Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2013

Halpern, The Preceptor Problem: The Effect of Undisciplined Writing on Disciplined Instructors

Halpern, Faye. “The Preceptor Problem: The Effect of ‘Undisciplined Writing’ on Disciplined Instructors.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 10-26.

Halpern uses her experience as a preceptor (full-time instructor) in the Harvard Expository Writing Program, an independent writing program that hires instructors from across the disciplines to teach an ‘undisciplined’ approach to academic writing, to discuss the effects of programmatic philosophies on the professional development and disciplinary identity of their instructors. Much of the scholarship on independent writing programs have focused on how stand-alone programs affect the identity and working conditions/relationships of the full-time faculty; Halpern’s article provides an in-depth look at how administrative decisions like the creation of independent writing programs or the adoption of particular writing curriculum affect instructors both while they are teaching in the program and after they leave and teach or work elsewhere.

Halpern argues that there is a problem with freestanding/independent writing programs like Harvard’s or Duke’s because the transdisciplinary nature of the programs leaves instructors without a solid disciplinary identity. Halpern points out that these independent writing programs often function as happy intellectual islands, developing their own theories, terms, and language. When instructors (whose positions are really not meant to be permanent positions but rather post-doc-like instructorships) leave, they are not well-prepared to enter into the disciplinary conversations and debates that characterize most academic departments. Halpern argues that WPAs and full-time faculty at independent writing programs need to consider the professional development needs and disciplinary identities of their instructors, preparing them not just to be successful teachers in that particular environment but also at other institutions.

Notable Notes

transdisciplinarity (11) – what writing shares across disciplines instead of what makes each discipline’s writing distinct

the effect of liberation, freedom, and independence on all stakeholders

the many ways it is difficult for an instructor to move from an instructorship to a tenure-track position (16-17)

characteristic of American colleges/universities/academic departments; thinking in terms of disciplinarity (20-21)

important effect: your graduate school training and early jobs have a profound effect on how you view yourself as a teacher and and academic, where you place yourself in the field (22-23)

connection to Duke (in article), possible connection to Syracuse and the Writing Program’s effect on the professional development and identity of the instructors

list of terms used by the Harvard Expos program – creation of a discourse community (13)

Quotable Quotes

“Academic expertise usually involves learning a discipline, but that is precisely not what I learned at Expos: I learned how to move beyond my discipline” (15).

“Perhaps one of the hardest things for a program to do is to acknowledge its own partiality. I mean ‘partiality’ in two senses: programs are partial to their own methods, and their methods constitute only one approach, an approach that intersects inevitably with the work of others” (23).

 

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June 19, 2009

Wiley, Gleason, and Phelps, Composition in Four Keys

Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Wetherbee Phelps. Composition in Four Keys. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.

This reader is designed to introduce beginning students and scholars to the field of composition and rhetoric, and unlike other sourcebooks, is organized to create a map through which the readers can begin to draw connections between studies and scholars and begin to understand the field as a whole. The heuristic used is that of keys (drawing on Suzanne Langer) or commonplaces that connect certain strands of research and practice in the field. The four keys used are nature, art, science, and politics, and reflect those strands the editors saw emerging in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. The final fifth section of the book offers other ways of mapping and understanding the field. The keys are not exclusionary, and the editors invite readers to question how the keys were constructed and the connections between them. They keys are more than content: they show the readers how people talk about writing, what other disciplines, theories, fields, and values scholars draw on to form their understandings, and how people practice and teach writing.

Notable Notes

the hermeneutical circle – it’s hard to interpret something without a context, but you begin without any sense of position or map. The keys are supposed to help with that.

Nature – natural development of a writer, primacy of the writer, personal power and authority, writer’s voice, romanticisim and transcendental thought, study of students K-U, expressivist, Piaget, Vygotsky, internal expeirnece, self-consciousness, reflection, collaboration, personal responsibility, natural influence of a community on a writer. (Moffett, Britton, Bissex, Berthoff, Murray, Warnock, Elbow, Bruffee, Stewart, Phelps.)

Art – language as central concern, rhetoric, invention, transactional, form, style, craft of writing, choices, imitation, classical rhetoric, formal heuristics, discourse communities, discourse analysis, language can be examined as an artifact, grammar and errors as signifiers, New Rhetoric. (Corbett, Shaughnessy, Winterowd, Williams, Young, Halloran, Ede and Lunsford, Kinneavy, Porter, Coe, Lauer)

Science – inquiry, knowledge, scientific method, disciplinary identity and respect, research methods, protocol analysis, process theory, scientific studies, Cold War, federal funding for language research and education, need for a method for Open Admissions and basic writing, cognitive studies, assessment, empirical studies, ethnographies, rejection of writing products as the object of study – look at writing process instead, influence of computers and technology resaerch, cohesion research, case studies, students v. professionals writing. (Emig, Flower and Hayes, Freedman, Dyson, Hawshier, Hillocks, Haswell, Geisler, Moss, Sternglass)

