Revolution Lullabye

August 1, 2012

Yagelski, “Writing as Praxis”

Yagelski, Robert P. “Writing as Praxis.” English Education 44.2 (January 2012): 188-202.

Yagelski argues for a more humanistic approach to teaching writing, one that emphasizes praxis. The goal of writing education, Yagelski claims, is to introduce students to the transformational experience of writing, giving them assignments that encourage them to use the act of writing as a way to understand themselves and their world more deeply and to live more humanely. The text is not the goal of the act of writing, Yagelski argues: it is sometimes useful and communicates well, but it is the thinking that happens in the very act of writing that matters the most.

Yagelski draws on Freire, Elbow, Emig and others to construct his argument for writing as an ontological act (as a way of being in the world.) He contends that the recent Common Core Standards, and more specifically, the move away from personal writing and narration towards technical form and objective argument shortchanges students because it doesn’t introduce them to how writing can help them live their lives. He points to how people turn to writing to make sense of life, and shows how this kind of writing matters. Students, he argues, do not invest themselves in meaningless writing assignments: the act of writing in these becomes formulaic, a procedure to be followed.

Yagelski questions the assumptions behind the Common Core Standards and standards-driven schooling, aruguing that a primary goal of education is to create a more humane society through asking students to deeply understand their complex selves and complex world. The act of writing encourages slow, deep, and reflective thinking as it shuttles the writer through the past, present, and future. He gives examples of assignments that encourage students to think of writing as praxis – to value the experience as much as the product.

Notable Notes

Yagelski places primary importance on praxis, the writer, the self, the individual writer discovering truth about herself and her world through world. He de-emphasizes the communicative nature of rhetoric – the idea that rhetoric acts within a community.

those who teach teachers – emphasizing the praxis of writing matters because how you teach teachers affects how they teach their students. Ripple effect (202).

Quotable Quotes

“Powerful experiences like Katie’s or Alicia’s students’ are dismissed as somehow tangential or even irrelevant to the real work of schooling – as if schooling should not be about living life, confronting the complexity of life, understanding our experiences in the world, being human.” 201

“Writing should be about seeking happiness. It should be about well-being. It should be a practice of living, a part of what Freire (1994) called the struggle to improve human life. And it can be such a practice – it can be a praxis – if we value the experience of writing as much as we value the text.” 199

“Ask students to write meaningless texts, and writing will be meaningless for them. But let the write in ways that matter to them, and they will embrace the opportunity; they will take advantage of the capacity of writing to help them make sense of their lives.” 195

“When we write, no matter what we are writing about, we call on the past and anticipate the future even as we inhabit the present” 192

“But writing is more than communication. It is a vehicle for sustained inquiry into our experiences, a means of understanding who we are. Ultimately, writing is a deeply human act that can help us better understand what it means to be human” 193

“I am proposing that we understand writing ontologically, as a way of being in the world, as an act of living. IN this regard, the purpose of writing is simply to live more fully. And that can be a step toward living together more peacefully, more humanely.” 190

 

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January 18, 2012

Pytlik and Liggett, Preparing College Teachers of Writing

Pytlik, Betsy P. and Sarah Liggett. Preparing College Teachers of Writing: Histories, Theories, Programs, Practices. New York: Oxford, 2002.

This edited collection brings together a wide variety of essays centered on the preparation of college teachers of writing (specifically focused on TAs.) They discuss what teachers of writing need to know about writing and what kinds of structures help support them in their learning about composition theories and practices. The collection is organized into four sections, addressing these questions: “What are the historical contexts for TA preparation programs? What theories inform TA preparation programs? How are successful TA programs structured? What teaching practices have proven effective in preparing TAs for college writing classrooms?”

The editors do not argue for best practices; rather, they insist that TA preparation must be dynamic to local needs and constraints.

Fulkerson, Richard. “Preface: Preparing the Professors.” xi-xiv

In the preface (“Preparing the Professors”), Richard Fulkerson notes that recent trends in teacher preparation share three common practices or concepts: the idea of teaching as a reflective practice, the role of mentoring in teacher preparation, and the creation and use of teaching portfolios as representation of a teacher’s practice and development.

