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).

June 16, 2009

Norman, Emotional Design

Norman, Donald. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Designers must account for people’s emotional and cognitive responses to three aspects or levels inherent in  any design: visceral (immediate, automatic, appearance-based); behavioral (function, pleasure and effectiveness of use); and reflective (personal satisfaction through memories, self-image, intellectualization.) The things we like act as symbols to us and have meaning in our lives. Norman describes and shows many examples of designs that successfully tap into a person’s affect – their subconscious value judgments that translate into emotions. Good designs are also rhetorical: they fit a particular context, culture, location, and audience, so no one design can be univerally appealing. Good designers are those who are able to keenly observe people’s behaviors and tap into people’s unarticulated needs, seeing the product not as a decontextualized thing but something that is used by someone.

Quotable Quotes

William Morris: If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  (“The Beauty of Life” 1880)

“The emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements” (5)

Notable Notes

cupholders as an unarticulated consumer need

personalization and customization

good designs seduce people – Csikszentmihalyi’s flow

success at the reflective level can outweigh the other two aspects – visceral and behavioral

April 27, 2009

Huot and O’Neill, Assessing Writing

Huot, Brian and Peggy O’Neill, eds. Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

This edited collection, divided into three sections – Foundations, Models, and Issues – focus on writing assessment that takes place outside of an individual classroom, namely placement and exit exams and programmatic evalutions. It draws on scholarship within the field of composition and rhetoric as well as that from educational evaluation, K-12 education, and measurement and testing. Huot and O’Neill see much of the scholarship written in writing assessment, starting in the 1940s, as negotiating the tension between reliable evaluation and valid evaluation, and argue that writing assessment needs to be taken up critically and reflectively by comp/rhet scholars as a positive and productive force (not punitive).

I’ve surveyed this volume (it contains 24 essays along with a selected bibliography) and have read the selections that I’ve seen cited in other scholarship about assessment as well as those that seem particularly helpful for WPAs.

Quotable Quotes

“Writing assessment is an activity – a practice – as well as a theoretically rich scholarly field” (6).

February 8, 2009

Moran, Technology and the Teaching of Writing

Moran, Charles. “Technology and the Teaching of Writing.” 203-223.

Computer-based technology is knit into the very nature of modern composition pedagogy. Four of the most prominent ones (and the ones most theorized and written about in the field) are word processing (which allow for easier revising and drafting but can mislead the student with auto-correct functions that do not take into account the writer’s context); e-mail (increases informal communication between student and instructor, for the good and the bad); online discussion forums (increased the amount of writing our students did and allowed for quiet students to voice their opinions, but can easily get out of hand, so it’s best to focus the discussion around a collaborative task), and the Internet (discussion and production of hypertexts, online research.) Those teaching with technologies must be aware that technologies don’t erase differences between students (English-centered Internet does not accurately reflect the diversity of society or the classroom) and must keep in mind issues of access (what students have access to use for assignments, both at home, in the workplace, and on campus.) Finally, it is essential that teachers using technology continually train themselves to keep updated about the latest applications to inform their teaching and help their students.

Quotable Quotes

Want students to become “reflective and critical users of emerging technologies” (220)

Notable Notes

Sources: Hawshier et al Computers and the Teaching of Writing in Higher Education; Palmquist Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms; Computers and Composition journal

Language of email – discourse conventions: Hawshier, “The Rhetorics and Languages of Electronic Mail”; ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange); English-only standards

women and men in online chat rooms

computer use among basic writers, women, race issues, ESL classrooms

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