Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Hesse, Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise

Hesse, Douglas D. “Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Practice. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002. Print. 41-58. Print.

Hesse explains how WPAs can approach the political nature of their work in a way that is productive and ethical. He describes aspects of academic politics that affect a WPA: that disciplinary knowledge or credentials aren’t as highly valued in administration as one might think, and that most decisions circulate around the debate for material resources. His chapter discusses how a WPA must act politically, keeping in mind these two principles, in four different spheres: the department, the institution, the profession, and the public.

Notable Notes

In departmental politics – 1. know how things work and how things get done, 2. write down (and publish) policies (these are more efficient, have more authority, can be used for faculty development, focuses the work of the department) , 3. Develop an ethos grounded in “expertise, competence, sensitivity to local situations, and the pursuit of the greater good” (44), 4. Write reports that have hard data about the students and faculty in the writing courses; 5. Create structured processes with timetables to get things done – these establish legitimacy and help with efficiency.

In institutional politics – institutions are usually conservative, don’t change rapidly or easily (46). Gives two examples of his own political work – one successful, one not. His advice: 1. “Have a place at the table” in discussions that are ultimately about resources by being on university-wide committees (48), 2. Know the people you’re talking with and that you’re competing with, 3. Be known in informal situations as well as formal (“Come to the parties” (49)), 4. Frame arguments in terms of resources, not just philosophy/disciplinary knowledge

In disciplinary/professional politics – 1. Know the past and present work/guidelines/statements published by the discipline’s professional organization; 2. Get involved in the organizations, network and do good work, 3. Get disciplinary organizations to sponsor your work (example of the CWPA Outcomes Statement)

In the public and larger higher ed – 1. Write for public audiences, tell the story you do instead of responding to attacks or accusations; 2. Network with people in other institutions and work together to make change; 3. Get on committees – state assessment boards, other education boards

WPAs need to know how to argue for material resources (42).

He argues that WPAs should prepare themselves to do political work by paying attention to the history of higher ed, the conversations happening in higher ed scholarship and journals.

Quotable Quotes

“Though WPAs wearing the ermine mantle of composition czar may set the curriculum for a course, they rarely can unilaterally set class sizes or faculty salaries. They need action by individuals with the official power to do so. Because the quality of a writing program depends largely on the conditions in which the program exists, and because the WPA has limited control of those situations, political action is vital” (41-42).

“For a good deal of their work, WPAs simply must be politicians – and, of course, rhetoricians.” (41).

In departments: “But beyond the program, especially in academic structures increasingly (and paradoxically) organized hierarchically with a professional managerial administration, WPAs often have to act with a decisiveness that may exceed their democratic sensibilities” (43).

“Second, WPAs must separate political outcomes from senses of their own worth. Unfavorable outcomes invite WPAs to doubt their abilities. But resources are finite, and expertise is lodged many places in the academy and culture. In a world where even Richard Nixon can be twice reborn, it makes most sense to understand your personae as content expert and as politician to be entwined but ultimately separable, each with endless opportunity for extension and application” (57).

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).

May 25, 2011

IgnatianSpirituality.com, Education, Arts, and Sciences

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“Education, Arts, and Sciences.” Ignatian Spirituality.com http://ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/education-arts-and-sciences/

This website contains a wide variety of resources about Ignatian pedagogy, Jesuit higher education, Jesuit secondary education, and about the Jesuit approach to arts, humanism, the sciences.

Many of the links are to essays, articles, videos, and presentations by key international thinkers about Jesuit education and organizations like the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

June 29, 2009

Hult, et al, The Portland Resolution

Hult, Christine, et al. “The Portland Resolution: Guidelines for Writing Prorgam Administrator Positions.” WPA 16 1/2 (Fall/Winter 1992): 88-94.

This position statement outlines the guidelines the Council of WPA are necessary for both ensuring ethical working conditions of writing program administrators and developing WPA job descriptions. Working conditions include having a written job description (who you supervise, who supervises you,  load and tenure stipulations); having a full-time position with job security, benefits, and travel equal to a faculty member; having access to other units and higher university administrators; and having adequate resouces and budget to fund the program. A WPA should have training in the field of rhetoric and composition and can be responsible for any of the following duties: scholarship of administration; faculty development (TA training); writing program development (curriculum, hiring, WAC); assessment at all levels; registration and scheduling; office management; counseling and advising; and coordinating with other university programs (ESL, education, academic support, remedial.)

March 28, 2009

Kress, Design and Transformation

Kress, Gunther. “Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning.” In Multiliteracies. Cope and Kalantzis.  London: Routledge, 2000. 153-161.

