Revolution Lullabye

January 22, 2015

Reid, Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection

Reid, E. Shelley. “Teaching Writing Teachers Writing: Difficulty, Exploration, and Critical Reflection.” College Composition and Communication 61.2 (December 2009): 197-221. Print.

Reid argues that students studying to be writing teachers need to challenged in their pedagogy class with writing assignments that are difficult, that encourage open-ended exploration about questions or inquiries that have no good answers, and that invite students into critical reflection about their writing. Reid’s argument joins a larger conversation about writing teacher pedagogy and the pedagogy course in particular, which she argues has been under-theorized and under-discussed. Her argument uses her own students’ written reflections, collected from her six semesters teaching composition pedagogy at two different institutions.

Reid’s argument for giving students difficult writing assignments and prompts is grounded in her observations that writing teachers are often naturally good writers who don’t practice the same kinds of writing processes they teach their students. By increasing the difficulty of the writing assignments these future writing teachers write in the pedagogy class, they gain empathy and insight into their future students’ struggles with writing. Reid explains difficult writing assignments aren’t just longer. Instead, difficultly can be created schematically (through requirements of certain length or format, or requiring students to adopt a particular stance in an argument); relationally (by requiring a publication or presentation or peer review step); or exploratory (by asking students to connect personal experiences into their arguments, frequent short assignments, or asking them to tackle an unanswered or unanswerable question.)

Notable Notes

Reid makes the argument that the traditional seminar paper often assigned in graduate courses might not be the best format for teaching our students to explore and inquire in their writing. She suggests making the seminar paper a multi-part process that is constantly revised.

importance of learning how to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty in writing (210-211)

Mariolini Rizzi Salvatori’s theories of difficulty (her work is on reading difficulty)

Quotable Quotes

“Encountering difficulties as writers, with opportunities to discuss and respond to those difficulties, prepares pedagogy students to be flexible, engaged classroom teachers who can move between theory and practice, between learning and teaching, as they respond to the needs of their own students.”(205)

“Our goal in designing assignments to favor writing difficulty, of course, is not to make the whole course more difficult, but to privilege the kind of difficulties that increase new teachers’ experience of being writing-learners and thus strengthen their engagement with the teaching of writing” (207).

“We should also preserve space in our pedagogy classes for writing that doesn’t foreground difficulty; for writing that emphasizes play, experimentation, or discovery; and for writing, difficult or not, that is not evaluated. Moreover, while we may not be increasing the number of assignments in a course, we are raising the bar in some of them; difficult writing need not replace other kinds of learning, but we should be aware that we may need to cover less ground with our students in order to fully engage them as writing-learners. Furthermore, we need to design our classes to ensure that writing teachers who are experiencing difficulty in learning to write find support and have the opportunity to experience success. “ (207)

“Students who experience writing as difficult, but who can identify that difficulty as an opportunity for greater learning, and who then can come to see writing-learning as something that may be collaborative, productive, and satisfying, can build those same ideas into their writing class designs. That is, they can identify more strongly as writing teachers and connect more directly to the theories and practices of the field. “ (208)

“If we intend for students to become more astute at noticing how their own writing experiences, and particularly their own encounters with difficult and exploratory writing, help prepare them to be better teachers, we need to directly ask them for such reflection; we may also need to model, discuss, and praise reflective responses that draw the complex connections we hope for. “ (213)

“By highlighting the need for inquiry and flexibility, and positioning everyone as a learner—including ourselves as we remake our own pedagogies—we position everyone as a teacher. “ (218)

“Writing assignments that create difficulty, encourage exploration, and provide opportunity for directed practice in critical reflection thus reinforce one another in preparing teachers to participate fully and flexibly in the discipline of writing education. “ (214)

“Finally, if we are brave enough to argue that there are better and worse ways to teach writing, generally, then we need to be equally courageous in exploring and recommending better pedagogies for educating writing teachers. Composition pedagogy may indeed need to be “remade” for every class, but it should not be remade from scratch, without reference to common goals and practices. Even as I have been creeping along hoping to dodge or hedge this conclusion, I’ve found myself wondering: how can we face our pedagogy students’ ques- tions about what they should all do in their disparate classes, if—despite our necessary reverence for local contexts—we don’t face each other about what we should all do in ours? “ (217)

“Students who become English majors are often “naturally” good writers. The composition pedagogy class may thus be students’ first opportunity to experience writing as a difficult task, and then only if assignments are deliberately designed to challenge them as writers: posing for them serious difficulties, both cognitive and affective, in discovering and then communicating what they mean.”(201).

