Outcomes Book

Outcomes Book: Debate and Consensus after the WPA Outcomes Statement

SUSANMARIE HARRINGTON
KEITH RHODES
RUTH OVERMAN FISCHER
RITA MALENCZYK
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 250
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nwgv
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  • Book Info
    Outcomes Book
    Book Description:

    The WPA Outcomes Statement is important because it represents a working consensus among composition scholars about what college students should learn and do in a composition program. But as a single-page document, the statement cannot convey the kind of reflective process that a writing program must undertake to address the learning outcomes described. The Outcomes Book relates the fuller process by exploring the matrix of concerns that surrounded the developing Statement itself, and by presenting the experience of many who have since employed it in their own settings.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-502-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Celebrating and Complicating the Outcomes Statement
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Susanmarie Harrington

    The WPA Outcomes Statement (OS) had innocuous beginnings: one plaintive question in an electronic discussion group for writing program administrators wondering whether or “a pithy and effective list of objectives for writing (and maybe speaking!) programs” existed. This simple question immediately generated enthusiasm and skepticism. A few participants immediately shared local documents describing courses or programs. Some participants in the discussion, sensitive to the role of local context in matters of curriculum and assessment, thought that outcomes were best discussed locally. Others, looking at a discipline centered on first-year composition, thought that our theoretical commonalties could lead to practical commonalties...

  5. PART ONE: CONTEXTUALIZING THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT
    • 1 THE ORIGINS OF THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT
      (pp. 3-7)
      Edward M. White

      The question I posted to the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) listserv in 1996 was based on a series of frustrating experiences as a consultant to college and university writing programs. Typically, I would be asked to advise the program faculty on an assessment device that would place students in the appropriate course for them, the one in which they were most likely to be challenged and succeed.

      “Sure,” I would reply, sitting down at a conference table with the teaching faculty. “Tell me what is being taught in your courses.” This would be met with an embarrassed silence....

    • 2 THE OUTCOMES PROJECT: The Insiders’ History
      (pp. 8-17)
      Keith Rhodes, Irvin Peckham, Linda S. Bergmann and William Condon

      If ever there has been a project that won’t really fit into a nutshell, the Outcomes project is it. This project began in frustration over the apparent inability to share or even specify widely what goes on in first-year composition. We—the Outcomes Collective, as we called ourselves—proceeded with a grassroots effort to do that, if only for ourselves. We ended with a document that, though it is addressed to an audience of writing program administrators and writing teachers, nevertheless supplies information that the various stakeholders in first-year composition—students, administrators, parents, legislators, the public at large (in addition...

    • 3 STANDARDS, OUTCOMES, AND ALL THAT JAZZ
      (pp. 18-23)
      Kathleen Blake Yancey

      Before we talk about standards, outcomes, and all that jazz, we best talk about objectives, the forebears of standards and outcomes.

      In the 1970s I taught eighth grade in Washington County, Maryland. In addition to teaching, of course, we were expected to perform other tasks—everything from playing basketball in the faculty shoot-out to identifying objectives and standards for learning. Now this last task might not be as easy as you think it is. For instance, should all thirteen-year-olds know how to use the semicolon? Should they use it only to separate independent clauses or to separate items in a...

    • 4 OUTCOMES ARE NOT MANDATES FOR STANDARDIZATION
      (pp. 24-31)
      Mark Wiley

      Although official acceptance of the Outcomes Statement can provide needed coherence, stability, and political power for writing programs and composition courses, these outcomes can also be misinterpreted and consequently put to uses detrimental to the spirit within which they were deliberated, drafted, and publicly advocated. Examining criticisms of recent standards-based reform efforts can be instructive in terms of possible consequences that those of us who worked on this Outcomes project hope to avoid.

      The push for national standards in subject-matter disciplines began in earnest in the early 1990s on the heels of Goals 2000 legislation. Certainly, such reform efforts are...

