Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Meyers, Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations

Meyers, Susan. “Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 33.1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 152-162. Print.

A review of two books:

Dew, Debra Frank and Alice Horning, eds. Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007.

Enos, Theresa and Shane Borrowman, eds. The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2008.

In her review of these two collections, which focus on junior (untenured) WPAs, Meyers uses her own perspective (as someone who is about to start a jWPA job) to explore the current conversations around jWPA work. Meyers points out the contradiction apparent in these two collections and in other conversations about jWPA work: many senior scholars in the field (Horning, White, Roen) warn junior faculty against accepting a jWPA position, yet many new faculty take on these positions because of the realities of the job market and because they have administrative coursework and training in their doctoral programs. Meyers explains that there are two repeated (and inextricably related) ideas that come up in conversations about jWPA work: power and tenure. She argues that the fear that saturates the narratives about jWPA work needs to be “managed”: “otherwise,” she points out, “we may become immobilized by fear itself, rather than working to improve our situations” (154).

Meyers names five categories of warnings she saw repeated in the collection: “problems of resources, politics, market forces, job advancement, and job satisfaction” (156). The most often-cited resources that jWPAs lack are time, credibility, and authority.

Meyers makes a distinction between power that emerges from control and power that emerges from authority. She advocates for jWPAs to work towards increasing their power via increasing their authority within their own institution, and she offers five strategies for doing so: 1. Know your context; 2. Be realistic with program design; 3. Do not be alone; 4. Understand your value; and 5. Use your rhetorical tools (160-161).

Notable Notes

The idea of the “fourth dimension” of jWPA work – administration. Make sure that this is visible in tenure and promotion files.

The fear in jWPA scholarship emerges from 1. The idea that WPA work won’t be valued in tenure and promotion and 2. That my administrative work will take up so much time that I won’t be able to do the other things I need to do in order to get tenure.

Central argument of Promise and Perils: “these testimonials and reflections suggest that a central peril of WPA work is the inherent conflict of scholar-administrator identities. In response, they call for more tenure-line positions and more explicit promotion criteria.” (155)

Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators is more theoretically-minded, practical – making an argument against jWPAs but giving recommendations about how to structure these jobs ethically

We can increase our authority by demonstrating our value and the value of our programs, by developing strategies to negotiate for things that are important.

Quotable Quotes

“This sounds indeed like a no-win situation: As jWPAs, we are commissioned to do work that is not valued and that jeopardizes our future. In this context, we are never blessed with power. And that is, indeed, the fear: we are powerless now, and powerless we will remain. Unless, of course, we can find ways both of making ourselves valuable and of managing the obstacles that administrative work always entails” (154).

“The general message of both books is clear: The dangers that jWPAs face are real, and we have not yet done enough to address the situation” (152).

“Without the requisite authority—or even a clear set of objectives—in their work, jWPAs are more prone to becoming involved in a variety of levels of conflict. In large part, this potential for political tensions results from the nature of WPA work itself, as well as jWPAs’ novice stature. Although they are usually members of English departments, writing divisions, or other institutional units, jWPAs typically cross institutional lines, finding themselves involved in—and sometimes at odds with—the interests of both their home departments and their institutions at large.” (157).

“I believe that what WPAs should seek is power-via-authority, rather than power-via-control.” (159). How can we work “within the boundaries our institutions,” knowing that we can’t control them?

“Focus on what you can change in order to improve your job conditions, and resist feeling defeated by what you cannot. Alongside these efforts, we are reminded to keep in mind all of the other facets of our work that we likewise do control. From the rhetorical choices that we make as we strategize program changes to the attitudes that we maintain about our roles and identities in our institutions, we actually do control many aspects related to professional success.” (159-160).

