Revolution Lullabye

November 17, 2014

Odom, Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn

Odom, Mary Lou. “Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Odom argues that in order to improve students’ reading skills, faculty should adopt some of the pedagogical practices that have worked in writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives. Odom bases her argument on a three-year study of her institution’s WAC program. She looks at student course feedback and reflections from the WAC faculty (called WAC fellows) to describe pedagogical strategies that did work and that did not work to improve students’ reading skills. She shows that just merely asking students to read does not mean they will read well or learn what the faculty want them to learn from the reading.

Among the pedagogical strategies that worked to improve students’ reading were explaining to students the disciplinary conventions of a discipline-specific reading, asking students to engage with a reading on a personal level, and asking students to make connections between the reading they were assigned to read and either other readings or current events. Odom points out that all these strategies are also principles of effective WAC teaching. Among the strategies that did not work was using writing in the classroom or in electronic discussion boards to merely check that students had done the reading. Faculty complained that students in these forums rarely engaged with the texts beyond a cursory level.

Odom argues that problems in student writing can often be traced to students’ poor reading skills, and points out that reading is rarely taught beyond the elementary level: faculty assume students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in college. Reading in the disciplines is as invisible as writing in the disciplines once was, Odom contends, and she suggests that taking a WAC approach might solve this problem and better equip students with the critical reading skills they need to succeed in college and fully participate in contemporary civic life. In order for this to work, faculty need to be willing to reconsider how they ask students to read and what they ask students to do with the reading that they do.

Quotable Quotes

“It has been my experience that when we talk about student literacy struggles and practices in higher education, writing is talked about more frequently, more specifically, and with greater urgency than reading.”

“Reading instruction can be, particularly for faculty who want to move on and teach other content, unintentionally yet easily ignored.”

“Few and far between are the classes that do not incorporate or depend on reading, although reading skills cease to be taught or assessed.”

“Reading has in many ways become an invisible component of academic literacy” – it is not seen as the problem by faculty or students.

“Indeed perhaps the best reason efforts to rethink student reading should look to writing across the curriculum strategies is the WAC movement’s broad goal of improving not just student writing but student learning.”

“In sum, the issue of student reading is more than just complex; it is characterized by a transparency that renders it too easily and too often overlooked. Explicit reading instruction tapers off precipitously after elementary school, and students, teachers, and testing then tend to focus on the texts being read rather than the strategies used to read them. Just as texts alone do not provide meaning in isolation, the act of assigning texts alone does not guarantee that students will read. It is no surprise, therefore, that faculty dissatisfaction with student reading is vocal and widespread across the disciplines. When looking for ways to address this challenge, WAC, already proven to be a transformative force for teachers when it comes to writing, is a natural place to turn. Just as writing across the curriculum encourages faculty to consider the ways they ask students to write, efforts at improving student reading must begin with a conscious awareness that we ask and expect students to read in particular ways that may not always be familiar to them.”

“Our choices as teachers have very real consequences regarding how or if students read.”

How faculty can encourage better student reading across the disciplines: “First and foremost, faculty must see that they have a role – beyond simply assigning texts – to play in student reading behavior. Second, at the heart of this role must be a clear sense of the goals faculty have for student reading as well as a willingness to share those goals with students. Third, faculty must be willing to provide guidance for students reading complex, discipline-specific texts. Such guidance may come in the form of explicit conversation about disciplinary conventions and practices, but more often than not it can be conveyed in thoughtful, authentic assignments that students can connect to on an either a personal or ‘real world’ level. Adherence to these principles will not solve all the challenges of student reading; they can, however, begin conversations and initiate practices about reading that are long overdue.”

Notable Notes

research to look at: Newkirk (2013); Joliffe and Harl (2008); Horning (2007)

When faculty point to a problem in student writing, do they realize that this may be, at its core, a reading problem that is contributing to the lack of student learning?

Reading is an “assumed ability” as writing was in the 1960s and 1970s before composition studies challenged that paradigm (Mina Shaughnessy et al) – writing was shown to be far more complex than what students or faculty assumed.

Research shows that there is big discrepancy between what faculty assume students are doing as they read and what students are actually doing.

faculty have “a rather uncomplicated view of how writing and reading might work together,” such as the belief that merely asking students to write about the readings they read will result in critical engagement with those texts.

problem with assigning writing merely to assess or check that students have completed a reading (“quiz/coercion approach”), “reading compliance”


January 16, 2013

Selfe and Hawisher, Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices

Selfe, Cynthia L. and Gail E. Hawisher. “Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 672-698.

Selfe and Hawisher, in this section of a two-part symposium in CCC on peer review, describe the history and the changing nature of prepublication and postpublication peer review.  They explain the strengths and drawbacks of traditional double-blind or doubly anonymous peer review (in which both the author and reviewers remain anonymous to one another), and then describe how the advent of digital publishing and using electronic platforms for peer review has changed the process to be one that is more open and collaborative.  They draw on the “gift economy” argument by Kathering Fitzpatrick (Planned Obsolescence) to illustrate changing perceptions and expectations for academic publishing, such as a reconceptualization of copyright, access, and the ultimate purposes and aims of academic scholarship. In their study of peer and editorial review, they interviewed the editors of three digital presses and four online journals in composition and rhetoric in order to discover how the digital environment has changed peer review and publication. They find that online publications, especially ones that utilize coding, video, and audio features, allow for and perhaps even require a more collaborative and transparent relationship among the authors, editors, and reviewers than traditional anonymous peer review.