    • 5 EXPANDING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF COMPOSING OUTCOMES
      (pp. 32-36)
      Cynthia L. Selfe and Patricia L. Ericsson

      In a recent conversation among colleagues about the concerns and responsibilities of WPAs, it was suggested that our professional efforts might be better spent if we focused on more traditional outcomes of writing instruction—if we avoided diluting our efforts by paying attention to the texts generated within computer-based composing environments and the newly emerging forms of electronic composition that students and others are developing in these environments. This argument seems to underlie the Outcomes Statement as a whole, which focuses largely on traditional writing outcomes, with only the briefest nod to emerging technologies and their impact on literacies.

      We...

  6. PART TWO: THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT AND FIRST-YEAR WRITING
    • 6 THE WPA OUTCOMES STATEMENT GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL
      (pp. 39-50)
      Stephen Wilhoit

      During the 2001–2 academic year, the English teachers at Oakwood High School in Oakwood, Ohio, began a systematic review of the school’s writing curriculum. The teachers were particularly interested in determining whether the writing program offered students the reading, writing, and thinking skills they would need in college. As part of that review, I was asked to offer interested teachers a workshop on “college writing expectations.” That workshop led to a much larger project—working with a small group of teachers to develop a writing-in-the-disciplines (WID) program for students in grades 9–12. This program is a year old...

    • 7 THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT AT A COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Verification, Accreditation, and Articulation
      (pp. 51-59)
      J. L. McClure

      The first full draft of the Outcomes Statement, which came out of the Defining Outcomes from College Writing workshop at the 1998 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Chicago, was timely for the English department at Kirkwood Community College. Kirkwood, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with sites in six surrounding counties, is a relatively large community college, with an annual enrollment of about thirteen thousand students. Each year about four thousand students enroll in our three-course composition sequence—Elements of Writing (our basic writing course, which about one-third of our students take), Composition I, and Composition II. In...

    • 8 CRITICAL THINKING, READING, AND WRITING: A View from the Field
      (pp. 60-71)
      Linda Adler-Kassner and Heidi Estrem

      A Google search using the terms “critical thinking reading writing + college composition” came up with 225,000 hits. While findings based on search results may not be entirely conclusive, we feel safe in asserting that these numbers say something about the ubiquity of this phrase in relation to first-year writing. Chances are that when any of us discuss what we want our students to take from our courses, “critical thinking, reading, and writing” are among the first we mention. The question, though, is what we mean by “critical thinking, reading, and writing” when we work to implement these outcomes. As...

    • 9 MORE THAN THE LATEST PC BUZZWORD FOR MODES: What Genre Theory Means to Composition
      (pp. 72-84)
      Barbara Little Liu

      In her College English introduction to the “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition,” Kathleen BlakeYancey notes what “such a document allows us to argue for—the role of genre in first year composition, for instance” (Outcomes Statement Steering Committee 2001, 323). The Outcomes Statement itself states that, with regard to “rhetorical knowledge,” students completing a first-year writing course or sequence should be able (among other goals) to “Understand how genres shape reading and writing” and “Write in several genres.” With regard to “knowledge of conventions,” one of the stated goals is that students should “Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging...

    • 10 PROCESSES AND OUTCOMES IN ARIZONA’S HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM
      (pp. 85-96)
      Duane Roen and Gregory R. Glau

      In the fall of 1992, John Ramage, then acting director of English composition at Arizona State University, submitted to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences a document titled “Proposal to Improve Writing Instruction at ASU.” Among other things, the plan, subsequently approved by the provost, suggested changes to enhance the quality of instruction in the English composition program by establishing a set of goals:

      First, it called for the hiring of faculty with formal training in rhetoric and composition. To date, we have hired twelve lecturers (faculty with three-year, infinitely renewable contracts)—all with Ph.D. degrees...

