Revolution Lullabye

October 14, 2013

McLaughlin and Moore, Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing

McLaughlin, Frost and Miriam Moore. “Integrating Critical Thinking into the Assessment of College Writing.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 40.2 (December 2012): 145-162.

McLaughlin and Moore explain their study of how to assess critical thinking in college student essays. They developed a writing rubric intended to assess student writing across the disciplines, and then asked participants at the March 2011 Symposium on Thinking and Writing at the College Level to use the rubric to evaluate two student papers (both essays were written in response to a prompt that asked the student to define a term.) The results of the assessment surprised McLaughlin and Moore, as they assumed that one of the student essays was markedly stronger than the other. What they found was that the evaluators (80% of whom taught first-year writing in a variety of contexts) valued different attributes in student writing. McLaughlin and Moore argue that it is simpler to assess student writing based on attributes like “correctness” or “voice” instead of characteristics that point to critical thinking, like thoughtfulness, logical development, and consideration of alternative perspectives. They contend that the writing tasks students are given in K-12, which emphasize creative writing and the development of a strong, emotive voice, are distinctly different from the careful, reasoned academic writing (a very specific voice) that is hallmark of “college-level writing” and which is expected in first-year composition writing tasks.

Notable Notes

based the construction of their critical thinking in writing rubric (CTWR) on other rubrics designed by other institutions (Washington State University) and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (147)

categories of the CTWR: Focus, Logic (both of these first two categories contain language that incorporates elements of critical thinking), Content, Style, Correctness, Research (150).

keywords that point to critical thinking in these first two rubric categories: thoughtful, interpret evidence, draws warranted conclusions, analyzes alternative perspectives, evaluates when appropriate (150).

overemphasis on the construction of voice (155) – emotional voice (pathos) can mislead a reader where there is no logical, critical thought

college-level writing is mostly expository – requires a “drier” academic voice (156).

personal narrative v. critical analysis – writing tasks students are given in high school, college

the difficulty of capturing elements of critical thinking in a rubric – rubrics simplify writing, often assess what’s easy to assess instead of what’s the most important element (146-147).

Quotable Quotes

“College-level writing, it seems, values the well-reasoned point over its dramatic rendering. Perhaps reasoning, then, is a salient feature of college-level writing. Whether it is as important in high school writing is certainly worth examining in greater detail in the future” (157).

“In conclusion, the assessment of critical thinking takes time and often complicates the act of writing assessment.  Sometimes the most highly detalied and interesting student writing is not the product of complicated thinking but rather of strong feeling. Yet voice is not a substitute for thinking, though it can certainly enhance the expression of thought” (157).

“Without open-minded thinking as a basis of approaching the writing task – the thinking that prompts the writer to consider alternative approaches and possible outcomes – the writer may not achieve the level of reasoning that we expect in freshman writing. This thoughtful, fair-minded approach with its resulting careful reasoning, often expressed in a clear but neutral tone, may well be one of the distinguishing features of ‘college-level’ thinking and writing” (158).



May 25, 2011

Mathison, Making Rhetoric Explicit

Mathison, Maureen “Making rhetoric explicit: Demystifying disciplinary discourse for transfer students .” In Galin, Jeffrey R.; Carol Peterson Johnson; J. Paul Haviland (Eds.), Teaching/writing in the late age of print; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003. 53-62.

Transfer students often have a difficult time negotiating both the writing expectations at four-year schools and the different disciplinary and institutional discourses they confront at their new university. Mathison describes a course , “Ways of Knowing in a University Setting,” which was designed to help students explicitly learn about the reading and writing expectations they would encounter in their courses. The course used texts from rhetoric and composition that researched how students write in various disciplinary communities and rhetorical conventions.  The course assignments asked the students to reflect on their own practices as writers and how they understand the thinking, reading, writing, and researching in their other courses.

Notes and Quotes

It is important to let students know that the academic realm is not separate from our personal and private lives: “I had reminded students that all academic contributions are personal – they come from our questions, our knowledge, our creativity, and our labor.” (59) this is not to say that students don’t need to be taught to present their claims rhetorically – not all personal opinions.

