Research

Overview: Partnerships in Public and Professional Writing

My research focuses on understanding how people use writing and rhetoric to form collaborative partnerships in order to solve mutual public problems, specifically in institutions of higher education. Lately, I’ve been researching what I’m calling “problematic partnerships,” or asymmetrical relationships of power between writing researchers and other powerful groups/institutions whose values are related, but not necessarily in step with, their own academic agendas. I also have related research interests in writing pedagogy, writing assessment, public/civic engagement, writing program administration, and histories of rhetoric and composition.

Current and Future Projects

Currently, I’m working on a set of related projects that unpack “problematic partnerships” in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. In an edited collection called Reading and Writing in the Age of MOOCs, I analyzed how teams of academics partnered with for-profit companies to run writing MOOCs at their institutions. In a forthcoming co-authored essay for College Composition and Communication, we report the results of a collaborative assessment project and describe our multi-stakeholder partnerships between graduate students, instructors, faculty members, administrators, and Departments of Institutional Effectiveness as collaborative ecologies. In addition to these forthcoming projects, I’m also researching classroom-level partnerships. In one essay, I’m working on applying my theory of problematic partnerships to understand how “Business and Administrative Writing,” a course departments of English have been teaching (and complaining about) for almost 100 years, can better align with best practices in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. In another project, I’m collecting classroom data on a Public Writing course to understand how public writing pedagogy can be more responsive to modern public sphere theory that stresses local publics. My next project will examine the NCTE’s efforts to provide feedback on drafts of the Common Core State Standards. After these articles and book chapters, I plan on analyzing additional case studies for a larger monograph that theorizes problematic partnership and its relation to the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition.

Taken together, my research agenda sets out to articulate a range of problematic partnerships, from the classroom-level partnerships academics negotiate in the teaching and assessing of writing; to the departmental partnerships they forge to conduct research within larger institutional strictures in the university; to the broader partnerships academics often form with outside institutions in order to engage larger public problems. I argue that forging, sustaining, and thriving within problematic partnerships constitutes the major intellectual work of the discipline, and my hope is to discover new best practices from such endeavors.

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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