Revolution Lullabye

October 15, 2013

Rose, Mastrangelo, and L’Eplattenier, Directing First-Year Writing

Rose, Shirley K, Lisa S. Mastrangelo, and Barbara L’Eplattenier. “Directing First-Year Writing: The New Limits of Authority.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 43-66.

The authors repeated and expanded a study conducted by Gary A. Olson and Joseph M. Moxley in 1989 on the responsibilities, power, influence, and authority held by directors of first-year writing programs. The study is based on 312 responses to an online survey distributed through the WPA-L listserv and a direct-email list of department chairs, and respondents included WPAs, chairs of English or independent writing programs, directors of college writing programs or writing centers, and those who report to directors of first-year writing. In this article, the authors focus on two trends in their results: 1. the perceptions of the most important roles and responsibilities of the first-year composition director and 2. how administrative responsibilities differ among WPAs with tenure, WPAs without tenure but on the tenure track, and those WPAs who hold non-tenure-track administrative lines. What Rose, Mastrangelo, and L’Eplattenier note in their results is that, compared to Olson and Moxley’s 1989 study, the responsibilities that WPAs take on – hiring and training teaching staff, determining curriculum, developing assessment models, writing policy statements, and managing student/grade/personnel issues – are more often shared and negotiated among several people (most notably the chair and other members of a faculty council) depending the particular contexts of the institution, department, and the WPA herself (especially in regards to whether or not the WPA has tenure.) The authors argue that the WPA is not a powerless position (as Olson and Moxley contend); rather, through both new articulations of WPA theory through postmodern and feminist lenses as well as the growth of the discipline in the past 25 years, the WPA position has become more situated, negotiated, and nuanced.

Notable Notes

NTT WPAs (those not on the tenure track) are often given roles “related to management and supervision” like supervision and hiring of teaching staff, scheduling and staffing, establishing common syllabi, handling disputes and political problems (61-62)

not-yet-tenured WPAs are often given responsibilities that are “clearly pedagogical rather than political in focus,” probably out of a desire to protect new faculty pre-tenure and because many are fresh out of graduate school with a current understanding of comp theory and pedagogy (60).

as compared to the 1989 Olson and Moxley survey, many respondents noted curriculum and assessment as WPA responsibilities, probably due to pressures on higher education and accreditation (55)

most important responsibility of the first-year writing director (as noted by chairs in the 1989 survey, chairs in the 2012 survey, and 2012 directors of first-year writing) is communicating well (which includes staying in touch with the chair, being accessible, etc.) (53)

explains definitions of power, authority, and influence described by David V.J. Bell and used by Thomas Ambrose in his article “WPA Work at the Small College or University.” (51)

interesting power dynamic present in many of the responses: female WPA/male chair

limitations – very few (5) responses from two-year schools, which further emphasizes the invisibility of the 2-year college WPA in our scholarship (47)

WPAs as “middle management” (45).

Quotable Quotes

“Although Olson and Moxley defined power in the duties of a writing program director and concluded that composition directors were relatively powerless, respondents to our survey suggest that our understanding of the situated and strategic negotiation of WPA agency has become more nuanced, accounting for the agency of others with whom we work as well as our own” (63).

“Our discipline’s understanding of power, especially as it relates to writing program administration, and how it functions has shifted dramatically in the last quarter of a century due to feminist, Foucauldian, and post-Foucauldian theory, as well as our own maturing as a discipline. THe power of writing program directors, whether they are first-year program directors or other program directors, continues to be a topic of interest to composition studies scholars because power itself is so fluid and complicated” (63).

“The WPA’s job is now recognized as collaborative and inter relational, with the WPA observing and interacting daily with constituencies who have multiple – and sometimes contradictory – agendas” (50).

“We draw from the survey results, respondents free-text comments, and the literature to suggest that a more useful method of thinking about WPA’s agency is to recognize that these different political instruments are always negotiated, that they are consistently and constantly changing, and that the rhetorical situation in all of its complexity always impacts a WPA’s ability to make change. A rhetorically and politically astute WPA can examine which political instrument – influence, power, or authority – would have the greatest impact, as well as the compromises and negotiations she or he is willing to make to accomplish his or her long- and short-term goals” (51-52).