June 24, 2009

Harris, A Teaching Subject

Harris, Joseph. A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Harris traces the history of the teaching of writing and how the teaching of writing was talked about through five key terms: growth, voice, process, error, and community. His account begins with the 1966 Dartmouth Conference, and it relies on published articles, books, and textbooks in the field for historical evidence, debates over the terms, and trends. He does not present an argument for composition as a theoretical field of inquiry; rather, he sees composition’s inherent ties to education and the classroom as important and needing to be asserted and validated. He traces the process movement through the 1960s and 1970s, and then uses community as the key term to organize his history about the social and political turn in composition. The last chapter is a reprint of his CCC article “The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing,” in which he problematizes the term, saying that it posits an ideal, homongenous, warm and happy view of a community. Instead, Harris argues that we need to move even beyond contact zones – which give people fixed cultural identies and affinities – to recognizing the multiple identites and voices that writers and students negotiate at all times.

Notable Notes

Dartmouth Conference: British (K-12) interested in growth and teaching; Americans (university) were interested in professionalization of the field, research, becoming recognized academics

two different ideas of voice: that of the individual writer, emerging from inside (expressivist movement, Elbow, Murray) v. voices that are outside the writer that the writer must learn to orchestrate and control (Barthes, Bakhtin, Derrida, Bartholomae, influenced by Theodore Baird at Amherst)

goal of composition, process: critical thinking, habits of mind, arete (virtues necessary for democracy)

April 10, 2009

Murray, Learning by Teaching

Murray, Donald M. Learning by Teaching: Selected Articles on Writing and Teaching. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1982.

This collection of Donald Murray’s articles and essays (published and unpublished between 1968 and 1982) describe both how he understands the process of writing and the process of teaching. An advocate and founder of the expressivist movement, he believes that writing is a process in which a writer moves between the stages of prewriting (rehearsing), writing (drafting), and rewriting (revision) recursively, in no one set fashion. His pedagogy is marked by frequent, informal individual conferences with students, where students are treated as writers and come to his office to discuss their essays, which are not assignments but rather pieces imagined and created by them. Murray, a professional writer, sees his role as a listener and a coach, helping students see where their draft might take them next, never looking at writing as a finished product (expect perhaps on the deadline, the end of the term, when it will be graded.) He is interested in the scientific studies of the writing process (Perl, Sommers, Emig), but his argument and theory lays in the theory he developed by reflecting on his own work as a writer, reading about the writing processes of published writers, and observing how his students function as writers. In his theory, he names four forces of the writing process: collecting, connecting, reading, and writing, four forces that are always trying to be in a balance between discovery and clarification.

Quotable Quotes

“Listening is, after all, an aggressive act” – it places a large onus on the student because by listening you are validating them as a thinker, a writer, an intellectual (170)

“Papers are examined to see what other choices the writer might make” (17)

“We have to respect the student, not for his product, not for the paper we call literature by giving it a grade, but for the search for truth in whcih he is engaged. We must listen carefully for those words that may reveal a truth, that may reveal a voice. We must respect our student for his potential truth and for his potential voice. We are coaches, encouragers, developers, creators of environments in which our students can experience the writing process for themselves” (16)

“The writer is an individual who uses language to discover meaning in experience and communicate it” (9)

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action” (15)

Notable Notes

5 writer experiences every student should have: the experiences of seeing (practicing perception), form (creating order), publishing (deadlines and made public), communication (reaching an audience), and failure

teachers need to write too, with their students- teach through modeling

“The Politics of Respect” – it is crucial that we 1. respect students’ intelligence and ability as writers 2. respect composition teachers by providing them with control of curriculum and professional development 3. respect the director of Freshman Comp by recognition of his administration as counting for tenure and giving him the authority he needs to run a successful program as a professional and 4. have respect from other disciplines for knowing how to teach writing – this respect comes from the first three.

revision as opportunity, not punishment

texts of course – student’s own writing, never-ending revision, student’s own forms and languages, stress that discovery of meaning is the goal of writing – you learn through writing

teacher shouldn’t talk much at all

write titles, not labels; write leads, not introductions

the self is a legitimate audience

February 19, 2009

Barthes, The Death of the Author

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP Ltd., 2000. 125-130.