“A crucial step toward understanding one’s writing students— toward being rooted in the field—comes in sharing an equivalent experience of difficulty, rather than only sharing equivalent topics or genres of writing.”(201)

“The pedagogy class provides an important opportunity to be deliberately guided through difficulty in writing by an expert in the field.” (201-202)

“Writers who don’t perceive that they need such help are unlikely to believe that the benefits of the drafting process are worth its messiness and disruption, even if they experiment with it in a class or workshop. Until writers encounter real problems, not just infelicities, they have no true need for either guidance or revision opportunities; they may offer both to their students, but they can maintain their own identity as nonrevisers and thus remain disengaged from what they’re teaching. Moreover, pedagogy students need to be aware of the difficulties they face and the role of guided learning in meeting those challenges in order to fully engage with the field of composition pedagogy and put down roots from which to grow.”(202)

“Experiencing writing difficulty can also give writing teachers opportunities for increased inquiry into the whole concept of how learning and teaching might happen each day in a writing class. That is, as difficulty breaks down the writing process from a “flow” to a series of trials, queries, reader responses, and revisions, participating in the process can prepare students to see teacher intervention as a planned yet flexible set of assistive activities rather than as an intuitive, Hollywood-staged, “O Captain! My Captain!” ethos. “ (203)

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June 12, 2009

Cooper and Odell, Research on Composing

Cooper, Charles R. and Lee Odell. Research on Composing: Points of Departure. Urbana: NCTE, 1978.

This collection, from the 1975 Buffalo Conference on Researching Composing, wants to expand the nature and scope of research on the writing process. The editors argue that to do so, scholars in composition need to question their basic assumptions about how writing happens and be open to changing and revising their theories. Writing researchers, they argue, need to look at writers, not written products of published writers, for models of composing, and should look beyond English for answers to research questions – to rhetorical theory, developmental and cognitive psychology, education, and discourse theory. The essays – including those written by Britton, Young, Emig, and Murray – are therefore speculative and broad in scope, trying out new theories and ideas to open the door for further research and questioning in the composing process.

Quotable Quotes

purpose: “redirecting and revitalizing research in written composition” (xiii)

Notable Notes

value of teacher-research

Perl, Understanding Composing

Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 363-369.

Perl develops a model of composing based on her findings from research with think-aloud protocols of teachers of writing. She points out three ways writers go back and revise their thinking and writing (rereading, going back to a topic or key word, and going back to the felt sense that the topic creates.) Perl argues that this third way – tapping into emotions, feelings, and ideas that are not yet put in words – has not been adequately studied for its effect on a writer’s writing process. She calls this use of the felt sense, which she believes experienced writers rely on, as “a process of retrospective structuring,” of figuring out how writing feels right or wrong, how it makes a writer think. This retrospective structuring is in contrast to another important process of writing, “projective structuring,” in which the writer puts herself in the position of the reader and structures writing with that perspective. Both struturing processes are necessary for creating meaning in writing.

Quotable Quotes

“In writing, meaning is crafted and constructed.” (367) – not something tangible to be found

Notable Notes

her retrospective/projective structuring is like the reader-centered/writer-centered model

Hairston, The Winds of Change

Hairston, Maxine. “The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 33:1 (Feb 1982) 76-88.

Hairston draws on Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts to declare that the field of composition and rhetoric has experienced a paradigm shift in the teaching of writing, moving from (current-)traditional methods to process pedagogy. She claims current-traditional pedagogy is primarily focused on expository writing; wants students to find form, not ideas, through writing; is a linear composing model; equates teaching editing with teaching writing; and is not connected to research or experimentation. In contrast, Hairston argues that the process model is concerned with writers and their process, not their written products, and so is concerned with teaching students heuristics to invent, compose, and revise; is rhetorically-based; is recursive and holistic; treats writing as a way of learning and communicating; and is informed by other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The process model depends on research in writing and on writers, and requires teachers of writing to be writers. Hairston argues that the process model is the best equip to teach writing to the new populations of American colleges and universities.

Notable Notes

attention to process began in the 1950s and 1960s with generative theories of linguistics (Chomsky) and grammar (Christensen), along with tagmemicists (Pike)

Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 378-388.

Sommers argues that the field needs to focus and research how writers revise, and offers her case study of twenty students and 20 adult writers (from Boston and Oklahoma City) as a starting point. Each writer wrote three essays, revised them twice, and sat for interviews with Sommers about their revision strategies. Sommers found that students often focus on the word level when revising – they have what she deems a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (381) – while the adults saw revision as an opportunity to shape their thoughts and discover the direction and meaning of their writing. Sommers stressed that the truncated view of writing students have – one in which they have a thesis before they even begin writing – does not allow them to engage in writing as a process of discovery or learning, and that teachers of writing need to show students that good writing allows for a holistic and recursive revision process, one that seeks dissonance and wrestles with meaning.