    • 11 KNOWLEDGE OF CONVENTIONS AND THE LOGIC OF ERROR
      (pp. 97-103)
      Donald Wolff

      The Knowledge of Conventions outcome sounds like “grammar first” all over again. While some will embrace going back to the basics, others will argue that emphasizing conventions marginalizes nonstandard dialects and seeks to supplant the voice, and hence the social identity, of those already linguistically, educationally, and culturally on the periphery (Smitherman 1999). This outcome hides so much of the real complexity of conventions, especially their relationship to dialects and socioeconomic background, that it is nearly bound to be misread and very likely misapplied.

      Such objections demonstrate that an important part of understanding all the outcomes is the act of...

    • 12 CELEBRATING THROUGH INTERROGATION: Considering the Outcomes Statement Through Theoretical Lenses
      (pp. 104-118)
      Patricia Freitag Ericsson

      Since the Outcomes Statement has been adapted and adopted at myriad institutions, it is tempting to simply nod and celebrate it as a successful document. The many and diverse uses of the Outcomes Statement seem to make an uncomplicated argument for its success, and we can be tempted to say “Isn’t that great!” and smile. But considerations of what has made the Outcomes Statement project so successful need to go beyond pats on the back. A serious, scholarly look at the statement is vital to our understanding of how projects like the Outcomes Statement work, how success is attained, and...

  7. PART THREE: THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT BEYOND FIRST-YEAR WRITING
    • 13 WHAT THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT COULD MEAN FOR WRITING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM
      (pp. 121-126)
      Martha A. Townsend

      In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the dissention and controversy generated by the Outcomes Statement. My academic training in English studies as well as experience beyond academe have certainly taught me that issues surrounding language are among the most highly charged, politically sensitive matters that societies anywhere face. Witness the debates over the English Only movement, riots in French-speaking Quebec, the Oakland Ebonics debacle, and CCCC’s Students’ Right to Their Own Language. Nonetheless, I am taken aback by the range of arguments raised against compositionists’ current and long overdue attempt to articulate, for ourselves primarily, what our...

    • 14 FIRST-YEAR OUTCOMES AND UPPER-LEVEL WRITING
      (pp. 127-138)
      Susanmarie Harrington

      Perhaps one of the most important components of the Outcomes Statement is its repeated assertion that first-year outcomes are only one stage in a writer’s development. Other courses, other experiences, will continue to affect writing competence, and it is important for faculty in other departments and programs to consider how they can build on the work of first-year composition. Arguably no department needs this reminder more than the English department, whose advanced writing courses have typically been simply “more,” “harder,” or “better” first-year courses (see Haswell 1991, 319–20). Whether the OS will spur the development of better-articulated relationships among...

    • 15 USING THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT FOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION
      (pp. 139-149)
      Barry M. Maid

      During the whole development of the Outcomes Statement, one of the driving forces was the overwhelming need to keep the document flexible. There were several reasons for the need for flexibility. Clearly, if the Outcomes Statement were to be accepted and have an impact, it must necessarily serve the needs of diverse programs located in diverse institutions. The original thought was that these diverse programs would be the wide range of first-year composition programs. Yet, even in its beginning stages, there was the notion that the Outcomes Statement might also serve beyond first-year composition.

      Indeed, the last paragraph of the...

    • 16 USING WRITING OUTCOMES TO ENHANCE TEACHING AND LEARNING: Alverno College’s Experience
      (pp. 150-161)
      Robert O’Brien Hokanson

      The WPA Outcomes Statement expresses a shared understanding of what students should know and be able to do as writers, written both to make expectations for first-year composition more public and to foster continuing discussion of what those expectations should be and how faculty and programs can help students meet them. Alverno College has a thirty-year history of teaching and assessing for outcomes in writing and other abilities, and the lessons we’ve learned can inform both the continuing conversation about outcomes and the use of the Outcomes Statement on other campuses. Rather than describing a direct “application” of the Outcomes...

