Kinney: “Classifying Heuristics”

Kinney, James. “Classifying Heuristics.” College Composition and Communication. 30.4 (1979). 351-356. Print.

Focusing on invention, Kinney argues for an expanded definition of heuristic. Dissatisfied with definitions that restrict invention heuristics to linear, left-brain, rationalistic thinking, Kinney expands the inventive framework for heuristics to include empiricism and intuitionism in addition to rationalism: “These three ways provide us with a set of exhaustive, mutually exclusive classes for all possible heuristic procedures” (352). Kinney unpacks the history and usage of each of the heuristics, noting especially that his argument is not to malign rational approaches to invention but to call for, “balance in our heuristics and a defense of intuitionism in the face of sustained current attack” (354). Conclusion: “Teaching students that writing depends solely upon rational modes of thought limits them to one half their potential as writers. Teaching rational heuristics while excluding empirical and intuitive ones imposes that limit” (355).


Invention, heuristic, empiricism, rationalism, intuition, pedagogy

Bibliographic notes

Words: ~3,500

Pages: 5

References: 9

Affiliation: Virginia Commonwealth

Gebhardt: “Balancing Theory with Practice in the Training of Writing Teachers”

Gebhardt, Richard C. “Balancing Theory with Practice in the Training of Writing Teachers.” College Composition and Communication. 28.2 (1977): 134-140. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

Pascal's Triangle


Braddock Award, theory/practice, frameworks, disciplinarity, pedagogy

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~4,000

Pages: 6

References: ~16

Affiliation: Findlay College


Gephardt proposes a methodical, quasi-taxonomic approach to the teaching of writing. He argues teachers of writing should be versed in four of knowledge (history of English language, rhetoric, theoretical frameworks, methods of writing). The theoretical frameworks are a group of three binaries (Classical/Existential, Thinking/Writing, Product/Process). The methods of writing encompases five ideas (writing as practice, concern with audience, writing as process, teacher empathy, student agency). Gephardt continues by arguing for the importance of balanced theory and practice, suggesting that teacher training should encompass learning “what,” “how,” and “why,” of writing. Gephardt also argues strongly for teacher training to include and focus teachers writing about the teaching of writing

“A highly technical grounding in rhetoric is not absolutely necessary, as the NCTE book, What Every English Teacher Should Know, implies when it distinguishes between ‘good’ and ‘superior’ writing teachers. The latter, the book indicates, should have ‘a detailed knowledge of theories and history of rhetoric though the ‘good’ teacher need only be able to recognize ‘such characteristics of good writing as substantial and relevant content; organization; clarity; appropriateness of tone'” (135).

cf. Braddock (“Topic Sentence”) and Corder (“Learned”); it’s interesting to place some of the prose in Gebhardt’s Braddock Award up against previous awardees Braddock and Corder. SPecifically, Gebhardt’s quote of Richard Larson on rhetoric: “‘writing is a series of choices among alternatives and that a good writer must shape his discourse carefully to make it reach its intended audience effectively and accomplish its intended purpose'” (135). Braddock warned against overstatements and Corder struggled with finding occasions to write (i.e., unclear sense of audience & purpose).

What’s interesting here is the melting pot of ideas Gephardt presents here. The times were a changin, and it’s clear that works that emerge about a decade later (North, Phelps, Crowley) were simmering in same milieu that Gephardt writes in here. What’s most interesting to me is this moment: “the Writing for Teachers of Writing course should ask students to write about the teaching of writing” (139).  The call for writing about writing would be echoed three decades later in the work of Wardle and Downs and the emerging writing about writing framework for FYW.


Matott: “In Search of a Philosophical Context for Teaching Composition”

Matott, Glenn. “In Search of a Philosophical Context for Teaching Composition.” College Composition and Communication. 27. 1 (1976): 25-31. Web. 21 Jan 2015.

Martin_Buber_portraitKey Terms

Braddock Award, process pedagogy, Martin Buber, student-centered pedagogy, philosophy

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~4,000-4,500

Pages: 6

References: ~5

Author Affiliation: Colorado State

Summary, Quotes, Notes

Matott advocates for a student-centered process pedagogy informed by the dialogic philosophy of Martin Buber. Matott calls for a turn away both from overly traditional, prescriptive pedagogies as well as “free reign” pedagogies and carves out a middle path: “pedagogy which would avoid the perils of either the funnel or the pump” (30).

“My argument is, of course, that the conceptual underpinnings of the new pedagogical orientation are very weak” (26).

Writing is characterized as “liberating” and “a creative process of self-awareness and self-expression” which requires “command of techniques appropriate to the expressive/creative medium” (26).

