April 18, 2011

Blog #12: Revisiting Our Research Journey

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:01 pm by Jennifer Lynch

We began this semester with a look at a longitudinal study by Rebekah Nathan called My Freshman Year. This was, by far, my favorite book because I walked away a more compassionate teacher, and when a composition research ethnographic study can do that, it is powerful!  I have an understanding previously not held that students must “manage” their professors in order to survive the demands of our economy and their educational journey. Nathan’s book really forced me to rethink not only my teaching methodologies, but also my research methodologies as well. Who would consider a bulletin board, a student’s message board on a door or tid bits of conversation heard through the bathroom door rhetorically worthy of research consideration?  – love it!  

I was also very enlightened by the reading Lee Ann Carroll’s Rehearsing New Roles: How College Students Develop as Writers because it made me appreciate the developmentally winding road that most college students writers encounter. Rather than focus on grammatical considerations, our writing programs should focus more on helping student’s find information, read difficult material, and interpret academic texts.

I also enjoyed Katherine Sohn’s Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia because it showed the softer side of composition research studies. I found her story of these women inspiring as they courageously confronted their fears and moved toward a better life for themselves and their famlies. This study made me think of the of all the minority women’s groups and voices (inner city women, women with disabilities, homeless women) that could be studied in a similar manner.

Finally, I felt that Howard Tinberg and Jean-Paul Nadeau’s book, The Community College Writer helped to focus on the importance of effective assignment design, modeling success and a focus on process pedagogy.  

Overall, I enjoyed my journey through composition research studies. I certainly walk away with an appreciation of what we do not know . . . still. . . and how many questions are left to be answered by the researchers that follow. May we all stand on the shoulders of greatness!


April 9, 2011

Blog #11: Digital Research Methods

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:06 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Click Here to View Ethical Challenges of Online Research

Click on Link Above to View Powerpoint Presentation

McKee, Heidi and James E. Porter. “The Ethics of Digital Writing Research: A Rhetorical Approach.” College Composition and Communication 59 4 (2008): 711-49. Print.

James Porter, author

Heidi McKee, author

 In “The Ethics of Digital Writing Research: A Rhetorical Approach,” Heidi McKee and James Porter explore the distinct ethical problems and issues of studying writing in digital environments. McKee and Porter offer a system called the “casuistic-heuristic” approach for examining ethical decisions.  They focus first on audience awareness as they feel it is the heart of their heuristic and a guiding principle of rhetorical invention.  Online researchers must “decide how to approach their study and thus where to locate themselves in terms of the groups or audiences whose perspective they will consider” (729). They also suggest considering what third party may be impacted by the research and represented in the research publication even though they are not necessarily research participants. McKee gives the example of wanting to publish screen shots of student’s work that involved third parties not involved in the research study. After much consideration, she decided to blur the images slightly of the third parties involved that she did not have direct permission. McKee’s considerations involved the following: multiple audiences, copyright law, human subject guidelines, and her own research process.

Researchers should also consider the public / private topos  – the dichotomy of internet space – and the infinite gray area between private sensitive information and public non-sensitive information. McKee suggests gridding or mapping as an alternative to the formalistic yes / no of the IRB process. Below is an example of a grid used to make ethical determinations during research studies.  


Blog #10: Ethics and Research

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:33 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Leon, Kendall and Stacey Pigg. “Graduate Students Professionalizing in Digital Time/Space:  A View from “Down Below”.” Computers and Composition 28  (2011): 3-13. Print.