Kress explains the importance in literacy pedagogy of teaching students to be designers, not just users, of the many linguistic and discursive resources available to them. Creativity in the Western world has been stunted due to the overwhelming domination of written literacies, a domination which has surpressed synaesthesia, the process by which one form of meaning is transformed into another form, a process increasingly necessary for students to know due to the rapid proliferation of 21st century digital technologies.

Quotable Quotes

synaesthesia – “the transduction of meaning from one semiotic mode to another semiotic mode” (159).

“The single, exclusive, and intensive focus on written language has dampened the full development of all kinds of human potential, throguh all the sensorial possibilities of human bodies, in all kinds of respects, cognitively and affectively, in two-and three-dimensional representation.” (157).

“A semiotic theory which does not have an account of change at its core is both simply inadequate and implausible in the present period” (155).

“Design is thus both about the best, the most apt representation of my interest; and about the best means of deploying available resources in a complex ensemble.” (158).

Notable Notes

emphasis on design (the future) over critique (the past); critique is part of the chain in the process of design but should not be the only goal.

language resources are always being transformed to fit the present needs and circumstances of both the individual and society.

problem with language theories that describe language as separate in terms of form and meaning

no one mode of meaning-making can dominate

February 3, 2009

Phelps, Matching Form to Function in Writing Program Design

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Matching Form to Function in Writing Program Design.” Talk. Michigan State University. 7 November 2002.

A writing program needs to be designed so that it finds a home between the two, often conflicting functions of writing programs: 1. the horizontally-structured undergraduate writing program that serves all departments across the university and 2. the departmental, research-oriented faculty core that provide the theoretical foundations for the pedagogical work being done. In order to do this, a writing program must be independent, controlled at a high administrative level (a department cannot effectively run a university-wide program), recognize alternate forms of scholarship by its faculty; and resist calcifying as a traditional department, because that will squelch moves towards experimentation and context-driven negotiation and redefinition. A writing program must have some flexibility because it is a dynamic entity, always changing shape and focus to meet the changing demands and circumstances of the institution and its students. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be defined, however; it just must be conceived broadly as an unique part of the institution that is always growing and experimenting, both in the classroom and in its structure and organization.

Quotable Quotes

“A university writing faculty must have a core research faculty to authorize its teaching mission” (4)

“The political effectivity of a writing program rests on its ability to be accepted and integrated within the intellectual mainstream of a university” (5) – importance of full-time, researching faculty to lead the program

“There is a fundmental mismatch between the needs, goals, and nontraditional functions of writing programs and the available forms and structures in higher education institutions for organizing and implementing them. For that reason, writing programs are a valuable irritant and provocation to examine how systmeic features of academic life can impede desired innovations” (7).

A writing program design must somehow find a way structurally to reconcile needs, features, and functions that gravitate toward one of these two poles—the complex structure and broad horizon of the whole system versus the human-size community for living and learning; the decentered, loosely coupled network and the focused core; the generalist, distributed instructional mission and the expertise that grounds it and finds its source and expression in scholarship and advanced teaching.” (11)

Notable Notes

writing program as enterprise to recognize the intellectual and programmatic nature of it (4)

expertise and generalist functions

writing programs as Pluto – are they really a discipline (is it really a planet?)

connective tissue that holds the university together (8)

importance of locating a writing program – placing it high enough administratively to have the resources and flexibility it needs.

Christopher Alexander – growing whole, design

Phelps, The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs: Catalyst, Laboratory, and Pattern for Change.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary. Eds. Richard Bullock and John Trimbur. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1991. 155-170.

Instead of focusing on what the relationship between rhet/comp and literature can be in an English department, Phelps takes a step back, widens the scope, and discusses what a independent writing program can do for the institution as a whole. Higher education is going through a multifacted crisis (the devaluing of teaching and undergraduate education due to the focus on research, the absence of community due to specialization, and the employment of under-paid, under-trained part-time and graduate teachers), but the theoretical foundations of a writing program makes it a prime candidate for a site of institutional change: the field of composition highly values quality pedagogy and undergraduate education; a writing program serves the whole institution and therefore must reach out across disciplines; and the large, diverse cohort of teachers allows for the construction of professional communities. Writing programs must confront several challenges to be viable. In addition to negotiating the local political and institutional constraints of each university, writing programs have unique budget, space, technology, labor, tenure, evaluation, and structural needs that must be administratively met in order for the writing program to be viable.