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November 17, 2014

Freedman, “Reading to Write” in East Asian Studies

Freedman, Leora. “‘Reading to Write’ in East Asian Studies.” Across the Disciplines 10:4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Freedman describes how teaching students specific reading strategies, many developed for English language learners, can help both ELL and native-English speaking students read disciplinary-specific texts better. She describes an partnership at her institution, the University of Toronto, between the East Asian Studies department and the English Language Learning Program that used TA-led discussion sessions to help students in introductory-level East Asian Studies courses develop stronger reading strategies and skills. The TAs taught students specific reading techniques, asked students to apply those techniques on other texts in the course, and asked students to write several low-stakes writing assignments, like reading responses and summaries, that gauged students’ reading comprehension levels. Freedman claims that given feedback from the students, TAs, and faculty involved in this partnership, that students seem to understand the course material more deeply and their writing seems to be improved. Freedman argues that reading pedagogy belongs at the college level for all students.

Quotable Quotes

“Linguistic development, like students’ intellectual development in general, is often uneven and non-linear. Students need to understand that successful performance in academic writing, which may be a more immediate goal, is linked to efforts in other areas which are often invisible to the people marking their papers. (e.g. a grader will comment on an overly general sentence, and it will be identified as a writing problem, but the same grader may not comment on or necessarily perceive the student’s vague grasp of the reading material; the grade is given officially for the quality of the writing).”

“Reading was seen as the most fundamental area to address, underlying the difficulties many of the students have with research, writing, vocabulary, and speaking.”

Notable Notes

need to change the institutional culture around reading – it is not remedial education, but something that is tied to students’ writing and critical thinking

TAs led weekly sessions in each 12-week term (fall, spring) to 25 students. The sessions complemented the lectures (200 students in the lecture.)

low-stakes writing assignments used to gauge reading comprehension included writing an account of previewing strategies, writing summaries, writing informal responses in preparation for a bigger, critical argumentative/analytical paper

TAs used a technique dubbed “question-based active reading discussion” where they came to the sessions with prepared questions, a mix of comprehension and more critical analysis to lead small group discussion

Faculty and TAs noticed less patch writing, less plagiarism in the students’ writing

Reading techniques taught in the TA-led sessions:

  • previewing
  • skimming and scanning
  • active reading
  • learning vocabulary from context clues
  • summarizing
  • distinguishing an author’s opinion from the opinion of a cited source
  • distinguishing between argument and information
  • how information is used in an argument
  • visual mapping of an article

October 29, 2014

Horning, Where to Put the Manicules

Horning, Alice S. “Where to Put the Manicules: A Theory of Expert Reading.” Across the Disciplines 8.2 (October 2011). Web. 29 October 2014.

Horning argues that expert readers are “meta-readers”: they have a specific set of awarenesses and skills that distinguish them from novice readers. She presents this meta-cognitive theory of expert readers and argues that in order to be successful, students need to acquire the particular abilities and skills of expert readers through direct modeling and scaffolded instruction. Knowing what expert readers do as they read helps faculty develop specific instructional methods and goals for the needs of novice-reader students. Horning draws on research in education, literacy, and writing studies as well as specific examples from her own teaching, when she asked students to complete reading guides and do a book review assignment.

Quotable Quotes

“Part of what makes me a good reader is that I know what to mark and where to put the little hands. It is this ability and related skills in text processing, analysis, evaluation and application that distinguish expert from novice readers. A theory of readers’ awarenesses and skills accounts for experts’ appropriate placement of their manacles; the theory reveals the abilities student novices lack and urgently need to develop in order to be successful in any major in college and in their personal and professional lives” (1).

“The theory proposes that expert readers are meta-readers, drawing on the meta-cognitive view for its base. The prefix ‘meta’ is drawn from the Greek, according to the dictionary (‘meta,’ def. 1, 1966). It means after, along with, beyond, among, behind. Experts are able to do things with texts as they read, among the ideas presented and beyond them, so that behind, after, and beyond the reading, they are abel to get the essential meaning of a text. They can then analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply, that is, engage with the text as expert readers.”

