Notes: Paul Walker, “Let’s Disagree (to Agree): Queering the Rhetoric of Agreement in Writing Assessment”

Walker, Paul. (2017). Let’s disagree (to agree): Queering the rhetoric of agreement in writing assessment. Composition Forum, 35. Web. http://compositionforum.com/issue/35/agreement.php

Summary:

Walker uses queer theory perspectives on failure to challenge assumptions of agreement or validity.

Keywords: composition, failure, queer, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, writing assessment, writing studies

Sources:

Heard, Matthew. (2013). Tonality and ethos. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 46(1), 44-64.

Scott, Tony and Lil Brannon. (2013). Democracy, struggle, and the praxis of assessment. College Composition and Communication, 65(2), 273-298.

Walker, Paul. (2013). Composition’s akrasia: The devaluing of intuitive expertise in writing assessment. enculturation, 15. http://enculturation.net/compositions-akrasia.

Quotations:

“In such an ‘uncontained’ sense, here I adopt a queer positionality from which perspective I consider the “disorienting excess” emerging from an assessment study relegated to the margins as a result of its failure to meet empirical measures of significance—statistical reliability standards—that orient and are “contained” by writing assessment scholarship”.

“[F]ailure becomes instead a path to nowhere, a space wherein we cannot predict, and by doing so, generate alternative ways of sustaining”.

“I am in no way suggesting agreement, confirmation, or reliability are wrong intrinsically; rather, I propose that agreement as the subsumption of difference can, through institutional mandates and what D. Diane Davis calls the “rhetoric of totality” (12), marginalize queerness by reifying masculinized and capitalistic traditions, including the persistent upward trajectory of merit or value-added results and the assumption that answers to difficult questions about learning and performance and identity are waiting to be found by acting subjects”.

“Constantly moving towards the center, towards explicit harmony and sameness via expected standards of social-scientific statistical measurement to determine the “success” of assessment, reinforces for those outside our discipline the primacy of a correct methodology over complexly and ecologically hermeneutic meaning and validity, thus maintaining enough legitimacy for administrators to continue to coopt a reductive and possibly irresponsible holistic methodology”.

“Intuition, of course, is scientifically queer, for it resists the requirement of outside or empirical verification; indeed, it resists replicated verity as validation, proposing instead that extensive experience affords individually nuanced interpretations by multiple individuals that is more valuable in their ecological complexity than multiple individuals arriving at one clear determinate interpretation”.

“Our aim as teachers is to facilitate learning, which stubbornly resists accuracy, consistency, generalizability, fairness, efficiency, or any other term that is usually applied to calibrated assessment”.

Notes: Allison Carr, “In Support of Failure”

Carr, Allison. “In Support of Failure.” Composition Forum 27 (2013).

failure is cool

Summary:

Carr (re)situates failure from an assessment-oriented opposite-of-success to offer a queer-affective reclamation of failure in writing pedagogy.

Keywords: Failure, Affect, Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Composition, Teaching of Writing, Pedagogy

Sources:

Bartholomae, David. Inventing the University. Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Ellen Cushman et. al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 511-24.

Burger, Edward. Teaching to Fail. Inside Higher Ed. 21 August, 2012.

Quotations:

“[F]ailure is difficult, maybe impossible, to define. When we talk about failure as a profession, we most often talk about assessment-based failure, which we’ve come to understand as an expected consequence of learning… I want to think about failure, then, as an affect-bearing concept… I want to highlight the inherent affectivity of the judgment and insist that when considered in the context of affect/emotion, failure reveals itself to be a deeply complex phenomenon that bears upon one’s private self-concept as well as one’s sense of oneself as a social being”

“[W]hen we think about re-conceptualizing failure, we have to think not only about the personal realm but also about the sociocultural context in which failure is embedded and throughout which it circulates”

“As an outcome of assessment, failure makes us profoundly aware of our place in social and academic strata. It makes the borders of our physical and emotional selves known to us, and it emphasizes the distance between ourselves and others”

  • I want to know what happens when failure isn’t the silent antithesis of success or the final and unspeakable consequence of struggle or deviance against social and/or pedagogical norms;
  • I want to know if it’s possible to fail without being erased, cast out;
  • I want to know what becomes possible when we stop thinking about education as a forward-moving, product-oriented march toward some mark of achievement, and instead we start thinking of it as something bent more toward chaos.

“A pedagogy of failure, then, would have to account for relationality as well as isolation—how all of the parts work on their own as well as how all of the parts work together, how these expectations are formed as well as how they are stretched or upset by the demands of particular contexts”

Notes: Jeff Rice, “Networked Assessment”

Rice, Jeff. “Networked Assessment.” Computers and Composition 28.1 (2011): 28-39.

