Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Researching Rhetorical Reflection

Introduction—A Summary of the Research Problem and Research Question
The “felt difficulty” (as Dewey would say) triggering this research inquiry is the ambiguous and problematic nature of rhetorical reflection within the activity of writing. Linda Flower's questions about reflection remain: we don't know what kind of knowledge this kind of strategic reflection generates, and we aren't sure if the activity is significant enough to warrant inclusion in the curriculum (is it just a luxury?) (228, 229). Writing teachers experience uncertainties about the nature and purpose of reflection and difficulties in using it in the classroom. Despite having a rich theory surrounding reflection that posits an alchemical quality onto the act of reflection for mediating learning, action, and problem-solving in positive ways, teachers experience mixed results when using reflection with their students. One hypothesis I have is that the source of our problems with reflection in practice is with our theories of reflection and how they were generated. Most theories of how reflection works have been generated either from speculative theorizing based upon logical deductions from other theories, or from interpreting classroom experiences (and in some cases research) in terms of theories or models (such as Hayes' 1996 model of revision). What is lacking is a theory generated from data, from actual instances of rhetorical reflections, untainted by preconceived theories of what reflection is and should do. My goal, then, with this research is to generate a grounded theory of rhetorical reflection that presents a description and understanding of rhetorical reflection (a theory) that fits with the actual phenomenon and works in practice when put into use. With this grounded theory, we won't “know” if rhetorical reflection works or not; instead, we'll have a better understanding of what rhetorical reflection is and how it works or does not work. This grounded understanding, then, will help guide teachers' practice using rhetorical reflection in the classroom and their own ongoing theorizing about it.

The working Research Question I have for my inquiry is:
How do teacher-prompted rhetorical reflections related to learning and writing practice for freshman writers negotiating the activity of writing?

I should also stress again that this research study is about generating theory—not validating it. The methodologies, methods, goals, and assumptions underlying generating rather than validating theory differ greatly, allowing for much more various and looser sampling and methods for gathering data. In the discussion that follows, I will explicate and examine my research study in more detail. I should mention that I have found the December CCC article “The Importance of Harmony: An Ecology Metaphor for Writing Research” helpful in framing my research, and you will see that I have interpreted these questions with this ecological metaphor in mind.

Locating My Study in Terms of Open and Closed Systems—Phenomenon of Study
In this section, I will attempt to describe the local subject of my study in terms of it being a closed or open system. I would have to say that the 2004-2006 First Year Writing Program at Texas Tech University (FYWP at TTU) in its curriculum, writing pedagogy, and writing produced by students is both a closed and open system. This discussion will attempt to map out the features of the writing ecology.

Chris Anson and Clay Spinuzzi offer definitions of closed and open systems that I will then apply to the FYWP. As Clay Spinuzzu describes it, open systems create a productive balance between structure and innovation and uses the analogy of an a starter reef to describe an open system: “An open system is a centrally designed artifact, of course, but it exists as a nexus for workers' innovations, just as an artificial reef functions as a nexus for a developing underwater ecology” (205). Chris Anson describes the activity of writing as an open system: “In the sense in which activity theorist and genre theoriest have described it, writing takes place in an open system: as constantly evolving, contextually mediated, and contextually determined practices, influenced by social and institutional histories, conventions, and expectations” (114). Writing is an open system because its rhetorical context calls on writers to innovate (invent) appropriate solutions to the complex constraints and possibilities within specific writing contexts. Closed systems, as Spinuzzi points out, rigidly try to control work such that innovation is “centrally controlled and fine tuned” (202). The goal of the closed system is to “regulate workers' activities” (204). Spinuzzi's work shows how such closed systems inhibit work since the closed system dictates how workers will meet contingencies by generalizing situations and standardizing ways of meeting situations. Anson describes a closed system in this way: “a closed system is one in which the activities admit little variety, are habituated over long periods of time, and are learned through repeated practice” (115). Anson's overall point in his article is that standardized testing has transformed writing instruction in schools into a closed system with the detrimental effect that “the lack of experience [students are getting] in writing in those larger circles would doom them to adaptive failure” (115).

When we examine the FYWP at TTU 2004-2006, we can see how in many ways it is a closed system which seeks to “regulate workers' activities.” Students are put through a repeated sequence of writing feedback loops to habituate them to learning the practice of writing. Not much choice or innovation is offered to students in their activity of writing. This, I would say, is appropriate for a freshman course with the goal of teaching novice writers. However, the course also acts as an open system, as a kind of starter reef, because it is designed to enter students into writing situations that call on them to make choices and problem solve within the writing process. It is in the Writer's Reviews (rhetorical reflections) in particular where students are asked to engage in “reflective practice” that we can say students have the opportunity to innovate and invent their own practice as they face the complex task of determining their own rhetorical stance.

The chart below provides a map of the “ecology” surrounding Writer's Reviews as rhetorical reflections within the FYWP at TTU:
(chart not included)

According to the Ecological Metaphor for Writing Research, the researcher needs to map this ecology out in three ways:
1.Interdependence—the elements of the activity systematic
2.Feedback—the feedback pathways among the elements of the writing ecosystem
3.Diversity—the affordances that limit or increase the multiplicity of options within the systematic
The above chart does a fairly good job of mapping the different elements within this activity system (interdependence) and providing a start for visualizing the different feedback pathways that feed into writer's reviews. The affordances that limit or increase the options are much harder to map because these affordances may vary by particular writing assignment or by how an individual writer interacts within this activity system. Any one of these various interdependent elements of the ecology surrounding Writing Reviews could influence what the student does in these writing reviews greatly. However, I want to make special note of the importance of the Writing Review Prompt. As Jennifer Moon has noted, what distinguishes different kinds of reflection is not the process or nature of the reflection, but the “framework” or purpose for which it is used: “it is the framework or intention and any guidance toward fulfillment of that intention that is significant in distinguishing one act of reflection from another” (Reflection in Learning 15). The prompt for reflection and how it ties in with the overall writing task and the fulfillment of its goals is in my view the most significant affordance within this system.