“Most faculty don’t aim to help students become expert readers, at least not in introductory or general education courses. Instead, to achieve ordinary instructional goals, most faculty want students to DO the reading and get concepts and content that connect with the rest of their learning in the course.”

“Expert readers, then, have both awareness and skill that allows them to read informational prose quickly and efficiently.”

Notable Notes

the awarenesses of meta-readers

  1. meta-textual awareness (organization, structure of a text)
  2. meta-contextual awareness (how the text is part of a larger conversation in the field, how it fits into a topic, influence of author/time/place)
  3. meta-linguistic awareness (the language of a text, including disciplinary jargon, diction, tone, structure)

the skills of meta-readers

  1. skills in analysis (reading quickly, selectively, able to pick out important information, depends on strong vocabulary knowledge in that discipline)
  2. skills in synthesis (can see the relationships between the text being read and other texts, these readers read widely and often, draw inferences, see larger concepts)
  3. skills in evaluation (can critically evaluate the texts they read – authority, currency, bias, relevancy, accuracy)
  4. skills in application (know when and how to use the information that they read – whole arguments, specific facts or evidence – can use texts for their own purposes)

manicules are little hands used in medieval text marking to note passages that are interesting/important – what was important or interesting depended on the individual reader (readers read differently)

focus on reading informational prose text

uses her own definition (Horning, 2007) of expert literacy: “Expert literacy is best defined as the psycholinguistic processes of getting meaning from or putting meaning into print and/or sound, images, and movement, on a page or screen, used for the purposes of analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application; these process develop through formal schooling and beyond it, at home and at work, in childhood and across the lifespan and are essential to human functioning in a democratic society”

Harold Herber, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas (1978)

uses an example about how she taught her students to read an experimental research report – understanding the goals and information presented in each section, how the report follows APA

Linda Nilson, Teaching at its Best (2010) – argues that students don’t do the reading that’s assigned to them not because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how too. Nilson argues that teachers need to help students develop strategies for reading the texts that are assigned, marking texts, etc.

David Jolliffe and Allison Harl’s 2008 study published in College English on how novice readers read and what they need to help them be better readers

Charles Bazerman’s 1985 study published in Written Communication of how expert readers read – “Physicists Reading Physics”, argues for the importance of context in expert reading

January 4, 2013

Adler-Kassner, The Companies We Keep

Adler-Kassner, Linda. “The Companies We Keep or The Companies We Would Like to Keep: Strategies and Tactics in Challenging Times.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 119-140.

In this article, based off of the author’s 2012 CWPA conference keynote address, Adler-Kassner calls on WPAs and writing studies scholars to be more proactive in the national conversations about what “college preparation” means (specifically what it means in terms of writing) and how that can and should be assessed.  WPAs need to articulate what it is that writing studies does (why the content of writing studies matters) and offer curricular and assessment strategies based on those basic writing studies principles.

Adler-Kassner points out that the conversations are already happening, and she describes five corporate organizations who are central in the drafting of education legislation and the construction and assessment of the Common Core State Standards.  These organizations are more powerful politically and financially than NCTE, MLA, and CWPA.  However, Adler-Kassner contends that this fact is not a reason why WPAs should give up. Rather, this is the time – while the Common Core is in its initial implementation – that WPAs need to work with K-12 educators to take ownership of writing curriculum and assessment.

Adler-Kassner points to the specific outcomes outlined by the DQP (the Degree Qualification Profile, developed by Lumina) to show that writing is cast as merely a skill – students are asked to produce forms of writing.  If writing is only seen as a tool, Adler-Kassner argues, then the discipline of writing studies is erased.  Adler-Kassner argues that WPAs need to emphasize the disciplinarity of writing studies in all writing classes, especially first-year writing classes, teaching students and other stakeholders the value of the central inquiries of the field.

