Reviewed by Joel Wingard, Moravian College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Susanmarie Harrington, University of Vermont, Burlington
Dylan Dryer, University of Maine, Orono
Elizabeth Clark, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, Long Island City, NY
Beth Brunk-Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso
Bump Halbritter, Michigan State University, East Lansing Darsie Bowden, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Kathleen Blake Yancey, Florida State University, Tallahassee
This session was devoted to reviewing some of the draft revisions that have recently been made to the WPA Outcomes Statement, initially published in 1999 with a major revision to add a technology plank in 2008, and to collecting input about those revisions and others to come. It was noted that the revised version will be submitted to the CWPA Executive Board at its meeting in July 2014 for its approval. CCCC 2013 had a featured session on a similar topic. To quote from the 2013 conference program, it had been acknowledged that even the addition of the technology plank “may not adequately accommodate the growing conviction among many scholars that digital and multimodal composing affordances are … the most recent technology to palpably alter what we mean by ‘writing’” (p. 228). The CWPA organized a task force to inquire into possible revisions to the Outcomes Statement (OS) particularly in the area of technology to better reflect actual practice in the first-year writing classroom. The presenters at this session were some of the members of that task force. The audience numbered about 45 people.
After an overview of the session by the chair, Darsie Bowden of DePaul University reviewed the most recent revision process and previewed what was to come, which included small-group breakouts in this session to let task force members hear colleagues’ thoughts on the most recent draft. The process goes back to 2011 and the formation of the task force, a group that initially surveyed a range of postsecondary institutions in approximately ten states, asking about familiarity with and use of the OS and whether it needed revision to better incorporate emerging technologies in the writing classroom. The results of this survey were presented at the 2012 CWPA Conference, where more information was gathered about what multimodality is, whether it had a place in the first-year writing classroom, and what benefits and drawbacks were associated with it. These questions were subsequently put to subscribers to several professional listservs, and those results presented and examined at CCCC 2013. Following that, the survey was extended to two-year colleges to broaden the range of responses and input. A revised draft was then presented at the 2013 CWPA Conference, and more feedback obtained, leading to the most recent draft revisions.
Speaker #2, Beth Brunk-Chavez of the University of Texas at El Paso, recounted some of the key issues the task force has been grappling with as a result of all the information its members had collected. Some of these issues clustered around the term digital literacies and its implications for and integration in the OS. What, precisely, is meant by this term? Should multimodal composing be restricted to one section of the OS or integrated throughout? What other revisions might result from an incorporation of this term in the OS?
The third speaker, Dylan Dryer of the University of Maine, looking back critically at the original OS, said he found some sections and language now look dated while others remain current. Such findings are to be expected for a document now 14 years old, but also because the field itself has changed over a decade and a half. To illustrate the task force’s thinking, he showed several proposed revisions to the language and structure of the OS. As speaker #2 had suggested, some changes in language affected changes in other areas of the document. Perhaps the biggest overall change has been the integration of language about digital composing throughout other sections of the OS. The speaker reminded the audience that even after this round of revisions, the OS will remain, in effect, a draft: always in need of revision to be kept vital.
The fourth speaker, Bump Halbritter of Michigan State University, focused on key terms and conceptual shifts that have arisen in the revision process and stressed that any gaps or conspicuous absences people might find in the draft revisions should be regarded as opportunities for further thinking and revision, not simply as flaws. One such key term/conceptual shift is from writing to composing. In 2008, he said, writing needed no definition. In 2014, composing is a term that implies and includes the affordances of digital media. One audience member objected that composing was actually a narrower concept than writing that would likely be less clear to nonspecialists. So it would seem that this term remains a point of contention.
The respondent, Kathleen Blake Yancey of Florida State University, who has been involved with the OS since its beginning, offered a big-picture view of the history of the document. She called the current draft revisions “OS 3.0” but said that even through the revisions that have occurred, the OS has “maintained a firewall” between outcomes and standards, which has been good for the field and for students. She closed with an issue that has emerged for her over all this time: how the OS may or may not have been taken up by WAC programs. Investigating this would work with the parts of the document that suggest how “faculty in all programs and departments can build on … preparation” that first-year writing students are to have attained through the achievement of the outcomes.
The session chair, Susanmarie Harrington of the University of Vermont, then asked the audience to sort into small groups for discussion of portions of the draft revisions in terms of how any section could be “used at home.” Groups reported in a short plenary discussion, which served to demonstrate how truly collaborative a document the OS remains.
Program of CCCC 2013: The Public Work of Composition. (2013). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.