Quotes

reflection has its roots in Dewey, Donald Schon – “It is an activity characterized by the conscious and conscientious attention of a prepared practicioner, rather than the essential mindlessness of a trained organism. As such it absolutely demands the use of writing as a tool.” (xiii)

Notes

sources to get:

Schon Educating the Reflective Practicioner

essays to look at in this collection:

Weiser, Irwin. “When Teaching Assistants Teach Teaching Assistants How to Teach” – looks at Purdue’s 30-year-history of mentoring new TAs with experienced TAs

Rose, Shirley K. and Margaret J. Finders “Thinking Together: Developing a Reciprocol Reflective Model for Approaches to Preparing College Teachers of Writing.”

Bamberg, Betty. “Creating a Culture of Reflective Practice: A Program for Continuing TA Preparation after the Practicum.”

Ebest, Sally Barr “Mentoring: Past, Present, Future.” – how mentoring arrangements and relationships are made, the power differential that occurs

Bender, Gita Das “Orientation and Mentoring: Collaborative Practices in Teacher Preparation” – year-long staff development with collaboration between administration and teachers

Wanda Martin and Charles Paine. “Mentors, Models, and Agents of Change.” how veteran TAs help with teacher training and preparation

Lindgren, Margaret. “The Teaching Portfolio: Practicing What We Teach” – how the TA’s teaching portfolio can help analyze the effectiveness of TA training programs

December 31, 2011

Dobrin, Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum

Dobrin, Sidney. “Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum.” In Don’t Call It That: The Composition Practicum. Ed. Dobrin. Urbana: NCTE, 2005. 1-34.

This introduction sets out the scope of the author’s edited collection, which explores the debates surrounding the graduate (sometimes undergraduate) composition practicum: the place of theory in the course, its curriculum, its aims, its ramifications for institutional politics, and its place in disciplinary research, scholarship, and identity.

Dobrin claims that the composition practicum is not merely about training teachers to teach composition or professionalizing those teachers; rather, what the composition practicum course does is enculturate those students “into the cultural ideologies of composition.” This fact, Dobrin claims, makes “the practicum one of the most powerful and important spaces of occupation in composition studies.” (21). He argues that composition studies should be more aware of the power the practicum has on the field as a whole.

Dobrin argues that the debates about the composition practicum are political in nature and centered on the perpetual divide and debate of theory/practice, and therefore the questions raised by the composition practicum are shared with the questions inherent in composition studies and writing program administration scholarship. Dobrin argues that the composition practicum is a particularly important site for the field to study, as it is where the identity of the discipline is often defined for the next generation of scholars; thus, the composition practicum is where the field’s “cultural capital” is created and perpetuated.

Dobrin surveys the history of the composition practicum at American universities since the turn of the 20th century, noting that not much has changed in regards to the incorporation of both theory and practice in the course and the political arguments that surround the course.

Quotes

“The practicum functions as a primary purveyor of composition’s cultural capital.” (6)

“Let’s face it, as a device through which ideologies are reinforced and programmatic cultures are created and maintained, the practicum course is a powerful tool not only for guiding the ways new teachers learn to think about their teaching, but also for controlling how and in what ways the very discipline of composition studies is perpetuated. The cultural capital of composition studies is maintained and immortalized by way of the practicum.” (4)

“Practica give shape and formula to the identity of programs. This notion of program identity is important because it carries cultural capital through to first-year students and what it means “to write.”” (26)

Notes

focuses on the graduate (TA) composition practicum course, which is often more than day-to-day advice and “how-to” practical help, serving instead as an introduction to composition theories and histories

central issue: legitimization (is the practicum course rigorous enough? Is practice critical enough? should the practicum course be given for credit?)

a challenge of the course: it is often the only course graduate student take in composition theory, history, or practice. It has a lot of ground to cover.