 In “Graduate Students Professionalizing in Digital Time/Space:  A View From Down Below,” Kendall Leon and Stacy Pigg discuss the move toward professionalization of alternative research practices of contemporary graduate students.  As graduate students, we often feel that activities like using social media, twittering or reading blogs is not professional enough. We hold this belief for good reason: the tenure committees do not hold this activity as viable professional research practices, but perhaps the tenure committees need to reconsider their archaic position.  According to the article, these time wasters or self indulgent acts allowed graduate students to perform the following activities:

• enacting authoritative identities;

• transferring knowledge in a way that allowed them to embody, perform, or create ownership over it;

• creating professional relationships;

• finding concrete ways of visualizing tacit information

(i.e., seeing where relationships exist, understanding which scholarship is most meaningful (Leon, Pigg 12)

Click HERE for “Twitter Increases Student Engagement Study” Article

Consider the article recently published in the “Journal for Computer Assisted Learning” that states that students who were asked to contribute to class discussions and complete assignments using Twitter “increased their engagement over a semester more than twice as much as a control group.”  Basically, the study used four sections of students or 70 students total. They were given assignments and discussions that incorporated Twitter, such as tweeting about their experiences on a job shadow day or commenting on class readings. Three sections (55 students) did the same assignments and had access to the same information, but didn’t use Twitter. In addition to showing more than twice the improvement in engagement than the control group, the students who used Twitter also achieved on average a .5 point increase in their overall GPA for the semester (Kessler 1).  If you think about it, the study makes sense. If you are thinking about a subject in small chunks of information, then writing about it in 140 letters, then you are going to retain more information and process it better than traditional lecture style learning.

I recently went to an FLVS conference where the theme was “more with less.” We had a speaker who played on this theme. Think about times of scarcity. Is this not when we are our most creative? Were not the victims of the holocaust not immensely creative in finding ways to survive when resources were extremely limited? Wouldn’t teaching our students creativity under restraint serve them better in this new economy than the archaic 10-12 page essay?

March 19, 2011

Blog #9: Ethical Considerations

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:51 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Gesa E. Kirsch

Peter Mortensen

In “Reflections on Methodology in Literacy Studies,” the introduction from their recent book (see left) Gesa Kirsch and Peter Mortensen reflect on the complex ethical and research questions that are rarely discussed in literary studies. They have successfully compiled several articles that deal with the ethics and representation when conducting qualitative research in literary studies.

I have listed the questions below from page xxii of their book because I feel that it gives a good overview of the scholarly questions the rhetorical field seeks to address in this book:

  1. How do power, authority, and equity figure into researchers relationships with their subjects? How is the position of the subject defined by the role of the researcher, and vice versa?
  2. What ethical issues must composition scholars consider when undertaking qualitative methods
  3. How do researchers identities and subjectivities (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class) shape their cognition and interpretation of data at the site of inquiry?
  4. How do institutional and historical contexts shape the conduct and outcomes of qualitative research?
  5. How are ethnographic data transformed into narratives? What happens – what is gained and lost – in this transformation?
  6. What narrative and rhetorical strategies do authors of ethnographies and case studies invoke in their writing – and towards what ends?

The introduction outlines the book:  Part 1 of the book focuses on confronting ethical dilemmas such as how to write revealing and truthful accounts of fieldwork while “honoring the interest trust and privacy of the subjects.” (4). Part 2 examines ethical considerations when representing others. How do you fairly represent their voices, experiences, and lives in qualitative research?

Thomas Newkirk

In part one of their book, Kirsch and Mortensen include an article by Thomas Newkirk entitled, “Seduction and Betrayal in Qualitative Research” where he maintains that the close working relationship between researcher and research-ee constitutes a seduction. How are you able to be critical of study participants and not violate their trust and friendship?  He states that when researchers withhold judgment during observations, valuable opportunities are lost for dialogue and growth (5).  Newkirk maintains the following ethical practices to help alleviate the betrayal often felt when a research-ee has to learn the “bad news” from reading the final report:  commit  to sharing the bad news with participants during the research process, grant participants rights to co-interpretation, and take on the responsibility of intervention (5).