    • 17 WHAT THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT IS NOT: A Reading of the Boyer Commission Report
      (pp. 162-168)
      Rita Malenczyk

      The exodus of the Outcomes Statement from the loving home of its birth parents (see Rhodes et al., chapter two in this volume) foregrounds the following question: What pitfalls do the writers of the statement—and the Council of Writing Program Administrators—need to be aware of as the statement is circulated and used? This essay will consider that question in light of the recent push toward general education reform as exemplified in a report issued in 1998 by the Boyer Commission. What implication does general education reform, which is usually driven by high-level administrators, have for the reception of...

  8. PART FOUR: THEORIZING OUTCOMES
    • 18 THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT AS THEORIZING POTENTIAL: Through a Looking Glass
      (pp. 171-176)
      Ruth Overman Fischer

      The Outcomes Statement is now artifact; the process that produced it exists in memory. Approved by the WPA Executive Board and published both online and in print, the OS now stands as an object of study subject to local revision. Even as Irvin Peckham (unpublished) characterized the statement as “a valuable quasi-end product” (meaning that it should look like an end product but it should never come to closure), the fact remains that the Outcomes Statement as a published document is static, a status that obscures its informing theories.

      I was not an “insider” in framing the Outcomes Statement. I...

    • 19 A FRIENDLY CHALLENGE TO PUSH THE OUTCOMES STATEMENT FURTHER
      (pp. 177-190)
      Peter Elbow

      I should “situate myself” and say a word about the history I bring to the Outcomes Statement. In the 1970s I spent three years in a research project with six others looking closely at seven experiments in outcome-based (“competence-based”) higher education. We each studied our own site for three years—interviewing and observing and eventually writing a case study. But the whole group paid a visit to each site at least once for additional interviewing and observing so that we could provide each other with “triangulation” or additional perspectives. (Sites varied from single courses to programs to entire institutions. Alverno...

    • 20 OUTCOMES AND THE DEVELOPING LEARNER
      (pp. 191-200)
      Richard H. Haswell

      My topic of lifespan development and the Outcomes Statement bridges two different academic disciplines, psychology and composition. In the past the bridge has proven shaky. Min-Zhan Lu remarks, accurately, that “composition studies have long questioned the function of the developmental frame, especially the plot line of ‘you have to... before you can’” (1999, 341). But whose plot line is this? It is true that sequence is the benchmark of the developmental survey of human lives, but the great majority of developmental theories posit no “have to.” Instead they record the “did” of individuals, the “tend to” of cultural groups, the...

    • 21 PRACTICE: The Road to the Outcomes over Time
      (pp. 201-210)
      Marilyn S. Sternglass

      The introduction to the Outcomes Statement states its most important principle: “Learning to write is a complex process, both individual and social, that takes place over time with continued practice and informed guidance” (emphasis added). In light of that observation, it seems critical to distinguish between outcomes at the end of first-year composition courses and outcomes over the college years. The notion of continued practice over time is one that I emphasized strongly in my book, Time to Know Them (1997), by recounting the experiences of students who started at basic writing levels and in the regular freshman composition course...

  9. Afterword: BOWLING TOGETHER: Developing, Distributing, and Using the WPA Outcomes Statement—and Making Cultural Change
    (pp. 211-221)
    Kathleen Blake Yancey

    The WPA Outcomes Statement has succeeded: we know this. Patti Ericsson’s research has documented this claim, and we have lists of (many kinds of) schools— from Johnson Community College and UC Santa Barbara to Arizona State and Xavier University and the entire Virginia Community College system—that have used it in a fundamental way, to help shape composition curricula: through using its concepts and vocabulary to write the composition curriculum, through designing activities that lead to demonstration of the WPA outcomes, through creating assessments that link these activities and outcomes. We also know that other institutions not on the “Ericsson”...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 222-225)
  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 226-233)
  12. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 234-237)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 238-240)