Notes: Will Banks, “Queering Outcomes: Hacking the Source Code of the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition”

Banks, Will. “Queering Outcomes: Hacking the Source Code of the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition.” WPA 36.1 (2012): 205-208.



Banks responds to the WPA Outcomes Statement and particularly, those conversations around the outcomes statement which seek to articulate new outcomes that should be added to the statement or articulate the existing outcomes better, stating that responding to the outcomes may be better suited responding to the theories and values that underpin the outcomes and influence their articulation.

Keywords: WPA, Composition, First Year Composition, Queer Rhetorics, Cultural Rhetorics, Hacking


Matsuda, Paul Kei. “Embracing Linguistic Diversity in the Intellectual Work of WPAs.” WPA 31.1-2 (2009): 168-71.


“One of the things I have appreciated about the Outcomes Statement, and the countless hours of work that smart people have put into it, is the recognition that as a national body representing writing program administrators at a host of varied and different programs, the WPA Council really cannot create ‘standards’ or ‘precise levels of achievement’ for these outcomes, that such things should be worked out locally, where writing professionals and other stakeholders can scaffold student learning. At the same time, I cannot help but think that WPAs really do have more of an expectation than merely the awareness that there are different audiences for writers to work with” (206).

“So where does this change belong? I think it’s in the foundations, the ideological and theoretical underpinnings of the OS document, what’s hidden in the framing paragraphs, and by how what’s hidden becomes visible” (206).

“My fear is that very little of the research and theory that most informs my sense of self and other, my sense of writing and composing, my sense of how language works in the world, is actually in these outcomes, or that other WPAs concern themselves very deeply with them” (207).

“But, if we as WPAs have an interest in queering the Outcomes Statement, then I would argue that we need to reclaim and remediate the document with the goal of putting back in what is omitted or glossed over” (207).

“For me, queering the WPA Outcomes Statement is as much about disrupting the theories and practices that inform the outcomes themselves as it is about asking for different or differently articulated outcomes. Both are important, both have value, but the practice of remixing the OS is really one for all of us (and our students, perhaps), one that we should all be able to participate in and learn from. Queering the WPA OS is ultimately about hacking into the code that has built the document /* and annotating it in ways that will be useful for future coders */” (208).


Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Creative Translations: Reimagining the Process Movement (1971-84)” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy”

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Creative translations: Reimagining the process movement (1971-84). Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 23-50.



In this chapter, Palmeri takes his remix history through the process movement in composition studies, focusing on the works of Flower and Hayse, Berthoff, and Emig and how these theorists articulated process as a multimodal, cognitive activity. In this, he identifies three key concepts for multimodal writing: that alphabetic writing is multimodal, we should recognize the limitations and affordances of modalities, and composition has much to gain from interdisciplinary work with other arts.

Keywords: composition, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, pedagogy, process, technology


Henze, Brett, Jack Selzer, and Wendy Sharer. (2008). 1977: A cultural moment in composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor.

Shipka, Jody. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306.


“In an environment where distinctions between alphabetic writing, art, design, and music are breaking down (Manovich, New London Group), it is important that we help students gain a global understanding of creative processes that is not tied to any specific modality–an understanding that they can use to help guide their composing with diverse alphabetic, audio, and visual materials” (p. 28).

“Rather than seeing translation as a reductive process of moving from multimodal mind to alphabetic page, we can instead reimagine translation as a dynamic process of moving between internal multimodal representations of knowing (in the mind) and external multimodal representations (on the computer or the page)” (p. 33-34).

“Rather than requiring that students pursue the act of translation with the ultimate goal of producing an alphabetic text, we could teach students to engage in multimodal translation with the ultimate goal of being able to make an informed rhetorical choice about which modalities best enable them to persuasively present their thoughts to a specific audience” (p. 37-38).

“[W]e might begin to reimagine writing-across-the-curriculum programs as composing-across-the-curriculum programs–exploring, for example, ways that students might better learn scientific concepts if they both wrote about them and made videos about them” (p. 43).

