some notes on CCC, june 2010

Robert Johnson’s “Craft Knowledge” is the first I’ve seen that attempts to identify distinctive content for writing studies as a discipline. Goes to show how deeply this idea has caught on in the field–the turn to writing studies as a way to describe and name what we do is perhaps one of the most interesting recent developments within rhet/comp/professional writing. Johnson centers his discussion of craft on the ancient concept of techne, or “the arts and theories of making” (675). Craft, which Johnson says is a “central human essenc[e]” (675), also holds out the promise that other disciplines might read and import ideas from writing studies to their domains. In other words, J recognizes that there’s no reciprocity between writing studies and other disciplines–and this is a problem. He’s hoping that a craft-centered discipline will make it possible for “our voices…to have more impact” (681) beyond the discipline. (Yes, another essay on disciplinary identity and knowledge–we seem never to exhaust this topic.) Interesting to read this piece alongside Marbuck’s on design; together, the two forge alternative identities for studies of writing and composing.

Solid essay by Irv Peckham about placement–homegrown, timed, versus ACT. No definitive stance in the end, but calls attention to the importance of monitoring and assessment in regard to placement procedures. This piece resonated with me since we recently revised our placement process based on economics, not quality or success of placement. We’re now using ACT/SAT as a cut-off; students who fall below take an online 5-day exam. Too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but Peckham reminded me that we need to plan a thorough review of the process.

On a related note, Michael Neal’s review essay about assessment came at the right moment for me because I want to begin a programmatic assessment project this coming year. He gave me some good places to start looking for information. The most useful for my purposes sounds like O’Neill et al’s A Guide to College Writing Assessment because it includes sample surveys, interview questions, and other materials that I might be able to adapt for our context here (in addition to including info about why/how/when to do assessment, larger theoretical questions, etc.). Also, I like the angle he takes in here: assessment can promote learning. This sounds a lot better than assessment as a defense mechanism (though it’s always partly that, no?).

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