Description of Methods To Be Used—Method of Study
The goal of my inquiry is to generate a theory of rhetorical reflection. In order to do this, I will employ the methodology of Grounded Theory with its systematic method of coding and analyzing data. Although a full description of Grounded Theory is beyond the scope of this exam, I want to highlight the basic elements of the ecosystem of grounded theory research and its own feedback system for generating theory.

Coding: Open, Axial, Selective
Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin define coding as “The Analytic process through which data are fractured, conceptualized, and integrated to form theory” (3). Grounded Theory implements a systematic process of coding data to generate theory. Open Coding involves identifying concepts within the data as well as the properties or characteristics of these concepts and their dimensions (101). These concepts are the “building blocks of theory” and come from the data—not previous theory. The concepts form Categories that stand for phenomena. Axial Coding involves “the process of relating categories to their subcategories” and “linking categories at the level of properties and dimensions” (123). As relationships are determined, the researcher identifies structures and processes. Selective Coding involves the “process of integrating and refining theory” (143). In this coding process, the researcher makes repeated passes through the data to emerge at theory.

Constant Comparative Analysis
The development of concepts occurs through constant comparative analysis with additional data. As Ian Dey summarizes, “Categories (or codes) are to be generated by comparing one incident with another and then by comparing new incidents with emergent categories” (7). The making of constant comparisons (even allowing as Strauss and Corbin do in their version of Grounded Theory for the interplay of data and theory) is a central, “constitutive” feature of this methodology.

Theoretical Sampling
Grounded Theory does not require predetermined and controlled sampling as theory verification methodologies do. Instead, the methodology promotes inquiry wherever the inquiry leads in the service of developing theory. As Glazer and Strauss define it, “Theoretical sampling is the process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyzes his data and decides what data to collect next and where to find them, in order to develop his theory as it emerges. This process is controlled by the emerging theory” (45). The researcher continues to analyze different “slices of data” based upon this theoretical sampling until they reach “saturation” of their categories.

Appropriateness of Methods
As we can see, Grounded Theory is a highly interpretive process that involves a constant dialectic between concrete data and interpretive insights, trying as best it can to harmonize the conceptual theory in developmental with the specific phenomena of study. It is this quest for harmony in its results that distinguishes Grounded Theory. In the same way that user-centered design with its iterative development process creates better products by trying to make products more useable for users, so the iterative coding process of Grounded Theory through this constant grounding of theory with data enables the development of better theory. Although other methods exist for generating theory (for example by hypothesizing and seeking to reject or confirm this hypothesis either through experimental methods or qualitative methods), Grounded Theory is the most appropriate methodology for generating theory because it is expressly designed for this purpose and an extensive literature exists to assist researchers in pursing its methods. In this way, Grounded Theory as my method for pursing my inquiry harmonizes with my research question and purpose.

Grounded Theory also is an appropriate method specifically for studying writing. Writing as a social phenomena, as a situated activity, and as a process fits as a research subject typically handled by Grounded Theory researchers.

Application of These Methods/Instigating Rigor—the Rhetorical Enactment of Study
For me, any application of a research method should be done in a rigorous way. As an archival research study of reflective texts contained in a large database of writing, my sample presents limitations, challenges, and opportunities for how I will apply the methods of Grounded Theory and enact my study.

Limitations:
Grounded Theory appears to be a methodology open to almost any data and form of sampling. Since, however, it studies social phenomena predominantly, it tends to employ qualitative methods of field observation, interviews, focus groups, or textual analysis. It particularly likes to sample data from a variety of contexts to assist in constant comparative analysis. My study, however, will be limited to the textual analysis of subjects from one general context. These limitations could be seen as severe flaws in the enactment of my effort to generate theory.

These are the key questions:
--Does only a textual perspective on this phenomena of study provide too narrow a view into this social setting and action?
--Does limiting the sampling to one group and one setting restrict the free range needed for theoretical sampling and constant comparative analysis?

In answer to the first question, I would say I don't absolutely know the answer. For rigor in the enactment of this archival study, I will need to make a full disclosure of the how this theory was generated so that readers may judge its validity on those merits.

The answer to the second question is a bit easier. Grounded Theory already allows a process of developing theory first in a homogeneous environment. Glazer and Strauss believe the initial establishment of categories and properties are best developed by “minimizing” differences among comparison groups (55). Only after these categories and properties are established within this relatively homogeneous group should the researcher seek to “maximize” the differences among comparative groups to further refine and develop the theory. My study, then, should be clearly presented as developing this first step in generating theory and will provide a clear starting point for continued grounded theory development among different comparison groups.

Challenges:
The actual practice of doing grounded theory analysis appears to be difficult. In particular, the edict to let the data speak and not preconceived theory or expectations of what we want to see in the data presents a large challenge to me since I am so steeped in the theory. To mitigate being “tainted” by theory, I will need to learn the process of coding and be reflexive in how theory is entering into my analysis.

The second challenge has to do with how to conduct a pilot study. I still have ringing in my ears the maxim that “If you don't do a pilot study, then your study is a pilot.” Grounded Theory, however, seems to resist doing a pilot study since it believes in simultaneous sampling and analysis. With Grounded Theory it is like there is no practice match; you are playing for real the minute you begin. Since Grounded Theory operates on the notion of analyzing “slices of data” and constant comparison among groups of data, I believe I could consider my first batch of data to be like a pilot study. It will be important for me after this initial analysis of the first slice of data to evaluate my procedures for conducting grounded theory analysis to identify any needed adjustments.

The last challenge I face in the enactment of my study is the fact that my sample is text contained in a database. My understanding of how a database is structured and operates will influence the options I conceive for following theoretical sampling within this data set. It will be important, then, for me to gain this understanding of the TOPIC database and researching within a database.