Bonnie Sustein

One highlight from part 2 of Kirsch and Mortensen’s book is Bonnie Sustein’s article, “Culture on the Page: Experience, Rhetoric, and Aesthetics in Ethnographic Writing.” She examines the rhetorical and aesthetic features of ethnographic discourse (7).  Sustein draws her reflections from working with a summer institute for teachers. She examines the unease and often guilt associated with collecting, selecting and transforming data into ethnographic narratives. She discusses the representational and rhetorical issues in writing ethnographies and calls for more self-reflexivity in the field (7).

Blog #8: Qualitative Studies of College Writers

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:29 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Tinberg, Howard and Jean-Paul Nadeau. The Community College Writer:  Exceeding Expectations. A Study Funded by the   Calderwood Writing Initative and Bristol Community College. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010. Print.

 Howard Tinberg and Jean-PaulNadeau conducted a study to determine to what extent  faculty expectations match those of first semester students (3). Their study used the following methodology: 70 faculty surveys, student interviews and data analysis. They followed 16 first time student writers throughout this quantitative study. The researchers developed and focused primarily on the following questions: (3) I have posted them here because I feel that these would be good survey questions for anyone seeking to do their own qualitative study in the area:

  1. How much writing was assigned beyond the required basic and college-level writing course? Were students prepared for the volume of writing required?
  2.  To what extent were students writing in genres other than the essay? Did students expect to write in modes other than the academic essay?
  3. What role did revision have in writing instruction at the college? How did students understanding of this task differ from that of faculty?
  4. When faculty assessed student writing, was the emphasis on higher or lower order concerns? Did faculty feedback match student expectations?
  5. How extensive was faculty commentary on student writing? What purpose did that commentary serve? To explain a grade? To guide revision? Both? How did students process the commentary?

Tinberg and Nadeau found in their study as did Mina Shaughnessy in her work that it is important that “we study the logic of student error.” Her philosophy shared by Tinberg and Nadeau promotes in all teachers “a readiness to look at these problems in a way that does not ignore the linguistic sophistication of the students nor yet underestimates the complexity of the task they face as they set about learning to write for college” (16).  As well, Tinberg and Nadeau shed light on the need for professional development for writing instructors in the following areas:  rubric development, course creation, and crafting meaningful commentary to student writing. “Pedagogical approaches among community college faculty vary considerably with the most common approach being the “didactic, teacher centered approach, in which the lecture is prominent” (37). Some professors utilize more constructivist modes of teaching though “meaning making” or the constructivist mode of teaching, but most rely on skill and drill exercises and chunking information (37).

February 20, 2011

Blog #7: Distinguished Book Award Presentation

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:10 pm by Jennifer Lynch

2008 Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award

Sidler, Michelle, Richard Morris, and Elizabeth Overman Smith, ed. Computers in the Composition Classroom: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston / New York: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2008. Print.

For more information, Click Here to Visit Computers and Composition: An International Journal Wed Site

Meet the Editors:

Michelle Sidler, Auburn University

For More Information on the Work of Michelle Sidler, Click Here to Visit the Auburn University Web Site

Meet Elizabeth Overman Smith, Tennessee State University

For More Information on the Work of Betsy Smith, Click Here to Visit the Tennessee State University Web Site

Meet Richard Morris, Parkland College: No Picture Available

For more information on the Work of Richard Morris, Click Here to Visit Parkland College Web Site

Computers in the Composition Classroom: A Critical Sourcebook, an edited compilation of 31articles, won the 2008 Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award. The book is divided into six sections:

  1. Foundations of Computers and Composition
  2. Literacy and Access
  3. Writers and Identity
  4. Writers and Composing
  5. Institutional Programs
  6. The Rhetoric of New Media Writing

Since the focus of our work is research methodology, I will concentrate on two articles that involved rhetoric and composition research studies and attempt to dissect their methods of research as opposed to reviewing their findings.

Palmquist, Mike, Kate Kiefer, James Hartvigsen, and Barbara Goodlew, ed. Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms. Greenwich: Ablex, 1998. Print.

The first article, original citation listed above, is from the Writers and Composing section of the compilation. The authors highlight the results of two studies: the Transitions Study and the New Teachers study. Their intention is to help teachers accept the challenge of crossing the boundaries between traditional and computer-supported writing classrooms.