“If we limit students to only alphabetic means of invention and revision, we may unnecessarily constrain their ability to think intensively and complexly about their work. As a result, I suggest that composition teachers consider including one informal, multimodal composing activity as a part of every major unit or sequence in their course” (p. 44).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

(Re)Framing the process movement in terms of multimodal composition is interesting and provides compelling insights into ways that composition is taught and how it might build from drawing on this multimodal history. Palmeri draws on this large body of scholarship from some of the most well-known scholars in the field’s past, remixing it with digital pedagogy and multimodal composition. When Palmeri discusses the interdisciplinary work that can be made through studying other arts, especially in an age where those disciplinary boundaries are blurred, I find particularly interesting; I do wonder about the creation of a shared vocabulary and the idea of this allowing for transfer across modalities if there is a way to understand the modalities as separate and different and to draw on their vocabularies as a rhetorical decision–a part of the encounter with the affordances and limitations of that modality in the discursive communities that surround that mode.


Notes: Arthur N. Applebee and Judith A. Langer, “A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle and High Schools”

Applebee, Arthur N., and Judith A. Langer. (2011). A snapshot of writing instruction in middle schools and high schools. English Journal, 100(6), 14-27.


In this piece, the authors discuss the findings of the National Study of Writing Instruction, which measured how much students were writing, what they were writing, who was reading their writing, and how they were writing.

Keywords: composition, pedagogy, teaching of writing


“First, students write more for their English classes than for any other subject, and at the same time, they write more for their other subjects combined than they do for English. For papers of a page or less, for example, teachers report requiring 5.5 papers for English during a nine-week grading period, and a total of 8.9 for the other three classes. The differences are smaller for papers of one or two pages (2.6 for English versus 3.5 for the others combined) or three or more pages (1.1 versus 1.1), but the pattern holds” (p. 15).

“Clearly, writing goes beyond the purview of the English teacher; students’ experiences across the curriculum are likely to have an important impact on how they write and the qualities that they consider important in their writing” (p. 15).

“[O]nly 19% represented extended writing of a paragraph or more; all the rest consisted of fill in the blank and short answer exercises, and copying of information directly from the teacher’s presentation—types of activities that are best described as writing without composing” (p. 15).

“When asked how they prepare students for the high-stakes tests they face, teachers reported heavy emphasis on some familiar types of test preparation, including frequent or very frequent “test prep” on the particular types of question that appear on the exam, and using sample questions from old exams or commercial practice materials that present similar items” (p. 19).

“Teachers’ estimates of whether students “frequently” or “almost always” use computers and word processing for the drafts they hand in tend to overestimate how much of students’ work is written in this way” (p. 23).

Notes: Lil Brannon, Jennifer Pooler Courtney, Cynthia P. Urbanski, Shana V. Woodward, Jeanie Marklin Reynolds, Anthony E. Iannone, Karen D. Haag, Karen Mach, Lacy Arnold Manship, and Mary Kendrick, “The Five Paragraph Essay and the Deficit Model of Education”

Brannon, Lil, et al. (2008). The five-paragraph essay and the deficit model of education. English Journal, 98(2), 16.

3 pens on a composition book

3 pens on a composition book


The UNC Charlotte Writing Project Collaborative draws on the large body of scholarship and theory in the teaching of writing to critique the continuing and pervasive practice of teaching the five-paragraph essay. Instead, they argue for a pedagogy that does not reiterate the status quo, but offers students a more nuanced understanding of writing.

Keywords: composition, literacy, pedagogy, teaching of writing


Knoblauch, Cy, and Lil Brannon. (1984). Rhetorical traditions and the teaching of writing. Upper Montclair: Boynton/Cook.


“There is, according to Halasek, a dangerous paternalism surrounding this pedagogical practice, which stems from objectivist rather than constructivist notions of language and discourse. Such practices, she argues, are repressive acts that compel students to master this one form before proceeding. The premise that this form is somehow ‘foundational’—’an all purpose approach to writing’ (99)—is false because it ignores the generative nature of forming and ‘disregards the intimate relationship among audience, social context, subject, and author’ (100)” (p. 17).

“When students are considered lacking—lacking organization, lacking ideas to write about, lacking understanding—writing in an arbitrary formula merely sustains the deficit perception. Students learn that writing means following a set of instructions, filling in the blanks. Such writing mirrors working-class life, which requires little individual thinking and creativity combined with lots of monotony and following orders. It’s obvious what training the five-paragraph essay is really practice for. Writing, we argue, should not be yet another way to train students to be obedient citizens, but rather provide them with opportunities to develop their thinking as individuals, making meaning through the act of composing” (p. 18).