Opportunities
The limitation of my sampling to archival texts held within the TOPIC database offers immense possibilities and offsets the limitations of the study to only textual analysis. The vast number and range of texts available in the database is rare for any study of writing. Since the data resides within a database, many different ways to slice the data exist. These two facts open new vistas for theoretical sampling. I could pull a slice of data of new students in 1301 and then compare that data to students at the end of 1302. I could pull data from just women, or just students who fail a writing assignment. The database also contains complete sets of entire writing cycles from drafts, to peer response, to document instructor feedback, to writing reviews, to final grades and assessment. In addition, since all the data is within the database I may be able to do some theoretical sampling using data-mining techniques. The vast opportunities available since the data is in the TOPIC database offer the prospect of reaching “theoretical saturation”--the end point of Grounded Theory research.

What Kinds of Knowledge Will Be Produced and How Might It Impact the Field
The “knowledge” my research study will produce will be a theory. But how do we judge a theory? What kind of knowledge does it offer? And how does theory relate to practice?

Glaser and Strauss state two criteria for the generation of theory. The theory generated must “fit” the situation and “work” when put to use: “By 'fit' we mean that the categories must be readily (not forcibly) applicable to and indicated by the data under study; by 'work' we mean that they must be meaningfully relevant to and be able to explain the behavior under study” (3). Put in other words, the theory must be true and able to communicate a meaningful understanding of the system of study. For my study, the theory of rhetorical reflection will provide a meaningful description of what happens when student reflect in this way. It will offer significant dynamics, structures, and processes that seem to be at work among the various elements of the system. But it won't offer a static machine-like model. The theory should offer a way to describe how and why rhetorical reflection works or doesn't work. Most of all, it should offer an entry point and navigation points for teachers to construct their own teaching practice for using rhetorical reflection.

Louise Wetherbee Phelps in the last chapter of her book Composition As A Human Science investigates in depth the nature of Theory and its relationship to Practice. She sees a reciprocal, dialectic relationship between Theory and Practice such that each supports the other. Neither does Theory dictate practice, nor does practice ignore Theory as irrelevant: “Theory, disciplined by our own freedom to reflect and to experience, is for composition praxis an enabling fiction” (241). Thus, the knowledge I hope my study creates will be an enabling fiction that assists teachers in inventing their own reflective practice using rhetorical reflection in their specific teaching context.

The implications of my Theory for Composition Studies can be understood by examining another quote from the same chapter by Phelps: “But teachers do not simply enact Theory, they also offer it to students directly as text, comment, or tool, so that students may appropriate it to organize their discourse practices and learning processes” (234). My theory of rhetorical reflection, I hope, will influence student learning and practice. Composition Studies seeks as its highest goal to cultivate not a mere “literate practice,” but a “rhetorical sensitivity” and meta-awareness within “literate acts” (Flower, Petraglia). Rhetorical reflection, as a pedagogically strategic activity, aims to foster this reflective practice in our student writers, and that is why this study will have value for the field.


Works Cited
Anson, Chris M. "Closed Systems and Standardized Writing Tests." College Composition and Communication 60.1 (2008): 113-28.
Dewey, John. How We Think. Boston: DC Heath, 1933.
Dey, Ian. Grounding Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Qualitative Inquiry. San Diego: Academic Press, 1999.
Fleckenstein, Kristie S., Clay Spinuzzi, Rebecca J. Rickly, and Carole Clark Papper. "The Importance of Harmony: An Ecological Metaphor for Writing Research." College Composition and Communication 60.2 (2008): 388-419.
Flower, Linda. The Construction of Negotiated Meaning: A Social Cognitive Theory of Writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1994.
Glaser, Barney G., and Anselm L. Strauss. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1967.
Hayes, John R. "A New Framework for Understanding Cognition and Affect in Writing." The Science of Writing: Theories, Methods, Individual Differences, and Applications. Eds. C. Michael Levy and Sarah Ransdell. Mahwah: Lawrence Erbaum Associates, 1996.
Moon, Jennifer A. Reflection in Learning & Professional Development. London: Kogan Page, 1999.
Petraglia, Joseph. “Is There Life After Process? The Role of Social Scientism in a Changing Discipline.” Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing-Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press: 1999. 49-64.
Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. Composition as a Human Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.
Stauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1998.

Rhetorical Reflection's Place in the Writing Curriculum to Promote Knowledge Transfer

In terms of student learning, rhetorical reflection has three main values which warrant its prominent place in any writing curriculum: 1) it helps guide more effective practice for student writers within particular writing situations; 2) it serves as a way for students to derive what Kathleen Yancey calls “prototypical models” that they can transfer to new communication contexts (50); and 3) it helps develop students' rhetorical sensitivity and practical judgment and their ability to flexibly and appropriately apply what they know in different situations (what I will eventually call their “reflective practice”). When we ask what a student learns in a writing class, what “knowledge” they carry with them into the next class or the next writing context they face, I believe all three of the roles of reflection are interlinked as we help students generalize productively from their learning experience.

Two questions need to be examined before we elaborate on reflection's place in the writing curriculum: First we need an understanding of what it means to write. What is writing? Second, we need to define what kind of knowledge we teach? With these two conceptions in mind about the nature of writing and the knowledge about the writing act we need to teach, we can then discuss reflection's role in learning to write.