Quotable Quotes

“The most important contribution I think writing programs can make, though, with respect to higher education at large, is to exemplify the struggle to foster community in the face of the prevailing mood of skepticism, critique of all cultural institutions and their traditions, radical individualism, and loss of fellowship that troubles our colleges and universities” (167) – through community building and professional development of professors, part-time, grad students, undergraduates

“With luck, and propitious local circumstances, this situational fit enables writing programs to become a positive force for change by enacting their own logic: operating experimentally and hypothetically; nuturing a fragile sense of community in talk, text, and collaborative work; and seeking interdependencies where they can find them.” (168)

“the concrete practices of community” (167)

Notable Notes

rhetorical concept of kairos – fitting into the historical and situational context – by having writing programs lead institutional change (168) 

the field of rhetoric/composition as a model, a logic for writing programs to develop and follow

get out of the trap of quibbling over departmental structure

use Syracuse as a model

Ernest Boyer (Carnegie Foundation) – higher ed reform that Phelps bases her argument for writing programs on

Themes of the disciplines that work for institutional change:

  1. writing helps students become active learners and meaning-makers
  2. common literacy strategies adapted for diverse rhetorical situations
  3. collaborative work
  4. communicate patiently through hands-on talk and text – create a community (163)

Challenges 164-166

Writing program acts as collaborator and as a catalyst, an experimenter, for change.

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

January 28, 2009

Griffin, Teaching Writing in All Disciplines

Griffin, C. Williams, ed. Teaching Writing in All Disciplines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1982.

This edited collection centers around the early writing-across-the-curriculum movement in composition and serves as a guide to teachers as to how they might implement writing-for-learning assignments and initiatives in their own classrooms and in their institutions. The collection contains a balance of more practically-oriented pieces (about how different assignments can help students learn math by writing about it, how teachers can respond to all the writing they’re now asking their students to do, and what kinds of mixed reactions teachers and students give to WAC initiatives) and more theoretical essays, like Fulwiler’s “Writing: An Act of Cognition,” which argues that since language makes meaning, we need to ask our students to use and produce writing in order to understand and learn, not just to communicate what they already know. One of the last essays of the collection, by Maimon, likens the WAC movement as a move back to ancient rhetorical training, a grounding in rhetoric that was required for students going into all fields.

January 19, 2009

George, “From Analysis to Design”

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 54.1 (Sept. 2002) 11 – 39.

George explores how the relationship between the visual and the verbal has been explored and defined through fifty years of composition history, arguing that the visual needs to be more fully incorporated in composition classrooms, not just as a prompt or an aid, but an intregal part of the design of an argument. She discusses three approaches composition teachers and scholars have taken with using visuals in the classroom: as essay prompts, objects for analysis, or as “dumbed-down” versions of more complex verbal arguments (32). Instead, taking the lead from the New London Group and scholars such as Wysocki and Trimbur, compositionists need to see the connection between writing and graphic design and embrace design as an important concept in the teaching of writing. Students interact with visual Web technologies on a daily basis, and in the work place, they will be asked to compose, design, and communicate both verbally and visually, and so our composition classrooms need to shift their notion of what constitutes an argument and teach students how to compose and design with and through visuals.

Quotable Quotes

“I am after a clearer understanding of what can happen when the visual is very consciously brought into the composition classroom as a form of communication worth both examining and producing” (14).

“It is important to point out that thinking of composition as design shifts attention, if onyl momentarily, from the product to the act of production” (18)

“The issue [of incorporating the visual in the composition classroom] seems to be less one of resources than one of emphasis, or, rather, relationship” (32).

“For students who have grown up in a technology-saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them” (32)

Notable Notes

good history of the role visuals played in the composition classroom, from the 1950s to the 1980s to today

Important references include Trimbur, Wysocki, New London Group, Johnson-Eilola, Faigley, Walter Benjamin, J. Anthony Blair.

requires a shift in the thinking of composition and argument beyond printed text – one of design, of broader communication.

what has the Web done to composition? will composition meet that challenge? will it morph? or is it a field designed to meet a specific need and purpose (Harvard, 1890s.)? is digital media destined to remain a subspeciality?

Read

Wysocki. “Monitoring Order: Visual Desire, the Organization of Web Pages, and Teaching the Rules of Design.” Kairos 3.2 (Fall 1998)

Trimbur. “Delivering the Message: Typography and the Materiality of Writing.” Composition as Intellectual Work. Ed. Gary Olson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. 188-202.

Kress, Gunther. “Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning.” Cope and Kalantzis. 153-161.

Bernhardt, Stephen. “Seeing the Text.” CCC (1986) 66-78.

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