Notable Notes

challenge of digital publication: maintain integrity, professionalism

hierarchy of prestige of journals is maintained by senior scholars passing on preferences/expectations to junior scholars

citation indices only contain a small percentage of the field’s journals (684)

peer review relies on volunteer efforts to edit, review articles – time-consuming process that is not often recognized as part of scholarly work

Quotable Quotes

“A combination, then, of understanding review as a collaborative process supported by dramatic changes in digital communication has influenced many editors in the field to make reviews more open” (687).

“As should be quite obvious, this exploration of changing peer review practices and their consequences is just a beginning and has been helped immeasurably not only by colleagues who edit established journals but also by those who pioneer the creation of new venues through which the field may share its research and those who participate willingly within such experimental systems. We are convinced that only through such exploration and experimentation will we, as a large and complex profession, develop better, more productive, and more humane ways of dealing with the peer review of scholarship” (693).

November 19, 2010

Phelps, Mobilizing Human Resources

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Mobilizing Human Resources.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 73-96. Print.

Phelps gives a case study of “Cicero University,” a university that is at the same time shrinking its enrollment by 20% and developing a new writing program. She points out that the most glaring resource problem might seem to be financial, but in fact, the biggest challenge that this WPA faces is one of human resources – the WPA must tap into the talents and potential of the instructors and TAs of the program to pull off a revision of the curriculum. She argues that the part-time faculty instructors who worked in the program before are the WPA’s faculty – they are the ones that will either buy in or buy out of the program. The WPA in this position must work to create out of this “disparate group of people” a “community of teachers with the skills and commitment to plan the changes, adapt to them, and work together to successfully implement new goals” (83). She argues that this WPA challenge can be approached with three tasks: 1. create intellectual capital and make it accessible (the program’s knowledge base and practical expertise as represented by all members.) 2. create social capital (a social network of commmuniation and trust); 3. reorganize work roles and work processes to fit a new instructional plan and 4. determine how to fund these solutions.

Notes and Quotes

“Human resources in a literal sense may refer to the number of personnel lines or dollars you have on budget, the types of employees, or the person hours you can tap for some task. But more fundamentally they are the talents and human potential represented among people who work for or with the program. Like any resource, they can be cultivated, expanded, and deployed effeciently and ethically; or they can be squandered, misdirected, underestimated, or diminshed. Human capital is a more crucial resource than dollars, technology, or even time. By investing energy, pride, and commitment in their work, people provide the knowledge, imagination, motivation, and skill without which the program cannot use other types of resources effectively, or at all” (82).

You can’t just replace the whole corps of part-time instructors. “They are your faculty” (83) They have varing backgrounds, but you must cultivate them into a teaching community, one that proposes, implements changes. That’s your job as a leader – not to impose some theory but to allow them to build it.

Argues that you can’t just come up with a plan for yourself and then ask for the money. Program building is a dynamic process and an effective WPA has to seek out synergies.

1990s was a time of change in higher ed – change brought on by troubled economic times, shifting demographi

cs, changing technologies, weak economy, shrinking pool of undergraduate students, move to making “student centered” universities, emphasis on interdiciplinary learning and cooperation between units

build intellectual capital through professional development (87) that involves and serves everyone in the program. List of professional development options on pg 88

opportunity costs of offering professional development to different constituencies (TAs, PhDs in comp/rhet)

the importance of being transparent about information and ideas in the program

January 16, 2009

Lupton and Phillips, Graphic Design

Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

This book was written out of response to the recent postmodern trend in graphic design, which emphasizes non-transferrable, customized, and context-specific design. Instead, the authors focus on the basic fundamental elements of graphic design, modeling the Bauhaus school of design, which “analyzed form in terms of basic geometric elements” (8). The goal of this type of focus is to understand graphic design on an intermediate, meso level: to understand design structurally, developing common language and vocabulary for which to talk about design across media. Even though the chapters focus on “the formal elements and phenomena of design” out of context, the authors acknowledge that in practice, “those components mix and overlap” (11). The elements and phenomena that are discussed include traditional ones that were studied at Bauhaus, like point, line, and plane, scale, texture, and figure/ground and more recent elements that are increasingly considered when designing with digital tools, like layers and transparency. Each chapter includes several student design projects from undergraduate and graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA.)

Quotable Quotes

“Today, the impure, the contaminated, and the hybrid hold as much allure as forms that are sleek and perfected. Visual thinkers often seek to spin out intricate results from simple rules or concepts rather than reduce an image or idea to its simplest parts” (8)

All design happens at some level “from the interaction of points, lines, and planes” (13)

“Balance is a fundamental human condition” (29) We need it physically, mentally, politically

“Balance and rhythm work together to create works of design that pulse with life, achieving both stability and surprise” (29)

“Frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object…They are part of the fundamental architecture of graphic design” (101)

“Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order” (115) Victor Papanek quote

Notable Notes

How does form work? – central question of text

Chapters: Point, Line, Plane; Rhythm and Balance; Scale; Texture; Color; Figure/Ground; Framing; Hierarchy; Layers; Transparency; Modularity; Grid; Pattern; Diagram; Time and Motion; Rules and Randomness

Bauhaus is a German institute of design

Line is an infinite series of points; a plane is a moving line

Bezier curve is a line with an anchor and control points

scale is both objective and subjective. Things that lack scale have no cues that connect it to physical reality; a lack of scale contrast results in dull design.

Horizontal and vertical scaling

Figure/Ground tension – Vanderbilt University mark

Framing – margins and bleeds

designs of tables of contents (116-117)

hierarchy exercises with lines of text, like a concert program (118)

modularity is working within constraints

patterns arise out of three basic forms: dots (isolated forms), stripes(linear forms), and grids (interaction of the two)

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