The grammatical form of the word “writing” as a gerund contains the paradox in what it means to write: writing operates as both a noun and a verb. This paradox of writing was discussed at length by classical rhetoricians as the debate between viewing rhetoric as a subject (or science) and viewing rhetoric as an art (or faculty). As a subject, writing involves knowledge of and control of the sign system of language—referred to in writing rubrics as grammar and mechanics (things like spelling, word form, punctuation, capitalization). In addition, writing as a subject involves what we might call conventions of discourse. The most conventional form of writing in Composition is the enduring five paragraph essay, or at least the concept of the thesis-support essay structure built around the unified paragraph invented by Alexander Bain in the mid-19th century (Halasek 146-154). As an art, writing means acknowledging the full complexity of the writing act as well as the flexible and appropriate application of the “rules” of writing as a subject within particular writing situations. The best metaphor that describes the act of writing is the notion of “rhetorical stance” which describes the complex process of finding, defining, checking, and altering all the various elements of the writing situation: what we mean vs. what we say, the situation, the occasion, the constraints of the particular task (or task schema) , the materiality of writing and process of production, genre, the audience, and purpose (Bereiter and Scarmadalia, Bitzer, Kinneavy, Flower and Hayes, Bawarshi, Ede and Lundsford). Helen Foster's map of “networked subjectivity” provides a compelling conceptual model of all the complexities writers face when they write:
Figure 1: Networked Subjectivity (Foster 113)
As Foster states, “The map attempts to indicate that multiple subjectivities, epistemologies, and literacies are part and parcel of networked subjectivity; the subject and its relation to the networked world, including the classroom and the practices of teaching writing, is shot through and through with discursive relations” (114). Flower and Hayes' 1981 model of the writing process (as well as Hayes' 1996 revision of that model) are two other models of the elements of the writing act. Each of these models of the activity of writing indicate that the act of writing involves a complex managing of multiple factors and constraints.

When we ask what we should teach in a writing class and what knowledge students should learn, I believe we need to teach not just what Linda Flower calls “limited literacy” but “literate acts” (Construction 1-35). Limited literacy narrows the range of the writing situation and privileges rules, correctness, and formal (or surface) features of writing. In Flower's call for teaching “literate acts” we see the exact complaints classical rhetoricians had against those teachers of rhetoric who would reduce it to a science and a form of techne. Isocrates in “Against the Sophists” complains that the sophists taught oratory as if they were teaching the alphabet: “But I marvel when I observe these men setting themselves up as instruments of youth who cannot see that they are applying the analogy of an art [science] with hard and fast rules to a creative process” (73). Similarly Aristotle states, “But the more we try to make either dialectic or rhetoric not, what they really are, practical faculties, but sciences, the more we shall inadvertently be destroying their true nature” (187). When critics like Sharon Crowley and Kathleen Welch condemn “composition” and “current-traditional” practice as teaching such a narrow form of writing as to become “anti-writing” (Crowley 149) and when post-process critics like Kent, Petraglia, Olson, Coultre, and Dobrin (and others) critique writing process pedagogy as teaching a Theory of Writing that is reductive, false, and even unethical, we hear the same critiques made by classical rhetoricians and in the call Flower makes for teaching “literate acts” rather than “limited literacy.”

But what are “literate acts” and the practical faculty they employ? A literate act as Flower defines it “is an individual constructive act that does not merely invoke or participate in a literate practice but embeds such practice and conventions within a personally meaningful, goal-directed use of literacy” (Construction 18). She identifies literacy as a move within a “discourse practice” and claims writers through these moves engage “in a transaction with text that is guided (more or less) by a flexible social script for how such things are normally done” (20). Contrary to post-process scholars who would claim that the activity of writing is totally indeterminate and interpretive and would thus “let go the curriculum” claiming writing is unteachable (Breuch 99, 118), Flower states that “becoming literate depends upon knowledge of social conventions … and learning distinctive ways of thinking grounded in the social purpose of the practice” (22, 23). It also involves problem-solving: “By problem-solving, I mean the intellectual moves that allow people to construct meaning—to interpret the situation; to organize, select, and connect information; to draw inferences, set goals, get the gist, respond to prior texts, draw on past experience, imagine options, and carry on intentions” (24). Ann Berthoff makes a similar point when she claims writing as a form of making meaning is not just a verbal behavior (skill) but an activity that “involves the writer in making choices all along the way” (22). Flower's emphasis on literate acts interweaving knowledge of conventions as well as situated cognition complements the point Anis Bawashi makes in her 2003 book on the role of genre and invention in writing: “By encouraging student writers to recognize beginnings as genred positions of articulation, and by teaching students how to inquire into these positions, we enable them to locate themselves more critically and effectively as writers within these beginnings” (170). Thus, we have the creative tension implicit in the nature of writing as being both a subject and an activity; as being a genred act of articulation and an individual act of meaning-making; and as being a body of general concepts, theories, and rules and the flexible application of those general theories in particular contexts. The “knowledge” we must teach as writing teachers is how to critically understand and manage this creative tension implicit in what it means to engage in a literate act.

In summary, reflection as a pedagogical activity within a writing curriculum is a strategic activity that helps writers engage in and problem-solve within literate acts. Reflection also serves as an opportunity for students to construct their understanding (create what Donna Qualley calls “earned insights”) and debrief their learning experience. These two views of reflection match my own description of the two frameworks for reflection in composition: rhetorical reflection and curricular reflection. Since my focus of inquiry is on rhetorical reflection, I will center my discussion on “knowledge” not as a discrete skill or form of knowledge that is retrospectively constructed, but as a capacity or awareness flexibly applied within various writing situations that will enable the writer to write more effectively. As a kind of knowledge Schon would call “reflection-in-action,” this cognitive flexibility resembles the classical notion of phronesis, or the application of practical wisdom and judgment in uncertain or “indeterminate zones or practice” (Schon Educating 6). This “critical knowing” (Pearson and Smith 74) or “meta-awareness about writing, language, and rhetorical strategies” (Wardle qtd. in Anson 124) I will label as “reflective practice” (following Schon). To carry this reflective practice into another writing situation I will call “reflexive transfer.”

It is now my job to describe a composition pedagogy that encourages “reflective practice” and promotes “reflexive transfer.” Such a pedagogy involves two steps: first students must be engaged in writing tasks that call on them to exercise this reflective practice, and second “reflexive transfer” is promoted through reflecting on their reflective practice.