Notable Notes

5 organizations that Adler-Kassner describes:

  • ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council)
  • VSA (Voluntary System of Accountability)
  • Lumina Foundation
  • DQP (Degree Qualification Profile)
  • Common Core State Standards

shift in the purpose of education to “college and career readiness,” a readiness achieved through emphasis of liberal-arts like skills (writing, communication, critical thinking.)  The ultimate purpose of 21st century education, as seen through these national discussions, is economic competition for employment (127-128).  Uses David Larabee’s analyses of public and higher education.

Her major three suggestions:

  1. “no vampires” – make writing courses focused on writing
  2. define what we think is college readiness (through documents like the Framework)
  3. build alliances with K-12 educators, even if we’re not thrilled with the standards they now must work with.

Quotable Quotes

Definition of writing studies:  “Writing Studies focuses on three things: 1. The roles that writers and writing perform in particular contexts; 2. The values reflected in writing and in those roles, and 3. The implications extending from relationships between roles, writing, and values” (131).

“This is because from a content-vacant, skills-oriented perspective, our discipline of Writing Studies is erased. Until we develop and act from principles about the meaning of what composition and writing studies is as a discipline, and then link what happens in composition courses – which exist within our discipline – to those principles, we are at the mercy of the companies seeking to keep our company. And to me, that’s a problem” (130).

“No vampires policy” – “Writing classes, especially first year classes, must absolutely and always be grounded in Writing Studies, must always be about the study of writing” (132).

“The key is to frame the study of writing wtihin the larger principle: that writing classes focus on the study of writing within particular contexts, the values reflected in that writing, and the implications of relationships between writing and values. Not vampires” (134).

“We must build alliances with colleagues who are immersed in efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards in Writing, especially K-12 colleagues, no matter how problematic we find those standards to be” (135). – if we don’t, there’s no chance of our voice being heard.  That’s the price we pay.

“I’ll begin, then, by updating the narrative that I’ve contended extends from documents like the Spellings Report. This narrative says that the purpose of postsecondary education is to prepare students for participation in the 21st century economy, but that faculty aren’t doing a good job with this preparation because we don’t understand what’s necessary for success.

“As I’ve said, answers to two key questions – what is meant by ‘preparation?’ And how should ‘how well’ be indicated? – are critical, because the responses provided to these questiosn will shape curriculum (and assessments)” (120).

June 6, 2009

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David S. and Brian S. Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.

Instead of trying to squeeze itself in the confines of an analytical discipline, rhetoric should deliberately define itself as a design art, belonging to the family of production-driven design arts including architecture, engineering, programming, and graphics. Kaufer and Butler’s book traces two streams of inquiry: first, their claim that written argument – words in themselves – are original design and second, their explanation of their theory and argument of rhetoric as design. All design knowledge from the family of design arts has three characteristics: it is modular, it is cohesive (can relate in a working whole), and is problem-focused. They use the Lincoln/Douglas debates as their extended example to expalin the parts of their Architecture of Rhetorical Design. At the end of the book, they argue for the tight connection between criticism and production as the foundation for rhetorical design theory, a rhetorical education that includes multimedia and multigenre writing and production, and finally, challenge the reader to create a simpler architecture for rhetoric as a design art.

Quotable Quotes

“The powerful rhetors of today and tomorrow know words, but they also know film, photography, typography, music, sound, animation, and video production” (297).

Rhetoricians “design the social world around them and bring it to the here and now” – they are the architects of the social world, draw on Burke. It’s not all about persuasion

“A design art is a production process that involves the interdependent development of goals and a material artifact, relying on knowledge about the nature of the artifact to be produced” ( 32).

“Rhetoric is based on a flexibility in the representation of complex social situations, a flexibility required if the individuals in the situation are ever to accomplish practical goals” (23).

Definitions of rhetoric: “the control of events for an audience” and “the strategic organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making” (12).

