Across the Disciplines, a refereed journal devoted to language, learning, and academic writing, publishes articles relevant to writing and writing pedagogy in all their intellectual, political, social, and technological complexity. Across the Disciplines shares the mission of the WAC Clearinghouse in making information about writing and writing instruction freely available to members of the CAC, WAC, and ECAC communities.
We are excited to publish this issue of Across the Disciplines and are confident you will find the four articles significant, both for the conceptual work they undertake and for the practical applications they make available to those of us involved in WAC/WID work. Three articles involve explicit theorization: Cameron Bushnell (2020) theorizes an anti-racist project for WAC; Christopher Basgier and Amber Simpson (2020) explore possible threshold concepts for the teaching of writing; and Crystal Fodrey and Meg Mikovits (2020) articulate a theory of multimodal WAC faculty development. Two contributions invite readers to think about the challenges of writing transfer from composition to writing in the disciplines, a significant area of interest in our field: Erin Zimmerman (2020) examines differences in the ways composition textbooks and science textbooks treat visual communication; Fodrey and Mikovits invite thinking about transfer between First Year Writing Seminars and writing enriched courses in the disciplines, with a focus on multimodal compositions. Given that so much of WAC/WID work involves faculty development, it comes as no surprise that all four articles in this issue offer insights that might be productively applied in workshops.
Introduction to Volume 17, Issue 1/2
Michael J. Cripps
Reflecting on the Past, Reconstructing the Future: Faculty Members’ Threshold Concepts for Teaching Writing in the Disciplines
Christopher Basgier and Amber Simpson
This study uses narrative analysis of faculty survey and focus groups responses to identify three threshold concepts for the teaching of writing in the disciplines, complimenting the existing work on threshold concepts in writing itself: 1) effective writing pedagogy involves iterative, multifaceted change; 2) students’ development as writers can be supported through scaffolded interventions; and 3) genres can be taught as actions, not (just) as forms.The authors also suggest additional candidates for threshold concepts for the teaching of writing in the disciplines, and comment on the value of narrative for promoting faculty reflection and assessing WAC faculty development.
Designing a Racial Project for WAC: International Teaching Assistants and Translational Consciousness
This essay argues that international teaching assistants (ITAs) occupy intercultural spaces that make them acutely sensitive to complexities of language, and by extension, to the struggle to write well. It suggests that WAC practitioners activate this between-language experience toward producing writing instruction that is culturally and racially aware by considering ITAs models of translational consciousnesses—mindsets habituated to the process of working between languages and cultures and increasingly valuable to universities where the ability to understand and discuss cultural and racial difference is central to the collegiality of the institution. As WAC practitioners, we must help our ITAs recognize the significance and value of their conditions of translation in order to begin to unpack the layers of complexity that cultural and racial difference brings to writing practices across campus.
Theorizing WAC Faculty Development in Multimodal Project Design
Crystal Fodrey and Meg Mikovits
This article argues that faculty need support in the design, implementation, and assessment of multimodal projects so that students are better positioned to transfer writing knowledge and (multimodal) composing practices throughout and beyond their undergraduate careers. Building upon scholarship on transfer, multimodality, and WAC/WID, the article presents a framework for theory-driven WAC faculty development in multimodal assignment design. The authors conclude by summarizing faculty responses to the workshop, describe multimodal assignments created by faculty, and share a framework for guiding faculty across the disciplines through the process of multimodal assignment design.
Locating Visual Communication across Disciplines: How Visual Instruction in Composition Textbooks differs from that in Science-writing Textbooks
This article compares how a corpus of 60 science writing textbooks and composition textbooks address visual communication topics including: purposes visuals serve; visuals and written text work together; visuals stand alone; visual design and creation; writers might start with visuals; ethical use of visuals; analysis of visuals; and reading visuals. The study highlights transfer supports as well as issues suggested by the textbooks' similarities and differences, and suggests ways FYC and WAC/WID instructors can work better together to vertically scaffold students' visual communication learning.