Audience:  Includes composition scholars, writing program administrators and faculty seeking research to better use and understand the impact of computers and composition.

Assumed Disciplinary Knowledge/Expectations: They assumed that the goals of the teacher would not change, but that the teacher would likely use different strategies in each setting. They assumed that the different settings would cause students to act differently and even learn different things about writing.  They expected the central goals of the writing course to be met:  learning about audience, purpose, developing and supporting ideas, planning, drafting, revising and collaboration.  They expected the different settings might lead students to develop different attitudes and behaviors toward writing and collaboration.

Primary Research Question: What are the concerns of teachers and students as they move from a traditional to a computer-supported classroom?

Study Design:  They based the study largely on comparison. They looked for differences between the classroom settings and changes in student behaviors and attitudes over time. In order to ensure that the groups of students they compared were similar, they compared student scores on standardized tests, the University composition placement exam, and on their measures of writing anxiety, writing confidence, computer anxiety, and experience in previous writing classes (253). They also based their comparisons on information drawn from student academic records and surveys administered at the beginning of the semester.

They observed the following contexts:

  1. Teaching strategies and class preparation
  2. Teacher attitudes about teaching in the two classroom settings
  3. Interactions among students and between teachers and students
  4. Student attitudes about writing
  5. Student writing performance

Rhetorical Stance:  This study was written from a researcher and data perspective.

Epistemology: The epistemology that underlies the work is mostly hypothesis generating, and I think that the researchers are mostly positivistic.

Methodology:  Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. They employed observation, survey analysis, interviews, and data analysis.

Hawisher, Gail E and Cynthia L. Selfe. “The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class.” College Composition and Communication 42.1  (1991): 55-65. Print.

Audience: Includes composition scholars, writing program administrators and faculty seeking research to better use and understand the impact of computers and composition.

Assumed Disciplinary Knowledge/Expectations: Those who use computers for composition speak and write of “the effects of technology” in overly positive terms. As editors of a journal devoted to studies in computers and composition, they found often that glowing reports received about the benefits of technology failed to reconcile the differences between a visionary image of technology and their own firsthand observations about the limits of technology (36).

Primary Research Question: Researchers seek to examine the enthusiastic discourse that has accompanied the introduction of computers into writing classes and explore how this language may influence both change and the status quo in electronic classrooms (36).

Study Design:  They looked at published reports of computer use that appear in professional journals, examined data about computer use collected through questionnaires completed by writing instructors at the 1988 Conference on Computers in Writing and Language Instruction and compared these analyses with a series of onsite classroom observations. After comparing these accounts of computer use, described through what they call the “rhetoric of technology” and their observations of electronic writing classes, they discuss how electronic technology can intensify those inequitable authority structures common to American education (36).

Rhetorical Stance:  This study was written from a researcher, data and theoretical perspective.

Epistemology: The epistemology that underlies the work is mostly hypothesis generating, and I think that the researchers are mostly positivistic.

Methodology:  Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. They employed observation, survey analysis, interviews, and data analysis.

February 19, 2011

Blog #6: Qualitative Studies of College Writers

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:39 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Lee Ann Carroll’s Rehearsing New Roles: How College Students Develop as Writers took me on a humbling journey as an educator. Oh how I would like to believe the “faculty fantasies” that I matter to students, that I make an impact on their lives, that I will open an unexplored world for them, that they will look back fondly . . . when they won’t; they don’t and few, if any, can even recall their the literature they read in their first year composition classes.  Why do we continue to believe the hero/savior/mentor myth of the professor when the research is glaringly obvious? Why do we need it to be so? When it comes to college, students play the game: figure out what the professor wants, give it to her, and move on.

Carroll’s book reinforces this idea first introduced to us in My FreshmanYear by Rebekah Nathan.  Her research also evidenced this concept of student’s “managing college.” Nathan asserts the modern college student must balance work and college to maintain their lifestyle and offset a heavier financial responsibility for college expenses.