A writing pedagogy that promotes reflective practice, I believe, must be thoroughly rhetorical. I conceived my own framework for such a composition course in a paper I wrote entitled, “Open Spaces: A Heuristic Toward a New Composition.” My own discussion of this pedagogy will draw on ideas and a few excerpts from this paper. Sharon Crowley outlines the nature of the rhetorical principles that form the foundation for this pedagogy:

"rhetoric pays close attention to the given audience, occasion, and social or political situation that has prompted a rhetor to compose and deliver a discourse" (166)
and
"rhetoric tends to prefer a more holistic picture of human motivation than has been traditionally congenial to philosophy" (166-167). [In other words, beyond appeals to reason, rhetoric is open to ethos, pathos, and knowledge built from common places.]
and
"rhetoricians tend to view language as something other than a simple medium of representation. … Language is not always a subservient instrument of thought or reason; indeed, it may shape both" (167).

Such a rhetorical pedagogy engages students in literate acts, calling on them to problem-solve and engage in reflective practice. I identified five heuristics or “spaces” in which teachers could position their students that I believed would call on them to act rhetorically and invent new practice. Only through significant rhetorical experiences which call on students to be reflective practitioners do they begin to learn reflective practice.

The five spaces or heuristics are as follows:
1)Open Genre/New Literacy
—Students are asked to write different kinds of genres that involve them in a variety of writing situations. In particular, I felt that writing teachers should engage students in writing multi-modal, new media forms of discourse because of our changing literacy landscape.

2)The Rhetorical Forum
--The rhetorical forum is a recurring location for communication and argument (Farrell “Practicing” 89). It is a social setting where students must take audience into account and learn that writing is a “two-sided act” (Bakhtin 1215) as well as a performance (Welch).

3)Real Writing
--It is important for student writers to write for real (not practice) writing situations and audiences. In this way, students have more significant experiences with occasion, audience, and purpose than for a classroom-bound only writing assignment. It draws them into the real complexities of writing and thus positions them to experience reflective practice more fully.

4)Collaborative Writing
--Co-creating a text calls on students to think about writing and the production of a text in different ways. Besides providing a broader perspective on the writing situation, collaborative writing also leads students to interrogate the choices they make in writing in more significant ways since the group has to negotiate these choices.

5)Civic Rhetoric
--Having students write about issues of public concern returns Composition to its roots in classical rhetoric and involves students in the role of rhetoric for building a civil society. An important part of having students engage in civic rhetoric should be the study of the way language works for communal good and bad—the ethical dimensions of all discourse.

I will briefly describe two assignments that enact this “New Composition,” and then discuss examples of how reflection plays a role in assisting and creating reflective practice.
The first assignment, used in my Freshman Composition I class last Fall, is entitled “What Really Matters for Election 2008.” Students were asked to profile a person of voting age about what single issue or concern most mattered to them in this 2008 election. These profiles were posted into a “rhetorical forum” I created for the San Antonio College community called “Decision2008atSAC.” The overall purpose of the student writing in this site was to help members of the SAC community become better informed voters. I won't belabor the may ways in which this assignment enacts New Composition in the interest of space (and since my focus will be on reflection within this pedagogical situation.

The second assignment is one I have done a number of times with my online Developmental English II students. I discovered while teaching this class that most of my students had a common story that went something like this: I struggled in and even hated high school. I did poorly, had major problems, made bad decisions, and blew my chance to go to college. But here I am years later, older, wiser, and with a fire in my belly to get my education. I found these stories extremely compelling, and I felt like current high school students needed to hear them. This assignment, then, was designed to give them that chance. This statement from the assignment expresses what the topic was: “Your purpose is to communicate some important truth or principle that you now understand (but that you ignored or didn't understand in high school) and persuade them that it is true or something they should do or adopt.” These essays were then posted on a website (a wiki) entitled “College4U.” As with the previous assignment, I won't elaborate ways this assignment asks students to engage in a literate act and use reflective practice.

The goal of rhetorical reflection in this pedagogical situation is to enter students into a discursive space where they can engage in reflective practice. A look at four different theoretical models of the method or sequence of reflection reveals a general pattern which rhetorical reflection can adopt:

John Dewey's
Steps of “Reflective Thinking”
(i) a felt difficulty
(ii) its location and definition
(iii) suggestion of possible solutions
(iv) development by reasoning of the bearings of the suggestion
(v) further observation and experiment leading to its acceptance or reflection; that is the conclusion of belief or disbelief
(72)

Donald Schon's Structure of Reflection in Action
1) problem
2) attempt at “problem setting/framing”
3) failure to solve the problem
4) reframing of the problem/situation
5) conduct experiment to discover consequences and implications

--appreciation
--action
--reappreciation
(Schon The Reflective Practitioner 128-132)

Kathleen Yancey's Synthesis of Schon's Method of Reflection
To theorize our own practice through reflection--
1) know it [practice]
2) review it
3) discern patterns in it
4) project appropriately from these patterns
5) use projections to hypothesize a new way of thinking about the situations
(12)

David Boud et. al
Three Phases of Reflective Process (from Experiential Learning)
1) Return to experience

2) Attend to feelings

3) Re-evaluate experience


David Grimmett's
Three Conceptions of Reflection in Teacher Education
1) thoughtfulness about action

2) deliberation and choice among competing actions

3) reflection as restructuring experience
(12)


From these different models, we can develop a general template for prompting rhetorical reflection between drafts. These prompts would contain this sequence:
1.Description—where are you, what have you done, how are you feeling
2.Attending to feelings—what feelings or impressions do you have at this point
3.Identify Problems—problem setting/problem framing, exploring difficulties and what may not be working (especially dealing with establishing aligned rhetorical stance)
4.Consider Options—suggest courses of action to solve the problem
5.Future Direction—decide what will you do, why you will do it, and expected outcome

I want to emphasize that this sequence is a general template; each particular prompt for rhetorical reflection should be customized to the essay assignment and to where students are within the writing cycle. However, this general sequence provides a framework for prompting reflective practice.