This issue of Across the Disciplines features three articles and two book reviews. Mike Palmquist, Pam Childers, Elaine Maimon, Joan Mullin, Rich Rice, Alisa Russell, and David R. Russell (2020) offer a broad perspective on Writing Across the Curriculum in a multimodal article that will quickly find its place in the syllabi of graduate courses on WAC. Articles by Adele Leon (2020) and Shakil Rabbi (2020) exemplify some of the very features of work in WAC that Palmquist et al. claim will keep the movement relevant in the coming decades. Both studies draw on foundational ideas in the field, with Leon examining low-stakes writing and Rabbi revisiting James Britton’s transactional function of writing. Each piece engages meaningfully and empirically with our field’s current interest in transfer and threshold concepts of writing, explore writing development among graduate students in the academic disciplines, and consider the implications of their research for pedagogy, faculty development, and student support. The two book reviews in this issue offer readers a window into recent—and important—books published by the University Press of Colorado. Matthew Sautman (2020) reviews 2018's Writing Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of Opportunity, edited by Mya Poe, Asao Inoue, and Norbert Elliot, and Emma Lee Guthrie (2020) reviews Michelle LaFrance’s 2019 Institutional Ethnography: A Theory of Practice for Writing Studies Researchers.
Introduction to Volume 17, Issue 3/4
Michael J. Cripps
Fifty Years of WAC: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?
Mike Palmquist, Pam Childers, Elaine Maimon, Joan Mullin, Rich Rice, Alisa Russell, & David R. Russell
On the 50th anniversary of the start of the writing across the curriculum movement, the authors explore the historical foundations of the movement, consider key developments that have occurred since its emergence as one of the most enduring and successful education reform movements in North America, and reflect on potential directions for future growth. The authors include in a wide range of voices from the WAC community via quotations from published work and original videos provided by WAC scholars.
Low-Stakes Writing as a High-Impact Education Practice in MBA Classes
Studies examining writing as a High-Impact Education Practice (HIP) have focused primarily on writing in terms of major project assignments, thus directing attention away from the promising high impacts that low-stakes writing (LSW) assignments have on student learning. This study piloted assigning LSW in two MBA classes to test the extent to which LSW assignments align with Anderson et al.'s (2016) study on high-impact writing assignments, and further, how accessible and beneficial LSW assignments are for non-WAC faculty and their curricula. Interview data from this study shows encouraging potential for WAC expansion and recruitment, and student survey data shows a promising relationship between LSW and the HIPs. This study ultimately shows low-stakes writing to function as a HIP, recruitment tool, and resource for correcting misconceptions about assigning writing.
Mapping Rhetorical Knowledge in Advanced Academic Writers: The Affordances of a Transactional Framework to Disciplinary Communication
Research on written communication shows that rhetorical knowledge is a key domain of disciplinary writing expertise (Gere et. al. 2019). Much of the recent work in this area has focused on the social dimensions of learning this knowledge. This article builds on these conversations with a presentation of two “advanced academic writers” (Tardy, 2009) and interpreting how they conceptualize rhetorical knowledge through an understanding of academic communication as transaction and symbolic exchange (Britton & Pradl, 1982). I make a case for the value of a transactional framework for interpreting writers’ performance of genre situations. I also show that this framework can provide a “metagenre” (Carter, 2007), a way of doing writing in the discipline, and a “threshold concept” (Adler-Kassner & Wardle, 2015), a way of thinking about writing tasks that shapes writers’ experiences of and learning with them. The two case studies provide an argument for the efficacy of rhetorical knowledge in fostering disciplinary genres when it is framed as understanding situations of communication.
A Review of Writing Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of Opportunity, edited by Mya Poe, Asao B. Inoue, and Norbert Elliot. (2018). The WAC Clearinghouse; University Press of Colorado. 438 pages. [ISBN 978-1-64215-015-5]
Reviewed by Matthew Sautman, Alton High School/Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
A Review of Institutional Ethnography: A Theory of Practice for Writing Studies Researchers, by Michelle LaFrance. (2019). University Press of Colorado. 146 pages. [ISBN 978-1-60732-866-7]
Reviewed by Emma Lee Guthrie, Bowling Green State University