Barthes argues that it is not the author who speaks in a text, but rather, language itself. The concept of a single (male) author is one rooted in Enlightenment individualism, an idea so powerful that it reduced the text to an explanation and an understanding of the author. Instead, Barthes claims, an author and a text are born simultaneously (126); the former does not give birth to the latter, for the act of writing is not an act of reporting ideas but, rather, a performative act. Writing and texts do not have single, solitary lines of understanding: they are multivoiced and understanding them can only be a process of disentangling the lines, not completely deciphering them or figuring them out (129). The work of assigning meaning to a text, of compiling the voices into some sort of understandable whole, does not belong to the author/writer. It is the duty of the reader. Barthes calls for “the birth of the reader” at the expense of the Author. (130).

Quotable Quotes

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (130).

“A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (129) author-reader

“Everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (129)

“Life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (128).

A text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (128)

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin…Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (125).

“The voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins” (125).

Notable Notes

not assigning an ultimate final meaning to a text is to refuse God (and reason, science, and law) – very postmodern (129)

assigning an author limits a text, closes it, allows it to be criticized as an object

February 6, 2009

Burnham, Expressive Pedagogy

Burnham, Christopher. “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice.” 19-35.

Often coupled with process pedagogy, expressive pedagogy concerns itself with the individual writer and his development of a writerly voice or ethos. Stemming in the 1960s and 1970s from the same practicioners as process pedagogy (Elbow, Murray, Macrorie), expressivism opposes the reductive current-traditional model of writing education that devalues the writer, thus creating an arhetorical view of reality because the writer – the individual maker of meaning – is stripped of all authority. The first proponents of expressivism argued through narratives, but later scholars and teachers relied on theories from linguistics, cognitive and developmental psychology, phenomenology, and existential philosophy to show that writing is a way of making meaning, creating and developing knowledge that moves from the individual private sphere to be shared with the world. In this sense, the social conclusion that all writing comes to, answers the critiques of expressivism (Berlin and Faigley), which state that it is not critical, is romantic, rejects social and political problems, and is over-concerned with the voice of the individual. The most recent scholarship on expressivism have attempted to make it more critical, placing theorists such as Bakhtin, Ong, Gibson, and Dewey at the center of the pedagogy, arguing that expressivism explores relations between language, meaning-making, and self-development, forming individual and social identities.

Quotable Quotes

“Expressivism’s strength is its insistence that all concerns, whether individual, social, or political, must originate in personal experience and be documented in the student’s own language” (31)

Expressive pedagogy is “engaged pedagogy, holistic teaching” (31)

Notable Notes

Theory for expressivism draws heavily on Britton (Language and Learning, Development of Writing Abilities 11-18) and Kinneavy (A Theory of Discourse.) Britton talks about expressive function in language and creates a developmental taxonomy of writing, arguing that writing is a process of discovering meaning and learning (puts his theory at center of National Writing Projects and whole language movements.) In Langauge and Learning, he explains the participant and spectator roles in writing, says that expressive writing involves both. Kinneavy talks about expressive discourse and uses Sarte to talk about how writing is used to explain individual meaning-making to a larger audience, analyzes the Declaration of Independence and shows how it is not a persuasive text but rather an expressive text that is forming a new nationanl identity.

Crowley, The Methodical Message; Macrorie, Telling Writing; Elbow, Writing without Teachers and Writing with Power; Murray, A Writer Teaches Writing; Britton, Language and Learning; Kinneavy, A Theory of Discourse; Sherrie Graden, Romancing Rhetorics; Vygotsky; Bruner; Chomsky; Sarte; Thomas Merton, Learning to Live; bell hooks Sisters of the Yam

expressivism is concerned with developing individual responsibility and ethics (Socrates)

critiques include: ahistorical, atheoretical, arhetorical, anti-intellectual, standard-less, relativistic

uses freewriting, journals, reflective writing, small response groups

Tobin, Process Pedagogy

Tate, Gary, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick, eds. A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

After reading this entire collection, I will pick 3-4 pedagogies to focus on, and using the essays’ bibliographies as a starting point, I will read the underlying theories that speak to the particular pedagogies and the debates in the field about the pedagogies. The essays (so far) have been extremely dense with historic and bibliographic information, so most of my note entires will have extensive keywords and phrases. 