Prompts for rhetorical reflection should also encourage what Dewey called the “double movement of reflection.” This double movement is a form of dialectical thinking he describes this way: “[It is] a movement from the given partial and confused data to a suggested comprehension (or inclusive) entire situation; and back from this suggested whole... to the particular facts” (79). He names these movements as inductive and deductive thinking, “the movement toward the suggestion or hypothesis and the movement back to facts” (81). This dialectic movement of reflective thinking is a fundamental dynamic within reflection. Bereiter and Scarmadalia conceived a “dual-problem space model of reflective processes in written composition” where reflection is a dialogue between the Content Space (What do I mean?) and the Rhetorical Space (What do I say?): “The key requirement for reflective thought in writing, according to this model, is the translation of problems encountered in the rhetorical space back into subgoals to be achieved in the content space” (303). A similar back and forth process can be seen in L. McAlpine et. al's “Metacognitive Model of Reflection.” In their model reflection is seen as an iterative process and ongoing conversation: “Specifically, reflection is visualized as continuous interaction between the two inter-related components of action and knowledge” (107). Kathleen Yancey's description of the reflective process offers one more example of this double-movement in reflective thought: “When we reflect, we thus project and review, often putting the projections and the reviews in dialogue with each other, working dialectically as we seek to discover what we know, what we have learned, and what we might understand” (6). It is important within prompts for reflection that we design them to initiate this dialectical thinking.
So far I have described two key parts of developing a writing curriculum that implements rhetorical reflection: first, designing a curriculum that engages students within rhetorical situations and literate acts so that they are more readily drawn into reflective practice; and second, designing the reflective prompts between drafts to engage students into rhetorical reflection in order to critically understand and problem-solve within their reflective practice.

Two other questions remain regarding reflection and transfer:
How do you design a curriculum that encourages “reflexive transfer” (the transfer of the ability for reflective practice in new writing situations)?
How do you measure whether these efforts are effective?

In order to encourage “reflexive transfer,” we must provide opportunities for students to reflect upon and process their reflective practice. That is, we must ask them to reflect upon not just what they learned, but upon their rhetorical action—the moves, choices, and decisions they made and strategies they employed. Linda Flower believes the essence of transfer is “the ability to use old knowledge in new settings” (290). Learning and the knowledge we may gain from experience, however, are entwined within context. For transfer to happen, these contexts must be tapped into: “effective transfer of knowledge is possible when people recognize—actually attend to the fact—that features of this situation fit prior situations, and as a result they adapt old knowledge and strategies to fit these new contexts” (290). When Yancey discusses the main goal of “Constructive Reflection” after a writing cycle to be the development of “prototypical models,” it is important that these reflections embed these models within the context out of which they came. We must get students to answer questions like: Why because of this particular situation were these problems encountered and these solutions most appropriate? As students begin a writing task, we need to ask them to reflect critically on the task and locate it in reference to past reflective practice. In this way, we don't promote the notion of a formula for writing but a tool box of adaptive sets of goals, strategies and problem-solving techniques to fit each particular writing situation.

If we design reflection to encourage “reflective practice” and the “reflexive transfer” of that practice as I have been discussing, how would we measure its effectiveness? The task of such measurement is complex, and I can't say that I have an answer for it. The task is complicated by the fact that reflective thinking is not just a discursive act—people also think internally and talk about their writing task in reflective ways. Also, there is often a wide gap between what we can think and conceive and what we are able to do. A deep understanding of the rhetorical complexity of a writing situation and what needs to be done to meet it does not mean a student writer is able to. Developmental factors as well as previous knowledge and experience come into play too.

To measure “reflexive transfer” would seem to involve a matter of multiple evaluations—each of which is problematic:
Step #1: Develop a baseline of reflective practice level
1.measure the level of rhetorical reflection
2.measure if level of awareness of and engagement in reflective practice transferred into important action within the writing cycle
3.measure the “prototypical models” for practice derived by the student
The end point would be a measure of the students ability at reflective practice on a scale

Step #2: Measure the student's reflective practice in another writing context
1.measure the level of rhetorical reflection
2.measure the level of awareness of and engagement in reflective practice transferred into important action within the writing cycle—And what understandings and strategies of reflective practice are brought into this writing experience from a previous one
3.measure the “prototypical models” for practice derived by the student—And how these these models connect to models from previous writing experiences
The end point would be both a second measure of the students ability at reflective practice to compare to the first measure, and a measure of reflexive transfer.

To be honest, this form of assessment would be incredibly hard to create and administer and fraught with inaccuracy. Theoretically, we can believe that reflection can promote transfer, but checking that this transfer happens encounters the same problems that checking to see if reflection promotes better practice within writing situations. Perhaps a Grounded Theory research study on reflexive transfer could reveal the dynamics at work.