Weaves through the work of Carl Rogers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber.

cf. Louise Wetherbee Phelps, Composition as a Human Science

Corder: “What I Learned at School”

Corder, Jim W. “What I Learned at School.” College Composition and Communication. 26.4 (1975): 330-334. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.


Braddock Award, process pedagogy, pedagogy, invention, arrangement

Bibliographic Notes:

Words: ~2,500-3,000

Pages: 4

Citations: 0

Author Affiliation: Texas Christian University

Process pedagogy falls flat when a teacher tries it out for himself in an over-stuffed course.

The second recipient of the Braddock Award. Corder reflects on a semester of trying out his own (nine) essay assignments alongside his students, leading to some revelations. Corder struggled with invention, framed here through an appeal to process pedagogy, and finding “occasions” to write, i.e., his writing lacked authentic exigence. Corder spends time discussing structure [arrangement], and briefly mentions style as well. The article finishes with the entirety of his final writing of the semester, itself offering writing advice that both reaffirms process pedagogy and seems to anticipate later turns toward social epistemics.

Holmes: “Multiple Bodies, Actants, and a Composition Classroom: Actor- Network Theory in Practice”

Holmes, Steven. “Multiple Bodies, Actants, and a Composition Classroom: Actor- Network Theory in Practice.” Rhetoric Review. 33.4 (2014): 421-438. Web.

ANT, principle of general symmetry, actant pedagogy, poststructuralism, deconstruction

One sentence summary:

How one might simulate ANT as pedagogy in the writing classroom, with a case study of an assignment.


Holmes argues that ANT offers an alternative pedagogical strategy grounded in description to an explanatory, postmodern pedagogy as described by James Berlin that has become a “near universal pedagogical strategy for rhetoric and writing teachers” (421). Holmes builds his approach around the idea of actant-pedagogy, contrasting it with Berlin’s social-epistemic pedagogy. Holmes describes a unit in an advanced writing course that seeks, through research and discourse analysis, to simulate the anti-methodology of ANT. While not precluding explanatory moments altogether, the focus of Holmes’ pedagogy is to compose ontological networks, to assemble the actors of an issue into an account that may then be communicated to other actors and reflected upon by students.

Nathaniel Rivers, “Tracing the Missing Masses”

Bruno Latour, We have Never Been Modern

Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social

Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter

Jody Shipka, Toward a Composition Made Whole

LatourBot“[R]hetoric and writing scholars … have largely avoided exploring ANT directly as a pedagogical method with something to teach students about their political agency as writers” (422).

“ANT is a tool that I can only use after the activity of teaching to describe my efforts to employ actant-pedagogy within a contingent set of alliances, mediators, students, technologies, and networks of associations through which my intentional (and unintentional) pedagogical aims unfold. For this reason I suggest that actant-pedagogy is better understood as a strategic pedagogical effort to simulate ANT’s descriptive antimethodology to teach them how not to represent rhetorical situations through explanation and heuristic-driven critique alone” (423).

“[N]etworks have to be composed by writers through a rather laborious and difficult process of determining unique and local configurations of agency, connectivity, affect, influence, and many other factors” (426).

“Simply stated, it is one thing to provide students with a drawing of a pencil (for example, an assignment prompt directing them to document nonhuman actors in a certain fashion) that becomes their own pencil (descriptive tool). It is a different point of emphasis entirely to help them understand the difference between the pencil and the drawing of the pencil, and negotiating this gap even at a basic level is a necessary and crucial step if we are to think of applying ANT as a way to raise students’ political consciousness” (429).

“ANT does not foreclose the importance of social-epistemic critique” (431).

The charge I take from Holmes’ work here is to think through potential uses of an ANT-inspired pedagogy that focus on composing networks/assemblages/accounts. One of the first distinctions to make in a FYW course, it would seem to me, would be to frame writing, analysis, and research on issues or controversies or problems as opposed to topics. Whereas researching and analyzing a topic entails a kind of durable realm of knowledge that affords revelation or explanation (“this is what I discovered when I looked this up”), engagement with an issue/problem/controversy implies flux or the capacity for alternatively composed descriptions (not descriptions revealed or explained through an appeal to already-known information) that ANT-inspired pedagogies build from.

In general, the form of an assignment would involve two primary artifacts: a description and a reflection. In short, the writer’s task would be to:

1) Write a descriptive account of an issue/controversy/problem to a political actor (by political here I do not mean a politician per se, rather an actor who may wield or influence power within an assemblage). 4-6 pages, I suppose,  but it could be longer.

2) Reflect on what was included and excluded from the account and discuss how such inclusion/exclusion gives shape to their accounts. How do their accounts inflect and reflect the assumptions or commonplaces related to the issue? 2-4 pages, but, again, could be longer

In addition, I think it would make sense to collect other artifacts into a portfolio, a small collection of things that contributed to and bear witness to the invention of  descriptive account, preferably detailed in the reflection.

