Revolution Lullabye

May 25, 2011

Simmons, Encouraging Civic Engagement Through Extended Writing Projects

Simmons, Michele  “Encouraging Civic Engagement Through Extended Writing Projects: Rewriting the Curriculum.” The Writing Instructor: Special Issue: Disruptions of/in Professional Writing Pedagogy (May 2010).

Simmons points out the pitfalls of single-semester, single-course service learning projects (for students, faculty, instititutions, and community orgranizations) and, arguing for the real rhetorical benefit of service learning writing courses (she focuses on professional writing), claims that service learning projects need to be envisioned as extended projects that are taken up and valued by an entire curriculum.

These extended projects need to encompass multiple courses, multiple disciplines, and complex problems that require critical inquiry.

Simmons gives an example of a project she did with undergraduate and graduate students: storm water pollution prevention education and outreach website.

Simmons also addresses the issue of assessing a long-range, multi-stakeholder community project and emphasizes the importance of real community collaboration and partnership.

May 20, 2009

Bloom, Insider Writing

Bloom, Lynn Z. “Insider Writing: Plagiarism-Proof Assignments.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 208-218.

Teachers need to use “plagiarism-proof” insider writing assignments not because they prevent plagiarism but because they inspire both student creativity and student learning of a discipline’s norms, customs, and values. Bloom gives several examples of insider writing assignments that she uses in her autobiography class, including designing homes for the people whose autobiographies the students read (Franklin, Douglass, etc.) and writing their own autobiography to learn the genre.

Quotable Quotes

“As outsiders suppressing their own judgments, student writers serving as ventriloquists of published scholars are not positioned to own the primary material or to trust their opinions of it. With so little of themselves in their writing, they have little incentive to care very much about their work” (210).

Notable Notes

service learning as an example of insider writing

February 19, 2009

Scott, “The Practice of Usability”

Scott, J. Blake. “The Practice of Usability: Teaching User Engagement through Service-Learning.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.4 381-412.

Teaching about user-centered design and usability is different from practicing it. This article, categorized as teacher research by the author, centers on the author’s introductory technical writing students, who are asked to enact user-centered design principles in their service learning projects at an Orlando-area HIV planning council (which distributes services to HIV patients in the area.) The students demonstrate knowledge of user-centered design principles, which (like participatory design) integrate the user in the process of design, treating the user(s) not as clients but rather as collaborators. This kind of design process is complex, messy, and complicated, and the author finds that even though students intellectually understand the merits and values of the process, they do not succeed in enacting it. Scott concludes that more time is needed in the classroom – and in the scholarship of the field – dedicated to discussing and talking about the practices of user-centered design. These practical issues, which he describes as metis (flexible intelligence) are breezed over, but they (how to gain access to users, how to communicate with them, how to set deadlines, how to research the institution and the potential users) are the key to implementing a user-centered design and having a successful service-learning experience for both the students and the community organization.

Quotable Quotes

The study shows how his students “gradually came to understand usability as a situated, dynamic, messy, and difficult process and set of practices involving various user-engagement challenges and requiring the flexible adaptation of usability methods” (384).

Our scholarship on user-centered design or service learning “often stop short of foregrounding or even addressing practice-level issues” (406). We need to make “such practices visible” (406)

“By foregrounding the context-specific, complex, difficult, and dynamic practice of usability for students, we can help them develop a flexible intelligence that can serve them as technical communicators and rhetors more generally” (406).

Notable Notes

Cited works: Spinuzzi, Robert Johnson (user-centered design), Huckin (service-learning and technical writing), Linda Flower, JT Grabill

connection between participatory design and user-centered design

data included student assignments, interviews with the students, and pre-and post-course questionnaires, coding responses

25 students from two sections of introductory technical writing in Spring 2005 (research done the following semester)

best to introduce concept of usability in advanced technical writing class or as part of a two-semester sequence because of how much time a complicated service project takes incorportating user-centered design.

ease-based v. user-based design (401)

focusing on practice-level issues is like the classical pedagogical technique of imitation (mimesis) – not straight imitation but rather “a creative process of rearranging and reconstructing rhetorical elements in light of kairos” (404)

Horner, Terms of Work for Composition

Horner, Bruce. Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000.