Works Cited
Anson, Chris M. "Closed Systems and Standardized Writing Tests." College Composition and Communication 60.1 (2008): 113-28.
Aristotle. "Rhetoric." The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present (2001): 179-240 pp.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed. Ed. Patricial Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: Bedford's/St. Martin's, 2001. 1210-1226.
Bawarshi, Anis. Genre & the Invention of the Writer: Reconsidering the Place of Invention in Composition. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003.
Bereiter, Carl and Marlene Scardamalia. The Psychology of Written Composition. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987.
Berthoff, Ann E. The Making of Meaning: Metaphors, Models, and Maxims for Writing Teachers. Montclair: Boynton/Cook Publishers Inc., 1981.
Bitzer, Lloyd. "The Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric (1968): 1-14.
Boud, David, Rosemary Keogh, and David Walker. "Promoting Reflection in Learning: a Model." Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. New York: Kogan Page, 1985. 18-40.
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Crowley, Sharon. Methodological Memory: Invention in Current Traditional Rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1990.
Crowley, Sharon. Methodological Memory: Invention in Current Traditional Rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1990.
Dewey, John. How We Think. Boston: DC Heath, 1933.
Dobrin, Sidney I. "Paralogic Hermeneutic Theories, Power and the Possibilities for Liberating Pedagogies." Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing-Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. 2nd ed. vols. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Up, 1999. 132-48.
Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. "Audience Addressed/ Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy." The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. Eds. Gary Tate, Edward P.J. Corbett and Nancy Myers. 3rd ed. vols. New York Oxford, 1994. 243-57.
Farrell, James. "Practicing the Arts of Rhetoric: Tradition and Invention." Contemporary Rhetorical Theory. Eds. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit and Sally Caudill. New York: The Guildord Press, 1999. 79-100.
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Foster, Helen. Networked Process: Dissolving Boundaries of Process and Post-Process. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2007.
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Halasek, Kay. A Pedagogy of Possibility: Bakhtinian Perspectives on Composition Studies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1999.
Hayes, John R. "A New Framework for Understanding Cognition and Affect in Writing." The Science of Writing: Theories, Methods, Individual Differences, and Applications. Eds. C. Michael Levy and Sarah Ransdell. vols. Mahwah: Lawrence Erbaum Associates, 1996.
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---. The Reflective Practitioner. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 1983.
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Yancy, Kathleen Blake. Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998.

The Nature of Rhetorical Reflection

Invention as Janice Lauer defines it concerns “strategic acts that provide the discourser with direction, multiple ideas, subject matter, arguments, insights or probably judgments, and understanding of the rhetorical situation” (2). “Rhetorical reflection” is just such a “strategic act” that extends the concerns of invention throughout the activity of writing, helping writers achieve an appropriate and effective rhetorical stance. In this discussion, I will define rhetorical reflection and outline its relevant links to rhetoric and invention, then discuss the significance of rhetorical reflection as a concept and pedagogical activity within the field of Rhetoric and Composition.

Rhetorical reflection, as I define it, represents a teacher-prompted activity that occurs within the activity or writing for the purpose of validity testing or problem-solving. Following Linda Flower's paradigm of writer-based/reader-based prose, rhetorical reflection is written for the writer's own purposes and with herself in mind as audience. Typically, these acts of reflection come between the drafts, after peer feedback and before revision begins. This chart of the “Writing Feedback Loop” illustrates the pedagogical location of rhetorical reflection within a teacher-guided sequence of the writing process:
Figure 1: The Writing Feedback Loop and Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

This sequencing of the writing process follows David Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle closely, where “reflective observation” on experience leads to “abstract conceptualization” that leads to “active experimentation” in another (and presumably improved) attempt at the experience, which then leads to a repeat of the cycle. This “looping” describes the multi-draft sequence of the writing-feedback loop and the significant role peer response and rhetorical reflection have in helping students formulate critical perspective and insight into their own text and process so as to assist them in revising and completing the writing assignment more successfully. Rhetorical reflection contrasts with what I call “curricular reflection” which is done post-task rather than in-task and predominantly for constructivist purposes and assessment. The portfolio letter represents the most typical kind of curricular reflection. As Richard Haswell notes, these kinds of student self-evaluations “both measure and allow learning” (98). It asks students to demonstrate their learning even as they construct it. Since this kind of reflection is done once the task is completed, it does not involve the same kind of problem-solving as the strategizing done in rhetorical reflection in the midst of a writing task. Jennifer Moon calls this kind of reflection where no new learning material is involved “cognitive housekeeping” that involves a “re-ordering of thought” (90).

Figure 2: The Three Poles of Reflection's

The diagram of the three poles of reflection chart out these two different frameworks for reflection typically used in Composition. Curricular reflection, then, has the predominant purpose of promoting learning, while rhetorical reflection is chiefly characterized by judgment.
An examination of Donald's Schon's thinking on “reflective practice” reveals further features of “rhetorical reflection” and why this kind of reflection can be closely connected to rhetoric and invention. Kathleen Blake Yancey and Joel English are two of the most prominent scholars in Composition who have directly brought Schon's ideas into the field of Composition. Yancey in her book Reflection in the Writing Classroom introduces Schon's concepts by describing his views on knowledge: “In explaining his epistemology, Schon begins by distinguishing between two kinds of knowing: that of the technical realm and that of the non-technical realm. The world of technical rationality, Schon says, allows for a knowing by way of causal inference that is controlled. … The second world is … where causal inference is a judgment call, no matter how well informed” (12-13). Within Schon's two competing views of epistemology, we see the same competing views about truth and rhetoric's role that go back to the sophists, and through Schon's conception of “reflective practice” we can make direct connections to “rhetorical practice.”

In Schon's 1983 The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, he describes the crisis in professional practice as a mismatch between then current methods for guiding practice and real life practice situations. He labels the culprit as “the model of Technical Rationality”: “According to the model of Technical Rationality … professional activity consists in instrumental problem solving made rigorous by the application of scientific theory and technique” (21). He characterizes this technical rationality later as the “application of scientific theory and technique to the instrumental problems of practice” (30). The crisis Schon identifies is that this technical rationality does not always work in the messy, real world which involves “complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict” (18). He labels these situations as “indeterminate zones of practice” (Educating 6-7). His entire thesis surrounding “reflection-in-action” and “reflection-on-action” is about applying a different kind of thinking to these indeterminate zones of practice.

