Although this session is not explicitly about basic writing, I think it’s important to add to the conversation. As we think about basic writing, its many forms, and its many different curricular definitions & iterations across the country, the WPA Outcomes for First Year Writing have become a national touchstone for what first year comp “should” do. Campuses often rely on this as a way to shape local conversations and the outcomes provide an important baseline for national conversations about writing curriculum.
There is no correlation for basic writing. In fact, as many of us regularly discuss at CCCC and CBW, there is not even a common definition of basic writing other than “not ready for college level writing.”
As the WPA takes next step in thinking about the impact of technology on multimodal composition, it seems like this is a crucial consideration for the basic writing community.
Should we work communally to try to develop an outcomes statement, in collaboration with other groups, like TYCA? If so, what role would technology play in this statement?
Notes from this session are offered in the spirit of thinking about a future basic writing outcomes statement.
Chair: Beth Brunk-Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso
Respondent: Kathleen Blake Yancey, Florida State University
Speaker: Joe Bizup, Boston University
Speaker: Darsie Bowden, DePaul University
Speaker: Dylan Dryer, University of Maine
Speaker: Susanmarie Harrington, University of Vermont
The panel began with Susanmarie Harrington offering a history of the WPA Outcomes statement and its origin in 1996 with a post to WPA-L that resulted in more than 120 suggestions to an individual writing program director about a local outcomes statement. This kicked off a lengthy process in developing a statement that would be useful to campuses. The outcomes statement was made by hundreds of people to be used. The collective work created a policy document that was used to create change. It provided a scaffold for local programs that used the statement and adapted it to get local work done. It provided a frame for what writers do, what works for students, and what works for faculty and programs.
Darsie Bowden, chair of the task force, provided an overview of the task force’s work.
Task force members include: Darsie Bowden, Susanmarie Harrington, Kathleen Blake Yancey, Beth Brunk-Chavez, Lisa Mahle-Grisez, Doug Downs, Doug Hesse, Joe Bizup, Dylan Dryer, Bump Halbritter, and J. Elizabeth Clark.
Bowden next presented the results of a survey: 195 respondents from a four-year college, 21 respondents from two-year colleges, 3 from high schools, and 7 others.
61% of the respondents were very familiar with the WPA Outcomes Statement and an additional 27% were somewhat familiar.
The response to “What does ‘digital literacies’ mean” was very varied. 65% of respondents preferred that any revisions including digital literacy be added to the current WPA statement.
Bowden shared a rich set of written comments provided by respondents including suggestions for additional items (like basic writing and translingualism!) to be added to the WPA Outcomes Statement.
Dylan Dryer gave an overview of what the WPA statement does today and made a case for revising the current statement. He explored the differences between composing and writing. He argued that the WPA statement describes the common knowledge, skills, and attitudes sought by first year composition programs in U.S. post-secondary institutions. Today, that should include digital literacies.
Joe Bizup provided 3 concerns about revising the statement: teaching digital literacies are not central to teaching writing (a central concern), we lack a definition of digital literacies (a definitional concern), digital literacies are best addressed after first year composition (a not yet concern). Bizup enumerated and complicated each of these concerns as a way of thinking about how to deepen the work of the committee and the revision.
The session then moved to small group discussion and critique of the statement and the proposed revisions as a way to garner additional input from the CCCC community.
In the small group report out, people raised the following concerns/issues:
- Issues of access: where will students do this work? What does it mean to bring technology into first year writing but not into the classroom (if you don’t have a computer lab/iPad program/etc.) ?
- How can this document speak to people who teach in a program where there is only 1 required comp course? (versus 2)
- What is the definition of digital literacy?
- What is the difference between this and the “Composing in Electronic Environments” document?
- Could this be more of a framework that part of the outcomes?
- Modality, digital, on-line: what are we talking about? Are they the same? What are the boundaries of composition as a field? What do we acknowledge is not ours as a field? For example, what about audio included in a composition? Who here is an expert in speech and audio production?
- The introduction to the original statement says that the WPA Outcomes Statement is NOT a required set of outcomes. They were meant to be adapted.
- Could this document embody the multiple purposes and audiences more fluidly? What would happen if this document embodied multi-modal composition?
- How can we make this document embody recursive practice?
- The original document talks about “habits of mind” and “skills” that students should have. Why? Why do we want them to have this? The answer to this question leads us to why digital literacies are important in our curriculum.
- If we’re going to teach them to be good critical consumers and good writers in the spaces they (students) inhabit, then we need to move into digital spaces.
- Are our students writing and reading in digital spaces? Are we preparing our students for the workforce? We need to make sure that we have empirical numbers. Isn’t some of this happening off-line?
- Digital technologies can already be included in many of the current outcomes as a form of writing. We don’t need to specifically address digital technologies.
The session ended with Kathleen Blake Yancey, offering a response to the session, the task force’s work, and the small group discussion.
1. Yancey argues that the document needs some kind of updating.
2. The current WPA Outcomes Statement was meant to be a boundary document (setting out definitions and constructs). We do not want to lose that utility.
3. The 6 areas we need to examine are:
- Representativeness (the other areas that have been identified like reading & translingualism) & consensus about the national landscape of first year writing
- The idea of cross talk between this document and other documents (should that be an implicit or explicit part of the process?)
- The construct of writing: what is the difference between writing and composing?
- The distinction between digital literacy and visual rhetoric is odd: they are not synonyms; what about digital rhetoric? Visual literacy? Now we have 4 terms, not 2.
- Can outcomes sponsor conversations? Yes. (see Pamela Moss’ work) Can outcomes support students? These are both useful and important components of a flexible articulation of writing.
- There are other issues that need to be addressed such as how students who are enrolled and supported in first year writing programs are successful in college.
4. The WPA Outcomes Statement is a living document. It will be revised.