Table of Contents:
Lad Tobin, “Process Pedagogy”
Christopher Burnham, “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice”
William A. Covino, “Rhetorical Pedagogy”
Rebecca Moore Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy”
Diana George and John Trimbur, “Cultural Studies and Composition”
Ann George, “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy”
Susan Jarratt, “Feminist Pedagogy”
Laura Julier, “Community-Service Pedagogy”
Susan McLeod, “The Pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum”
Eric Hobson, “Writing Center Pedagogy”
Deborah Mutnick, “On the Academic Margins: Basic Writing Pedagogy”
Charles Moran, “Technology and the Teaching of Writing”

So – here goes.

Tobin, Lad. “Process Pedagogy.” 1-18.

Process pedagogy is a pedagogy that believes students should be treated like real writers, and so a course designed with process pedagogy is centered around the production of student texts, emphasizing in-class workshops, conferencing, peer review, invention and revision heuristics, and reading that supports these goals. The text of a process pedagogy classroom is the students’ own writing. Process pedagogy developed in the early 1970s and is a backlash against current-traditionalist pedagogy. In the 1980s, compositionists studied writers writing in all contexts and turned to cognitive science and developmental psychology to articulate theoretical foundation to support process pedagogy. Scholarship with process headed in four different directions: basic writers, processes of novice vs. skilled writers; writing as a cognitive act; social nature of composing. There are several critiques of process pedagogy: 1. it, too, has become just as rule-driven as current-traditionalist pedagogy by teaching a single “writing process”; 2. it does not explicitly teach students writing skills, grammar, or a content; 3. it does not critically look at differences in writing due to race, class, and gender; 4. it does not emphasize context (more internally-driven than externally-driven.) Such critiques have led to the post-process movement, which argues that process pedagogy, though valuable in the 1970s, does not answer students’ needs today because it’s devoid of content, complication, and context, things that are better taught through cultural studies.

Quotable Quotes

“I was now reading not for error and assessment but for nuance, possibility, gaps, potential. For the first time, I realized that student essays were texts to be interpreted, discussed, marveled at, and that writing students were, amazingly enough, writers.” (6)

“It may be enormously useful for a student writer (or any writer for that matter) to believe at certain moments and stages of the process that she actually has agency, authority, an authentic voice, and a unified self.” (15)

Notable Notes

Murray, Learning by Teaching; Elbow, Writing without Teaching and Writing with Power; Berthoff; Macrorie, Telling Writing and Writing to Be Read; Emig, The Web of Meaning; Hairston, Winds of Change; Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work; Atwell, In the Middle; Britton, The Development of Writing Abilities 11-18; Faigley; Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations; Flower and Hayes, Writing as a cognitive act; Britton, Writing to Learn; LeFevre, Invention; Gere, Writing Groups; Newkirk, Performance of Self in Student Writing, Flower Reader-based/Writer-based.

Change in teacher role from evaluator to co-discoverer, mentor, coach, etc.

February 16, 2008

Hasimoto “Voice as Juice: Reservations about Evangelic Composition”

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Hasimoto, I. “Voice as Juice: Reservations about Evangelic Composition.” CCC 38.1 (Feb 1987): 70-80. 

Hasimoto equates composition’s obsession with the concept of voice in writing with Christian evangelism. Using the descriptions of the writer’s voice by compositionists like Elbow and Murray, Hasimoto shows how the discipline favors writing that has “voice” – energy, emotion, power, individuality, and feeling – and demonizes “academic” writing. He argues that writing with a “voice” is not appropriate for all students and in all situations. Also, he points out that advocates for writing with a “voice” use anti-intellectual appeals that undermine the importance of teaching college composition.

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