Politics – a later key influenced by the social turn, postmodern, poststructuralist, neo-Marxist, feminist, literacy research, outside of the classroom, language differences, texts not separated from contexts, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, liberatory pedagogy, ESL, conditions of teaching writing, feminization of composition, liberal, materiality of writing, politics of basic writing, academic discourse as exclusion, no neutral rhetoric and language. (Rouse, Fiore and Elsasser, Rose, Bartholomae, Smitherman, Wyoming Resolution, Miller, Villanueva, Bizzell, Hairston (who critiqued the political turn))

February 19, 2009

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)

January 31, 2009

Lindemann, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers

I’m beginning to see the value (you would hope!) in reading through all these guides for beginning teachers of composition. I now know the basic issues that new teachers face, what the field (in general) thinks that it’s important for them to learn or know about (and in turn what their students should learn and know about.) The same common theories and many of the same texts are referenced in both, both in the book and in attached bibliographies, creating sort of a “canon” for important texts for beginning composition teachers (I’ll be reading some of them next.) But, most importantly I think, from an administration point of view, I now know a lot of the approaches taken to instruct beginning teachers about the teaching of writing, and I can draw on these texts in creating a syllabus for that kind of course (or for less formal, less intensive teacher-training.) I like the theoretically-grounded approach Lindemann takes in this text, and I think the one-author (rather than anthology) approach makes the text more coherent and cohesive, a more intimate and straightforward guide for new teachers, but one with a lot of meat and nuances.

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

This guide for writing teachers, in its fourth edition, approaches the teaching of writing from a rhetorical perspective, emphasizing teaching a rhetorically and theoretically-grounded concept of writing to students and seeing the act of teaching (and all that is part of that job) as a rhetorical enterprise. The book is divided into three major sections. The first, “The Composing Process,” defines key terms like context, code, and message, and explains the stages of the writing process, highlighting the social nature of writing. The second, “Rhetorical Theory and Practice,” offers three chapters about the fundamental concepts in rhetoric, linguistics, and cognition that writing teachers must know, citing major names and theories, and goes on with other chapters about invention and revision strategies and the study of discourse and style (paragraphing, sentences, and words.) The third section, “Teaching as Rhetoric,” has chapters on assignment creation, response, evaluation, course design, and writing with computers (added for this edition.) Lindemann points out why writing instruction is so important for students – for economic power, social necessity (to live and interact with others in society), and for personal meaning-making – in the introduction of the text. She sees students and their instructors as writers both struggling to make meaning and urges teachers to have the “courage” to give up some of the control and authority those teaching other disciplines might have in order to meet and interact with their students as writers.

Quotable Quotes

“Theories give coherence and direction to the practical. They demonstrate the complexities of the writing process and the importance of teaching it well” (9).

Inspiration from Donald Murray: We, like our students “wrestle with the difficult process of creating meaning through language” (305).

“What is truly basic to composition – a person communicating with another person” (305).

Notable Notes

end of the book contains an extensive timeline of important dates in rhetoric and composition and a bibliography of selected texts

January 5, 2009

Beaird, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

Beaird, Jason. The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. Canada: SitePoint Pty. Ltd., 2007.

Based on the organizational principles that good web design forefronts the relationships between elements, is timeless, and depends on small, finishing details, Beaird’s guide explains how web designers can effectively use layout, color, texture, typography, and imagery to create sophisticated, professional sites. His extended example is the design of a website for Florida Country Tile, and at the end of each chapter, he illustrates how he might apply the princples he discussed in the chapter (i.e. color, typography.) The book is loaded with full-color examples of web sites and Beaird includes footnotes for helpful design links, for both inspiration and to get necessary elements like stock photos, fonts, or code to make rounded corners. His examples also rely heavily on Photoshop techniques. This book, though not overly theoretical (it provides a general overview of design theories, like the golden proportion and the rule of thirds), is a good how-to manual, with helpful terms, definitions, and advice.

Quotable Quotes

“Good design is about the relationship betweem the elements involved, and creating balance between them” (viii).

“Fads come and go, but good design is timeless” (viii).

Notable Notes

There are two major steps in designing: 1. Discovery, which includes meeting clients, doing research, and asking questions. 2. Implementation – creating a design (first on paper, usually) based on the research.

A good design communicates. The content is accessible, not overrun by design elements; the site has intuitive navigation; the pages obviously belong to the same site because they have a similar style, layout, and theme (6).

Golden ration 1.62 – is what the rule of thirds is based on. Create a grid by using the rule of thirds.

Keywords
Chapter 1: Layout – balance, symmetry, unity, proximity, repetition, emphasis, continuance, focal point, isolation, contrast, proporation, digital morgue file, fixed and liquid widths

Chapter 2: Color – value, tint, shade, pure, saturation, additive (RGB), subtractive (CMYB), RYB, achromatic, monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split-complementary, triadic, tetradic

Chapter 3: Texture – pixels, points, lines, rounded corners, thickness, artistic, light and shadow, perspective, proportion, repetition, pattern, Web 2.0 style

Chapter 4: Typography – (a lot of this terminology I know already) kerning, tracking, justification (problem with rivers of whitespace, serif, old-style, transitional, modern, slab, dingbats, em unit, serif headlines and sans-serif content

Chapter 5: Imagery – revelant, interesting, appealing, stock photos, royalty-free photos, presentation, borders, hotlinking

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