Research Overview

My research explores various avenues of writing as a public good. Usually, this exploration takes the form of analyzing partnerships, broadly construed, between academia and the public. Before coming to U Toledo, I published research on writing program administrators’ fraught partnerships with powerful education philanthropists (“Assessing the Risks and Rewards of Problematic Partnerships”); analyses of methodologies of “going” public (“Going Public in the Humanities”); or the role of writing programs in working with public data to construct anti-racist policies (“De-Normalizing Whiteness”). Since coming to the University of Toledo, I’ve focused my research on institutional partnerships for public humanities programming (“Collaborative Ecologies”); public writing pedagogies (“Public Ecologies”); and even publications aimed at the broader public, like for instance my contribution to the famous Bad Ideas about Writing collection (“Freshman Composition”). Lately, my research has turned decidedly toward partnerships between those who teach, research, administer writing programs and federal and state education policies. My forthcoming book, Policy Regimes of Writing: An Analysis of College Composition and Public Education Policy in the U.S, contracted by Southern Illinois University Press, analyzes the relationship between education policy—at both the local and state levels—and college writing. Below, I describe my book project in more detail, in addition to the publications that have come out or been accepted since my brief time at the University of Toledo.

Book Project

In Policy Regimes of Writing: An Analysis of College Composition and Public Education Policy in the U.S, I analyze the relationship between education policy and college writing. In the first part of the book, I analyze how the field has engaged in policy discussions from an institutional perspective, focusing on two key moments from the history of its professional organization, the National Council of Teachers of English, as they sought to advocate and participate in policy formation discussions. The second part of the book analyzes policy partnerships on the level of individual teachers and students and how they navigate education policies in their classrooms. Specifically, these chapters outline statewide and, now, federal dual enrollment policies and their impact on college composition instruction. I also describe the results of a year-long participant observation in one concurrent enrollment high school classroom in suburban Ohio. Together, the two scopic levels of analysis will shed light on how education policy shapes college writing in the U.S., specifically with regard to how the field can position itself as an institution to engage in policy discussions, as well as the ways composition specialists can work within, around, and against policies on the ground floor.

Articles and Chapters

“Collaborative Ecologies of Emergent Assessment”

This co-authored essay was published in College Composition and Communication, the flagship journal in Writing Studies. Our article argued for a collaborative approach to integrated assessment of humanities programming. In the introduction to the issue, journal editor Jonathan Alexander wrote that our co-written essay was a “sophisticated portrait of the pressures—and possibilities—that arise when thinking richly with others across an institution.” My co-authors and I collected data from students who attended a guest lecture by Kenyan literary figure Ngũgĩ Wa Thong’o at my former institution. We asked questions related to student engagement and continued learning and scored their responses using a rubric aligned with our university’s ongoing Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The data was disappointing, showing only modest gains in student learning. However, when we went back into the student answers a second time, using an emergent assessment framework, we found avenues of learning that the QEP-based rubric was unable to measure. From these results we argue that emergent assessment techniques capture the “multiple, dynamic, and messier aspects of student learning” and can help us “generate a more nuanced picture of learning for a course or program, or even across several years in higher education.” The themes explored in this article directly influenced my work in public education policies and public writing pedagogies.

Bad Ideas about Writing

This essay was published in the edited collection Bad Ideas about Writing titled “First-Year Composition Prepares Students for Academic Writing.” My essay actually argues against the premise in the title. I posit that first-year writing, at its best, “gets at the political and cultural contexts of language use; it asks students to consider how those contexts work to inform their own positions on important public issues; and it pushes students to think about how they can ethically and persuasively position themselves in ongoing public conversations.” This point is especially important to me because it situates writing programmatically by asking: what do we want the teaching of writing to do and be like? It considers writing as a public act by stressing the importance of having student writers position themselves rhetorically in public problems; and by writing for real audiences, it also prioritizes a renewed emphasis on community-building. I develop this theme more in my piece “Public Ecologies” on which I elaborate in more detail below.

