On Cosgrove’s “What Our Graduates Write” and Gogan et al’s “Research Centers as Change Agents”

Man, it’s been a couple of crazy weeks around here.  It’s been a tsunami of teaching stuff (one experiment of which I might be blogging about soon), meetings up the ying-yang, reports/requests/documents/whatever to write, grad students interested in our MA program, program poli-ticks not worth explaining here, etc., etc.. And then there’s that pesky teaching thing, which I feel pretty far behind on too.


This is two-fer in my on-going reading and reviewing scholarship project, two pieces from the December 2010 College Composition and Communication.  First, there’s Cornelius Cosgrove’s “What Our Graduates Write:  Making Program Assessment Both Authentic and Persuasive.”  This is an essay that starts out kind of slow for me, describing what I see as a fairly routine assessment of what graduates from writing programs end up doing.  And I have to say that while I realize assessment work is important and a legitimate area of study and all that, I personally find it kind of boring.

But I like what Cosgrove does here, especially in his results.  First, he raises some interesting questions about what it is we should count as “writing” in the public sphere, more or less suggesting that we ought to be more open to considering a lot of different kinds of writing beyond traditional classroom settings.  I think it’s difficult for us within academia to often see what those other kinds of “real world” writing practices might be, so it’s useful to just ask our graduates and let them tell us.

Second, I really like what he has to say about the extent to which we ought to (or really, not) teach specific software, because that’s changing all the time.  Rather, “it’s just that the practice we provide our undergraduates should probably be driven more by the texts they are likely to produce than by the software applications that are extant that the moment when they are producing them (326).”  I agree 100%, and for me, it means that there isn’t really much point in teaching students how to use a specific piece of software in class like Writing for the World Wide Web or a computer documentation class.  Specific software choices shift way too fast, and besides, just because we teach students to use a specific software because it is the “industry standard” doesn’t automatically mean that particular employers will actually use that software, if that makes sense.

And I also agree that students today in writing programs need to think about is actually creating an audience for their writing via blogs and other social network sites.  That’s a point that might be coming up in my section of “Writing for the World Wide Web” this term.

As far as “Research Centers as Change Agents:  Reshaping Work in Rhetoric and Writing” by  Brian Gogan, Kelly Belanger, Ashley Patriarca, and Megan O’Neill goes:  I think it’s a reasonably good piece about the history of research centers and how they have contributed to the field.  For the most part, this seems to me a history of research centers and sort of a recap of some of the current ones that are in operation and that are tied to writing studies.  But I have to say I found my mind wondering in reading this one.

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One Response to On Cosgrove’s “What Our Graduates Write” and Gogan et al’s “Research Centers as Change Agents”

  1. Nathaniel says:

    I like your take (and thus the article’s, I imagine) on teaching specific software. By virtue of my own limitations, which become virtues after the fact, I let students choose tools and then build into their documentation a discussion of (argument for) that choice as well as a description of that choice’s affects.

    With respect to industry standards, you have to let students know that their clients, employers, etc. won’t always know what they are doing or will applying their own unique standards. For example, when running service learning projects and allowing the client to pick from several student projects (a competition of sorts), the client often picks the “weakest” student project given the criteria or principles we have discussed in class. Anyway, food for thought.

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