Monday, February 29, 2016

Predicator Variables/ The Future of Composition Research by Cindy Johanek & Writing in High School/ Writing in College: Research Trends and Future Directions ByJoanne Addison and Sharon James McGee

Johanek seems to pose a war between MLA style and that of APA. Evidently, she quite prefers APA and wants all writers to agree on its importance and superior qualities. The problem is I, like many people in the English field, am unfamiliar with APA, and therefore have no grounds for comparison. She also concedes her preference may be the result of: “…my interest in science and psychology and in numerical evidence” (190). I personally have never felt confined by MLA, and cannot grasp her argument, but her writing reflects different schools of thought than mine, probably supporting her support of APA.

Her next focus on “big storytellers” and the need to establish oneself to gain the privilege of having a voice seems like a frustrated complaint; in all fields, one must earn their place to be heard, so this is not unusual. Everyone has stories—particularly in the field we are discussing! But not all stories can be heard at once, and each storyteller has to find their voice, and arrive at the place where they are not only heard, but can make a difference. That takes time, talent, and hard work. While one is finding their place, the lessons of those big names are fuel for success.

Johanek does express the ease some undergraduate peer tutors have in telling stories; she illustrates the top and bottom of this literary hierarchy and the ability for these opposite ends to be heard. At the same time, she ascertains that grad students (like us), new Ph.D’s, and non-tenured professors must first “earn the privilege” (196) before having a voice of interest. Although initially this sounds awful, it is actually the way of the world. When we are young students we are encouraged to speak out and as we acquire knowledge, our voice becomes more refined as we learn what and how we are to make an imprint. Also, we listen and learn from those who have already made their mark, and embrace the lessons they provide.

Boyer’s four kinds of scholarship model puts research in a broader place for professor’s scholarly works; it appears a very sound plan to me. Teachers teaching their research—is that not what we are reading and studying in these pages? Personally, I feel it is beneficial to both the researcher and the student. And Johanek makes a solid point: “Teaching our research will make us more accountable for that research…” (199). The discussion about researchers needing a statistics class seems to be a person’s preference. I had a statistics class and do not feel it has been either a help or hindrance to my research work. If one wants to run studies and create graphs to prove a literary point, perhaps work with people who are skilled in that field, as we discussed in class. There should be some math studies in any degree program, even if only a core course, but that should not be the main focus unless one is pursuing that field.

Lastly, I am relieved I will not be thrown out of grad school for not publishing (considering I never thought I needed to…)

Moving on to the Addison and McGee study, this was very interesting and seemed to bridge many various types of schools, teachers, and students. It was slightly dated at six years old, but seemingly that does not matter too much, since the same issues and concepts are still in focus. I enjoyed the surveys but was puzzled at the ratio of faculty to students. Assuming that was what they were able to get as reliable “subjects” for their survey, they covered a number of important issues in writing..

I personally found the five Scales very well thought through and remember from my children’s high school days some of these practices being implemented. My high school days would have incorporated four of the five but that last one would have been on a largely different scale from students of today. The Stanford Study of Writing was fascinating to me; the variety of writing through the four years would seemingly prove beneficial for these students (and across the board, all students) when they moved on to the work place.

The discovery that many students do not take the advice of faculty and go to a writing center is not a big surprise; many students are uncomfortable with that undertaking. Also, they might have time issues or simply feel it won’t make a difference. The only possibility might be to ask (or even require) to see their revised work after they have taken the steps for help. Some writing centers may be more effective than others, depending on the schools financial situation and amount of help available.            

The one time I went to a writing center for assistance with citing my sources in an annotated bibliography, the only “help” I was given, was the name of a book for citing available at the bookstore. I had genuinely hoped that someone would have taken some time with me and perhaps given me an example or two, but that was not the case. I, of course, bought the book and figured it out myself  (which was not as easy as it sounds!) BUT if I had been a student with greater needs, I wonder if I would have received any worthwhile assistance. (This did not happen here at Kean, but at the OCC campus; the result was I never returned to see if I was on the right track, as I felt so uncomfortable.) Students need more encouragement than I received to achieve success with writing questions; I hope other writing centers are far more supportive then my experience suggests.

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