Over the course of a 3-4 week unit, the entire class could focus on one issue. It could be hypothetical: the university president has decided to ban vending machines from campus. It could be topical: students performing regular “die-ins” on campus, disrupting classes or events. It could be on a grander scale: the appropriate extent of government or corporate surveillance. In the first week the key would be for students to assemble the actors through a series of in- and out-of-class questions and explorations.

Week one: Exploration

In class discussion/invention of the major contours of the issue. This may include detailing assumptions, listing materials, related issues or concepts, key figures, key terms, knowledge bases, historiography, etc. In class work would be followed by an assignment to extend the work out of class and bring back results for further exploration.

Week two: Tracing

In class work focuses on finer detailing and interactivity of actors. Students begin to present notions of connectivity, select paths toward and begin to compose an account. Out of class work involves composing a draft of an account.

Week three: Assemblage.

A draft comes due. In class work includes peer feedback and a re-accounting of the actors. Out of class, the focus turns toward situating the account as a communication to a specific political actor.

Week three/four: Description.

The description is completed along with a reflection describing the choices that comprise the composition. In class work includes grappling with gaps, asymmetries, silences, inflections, commonplaces, etc. as missing from or abundant in accounts.

This is a rough sketch, and it’s not terribly different from the kind of work that Holmes details in the soda tax unit he guided advanced writing students through. The collecting of actors is key, I think, in the early week one and two stages of such an assignment. I imagine lots of small group followed by large group discussion. A reading or set of readings would accompany this assignment as well. That choice would depend on the issue, of course. If the issue of vegetarianism were pursued as a class, for example, David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” would work well. If a topical issue were pursued (the Black Lives Matter/I can’t Breathe or Occupy movements, for example) there would likely be a number of videos or webtexts that would work well in the service of tracing the contours of the issue.

Braddock: “The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose”

Braddock, Richard. “The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose” Research in the Teaching of English. 8.3 (1974): 287-302. Web.

103 TopoI reactions


topic sentences, composition textbooks, pedagogy, 

Bibliographic notes:

Words: ~4,000-4,500 words

Pages: 15

References: 7

Author Affiliation: N.S.W. Institute of Technology & University of Iowa

One-sentence summary:

Professionally written essays in popular journals do not conform to the kinds of rules for topic sentences that composition textbooks call for.


Braddok tests composition textbook definitions of topic sentences against published writing. Braddok’s aim is to methodically identify topic sentences in a corpus consisting of a corpus of 25 popular journals such as the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, etc.  He uses the technical term “T-unit” (essentially an independent clause) and outlining methods to analyze the corpus’ prose and to classify topic sentences into four categories. Braddock finds that “simple topic sentences” (298) — the kind of topic sentence typically taught to students as desirable — is not as common as indicated by textbooks. In fact, “considerably fewer than half of all the paragraphs in the essays have even explicit topic sentences, to say nothing of simple topic sentences” (299).

 “Teachers and textbook writers should exercise caution in making statements about the frequency with which contemporary professional writers use simple or even explicit topic sentences in expository paragraphs. It is abundantly clear that students should not be told that professional writers usually begin their paragraphs with topic sentences” (301).

“This sample of contemporary professional writing did not support the claims of textbook writers about the frequency and location of topic sentences in professional writing. That does not, of course, necessarily mean the same findings would hold for scientific and technical writing or other types of exposition. Moreover, it does not all mean that composition teachers should stop showing their students how to develop paragraphs from clear topic sentences. Far from it. In my opinion, often the writing in the 25 essays would have been clearer and more comfortable to read if the paragraphs had presented more explicit topic sentences” (301).

First entrant in my “41 Braddock Award WInners in 41 Days Challenge.” Wish me luck.

In course work this semester, we’re reading a handful of histories (North, Phelps, Crowley, Mailloux) about the early disciplinary accretion of composition, and Braddock’s work here maps well to the tensions and movements outlined in those texts. Specifically, Braddock’s work seems to anticipate Stephen North’s critique of “lore” as a driving force in the (pseudo-) scholarship of early composition research. Braddock’s warning here seems to be against overstatement or overgeneralization (in this case of the use and structure of topic sentences), rather than a critique of particular pedagogical frameworks (cf. James Berlin, “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class,” 1988). The methodical study presented here is followed seven years later by the methodical, cognitivist approach to of Flower and Hayes in their “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing.” (Braddock ’74, Flower & Hayes ’81, Berlin ’88.)

Septennial coincidences aside, the significance of this work lies in its author’s eponymous connection to the “article of the year” award as recognized by the CCC: The Braddock Award. Jana Rosinski has delved into the Braddock Award winners in prior work, and I’m interested as well in the patterns that may surface as I read this series at different scales.