Notes: Linda Adler-Kassner & Elizabeth Wardle, “Naming What We Know, Introduction”

Adler-Kassner, Linda & Elizabeth Wardle. (2015). Naming what we know: The project of this book. Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Logan: Utah State University Press.


Adler-Kassner and Wardle lay out the writing of Naming What We Know by outlining both the methods by which entries were written and revised and by attempting to articulate the “spirit” of the book. The authors argue for the necessity of the act of naming what we know, they argue that this act of naming allows us to better advocate for writers in policy and to other entities outside of the field, and they argue that these threshold concepts are not only beneficial for such explanations but also for the formation of new knowledge within the field of writing studies.

Keywords: communities of practice, composition, disciplinarity, disciplinary history, pedagogy, rhetoric, threshold concepts, writing studies


Hesse, Doug. (2012). Who speaks for writing? Expertise, ownership, and stewardship. In Jennifer Rish and Ethna D. Lay (eds.) Who speaks for writing: Stewardship for writing studies in the 21st Century. New York: Peter Lang, 9-22. .

Wenger, Etienne. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


“Threshold concepts are concepts critical for continued learning and participation in an area or within a community of practice” (p. 2).

“There is a difference between naming and describing principles and practices that extend from the research base of a discipline, as this book begins to do, and stripping the complexity from those principles in order to distill them into convenient categories to which generic attributes can be associated or attached” (p. 8).


In what ways can this act of naming and defining resist either being a best-practices approach to teaching or a hyper-focused articulation of what “writing studies” is?

In what ways would these threshold concepts be used during assessment practices? Is there a way to prevent the conversation of threshold concepts to become limiting outcome benchmarks?

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