“A deficit understanding of students would see the diversity of languages and cultures in classrooms as a problem rather than a strength. A deficit understanding labels the language of low socioeconomic students as a problem, often marking them as ignorant. The deficit model labels these same children as remedial or even having learning disabilities. This model is largely responsible for placing minorities or children of the poor in remedial classes. The deficit model gives these children worksheet drudgery and formulaic writing that will occupy the students into passivity” (p. 18).

Questions, Reflections, and Responses:

Lil Brannon is always brilliant and the UNC Charlotte Writing Project is a powerhouse of amazing and talented teachers. This idea of going against the problem with the “common sense” pedagogy of the five-paragraph essay seems to reflect a lot of what teachers of writing have to go up against and the narratives that surround our work. The endeavor of creating a pedagogy that creates this more nuanced sense of writing, that goes beyond the all-purpose approach, deficit model means undertaking an articulation in what we value in writing and changing the “grand narrative” of its instruction.

Notes: Todd DeStigter, “On the Ascendance of Argument: A Critique of the Assumptions of Academe’s Dominant Form”

DeStigter, Todd. (2015). On the ascendance of argument: A critique of the assumptions of academe’s dominant form. Research in the Teaching of English, 50(3), 11-50.



DeStigter critiques the fundamental assumptions behind the overemphasis of argumentation as an ideal in the teaching of writing, drawing on three semesters of ethnographic research in Tejada High in Southwestern Chicago.

Keywords: critical pedagogy, literacy, literacy changes, literacy studies, pedagogy, teaching of writing


Walkerdine, Valerie. (1990). The mastery of reason: Cognitive development and the production of rationality. New York: Routledge.


“Again, if this paradigm sounds familiar, it’s because the privileging of argumentation indicates widespread acceptance of the assumption that truths established by reasoned argumentation correspond to ‘real’ truths, thereby positing argumentation as a cognitive ideal” (p. 17).

“I worry that in our professional conversations a new divide theory has emerged–one that posits an intellectual dichotomy not between the literate and preliterate, but between people who can write what is sanctioned as a rational argument and those who can’t” (p. 19).

“However, merely shifting the rationale for privileging argumentation from noumenal to the phenomenal realm does not eliminate the problem that whatever is designated as “good thought” is revealed through rational arguments is determined by people who are in a position to make and enforce such designations” (p. 19).

“However, as my responses to these theorists suggest, in order to believe that argumentation has inherent cognitive and social value, one must reassert the autonomous model and strip language uses from their ideological bases and consequences. One must bracket the notion that such value is not predestined in human nature or the organizing principles of the universe, but is discursively produced. One must, in other words, create a world of intellectual and communicative hierarchies and then forget that we are its creators. Unfortunately, in such a world it is also possible to forget that, in most arguments, the person with the most power just has to say, ‘Your argument is unreasonable,’ and he wins” (p. 20).

“First, in order to assert a reciprocal relationship between argumentation and democracy, one must ignore the fact that people have unequal access to power that would enable them to participate meaningfully” (p. 22).

“Second, history and current U.S. politics are replete with examples of how rational arguments supported by overwhelming evidence get trumped by ideology. Because there is no neutral ground where individuals can converse unencumbered by their values and prejudices” (p. 22).

“Third, it seems only reasonable to insist that even though argumentative skills don’t guarantee access to political deliberation, lacking such skills virtually ensures that a person will be excluded…. However, this insistence that argumentation is a necessary (albeit insufficient) requirement of political agency dismisses substantial evidence that the most effective forms of democratic participation emerge not from rational argumentation but from identity and class-based solidarity” (p. 23).

“Fourth, tying democracy to rational argument greatly restricts the kinds of thought and action considered permissible in the public sphere” (p. 23).

“To be sure, Bourdieu makes clear that cultural capital plays a role in reproducing social and economic privilege. But this is not the same as saying that cultural capital produces social and economic capital for those who don’t already have it” (p. 27).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

I found myself saying “Werk!” quite a bit reading this piece. This is one of the first pieces I’ve read in secondary ed scholarship. I believe these assumptions that DeStigter sheds light on in secondary ed have a lot of resonance in the ways that many of us teach first year writing in the college level as well–which I suppose relates to looking at the teaching of writing as a k-16 enterprise instead of a separation between secondary and post-secondary ed.

Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Introduction: Reseeing Composition History” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Introduction: Reseeing composition history. Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 4-19.