Some problems Dobrin addresses:

Much of the literature about teacher preparation and the practicum is grounded in the local – both because, perhaps, there is little other context, and also because the theory of what we do is so grounded in the relationships and experiences we have – it is practical (30)

1. the composition practicum is seen as an introduction to the field, but the field is not all about teaching and also not all about FYC (22)

2. requiring all English grad students to take a practicum reinforces the subordinate position of composition (as something students must do and be “trained” to do instead of what they want to do) (22)

3. A WPA’s approach in her program can often be traced back to the single composition practicum course that she took as a graduate student (27) – exponential influence

4. confusion of teacher/student identity: are those in the practicum teachers or students?

3. the composition practicum is an argument, forwarding a particular vision of professionalization and the field (through theories, methods, vocabulary) and is also a mechanism for “policing,” control and enculturation (24-25)

Guerra/Bawarshi’s essay in this collection looks at shifts between different WPAs in the same program: “cult of personality”

December 29, 2011

Reid, “Preparing Writing Teachers”

Reid, E. Shelley. “Preparing Writing Teachers: A Case Study in Constructing a More Connected Future for CCCC and NCTE.” CCC 62.4 (June 2011): 687-703.

In the CCC Special Symposium on the NCTE/CCCC Relationship

Reid argues that the research, scholarship, and practice in the training of writing teachers, which she terms “writing pedagogy education,” can be fruitful ground for future collaborations between NCTE (focusing on K-12 English education) and CCCC (college composition and rhetoric.)  Reid claims that as a professional organization, CCCC has turned away from the practical issues of training teachers to teach writing.  She insists that scholarship on writing teacher preparation, instead being regulated to the margins of the field, as a solitary-institution specific practice or “sub-field” special interest group,  can bring together a variety of members of NCTE and CCCC in order to work on developing policy and practices for the training of writing teachers. In this way, Reid sees potential for a sub-field (writing pedagogy education) to revitalize larger disciplinary organizations.

Reid uses her own efforts to chair a SIG on the Education and Mentoring of TAs and Instructors in Composition and her work on the CCCC Committee on Preparing Teachers of Writing to show how difficult it was, with limited time and resources, to weave together local experiences of writing pedagogy education into a coherent, useful, and theorized whole about the preparation of teachers of writing. Reid calls on WPAs and those who train writing teachers to stop seeing themselves as “local practitioners” and rather, as part of a national, scholarly organization whose aim is to “articulate a larger vision” about writing pedagogy education (692-693). She argues that forums like SIGs and commissioned committees are not stable or sufficient enough to provide writing pedagogy education practicioners and researchers what they need: momentum and diversity of members. She suggests that CCCC follow NCTE’s lead and form a task force on writing pedagogy education, which could help create and support research grants, national studies, or online clearinghouses.

Reid points out specifically that “few studies of writing pedagogy education are data-driven, longitudinal, or inclusive of more than one program.” (692)

Notable Notes

Argues that scholarship in writing pedagogy education can address Patricia Stock’s 3rd question in what English education is: “(1) What is English? (2) How is English best taught and learned? and (3) How are teachers of English best prepared for their professional work?” (368, Stock “NCTE and the Preparation of Teachers of the English Language Arts,” 2010)

common problem in writing pedagogy education: the local: the isolation of individual writing programs, institution-specific needs and policies. No national network or conversation.

problems facing writing pedagogy education: How do you quantify teacher quality (tie in with national discussions on teacher tenure)? How can you measure writing learning as connected to teacher quality? How long does it take to develop good writing practices?  (692)

Move beyond the discussion of “what worked for us.” (692)

February 9, 2009

Hult, The Scholarship of Administration

Hult, Christine. “The Scholarship of Administration.” In Resituating Writing: Constructing and Administering Writing Programs. Eds. Joseph Janangelo and Kristine Hansen. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. 119-131.