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Summary:

Jeff Rice uses network theory, drawing heavily on Latour, to develop a new media inspired writing program assessment method.

Keywords: Assessment, Network, New Media, Writing Studies

Sources:

Prior, Paul, & Shipka, Jody. “Chronotopic lamination: Tracing the contours of literate activity.” In Charles Bazerman, & David Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/Writing societies: Research from activity perspectives. Fort Collins, CO: WAC Clearinghouse and Mind, Culture, and Activity, 2003.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, & Huot, Brian (Eds.). Assessing writing across the curriculum: Diverse approaches and practices. Greenwich, CT: Ablex, 1997.

Quotations:

“Networked thinking has emerged as a way of making sense of disparate information collected in a given space. In writing studies or its assessment, however, network thinking has not emerged in the same manner. Although we live in an age dominated by new media technologies as varied as word processing and social networking, we spend little time considering how the logics and rhetorics of such technologies might shape institutional practices like assessment that attempt to gather information into a space” (28).

“When one has collected enough detailed descriptions, on can then trace various relationships among the collected material and begin to see how these relationships contribute to a given meaning system. Whatever is described and traced will reveal unknown relationships… The purpose of tracing is to flesh out the possible relationships existing in any given moment, to create what Latour calls an account. An account is a description, not proof of value” (29).

“While assessment has generally concerned itself with issues of value, proving a program or individual’s work is valuable to oneself or to a higher governing body, we might benefit from imagining a networked based assessment whose focus is account based rather than value based” (29).

“My interest is in proposing the tracing of recurring links as a method for conducting writing program assessment” (29).

“These events, no matter how local we make them out to be, function in relationship to other events. In these relationships, a myriad of influences might play into a given writing moment that an ethnographic study might not observe: time of day, mood, interests, desires, motivations, media influence, writing that the student does elsewhere, the room itself, what happened before the student sat down to write, and so on–the very things that compose a localized relationship…” (31).

“Assessment, therefore, may not have to depend on the outcome of success or failure, good or bad, right or wrong, value or lack of value in order to be meaningful to one’s program or superiors” (31).

“I am interested in an assessment which, influenced by new media, may need to invent its own vocabulary and not be shaped by the previous ideological positions or terminologies, as admirable as these terms (validity, ethics) might be” (33).

“The networked assessment does not discard the traditional objects of study assessment treats… Their commonality is important to the networked experience; our task is to extend this commonality so that the areas are viewed as being in relationship with one another” (35).

Questions, Reflection, Response:

I’m fairly familiar with the Huot (1996) call for localized forms of assessment and I think the application of network theory as a practice for program assessment is an compelling method for conducting these assessments. This development of a cartographic assessment that can entered at any point, triangulate outcomes with patterns and objects of study through the use of network theory and mix-method research, and is followable is a lot of what I’ve been looking for in an assessment method. I wonder then if there is a way to give network assessment as a way to respond to student writing, or to make a network assessment of the local assumptions of assessment’s value and make explicit its theoretical underpinnings.

Notes: Tony Scott & Asao B. Inoue, “Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”

Scott, Tony & Asao B. Inoue. (2015). Assessing writing shapes contexts and instruction. in Linda Adler-Kassner & Elizabeth Wardle (eds.) Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Logan: Utah State University Press, 29-31.

Summary:

Scott and Inoue discuss the ways in which the assessment of student writing impacts the relationship that writers have with writing, the limitations that this relationship brings, and the impacts this relationship brings to genre and the content of writing. Scott and Inoue articulate that this relationship defines the context in which composition occurs, situated in an assessments-oriented environment.

Keywords: composition, first-year writing, genre, pedagogy, threshold concepts, writing assessments, writing program administration, writing studies

Sources:

Gould, Stephen J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: E.W. Norton.

Hanson, F. Allan. (1993). Testing testing: Social consequences of the examined life. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Quotations:

“[A]ssessment is not neutral: it shapes the social and rhetorical contexts where writing takes place, especially in school. Any assessment or evaluation applies specific values and also encourages writers to adopt those values” (30).

“Institutions can use assessments to inform teachers and students while lending them agency, or they can align prescribed curricula with assessment outcomes to determine the focus of teaching and circumscribe the scope of students’ writing. Writing assessment can thereby function as an intentional means of controlling the labor and creative latitude of teachers and students” (30-31).

Questions:

Is there space in writing assessments to value writing that may inhabit a space outside its defined scope? What might that space look like and how can it be enacted? In what ways would assessing these kinds of writing trouble the tacit values in writing assessments and the expectations of the labor in writing? And in what ways can those performing assessments be reflective about these issues?

If writing assessments determine the contexts for writing and are, in turn, given their own shape within a given context, in what ways are those values enacted–further, in what ways can the values of writing assessment be made explicit to student writers who have to intuitively inhabit this context?