Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transnational Writing Program Administration

If you've been in any class with me since Jackie's Feminism and Composition class then you've probably heard this spiel before. After doing a lot of reading on the internationalization of composition and now transnational writing program administration, I'm pretty convinced that we as a field have to develop some new frameworks to incorporate international contributions better. The framework work we have now has created a an isolated community of composition scholars that work toward internationalization by exporting their ideas to the rest of the writing community. We already have this practice of basing most of our work on a local to global ideology. The problem is that what we are doing is not truly global. The framework we have developed for writing programs and writing studies has allowed us to create an isolationist  narrative that keeps our research and our scholarship focused on and circulated within the United States. Instead we need to look outside of United States to help us gain a more diverse perspective on writing studies, research, and pedagogy. 

My solution to this has been to borrow some of the frameworks that transnational feminism has already developed. In his book, Don't Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff discusses the length of time it takes to create new frameworks within a culture. I figured that instead of building a new framework from the ground up, we can speed up the process by borrowing a framework from transnational feminism, which has already had some success in developing a global network. Feminism and composition have grown up alongside one another and have had similar paths during the development of their respective fields. This makes transnational feminism a great place to look for a new framework.

What do you guys think? What could be some frameworks that we could use to change up our perspective on global writing studies?

Cs Statement on Second Language Writing and Writers and the Presidential Primaries

As I read through the Cs position statement on "Second Language Writing and Writers" I couldn't help but think of the ongoing Presidential Primaries. Of course, my immediate thoughts were centered on the hate speech used towards immigrants and refugees. By now I'm sure you've heard Trump's catch phrase "I'll build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it." I don't want to use this space to just bash Trump, so let me get to the point-- I have been hearing all this racist rhetoric, but what I haven't been hearing is a response.

To be more specific, the Cs position statement asks writing instructors and writing program administrators to "Recognize and take responsibility for the regular presence of second language writers in writing classes, to understand their characteristics, and to develop instructional and administrative practices that are sensitive to their linguistic and cultural needs." How can we do this if we, as a program, remain silent or stand-offish about what is occurring in our political system? Students will come in to our classrooms feeling unwanted and maybe having experienced some form of racism, which may negatively impact their learning experience.

In our previous classes, we discussed that there are institutional silences. Lately, I have felt like this has been one of them. I have found it very strange that out of three classes that I am taking this semester that politics rarely gets brought up.

Basically what I want to emphasize is if we want students to think that we value them and their language(s), we have to address the elephant in the room.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


My song to represent WC Administration: https://youtu.be/R80JG-n2Bzs 

Beth Boquet, at times, has me buying in to her noise metaphor. For example, when she discusses the disgruntled email from PC, I bought into her analogy regarding the effects the letter had on her understanding of writing center work—effects of distortion, of reverb, of disruption. Too, I thought the Jimi Hendrix analogy was effective for representing the idea of risk, play, and noise. In these examples, I thought the metaphor was clear and strong. In other parts, however, I wanted her to explain and analyze more fully the application of the noise metaphor. After talking with Morgan about the book (she was able to read Noise in its entirety), I learned that Boquet repeats this in other sections of the book: under analyzed, underexplored assertions and reflections. I would be interested in seeing how the rest of the book plays out: what are her overall arguments about this metaphor? Does she address the limitations of this metaphor?

What do you all think about the metaphor?

Questions Posed

I have a few questions for us to consider embedded in my slideshow document for class discussion today, but here are some more to get us thinking about writing center issues in the context of this WPA class.

  • Is it appropriate to say that a "trickster" or "noisy" ideology influences your approach to administrative work when you're on the job market, or is that something you keep to yourself until after you've been hired? If it is acceptable in the field, is it still subversive to the institution? 
  • What responsibility does a writing center have to a WAC program, and vice versa? 
  • What does Boquet's writing style and research methods suggest about how the field of writing center studies has changed since 2002? What are your thoughts on that progression of the scholarship? 
  • What is your response to Boquet's argument that directors should encourage writing center tutors to be exceptional, even if it means failing at times, rather than "institutionally competent"? Is it reasonable for WPAs to ask the same of TAs? Of TAs to ask the same of student writers?
  • What's your stance about the way in which assessment aiming to justify the writing center to upper administration should be crafted? (Boquet and Harris have very different opinions on this.) 
Looking forward to responses and discussion! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Trickster Envy

As I was reading “Trickster at Your Table,” I was particularly interested in the tension that seems to exist between two epistemological theories — one that encourages the “trickster” moments that are unpredictable and nonlinear and one that adheres to traditional, structured forms of instruction. I realize the article wasn’t polarizing these two perspectives as mutually exclusive, but it did make me think about whether upper administrators – who seem to value efficiency, cost-effectiveness, clear data, etc. – would support the trickster approach.
I’m actually extremely interested in the idea of “play” and how low-stakes games and opportunities for students to truly experiment can generate new ideas, connections, and a renewed sense of curiosity. I just went to a writing conference this past weekend in which one of the speakers was talking about angles of a story and the importance of learning to write about age-old topics in new and fresh ways. She said that studies have been done that indicate how much more receptive people are when they are presented with information in new and different ways and that they are more likely to remember the content because of it. The logic goes like this: We are more likely to remember information when dopamine is released in response to certain stimuli, and our brains are more likely to release dopamine when we are presented with information that extends beyond familiar concepts and methods of delivery. However, when information seems too familiar, then we are less likely to engage with or remember the content.
I think that this relates to the “trickster” moments that are described in this chapter and the idea of helping students explore familiar concepts in new ways to enhance learning and forge new connections. It makes a lot of sense to me that this process isn’t linear, clear-cut, or predictable, which I think is more in line with how learning actually happens, but I also think there is an underlying premise within the university that learning should be controlled, organized, and predictable. We always have to name our course objectives and make clear steps toward those objectives, and as much as professors might try to cater to different learning styles, it often isn’t possible in large class settings, particularly considering the constraints of time and space. And the students themselves are often too caught up in concerns of their course grades and overall GPAs to engage with more chaotic, nontraditional activities that might (or might not) enhance learning.
I was actually just talking with some of my students the other day who are feeling stressed out about the projects that they have coming due in the next few weeks, and why they are feelings so stressed. Even though some of the projects they are working on seem interesting and certainly have the potential for exploration and creative application, my students don’t see it that way. There are too many things to do in too little time, and they are worried about getting the best grade possible. So, they don’t explore or engage in the process of trial and error.
My overall point is that although I am very interested in finding ways that will really make learning engaging and new by engaging students in the chaos and unpredictability that accompanies true learning, I’m questioning the practicality within the built-in structures of the university. What are some ways that a writing center can meaningfully and intentionally engage in “trickster” teaching methods alongside more traditional approaches? What are the challenges that they might face in terms of resistance from administrators (who value order, cost-effectiveness, and hard data) and the students themselves (who value GPAs and efficiency)?
Geller, et al. say this about the value of trickster approaches: “It is learning to unlearn, learning to be flexible in the face of newness, and learning deep listening that is hard. At those moments, we come to see that staff education practices that welcome a Trickster state of mind are even more important than we thought” (21). I completely agree, though I’m not sure that students, upper-administrators, and other various constituents hold these same values.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

WP Budgets and Sisyphus

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.--Albert Camus