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Volume 10, Issue 1: 2017

Re-Assessing Composition at Open Access Institutions: Using a Threshold Framework to Reshape Practice

by Chris Blankenship, Anne Canavan, Justin Jory, Kati Lewis, Marlena Stanford, and Brittany Stephenson, Salt Lake Community College

Recent developments in the scholarship of threshold concepts in writing studies can provide a durable and flexible conceptual framework that is responsive to neoliberal completion, job-readiness mandates within guided pathways and similar initiatives. A curriculum designed with a reflection-driven threshold concept framework is pedagogically and politically valuable to composition because of its ability to exist at the interstices theory and practice, addressing conditions surrounding composition at two-year colleges. This reflective aspect of the threshold concept framework is readily aligned with the positive element of guided pathways that emphasizes curricular cohesion through an emphasis on students’ metacognitive development. Additionally, our model allows us to operate in the context of best practices in outcomes-based assessments, providing data on student writing and reflective practices, valued by a wide variety of stakeholders at our institution while maintaining a sustainable ecology of assessment that takes into account the material realities of two-year college labor.

Keywords: Composition; Community college; Threshold concepts; Metacognition; Labor

The Micropolitics of Pathways: Teacher Education, Writing Assessment, and the Common Core

by J. W. Hammond and Merideth Garcia, University of Michigan

Within writing assessment scholarship, disciplinary discussions about the politics of pathways regularly question how reforms mediate education and affect education actors. This article complements and complicates these conversations by attending to the micropolitics of pathways: how local education actors mediate reform-related standards, and, in the process, pave what they believe to be locally-meaningful pathways. Taking the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as our point of departure, our study centers on one important site for micropolitical work that has, to date, gone unstudied in CCSS-focused writing assessment research: teacher education, which involves coordination between secondary and postsecondary actors who might differently interpret and engage with externally-imposed reforms. Our findings suggest that while standards may be politically intended to mediate education and standardize pathways, teachers micropolitically interpret and repurpose those standards--strategically drawing on them as a means to communicate about local writing instruction and assessment. For this reason, we argue conversations about pathway-related reforms can benefit from adopting a micropolitical perspective, sensitive to the participation of teachers in locally constructing and maintaining educational pathways. Keywords: Micropolitics of pathways; Common Core State Standards; Teacher education; Writing assessment; Local interpretation