Revolution Lullabye

May 1, 2009

Hamp-Lyons and Condon, Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment

Hamp-Lyons, Liz and William Condon. “Questioning Assumptions about Portfolio-Based Assessment.” CCC 44.2 (1993): 176-190. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 315-329.

The authors argue that portfolio-based assessments are not inherently better, more valid, or more ethical than other kinds of writing assessments. It takes much critical reflection and work on the part of WPAs and writing instructors to make portfolio grading, which is more time consuming, a better assessment. They point out that more texts and genres doesn’t always make scoring decisions easier, that pedagogical and curricular values aren’t taken into account because they are not articulated, and that collaborative portfolio grading is often conflict-ridden, for it is hard to build consensus over assessment and instruction values. They do not argue to abandon portfolios, just to warn that certain stipulations – like criteria and conversations about program goals and values – must be in place to make portfolios a better assessment.

Quotable Quotes

“Increased accuracy is not an inherent virtue of portfolio assessment” (327).

April 15, 2009

Huot, (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment

Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Assessment needs to be rearticulated by composition and rhetoric scholars as an important, necessary part of writing scholarship and teaching. Huot addresses assessment in a different way in each chapter (highlighting its connection to student response, teaching students self-assessment, need to create a field of writing assessment, and a history of writing assessment practices), but all of his studies and discussion point to central principles for his new theory and practice of writing assessment. Assessment must be site-based, locally controlled, context-sensitive, rhetorically-based, and accessible (to students, public, teachers, adminstrators.) Composition and rhetoric scholars and teachers are doing themselves no favors by abdicating assessment to education or to self-appointed writing assessment specialists; assessment is an issue that must be taken up by every WPA and teacher.

Quotable Quotes

“Instead of envisioning assessment as a way to enforce certain culturally positioned standards and refuse entrance to certain people and groups of people, we need to use our assessments to aid the learning environment for both teachers and students” (8).

“People who write well have hte ability to assess their own writing, and if we are to teach students to write successfully, then we have to teach them to assess their own writing” (10)

Notable Notes

assessment is articulating what we value; it marks our identities as teachers, programs, and a field; how do our judgments get articulated into our assessments?

Chapter 2 – need to connect comp/rhet with K-12 assessment to create  a writing assessment subfield, pooling knowledge and methods, talk about validity

Chapter 3 – need to teach students how to assess their own writing; writing as reflective judgment; use portfolios to full advantage

Chapter 4 – history of assessment practices

Chapter 5 – teacher response to student writing (draw on Phelps) and the contraint inherent in the act of reading

Chapter 6 – writing assessment is treated like a technology. It needs to be reimagined as research. This changes the role and activity of the assessors (151)

Chapter 7 – the practice of writing assessment needs to be reflective, conscious, theoretical, and instructive. Assessment can be social action, something that the field claims again, led by WPAs and teachers. (175)

movement away from objective rubric-like assessments, more based on community questions, inquiry, research, and practice

technocentric argument (Hawshier) – the tool of the assessment should not drive the practice

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 3, 2009

Phelps, The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs: Catalyst, Laboratory, and Pattern for Change.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary. Eds. Richard Bullock and John Trimbur. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1991. 155-170.

Instead of focusing on what the relationship between rhet/comp and literature can be in an English department, Phelps takes a step back, widens the scope, and discusses what a independent writing program can do for the institution as a whole. Higher education is going through a multifacted crisis (the devaluing of teaching and undergraduate education due to the focus on research, the absence of community due to specialization, and the employment of under-paid, under-trained part-time and graduate teachers), but the theoretical foundations of a writing program makes it a prime candidate for a site of institutional change: the field of composition highly values quality pedagogy and undergraduate education; a writing program serves the whole institution and therefore must reach out across disciplines; and the large, diverse cohort of teachers allows for the construction of professional communities. Writing programs must confront several challenges to be viable. In addition to negotiating the local political and institutional constraints of each university, writing programs have unique budget, space, technology, labor, tenure, evaluation, and structural needs that must be administratively met in order for the writing program to be viable.

Quotable Quotes

“The most important contribution I think writing programs can make, though, with respect to higher education at large, is to exemplify the struggle to foster community in the face of the prevailing mood of skepticism, critique of all cultural institutions and their traditions, radical individualism, and loss of fellowship that troubles our colleges and universities” (167) – through community building and professional development of professors, part-time, grad students, undergraduates

“With luck, and propitious local circumstances, this situational fit enables writing programs to become a positive force for change by enacting their own logic: operating experimentally and hypothetically; nuturing a fragile sense of community in talk, text, and collaborative work; and seeking interdependencies where they can find them.” (168)

“the concrete practices of community” (167)

Notable Notes

rhetorical concept of kairos – fitting into the historical and situational context – by having writing programs lead institutional change (168) 

the field of rhetoric/composition as a model, a logic for writing programs to develop and follow

get out of the trap of quibbling over departmental structure

use Syracuse as a model

Ernest Boyer (Carnegie Foundation) – higher ed reform that Phelps bases her argument for writing programs on

Themes of the disciplines that work for institutional change:

  1. writing helps students become active learners and meaning-makers
  2. common literacy strategies adapted for diverse rhetorical situations
  3. collaborative work
  4. communicate patiently through hands-on talk and text – create a community (163)

Challenges 164-166

Writing program acts as collaborator and as a catalyst, an experimenter, for change.

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