Hult, a longtime member of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and an editor for WPA, argues two things: higher education needs to acknowledge and reward the work of WPAs as scholarship of administration and WPAs need to do a better job of convincing the academy of the scholarly nature of their work. She points out that WPAs do all four kinds of scholarship outlined by Boyer: application, integration, teaching, and discovery. This work is not service; it is intellectual scholarship because the writing and administrative work that WPAs do is rhetorical in nature, informed by disciplinary knowledge, and “published” (and has an impact) on a broad audience. To increase recognition of their work, WPAs should forward department chairs and deans important documents that they create, include administrative work under the “scholarship” section of their tenure and promotion cases instead of under “service,” and work to create an administrative portfolio that highlights their work, much like a teaching portfolio.

Quotable Quotes

“As WPAs, we shouldn’t succumb to the myth of the superhuman professor. Rather we should consciously direct our career paths in the best interest of both ourselves and our campus communities” (127) – can’t be a super-duper researcher, teacher, and administrator all at once

How to achieve recognition: “through agressive public relations, thoughtful publication, and careful documentation of our work” (130) to create systems to evaluate and reward WPA work.

The scholarship of administration: “The systematic, theory-based production and oversight of a dynamic program” – akin to music, theater, dance (126).

Notable Notes

Scholarship of application – creating programs, syllabi, training teachers, WPA is often the only composition scholar leading a teaching staff of non-specialists (different from a department chair administering over faculty)

Scholarship of integration – reading across disciplines, running WAC programs, incorporating technology in writing curriculum

Scholarship of discovery – published or not, informal and formal reseach into the program, working to keep programs reflective of the work in the field

Scholarship of teaching – evaluations, syllabi, course development

Section of the development and history of the journal WPA

January 27, 2009

Downs and Wardle, “Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions”

Downs, Douglas and Elizabeth Wardle. “Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions: (Re)Envisioning “First-Year Composition” as “Introduction to Writing Studies.” CCC 58.4 (June 2007) 552-585.

The authors argue for transforming the required first-year course, usually taught as a introduction to the skills necessary to write “academic discourse” into a course that introduces students to writing studies as a field, using their own courses at University of Dayton and Utah Valley State College as examples. The generalized first-year course stands in contradiction to many of the established, researched theories in rhetoric and composition: that all writing is content and context-driven, that writing is an area of research and study, that writing is a complex activity that requires more than good luck and “transferable” basic skills, and that experts in writing are needed to teach writing. Such a shift in the curriculum of the first-year course allows for better transitioning to WAC initiatives (because writing, from the very beginning, is grounded in content and context), gives the newly developing majors a cornerstone foundation course, and improves the position of writing at the university from a service discipline to one that is recognized by students and faculty as a field with valuable, relevant, and important research and theoretical knowledge.

Quotable Quotes

“Writing studies has ignored the implications of this research and theory and continued to assure its publics (faculty, administrators, parents, industry) that FYC can do what nonspecialists have always assumed it can: teach, in one or two early courses, “college writing” as a set of basic, fundamental skills that will apply in other college courses and in business and public spheres after college. In making these unsupportable assurances to stakeholders, our field reinforces cultural misconceptions of writing instead of attempting to educate students and publics out of these misconceptions” (1) page numbers are from printed online version

“Students leave the course with increased awareness of writing studies as a discipline, as well as a new outlook on writing as a researchable activity rather than a mysterious talent” (7).

“By employing nonspecialists to teach a specialized body of knowledge, we undermine our own claims as to that specialization and make our detractors’ argument in favor of general writing skills for them. As Debra Dew demonstrates, constructing curricula that require specialization goes a long way toward professionalizing the writing instruction workforce” (21).

Notable Notes

what the first-year course is reflects the whole discipline. Making it more rigorous and centering it on the field of rhet and comp will improve the status of rhet/comp.

category mistake – Gilbert Ryle – academic writing as one category of writing when it really cannot be defined as an umbrella term

problems/consequences of the shift: no textbook that teaches first-year writing in this way, huge labor force that needs to be trained, the research takes a long time and student work won’t be as clean or neat, high schools don’t prepare students for the field, so there’s a huge learning curve that needs to happen, content and expecatation-wise

courses that follow the intro to writing studies model use readings drawn from the research of the field of rhetoric and composition, allows students to explore their own writing practices in juxtaposition, and asks them to do research on writing.

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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