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

Berkenkotter, Student Writers and Their Sense of Authority over Texts

Berkenkotter, Carol. “Student Writers and Their Sense of Authority over Texts.” CCC 35.3 (October 1984) 312-319.

The field promotes peer-response, whether through writers groups or class workshops, as an important element in the writing process, yet it is unclear how helpful peer critique is to students who are, sometimes for the first time, emerging as writers with a sense of authority over their texts. Berkenkotter shows the range of responses students might have to peer response through three case studies, each of a student who has recorded his or her composing and revision process in a series of think-aloud protocols and whose peer workshop groups and teacher conferences were tape recorded as well. One student resisted all peer critique; another student listened to peer critique but did not completely cede his own vision and authority of his writing; the third student ceded too much of her own authority, changing her essay in ways that her peers suggested but that she did not completely agree with. Teachers need to keep these varying reactions to peer response in mind when constructing their pedagogy.

Notable Notes

some students feel responsibility to writers; others do not know how to compromise their needs and the readers’ needs.

tenuous situation with a student who is just emerging as a writer

February 6, 2009

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.

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 30, 2009

Bridges, Training the New Teacher of College Composition

Bridges, Charles W. Training the New Teacher of College Composition. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 1986.

The training of TAs and beginning composition instructors happens at almost every college and university (especially those with MA and PhD programs), but it is rarely discussed across institutions or theorized about in the field’s journal. This collection brings together essays by rhetoricians and writing directors to answer two questions: how do you, at your institution, train beginning teachers, and what advice do you give new teachers about the teaching of writing. The essays, some by well-known members of the field, run the gamut from discussing how new teachers should be taught through the writing process they will teach their students to specific suggestions for grading, making assignments, and managing a classroom. I’ll include the table of contents with some notes for reference:

Richard Gebhardt “Unifying Diversity in the Training of Writing Teachers” – tremendous diversity in who these beginning teachers are and what content can form a teacher-training course and the composition course. A “responsible training course in composition” sees the students as writers, showing them how to teach others to be writers through the writing process. The writing process should form the foundation of composition instruction. Lots of valuable references to comp articles.

Charles Bridges “The Basics and the New Teacher in College Composition” – teach teachers that writing isn’t just a basic skill but a valuable “way of knowing, of discovering, of experiencing.” Student-centered, writing-intensive curriculum/

William Irmscher “TA Training: A Period of Discovery” – the importance of a stability in a writing program through a director who is grounded in and is interested in the research and practice of the teaching of writing. Give TAs independence over their own teaching

RIchard VanDeWeghe “Linking Pedagogy to Purpose for Teaching Assistants in Basic Writing”

Nancy Comley “The Teaching Seminar: Writing Isn’t Just Rhetoric” – the training course should look beyond composition (because not all TAs are studying comp/rhet) to show how writing can be incorporated in all different disciplines

Don Cox “Fear and Loathing in the Classroom: Teaching Technical Writing for the First Time”

O. Jane Allen “The Literature Major as Teacher of Technical Writing: A Bibliographical Orientation”

John Ruskiewicz “The Great Commandment” – don’t lecture away the class; the focus should be on writing, have the students write

Mary Jane Schenck “Writing Right Off: Strategies for Invention” – journals, freewrite, heuristics, small groups

Ronald Lunsford “Planning for Spontaneity in the Writing Classroom and a Passel of Other Paradoxes” – importance of the teacher’s role in planning and implementing group workshopping sessions

Richard Larson “Making Assignments, Judging Writing, and Annotating Papers: Some Suggestions”

Maxine Hairston “On Not Being a Composition Slave” – argues against the model of the good comp teacher as marking up all papers and holding non-stop conferences. It’s a huge, draining workload and a cognitive overload for students, putting too much emphasis on correction. Teachers should only mark up a paper on the 2nd read, teach students how to revise, have students work on papers in class, do peer editing.

Christopher Burnham “Portfolio Evaluation: Room to Breathe and Grow”

Timothy Donovan, Patricia Sprouse, Patricia Williams “How TAs Teach Themselves”

Quotable Quotes

Teacher training needs to be “an important and rewarded part of a given department’s activities” (viii)

There needs to be more communication so theories and methods can be developed or else “teacher training will remain a hit-or-miss process that departments assign to lower-ranking faculty members and then ignore” (viii) – in isolation

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