Here is an overview Lee Ann Carroll’s claims from her research:

  1. Writing assessment in college requires numerous skills:
    1. Critical literacy
    2. Research skill
    3. Ability to read complex texts
    4. Understanding disciplinary concepts
    5. Strategies for synthesizing
    6. Strategies for analyzing
    7. Strategies for responding critically to new information
    8. Ability to work within a limited time frame
  2. Faculty underestimate the variety of writing tasks. The variables are course, discipline, and professor.
  3. First year writing course skills do not necessarily transfer to student’s major areas of study.
  4. Students who begin as fluent, effective writers generally continue to be successful, but their skills weaken when they encounter new and unfamiliar expectations.
  5. Students who demonstrate difficulty with writing and learning content material do manage to improve in their discipline and the genre required of them. However, professors are not privy to their growth and often show frustration in their feedback about writing ability in upper level courses.
  6. Student’s literacy develops because they take on new and difficult roles that challenge their ability as writers. Students do need repetition to develop college writing skills that are often new to them.
  7. Standardized test assessment cannot capture the diversity of student’s literary experience or their ability to use literacy to negotiate the demands of their particular discipline.

Click here for a link to Pepperdine University and more information on Lee Ann Carroll

February 14, 2011

Blog #5: Ethnographies of College Writing Classrooms

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:13 pm by Jennifer Lynch

On this Valentine’s Day, in the spirit of love and partnership, it seems a good time to discuss collaboration, agency and the use of social software and peer-production tools to develop ideas, theory and curriculum between graduate students, teachers, professors, and undergraduate students. In Agency in the Age of Peer Production, the authors explore the idea of how peer production tools alter the ability of writing program administrators and teachers to find agency – or the ability to affect change (2). They conducted a qualitative study to analyze agency on the individual and community level. Interestingly, in discussion of agency, the authors quote the Porter and Sullivan article I posted previously in Blog #3 entitled, “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” In this article, Stuart Blythe (et al) state that the ability to affect change, or agency, comes from being a part of something larger . . .”by being part of systems that constrain and enable us simultaneously” (173). The authors of Agency in the Age of Peer Production use the blog carnival as a great example of how the collaborative effects of authors collated into a single repository demonstrate agency held by both the individual and the collective as envisioned in the “Institutional Critique” article; this new rhetorical ability granted by technology will allow us to change large institutions.

Regarding changing institutions and the “tectonic shifts in agency” rhetoric and composition is currently experiencing, Keith Rhodes’s piece, “Ethnography or Psychography? The Evolution and Ethics of a New Genre in Composition” introduces another genre from which we can draw qualitative research. He introduces the term psychography as a distinct genre: “thickly described writing exploring the connections of individual psyches with specific cultural conditions” (36). This new genre is characterized by the following:

  1. Reasonably extended study
  2. Moderate thickness of description
  3. Small focus groups
  4. Collaborative separation of teacher and researcher roles
  5. Self-conscious personalizing of all participants
  6. Genuine concern of the dignity of the teachers and students observed.

For further information on peer production, check out this article:

Datagogies, Writing Spaces, and the Age of Peer Production by Joseph Moxley (pictured right)

Below is a powerpoint about how to use wiki’s in education:

Wiki Workshop: Using Wikis to Build and Share Knowledge

Teaching with Wikis to Build and Share Knowledge

February 11, 2011

Blog #4: Ethnographic Theory

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:41 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Robert Brooke’s article, “Underlife and Writing Instruction,” published in College Composition and Communication addresses the sociological concept of underlife in the writing classroom. Basically, students will actively seek identities through “standing outside the roles and beliefs offered by a social situation – questioning them, searching for new connections, building ideas that may conflict with accepted ways of thinking and acting” (141). Brooke gives several examples of student’s bravado and rebellion within the classroom throughout the article. He also addresses the idea that they are all helping each other to “get by” without losing themselves in the expectations (147).

