Posts Tagged ‘WPA’

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Celebrating long-term WPA Lisa Ede

posted: 10.23.14 by Andrea Lunsford

In recent months, I’ve followed a fascinating thread on the WPA listserv about members of the rhetoric and writing community who serve as long-term WPAs (writing program administrators). Indeed, it is not unusual for people in our field to be asked to take on administrative jobs: doing so more or less comes with the territory, since the departments we work in usually have writing programs that need guidance and leadership. It is also not unusual for such WPAs to go on to other administrative jobs, including associate deans, deans, provosts, and even presidents. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford
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Pre-Planning's Rewards

posted: 3.11.09 by archived

Several days ago, I was messaged by my WPA–former WPA, actually–at the CSU where I taught this past fall. She reminded us that our self-evaluations and paperwork were due. And that made me happy. Very happy.

I took care of that a month ago, thanks to Google Calendar and some pre-planning. I regularly post all of my coming deadlines so I don’t forget what needs to be done. And when it comes to publishing, writing, or work-related due dates, I try to post two, four, and six week reminders. Now, I do not have to worry about being late with my work. Not to mention, it’s also very professional looking.

It relieves the tension and stress that looms in my mind. Instead of having to focus on yet another project distracting me from my current classes, I can remain focused on my students.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel
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On Board with Blackboard

posted: 6.25.07 by Barclay Barrios

To continue the “working with imperfect technology” theme . . .

I’ve never been one for Course Management Systems (CMS). WebCT and Blackboard (Bb) always struck me as being imagined for a huge 300-seat lecture course and not specifically for my 22-seat writing course–it was just too much, too big, too complex, too everything So, while I’ve long been a tech kinda person, I’ve also long avoided using CMS of any kind. But that’s changed recently and one of the reasons it’s changed is the Community site feature of Blackboard. One of my colleagues here actually suggested we start one for the writing program and I’ve been so glad that I followed his advice.

The first thing the Writing Program Community site does for us is provide a central document archive where we can post sample assignments, syllabi, and policy statements. These are organized by course so people moving into a course for the first time have one place to look for all the stuff they need to get ready to teach. We’ve also used the discussion board with some limited success (it’s hard to get a critical mass going for sustained discussion, ya know?), most usefully when we want to toss out an issue and get feedback and commentary. The most exciting tool, though, was Teams (though now it seems to be missing… did some new version of Bb come in and rename or lose that tool?). Teams created a mini wiki within Bb. We used it to have all teachers in the program contribute collaboratively to a draft of our new grading criteria. I loved how we could tap into a Wikipedia-like harnessing of the “wisdom of crowds,” and I loved too how every teacher got an equal chance to make any alteration to the developing draft.

The Community site seems to play a bigger and bigger role for me as WPA each year. It provides a virtual space of community, which is handy when you have 60 GTAs, 20 full time instructors, and 10 adjuncts spread over 8 courses on 4 campuses. But I imagine my view is skewed by my role as WPA. That is, I don’t think it functions to create a true virtual community; it’s more like a virtual office where you can drop off or pick up some important forms. I’m not sure what it would take to turn that into a virtual lounge. In my experience, community isn’t planned; it just happens. Still, I’m happy for this feature in Bb. It makes my life easier and it has a lot of potential for us yet to explore.

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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Thinking About a Ph.D. in Rhetoric?

posted: 6.20.07 by archived

Over the past couple years, the educational press has focused on the number of Ph.D.s who are being forced to adjunct because of a tight job market. In spite of this trend and focus, large numbers of adjuncts do not possess Ph.D.s. For those of us who teach composition without a Ph.D., one of the most sensible Ph.D.s to consider pursuing is in Rhetoric and Composition. According to lore and rumor, such a doctorate is much more helpful in the current market when searching for Composition gigs–especially if you think being a WPA is in your future. While many of our tenured colleagues in composition have Ph.D.s in literature, and numerous first and second generation WPAs have degrees in a variety of fields, a Rhetoric and/or Composition background is recommended for those thinking about shifting from an MA to a Ph.D. Before applying to said field, contemplate deeply where you want your focus. Before flinging your mind, body, soul, life, and family into a doctoral program, consider reading some of the texts below. Make sure that Rhetoric is a field you are passionate about, and that these are the kinds of books, ideas, and materials you want fully integrated in your life. While many of us in Composition may think we know what Rhetoric is about, be absolutely sure that you do know before you sign up.

Note: This list is compiled from a series of WPA posts on Sat, 19 May 2001, between Peggy O Neill, Mark Gellis, Bridget Fahey Ruetenik, Donna Qualley, and Janice McIntire-Strasburg.


Aristotle: Rhetoric

Cicero: De Oratore

George Campbell: The Philosophy of Rhetoric

James Kinneavy: A Theory of Discourse

Kenneth Burke: A Rhetoric of Motives

Hayden White: Tropics of Discourse

Sonja Foss: Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration & Practice

Charles Bonwell: Active Learning

Richard Lanham: The Electronic Word

James Berlin: Rhetoric and Reality

Theresa Enos: Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition

John Gage: “Why Write?”

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel, Professional Development & Service
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Balance is the Challenge

posted: 6.19.07 by Barclay Barrios

Derek’s comments on the last post have me thinking about finding the balance between invention and expectation, between uniformity and diversity, between heuristic and rubric and creativity and innovation. For me, these are not just questions for individual assignments or individual courses; instead they’re the kind of concerns I struggle with as the local WPA. On the one hand, I want students to learn X or Y rhetorical form or critical thinking skill but on the other hand I want students to practice J and K kinds of originality and individualism. On the one hand, I want a common set of outcomes and a fairly uniform student experience but on the other hand I want teachers to be able to innovate in their courses since that innovation can then enrich the program as a whole.

Balance is the challenge.

In terms of my classes, the problem often manifests itself for me in the “class argument.” In any given set of papers I find the same argument in a good chunk of them, an argument that invariably reflects class discussion or group work. It reflects, too, what students come to understand of the rubric and my own expectations. Here are some ways I try to find a better balance:

  • I try to allow multiple paths into my assignments. I try to word them so that you can argue any side, so that you can start your thinking from any personal opinion, so that you can be as creative as you’d like. At the same time, since my weaker students tend to flounder with an assignment that’s too broad and open-ended, I also provide a set of questions for thinking about the assignment, questions which provide direction and structure for those students who need it.
  • I take difficulty into account when grading. I tell my classes it’s like diving: go for a more difficult maneuver and even if you don’t nail it your score will reflect that you tried something new, above, and beyond. In many ways, then, a paper that takes risks is better positioned from the get go than a safe paper.
  • I harness the class when I can. So, for example, a rubric generated out of class discussion is less an imposition from above and more a common agreement of expectations.

Not ideal, but I don’t think it can be. I think the kind of balance Derek is prompting in his comments is and must be a struggle. You know, in Chaos/Complexity Theory (an odd little interest of mine) the goal of any complex adaptive system is to reach what’s called “the edge of chaos,” a surprisingly robust state between the death of static stagnation and total chaos. I guess that’s what I need to aim for continually in my teaching and my program–the edge of chaos.

BTW, the tailbone is a bit better today. Lotsa rest (on my tummy was best), hot baths, and tylenol seem to have done the trick.

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice
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