Within Schon's two conflicting models of knowledge guiding practice we see the ancient conflict between philosophy and rhetoric. Stanley Fish summarizes this conflict in his essay “Rhetoric” by bringing up Richard Lanham's distinction between homo seriosus and homo rhetoricus: “In the philosopher's vision of the world, rhetoric (and representation in general) is merely the (disposable) form by which a prior and substantial content is conveyed; but in the world of homo rhetoricus rhetoric is both form and content, the manner or presentation and what is presented” (1616). When truth is already known either through logic, religion, or science, rhetoric is reduced to “mere rhetoric” and becomes a matter or arrangement and style only, leaving invention out or rhetoric's purview. In contrast, Isocrates and Aristotle define the realm of rhetoric as being exactly the indeterminate zones of practice that Schon discusses. For Aristotle, the art of rhetoric deals with things that "belong to no definite science"(1354a), "the probable" or those things that "may be one way or another" (1357a). Distinguishing the contingent from the necessary or the impossible, Aristotle determines the subject matter of the contingent to be "perishable circumstances, incomplete knowledge, and fallible human action" (Farrell Norms 78).
Schon's complaint against the model of Technical Rationality also mirrors the debate classical rhetoricians had between whether the practice of rhetoric was a science or an art. We see this same conflict in recent times in post-process thinkers who complain that writing process pedagogy and views of writing have become a form of technical rationality. Is rhetoric and composition a science where rhetorical practice is guided by “scientific” rules and generalizable truths that can be applied in any situation? In this case, rhetorical practice becomes a matter of techne. Schon's clear links to the classical view of rhetoric can be seen in his view of reflective practice as involving “artistry”: “It is rather through the non-technical process of framing the problematic situation that we may organize and clarify both the ends to be achieved and the possible means of achieving them” (The Reflective Practitioner 41). If rhetoric is as John Poulakos defines it is “the art which seeks to capture in opportune moments that which is appropriate and attempts to suggest that which is possible,” (26) rhetorical practice “enacts the norms of propriety collaboratively with interested collective others” (Farrell “Practicing” 91). This rhetorical practice, like Schon's view of reflective practice as artistry, aims “to practice judgment (to enact krisis) where certain sorts of problematic materials are concerned (Farrell “Practicing” 81). The classical term for this practical judgment (or wisdom) is phronesis which Farrell refers to as the "practical ideal of the appropriate" (81). Phronesis, Steve Schwarze points out, is crucial to the practice of rhetoric: “the relationship of phronesis and rhetoric emphasizes how rhetor, text, and audience are brought together in the enactment of practical wisdom” (“The role of display in phronesis”). As Kathleen Yancey states after a summary of Schon's views on reflection, “reflection is rhetorical” (12).

Rhetorical reflection, then, relates to invention because as a form of phronesis it seeks to discover what is appropriate within uncertain and particular situations. This quest for the appropriate in writing has been referred to by Wayne Booth as “rhetorical stance”:
Rhetorical stance is] a stance which depends on discovering and maintaining in any writing situation a proper balance among the three elements that are at work in any communicative effort: the available arguments about the subject itself, the interests and peculiarities of the audience, and the voice, the implied character, of the speaker. I should like to suggest that it is this balance, this rhetorical stance, difficult as it is to describe, that is our main goal as teachers of rhetoric. (141)

As Richard Young, Alton Becker and Kenneth Pike state in Rhetoric: Discovery and Change, “invention involves a process of orientation rather than origination” (qtd. in Bawarshi 6). Rhetorical stance is a conceptual metaphor that communicates the spacial sense of orienting toward and aligning the various elements and complexity of the writing situation (or we might say the writing ecology).


Figure 3: Elements of Rhetorical Stance

If we presume that writing is epistemic and a form of inquiry (Odell 1980, Hillocks 1982), then the concerns of invention persist throughout the writing process, not just the “pre-writing” phase of composing. Rhetorical reflection, as a teacher-prompted activity, like invention is a heuristic activity designed to guide a student writers' inquiry into establishing their rhetorical stance. If we see the activity of writing as a goal-directed, problem-solving activity as Flowers and Hayes do, then rhetorical reflection is a discursive space where student writers can define and seek (invent) solutions to problems and felt difficulties they encounter within their process of drafting a paper. It is where students can practice what Dewey defined as “reflective thinking”: “Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends” (6). It is where students get to practice the phronetic art of rhetoric.

The significance of rhetorical reflection to recent perspectives on pedagogy in Rhetoric and Composition can be seen in recent calls by scholars and teachers to shift the focus of what we teach in Freshman Composition from a narrow “proficiency” in academic writing to a broader “rhetorical sensitivity” that can serve student writers in all instances of writing (Halasek). Donald Bartholomae, a chief proponent of teaching academic writing, imagines a composition that teaches a deeper form of criticism than our current practice: "we can imagine that the goal of writing instruction might be to teach an act of criticism that would enable a writer to interrogate his or her own text in relationship to the problems of writing and the problems of disciplinary knowledge. … as something to be learned in practice, perhaps learned at the point of practice" (17). Joseph Petraglia believes the goal of writing instruction should be the "turn away from developing rhetorical skills and toward development of rhetorical sensibilities" (62). Summing up ideas from Roderick Hart and Don Burks in the field of speech communication, Petraglia states: "the ideal rhetorical training will have at its core the development of sensitivity to the rhetorical possibilities available to students and will provide some guidance as to how they may determine to select among those possibilities" (62). Anis Bawarshi, speaking from a position of the importance of genre in writing, states a similar belief for what our goals should be in 21st century writing classrooms: “The rhetorical art of adaptation or repositioning should become central to our teaching of writing, especially our teaching of invention, which would then become the art of analyzing genres and positioning oneself within them” (156). Finally, Chris Anson in his recent CCC article on assessment cites the results of Elizabeth Wardle's research into transfer to advocate for this same kind of focus for Freshman Composition: “meta-awareness about writing language, and rhetorical strategies in FYC may be the most important ability our courses can cultivate” (qtd. in Anson 124). Rhetorical reflection, as an “effortful, interpretive, and fallible but strategic process” (Flower 268) is one teaching activity we can engage students in that will help them develop this rhetorical sensitivity and practice the art of adapting and repositioning—that is, the art of rhetorical practice.

Works Cited
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