This concept reminds me of our earlier reading of My FreshmanYear by Rebekah Nathan. Her research also evidenced this concept of student’s “managing college” because as Nathan asserts the modern college student must balance work and college to maintain their lifestyle and offset a heavier financial responsibility for college expenses. Brooke seems to find that student’s behavior is in an attempt to “clearly distance oneself from the demands of the classroom while hopefully remaining successful within it” (148). I think Nathan is more on target with her findings; student’s underlife behavior stems from a need to manage college demands more than a rebellious identity seeking exercise.

I do like Brooke’s call for a pedagogical shift with his citation on page 150 of Knoblauch and Barnnon’s Rhetorical Traditions. They suggest changing the structure of the classroom to a “writing workshop” where students and teachers communicate one on one in conference like settings.

With today’s online classroom, the need for student individuation and rebellious bravado is eliminated. Student and teacher always meet in a one on one conference like setting thanks to tool like the Elluminate Virtual Classroom and other technologies. New technology and the demand for online classes are creating an exponential pedagogical shift Brooke could only dream of in 1987!

Check out this video of  FLVS, Florida Virtual School, where I am currently employed as an English 4, Senior English, teacher. I live this pedagogical shift everday in my Elluminate Virtual Classroom. I meet with students one on one, review their work, and talk to them as a facilitator in workshop style pedagogy. The future is now; my passion is to educate others of the benefits!

Check out this video about Elluminate, the virtual classroom product we use to meet with students, review their work and offer the one on one instruction Brooke’s envisioned:

January 30, 2011

Blog #3: Article Overview – Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:39 pm by Jennifer Lynch

Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change               

Porter,  James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey T. Grabill, Libby Miles. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change ” College Composition and Communication Vol. 51  Issue 4 (2000): 610-42. Print.

Click Here to Access the Above Article

Click Here for Related Article

Click Here for Related Article

Primary Research Question: Can rhetoric change institutions? Can rhetoric and composition researchers implement a new methodology called “institutional critique” to deploy change and counter oppressive institutional structures? Can rhetorical critique have an action plan? “Somewhere between the macro-level national critiques and the micro-level practices on individual campuses is space for an action plan informed by critique yet responsive to local conditions” (616).

Rhetorical Stance:  (written from Theoretical / Researcher’s Perspective) James Porter, Patricia Sullivan (et al) seek to validate institutional critique as a viable research methodology. Basically, their claim is that although institutions are powerful, they are not monoliths, but rhetorically constructed human designs (buildings, laws, traditions, knowledge-making practices) capable of change (611). They propose that institutions are rhetorical entities; therefore, rhetoric can change them. As rhetoricians, rather than focus on the traditional composition classroom, the department of English, and on disciplinary forms of critique, they advocate that we shift our focus to professional writing, public discourse, and adapt spatial methods of postmodern geography  like postmodern mapping and boundary interrogation with critical theory as a vehicle driving activist methodology in institutional critique.

Epistemology: The epistemology that underlies the work comes from theorists such as Vincent Leitch, Henry Grioux, Michael Berube and Jim Sosnoski. They chose postmodern resources that eschew theoretical abstractions in favor of the materially and spatially situated forms of analysis from postmodern geographers such as Edward Soja, David Sibley, Doreen Massey, Michel de Certeau, and David Harvey as well as critical research perspectives of feminist methodologies of Patti Lather, Liz Stanley, and Patricia Sullivan. They also include the following pragmatic theorists:  Michael Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Donna Haraway.

Methodology:  See figure below:

Basically, here is a summary of institutional critique:

  • Institutional critique examines structures from a spatial, visual and organizational perspective.
  • Institutional critique  looks for gaps or fissures, places where resistance and change are possible.
  • Institutional critique undermines the binary between theory and empirical research by engaging in situated theorizing and relating that theorizing through stories of change and attempted change (631).

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