“A WPA’s activities create cultural capital that determines his or her role within the institution” (45).

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December 7, 2010

Wyche-Smith and Rose, One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality

Wyche-Smith, Susan and Shirley K Rose. “One Hundred Ways to Make the Wyoming Resolution a Reality: A Guide to Personal and Political Action.” College Composition and Communication 41.3 (1990): 318-325. Print.

Wyche-Smith and Rose, recognizing that the conditions outlined by the CCCC Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing and the actual working conditions of writing teachers at American colleges and universities seem far apart and almost incompatible, list one hundred local, institutional ways writing teachers, tenured professors, non-tenured instructors, and WPAs can work to make the Wyoming Resolution a reality. The list is organized by actor: first things students can do; then things composition instructors can do; then things a part-time faculty member can do; things a graduate teaching assistant can do; then things a writing-program and writing-center administrator can do; things department heads can do; things deans can do; things professional organizations can do; things editors of professional journals can do.

Notes and Quotes

Wyoming Resolution drafted by writing teachers at a conference in Laramie, Wyoming. It addressed the working conditions of writing teachers in college and argued that their unprofessional treatment had an impact on students’ education. The resolution was endorsed by CCCC in 1987, which appointed the Committee on Professional Standards for Quality Education, which then issued the Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing in 1989.

What’s interesting to me is the organization of this hierarchy: it assumes a writing program model built with WPAs managing TAs and part-time instructors. There’s no departmental structure, full-time faculty roles here.

November 17, 2010

Little and Rose, A Home of Our Own

Little, Sherry Burgus, and Shirley K. Rose. “A Home of Our Own: Establishing a Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 18.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1994): 16-28. Print.

Little and Rose describe how the stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing were created at SDSU, explaining the changes that occured in the establishment of the new department, and argue that WPAs need more than good reasons for advocating for a separate writing program; they need to use rhetoric, good reasoning to argue for independence, which comes through an understanding of local institutional constraints, mission, and politics. They stress the importance of knowing university polity (organizational and governance structure); policy (principles and procedures for getting things done); and politics (who has power and sway, who are your allies.)

Notes and Quotes

go beyond the English department to the rest of the institution – get to know others in other departments.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing became independent at San Diego State University in May 1993 (Colgate, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UT Austin all around the same time)

Little and Rose, rejecting the metaphor of divorce to describe the separation of composition from literature into independent departments, adopt Phelps’ metaphor of describing composition as a ‘grown child’ who needs a ‘home of her own’ as a separate and equal adult.

They give their responses and arguments to the following objections: 1. Writing has always been in English (just not historically or currently true) 2. study and teaching of writing is necessarily linked to the teaching and reading of literature 3. the writing program needs the English department for protection (placing it outside will strenghten it, showing connections to other disciplines besides just English 4. composition is not a legitimate discipline 5. English departments don’t marginalize composition (just look at the pervasive labor problem and assumption that no one wants to teach writing) 6. money isn’t an issue (it always is and composition is a very fiscally efficient and profitable enterprise) 7. loss of graduate TA lines in English 8. if English majors dry up, there won’t be composition classes for English faculty to teach

“Creating a separate writing department does not, then, separate reading from writing, but terminates the exclusive relationship between writing studies and literary studies” (20).

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 17, 2008

Arrington, Phillip and Shirley K Rose. “Prologues to What Is Possible: Introductions as Metadiscourse.”

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Arrington, Phillip and Shirley K Rose. “Prologues to What Is Possible: Introductions as Metadiscourse.” CCC 38:3 (Oct 1987): 306-318.

Introductions are both text about text, or metadiscourse, and text about content, and contemporary composition textbooks do not do an adequate job teaching students about this dual role of introductions. Arrington and Rose use Aristotle’s description of the purpose of introductions, situating the text in a greater context and identifying the audience and speaker, and Grice’s maxims to analyze four student-written introductions. One of the main problems for students is that the formulas they are given for writing introductions do not help them balance writing for both the teacher and a larger audience, and teachers should show students how to understand the constraints and contexts of the writing situations they will encounter.

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