“Making Software Visible in Rhetorical Approaches to Fake News” (forthcoming)

In the forthcoming edited collection, Literacy in the Age of Misinformation, my co-authored chapter “Making Software Visible in Rhetorical Approaches to Fake News points to an important and unexplored factor for how people fall for fake news: the software applications used for its distribution and access. After using the so-called “Pizzagate” controversy from the 2016 presidential election as a case study, we then suggest some best practices for helping literacy educators become more aware of the role software literacy plays in fake news. We suggest more robust university-library partnerships as sites where rhetoric and composition practitioners can help implement these suggestions.

“Public Ecologies: A Micro Case Study of Public Writing Pedagogy” 

In an article forthcoming in the journal Composition Studies, I detail the results of what I call a micro-case study of public writing pedagogy by analyzing writing from nine participating college students in a class called “Writing for Public Discourse” at a high-research institution in California. From a careful analysis of student-writing, coding particularly for the kinds of publics student authors imagine and enact through their writing practicesI offer a brief snapshot of what the public work of rhetoric looks like in one writing classroom. Pushing back against definitions of public writing pedagogies that stress a relocation of writing instruction as a way to wade into the “messiness” and “risk” of public engagement, I argue that since writing is already messy, and since student writers already compose in what Deborah Brandt might call “thorny conditions” of authorship, it might be worth considering how the intellectual work that students produce in the classroom contributes to students’ literate repertoires that allow them to “go public” with their writing. It is also worth noting that the methodologies I developed in this article directly informed my case study in the book monograph as well.

“The WPA in-Waiting: Where we Came From and Where We are Going” (under review)

In this article, currently under review, my co-author and I discuss the creation and sustainability of the “WPA-in-Waiting”: junior faculty who serve as “associates” under a writing program administrator while they work toward tenure. Through a discussion of the experiences of two current WPAs-in-Waiting, (myself and the co-author), we argue that such positions often emerge out of precarious serendipity: born from chaos as institutions change and shift priorities and because of tireless campaigning from writing program administrators grown tired of running writing programs through clenched teeth. Both authors offer institutional histories of their positions as a means to argue that the specific conditions in which such jobs emerge is crucial for understanding how they can be created and sustained. We conclude by suggesting that the “transition” moment from WPA-in-Waiting to WPA is a rhetorical opportunity to positively shape the working conditions for future administrators.

“Policy Regimes of Writing Policy: Field Notes from a Concurrent Enrollment Classroom” (accepted)

This book chapter, accepted for publication in the edited collection, Dual Enrollment Kaleidoscope: Reconfiguring Perceptions of First-Year Writing and Composition Studies, edited by two of the foremost scholars of dual enrollment, is based off of my monograph research. Rather than approaching dual enrollment from the perspective of student performance or teacher training, I focus on dual enrollment as a policy problem, analyzing the ways teachers and students are tasked with carrying out and enforcing dual enrollment, which I describe as enacting mandated partnerships, which are then negotiated by outside forces outside of their control (usually school districts and institutions of higher learning). The main questions in this chapter include: How are dual enrollment partnerships felt and experienced by teachers and students? What are student motivations for taking these courses, what are teacher motivations for seeking the credentials to eventually teach these courses, and how do those motivations align with the “common sense” narratives education reformists use to justify those policies? To answer this question, I report on my primary research observing a dual enrollment composition classroom in a high school in suburban Ohio. In addition to observations, I conducted personal interviews with the teachers, students, and administrators from both K-12- and university- levels who work within and on behalf of DE policy in Ohio. Together, this empirical research shares the experiences of one classroom, in one state deeply impacted by DE policies. But more than that, this research will help the field consider the complex interactions between institutions that broker policies and human beings that experience them as a means to learn more about the “why” and “how” questions of dual enrollment policy.

Dissertation Project

In April of 2015, I defended my dissertation, which analyzed three moments in the field’s past, present, and encroaching future where writing researchers/teachers participated in public debates about writing: 1) Linda Brodkey’s “Writing about Difference” course at the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 1990; 2) The NCTE’s response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative; and 3) Speculative debates about the impact of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in writing classrooms. I used each case to argue for three public stances writing studies practitioners can take to engage public audiences and impact public problems related to writing: agitation, intervention, and disruption


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