Horner uses a materialist lens to examine many of the debates in the field of composition and rhetoric, ranging from the purpose of service-learning courses to whether or not the field should professionalize to how we regard students and their writing, focusing his critique on six “key terms”: work, students, politics, academic, traditional, and writing. The volume is very circular (Horner announces in introduction that the reader can read through the chapters in any order they see fit), but each chapter (organized around one of the key terms) takes up the debates and Horner’s perspective in a slightly different way. Horner’s two main arguments throughout the text are calls to the field at large. First, he argues that the work done in composition is commodified (seen as a product that can be acquired and exchanged), and this commodification, which occurs at all levels, from the classroom to the university to the outside world, allows us to think of our work and the issues we deal with as abstractions rather than connected to material conditions. Second, that abstract view allows us to cede control of our work to faceless systems and institutions, like their effects are inevitable, rather than regarding and critiquing our decisions as conscious choices. Horner challenges the field to ground our scholarship, pedagogy, and service in the material, social, and historical conditions of the local places we work in.

Quotable Quotes

Intellectual work: “This subordiniation and subsumption of the work of teaching to the production of written texts constitute the playing out at the site of Composition the contradictions in more general conceptions of work. These contradictions are manifested in the distinction between intellectual and non-intellectual labor and in the commodification of intellectual labor” (2).

He argues for “representing students above all else workers, working on themselves, Composition, the academy, and the social generally” (35).

“Our distrust of work identified with these terms [academic and traditional], like our trust in work that appears ‘progressive,’ may ay more about the dematerialized ways in which we conceive of them than about the actual work accomplished under such rubrics” (103).

Notable Notes

see tradition not as a fixed body of knowledge but something dynamic, always negotiated, a foundation that is ever-changing and re-understanding knowledge

professionalization of composition can lead to an abandonment of the consideration of the material conditions of our work

there is a problem with the delegitimization of academic writing in the pursuit of all things “real world.” Is academia not in the real world? What does that say about our work?  There is materiality in all writing. Students’ academic writing is not inauthentic.

we always look at what students lack, look to their work to gives us clues to their being. Instead of seeing students as the result of pressures and factors being worked on, see them as workers.

our work as compositionists is tied up in our students’ work

extracurriculum – students outside the classroom work is “wholly unrecognized” and not considered intellectual work (117)

February 8, 2009

Julier, Community Service Pedagogy

Julier, Laura. “Community Service Pedagogy.” 132-148.

Community service pedagogy (or service learning) became a cross-disciplinary higher education reform movement in the 1980s and was embraced by some compositionists because it answered many of the needs instructors found in their first-year composition classrooms: it gave students a real audience to write for; it increased students’ motivation; it allowed students to work with a variety of discourses, genres, and rhetorics; it encouraged context-driven writing; it had close connections with critical pedagogy and cultural studies; and it brought writing back to its civil, public rhetorical roots. Service learning in composition can take several forms: writing about the community, writing for the community, and writing with the community. Writing courses that incorporate service learning should have students think, discuss, and write critically about the power dynamics inherent in service projects.

Quotable Quotes

A problem with service learning: “The rhetoric of sending stduents ‘out’ into ‘the’ community may, in some settings and course designs, confirm for students an insider-outsider understanding of academic purposes, and replicate condescending models of charity and missionary work that do more to undermine than to advance the goals of multicultural education and social transformation” (142).

Notable Notes

service learning is not located in any one discipline; it is seen as a reform movement in higher ed that seeks to transform the cultures and mission of higher education.

service learning in composition has just recently been more theorized; much of the earlier scholarship told narratives of other peoples’ success stories with it.

service learning has a legitimacy problem. Scholars who devote time to service projects sometimes get docked on tenure and promotion; often it is not seen as an area of research because it is so multidisciplinary and cross-cultural in its appraoach.

Zlotkowski; Adler-Kassner; Crooks; Watters; Stotsky, Connecting Civic Education and Language Education; Jacoby et al; Waterman; de Acosta; Greco; Anson; Cooper; Rosemary Area; Linda Flower (Carnegie Mellon)

negotiate the educational project of service learning with the needs and wishes of the community organization.

importance of having students reflect on their service experience.

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