“By insisting that rhetoric be treated as design, we are also insisting that the appropriate way to approach rhetoric is to seek the minimal and general in an art of overwhelming complexity” (11)

Notable Notes

good rhetoric is both predictable and adaptive

production without criticism is “hollow and uninformed,” the opposite is “armchair and wishful” (298).

rhetorical design includes

  • plans – how the speaker builds and understands his world, predictiveness
  • tactics – how the speaker will deal with disruptions of their vision, anticipate different perspectives, responsiveness
  • events – moment-by-moment interaction with the audience, language performatives (anecdotes, wit, irnoy, sayings, regionalizing, promises, threats), identifying with the audience – humanness

Knowledge and Goals → Rhetoric Strategies and Rhetorical Design Space (Plans, Tactics, Events) → Presentation Actions (graphic on page 72).

their book focuses just on words – to see how just words can do on their own as design

productive, not practical, art

February 3, 2009

Peeples, Rosinski, and Strickland, Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics

Peeples, Timothy, Paula Rosinski, and Michael Strickland. Chronos and Kairos, Strategies and Tactics: The Case of Constructing Elon University’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric Concentration. Composition Studies 35.1 (Spring 2007) 57-76.

Using two scenarios (discussions on new faculty hires and acquiring space), the authors show how the complementary perspectives of chronos/strategy and kairos/tactic work as a theoretical framework for describing how programs are designed, developed, and enacted. Their theory draws on both the ancient Greek notions of time (chronos and kairos) and de Certeau’s terms to describe the space from which a person acts (strategy (one’s own, independent) and tactic (undefined, opportunity-driven.)) Their piece attempts to bring case-study story-telling, a method often used by administrators to explain program design due to the very local, contextual nature of program creation, up to a theoretical level by introducing rhetorical terms that can describe common techniques and methods faculty use to carve out their own institutional spaces through majors, minors, and concentrations.

Quotable Quotes

“What we find most powerful about this framework is the way it emphasizes the rhetorical, productive, compositional nature of program development; we write and re-write our programs. As a heuristic framework, the combination of chronos/kairos and strategy/tactic helps with the ongoing inventional process of program development….gives us a way to move beyond situated awareness and toward applying rhetorical analytical skills to our own efforts at program development.” (58)

Notable Notes

emphasis on tactics is not often talked and theorized about in journals, giving a space for it here. Kairos is a key component in the development of programs.

our action – strategy and tactics – form our social realities and our discourse (58)

we need to be more deliberate and conscious of what courses of action we are taking to develop programs, to be aware of the moves that are available to us.

January 26, 2009

Rose, “Remedial Writing Courses”

Rose, Mike. “Remedial Writing Courses: A Critique and a Proposal.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 353-369.

Mike Rose points out five problems of the typical remedial writing course and suggests how basic writing courses can be changed to better serve the students in them. First, they are self-contained courses, not connected to larger writing contexts students will encounter at the university. Second, they rely on assignments based on simple, unmotivating topics that don’t produce academic prose. Third, they are not grounded in the writing process, rather focusing almost exclusively on error avoidance. Fourth, they do not expand their scope to include reading and thinking heuristics in conjunction with writing assignments. Finally, they stay in the realm of personal writing, never challenging students to write academic prose. Instead of this model of a remedial writing course, teachers need to give students real discourse patterns to write with and in, grounded in meaningful context. Those patterns should be taught as strategies, not structures, and be sequenced to build to more and more complex writing situations and assignments.

Quotable Quotes

We need to start “conceiving of composition as a highly complex thinking/learning/reading/writing skill that demands holistic, not neatly segmented and encapsulated, pedagogies” (362).

“The reflexive, exploratory possibilities of engaging in academic (vs. personal) topics are not exploited, and instruction in more complex patterns of discourse is delayed or soft-pedaled” (362).

“The nature of our programs is nearly synchronized with the narror reality created for them by our institutions” (369).

Notable Notes

reflexive writing tied to Emig

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