose wisely.

Ignatian pedagogy tries to provide the kind of environment (and with the teacher, a guide) that will help students in this journey towards discernment, wisdom, and God’s love. Students must be active and willing seekers in order for this education to happen.

Notes and Quotes

“In education, as in all else, the Jesuit is not content with simple efficiency—doing something right. Rather, he wants to be effective, which means doing the right thing. ”

“God is in all things human” – the bottom line of Catholic Christian humanism

Ignatian Pedagogy, The Notebook

“Ignatian Pedagogy.” The Notebook 13.1

This is a special issue about Ignatian Pedagogy, published in The Notebook, a publication from the Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence at Saint Louis University. The issue reflects on a 2-day workshop on Ignatian pedagogy.

Hammond, Jay. “Two Simple Techniques that Build Rapport with Students”

Hammond emphasizes the importance of a close teacher-student relationship in Ignatian pedagogy and suggests two ways that teachers can help build those relationships. The first is coming to class early to ask students how they are and how their day is going; the second is quodlibit (what you please), inviting students to ask questions on or off topic. The quodlibit was standard pedagogical practice in medieval institutions. Both ideas also cultivate an environment of conversation, encouraging students to talk and discuss in the classroom.

Sharff, Darcy. “Jesuit Principles We Already Use.”

Sharff notes that her faculty at the School of Public Health already put into place several key tenets of Ignatian pedagogy: asking students to reflect on their experiences, providing students with feedback, and encouraging the cultivation of student-teacher relationships.

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