In introducing the subject matter of his book, Palmeri describes the “associative logic” (13) of remix, which shows the connections of seemingly disparate parts to gain insights through their juxtaposition. He does this in contrast to the prevalent narratives of composition’s history which discretely categorize the field’s epistemic ‘schools’ and organizes them into a narrative of progress.

Keywords: disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, remix, technology


Banks, Adam J. (2006). Race, rhetoric, and technology: Searching for higher ground. Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum.

Selfe, Cynthia L.(2009). The movement of air, the breath of meaning: Aurality and multimodal composing. College Composition Communication, 60(4), 616-63.


“In emphasizing the importance of ‘new’ audio and video technologies, scholars have inadvertently deleted from view many of the vivid multimodal scenes that flourished in our field’s past” (p. 5).

“My goal in recovering compositionists’ multimodal heritage is most pointedly not to protect our ‘turf’ or ‘claim’ on multimodality, but rather to articulate what specifically we have to bring to wider interdisciplinary collaborations” (p. 8).

“Certainly, emerging digital technologies open up new possibilities for integrating multimodal activities into the writing classroom, but it is important to remember that composition has always already been a field that has sought to help students draw connections between writing, image making, speaking, and listening” (p. 10).

“When the remixer enters the record store or video archive, she doesn’t seek to evaluate or categorize…. Whereas the critic would strive to sort art works into genres and periods, the remixer would seek to creatively recombine disparate materials–to make a new composition by juxtaposing samples from radically disparate artistic traditions and periods” (p. 13).

Reflection and Response:

I’m very interested in remixing as a methodology–a remix historiography. The idea of these disparate parts being selected and connections made between them to make a new composition is compelling–and one that I think compositionists have certainly come to value in recent years. I think it lends itself well to the idea that multimodal as an encounter with objects and that composing is made through the connections between the writer and these objects–and to play with these objects is to make explicit their role in composing. To adopt that into a history of composition is interesting.

Computers and Writing Reflection: Writing is Multimodal

All writing is multimodal. It’s one of 37 “threshold concepts” in writing studies published in Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle’s Naming What We Know. The word “multimodal” appears across FYWP outcome statements. Multimodality appears to be a central value in writing studies, but how is it implemented, how is it defined, and how is it assessed and housed in FYWPs?

Many of my early conversations with faculty around multimodal composition alluded to some of these questions. One even compared it to many notions of literacy that too easily become some sort of apparently “neutral good” that has a tricky definition. It doesn’t quite mean computers; it doesn’t quite mean words in a row writing.

In my reading Jody Shipka’s “Rethinking Composition/Rethinking Process” chapter in Toward a Composition Made Whole, I am understanding a definition of multimodal composition that may not utilize a certain technology, but rather, argues for an understanding of composition that calls attention to the technologies used to produce that writing. She writes, “By asking students to examine the communicative process as a dynamic, embodied, multimodal whole–one that shapes and is shaped by the environment–students might come to see writing, reading, speaking, and ways of thinking and evaluating as “a function of place, time, sex, age, and many other elements of life” (Malstrom 1956, 24)” (26). This sort approach mixes object-oriented ontology with multimodality in a compelling way that forces an understanding of technologies and environments for writing that shape the writer and what is produced as a function of that space, time, object, etc. This kind of encounter with an object unessentializes and deinstrumentalizes objects and process for the production and evaluation of a given text. Instead, it calls for an encounter with the impression the objects of production have on the composition through the recognition of the liminal spaces objects and environments afford.

I can hear this echoed in composition’s past in Kathleen Blake Yancey’s 2004 CCCC address, where she calls attention to the way that technology is rapidly and dramatically creating and changing genres and understandings of literacy. She writes that students are writing more on their own than ever before with these (then) new technologies. Though not articulated in quite the same way as Shipka’s (2011) chapter, Yancey seems to be calling attention to this same understanding of composition; one that encounters the modes of production and recognizes their contribution to the production of that text. The idea that all writing is “interfacing,” I find a compelling way to conceive of texts as creating interaction and invitation.

This is certainly something that I strive for in my own pedagogy. The idea of making as composing is language that I’m slightly more familiar with, largely coming out of the hacking vs. yacking debates in the digital humanities and the maker movement. I’ve attempted to structure the courses I teach around this idea of multimodal composition and emphasize the means of making a text to call attention to the underlying assumptions about what a text is and the technologies that go into its production.