Reflections on serving as a WPA

I have served as the director of composition at UB for seven years. Technically I’m still director for another month, but at this point, I’m basically done. In a way it was a strange job for me to do because I have always been and remain something of an abolitionist in relation to FYC, though…

universities, politics, Devoss, and conservatives

Some of my colleagues, like Seth Kahn and Steve Krause, have written about DeVoss’ comments at CPAC. It’s all very much a rehearsal of the same old conservative red meat about liberal professors indoctrinating students. Like many such criticisms, I think they often reveal more about the critic than the object of her criticism. That…

teaching for democracy in first-year composition

Asao Inoue has a thoughtful post here revisiting James Berlin and the idea of composition as instruction in democratic citizenship. Undoubtedly there is a deep connection to classical rhetoric in this connection, though Berlin revitalized that link for the postmodern era. Like Inoue, I was also strongly affected by Berlin as a grad student in the…

laptops, classrooms, and matters of electrate concern

Last week, Inside HigherEd reported on this study (by Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg, and Michael Walker), which shows, once again, that students who use laptops in classrooms do not perform as well as students without laptops. Steve Krause wrote about the study a few days ago, wondering what might happen in a laptop-mandated classroom as opposed to…

the cognitive-media ecologies of graduate curriculum

I seem to have developed a recent preference for the term “cognitive-media ecology.” It’s not a term one finds readily bandied about, but it references a familiar concept or at least an intersection of two familiar concepts: media ecology and cognitive ecology. Though they are separate fields with the latter including a more constellation of empirical…

making a graduate seminar pedagogy

For the first half of my career, I rarely taught graduate courses, but since I’ve come to UB, it’s become a central part of my job, especially teaching our Teaching Practicum.  In the last couple years I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with what I’m doing, so I am resolved to change it. Basically I do what…

students can’t write and other slow news days

Making the Facebook rounds of late is this article that makes the titular observation that “Poor Writing Skills Are Costing Businesses’ Billions.” Huh. Maybe so. The article, posted a week ago, cites three reports on this situation… from 2004, 2006, and 2011. Maybe the situation hasn’t improved. Probably not. I doubt anything systematic has been done…

What would a new materialist composition program be?

Sure, there are many possible answers, which is why this is “a,” as in one of many, rather than “the.” That said, we’re familiar with plenty of other kinds of programs, classes, and pedagogies as they take the shape of particular theories, the strands that Fulkerson identifies: critical cultural studies, expressivism, various “rhetorical approaches” (argument-based,…

Yancey, teaching for transfer, and a theory of writing

I saw Kathleen Yancey speak last week at RIT about her latest research on teaching for transfer. I find the focus on transfer is a little curious but important to discuss. Fundamentally, almost tautologically, the purpose of teaching and learning would be to acquire knowledge and skills that have value in contexts beyond the one in…

What If? Special Higher Education Issue

Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris at Hybrid Pedagogy ask “Imagine that no educational technologies had yet been invented — no chalkboards, no clickers, no textbooks, no Learning Management Systems, no Coursera MOOCs. If we could start from scratch, what would we build?” As the image here suggests, this reminds me of the What If? Marvel comics. The ones…