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Citation:

Haswell, Richard H.  “NCTE/CCCC’s Recent War on Scholarship.” Written Communication 22.2 (2005): 198-223.  Print.

Abstract:

This article documents aspects of the history of support for scholarship by two professional organizations involved with teaching composition at the postsecondary level: the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). Evidence is found that for the past two decades, the two organizations have substantially withdrawn their sponsorship of one kind of scholarship. That scholarship is defined as RAD: replicable, aggregable, and data supported. The history of RAD scholarship as published in NCTE and CCCC books and journals, compared to that published elsewhere, is traced from1940 to 1999 in three areas: teaching of the research paper, gain in writing skills during a writing course, and methods of peer critique. The history of NCTE and CCCC attempts at scholarly bibliography is also traced. Implications are considered for the future of the study of college composition as an academic discipline.

Summary:

  • H. notes that NCTE/CCCC has been at war with “empirical inquiry” and the hard work of hard research for the past 20 years (in 2005) (200).  To back up this claim H. cites the rise of aggressive discourses of “scientism, fact mongering, antihumanism, positivism, and modernism” that have dominated disciplinary conversations about research methodology.
  • H. aims to show what sort of damage has been created by NCTE/CCCC war on empirical research by demonstrating the historical trajectories of the study of the teaching of writing at the college level in the past 50 years.
  • RAD studies (replicable, aggregable, data-driven)  is “a best effort inquiry into the actualities of a situation, inquiry that is explicitly enough systematized in sampling, execution, and analysis to be replicated; exactly enough circumscribed to be extended; and factually enough supported to be verified” (201).  Yet, as H. notes, RAD scholarship isn’t necessarily tethered to numbers and statistics. . . this is why it avoids the term “empirical” research.  It likewise avoids “theory” because it doesn’t want to uphold the “most pernicious” binary between theory and research (201).
  • H. takes Beecch’s article “Hillbilly Discourse” as an example that appears RAD but isn’t.  Despite providing some interesting take-aways about notions of “hillbilly,” Beech’s article doesn’t provide a methodological structure that makes it replicable; rather, it is organized around “pedagogical moments” and “examples” rather than structured research questions (202).  As an alternative, H. offers Bean’s “Feminine Discourse in the University: The Writing Center Conference as a Site of Linguistic Resistance” (1999).  This research is RAD because she delineates her method, remains consistent in her data scrutiny, and includes the bounds of her system in such a way as to allow for repeatability should future researchers hope to take up the research in new ways (203).
  • H. traces how CCCC/NTCE publications have progressively honored less and less RAD scholarship in publication since the early 1990s.  Specifically he considered research on the research essay, “gain” or student improvement in writing artifacts, and peer critique.  Here’s the chart delineating RAD vs. Non-Rad:

  • While I appreciate the work Haswell is doing here, I do find it the constant recourse to Comp-Pile [1. Haswell runs Comp-Pile.] a bit long.
  • H. finds two unsettling trends from his research.  First, much of the work of data-infused studies is being undertaken by folks outside the “center” of composition studies; second, the idea that RAD research is a “fad” and that the tough hermeneutic work of Writing Studies is where the real prestige is located (217-8).
  • Haswell highlights the fact that this trend in NTCE/CCCC is having deleterious effects for the discipline: Writing Studies is becoming (according to Haswell) less and less able to justify its own existence because of a lack of a shared research agenda that creates knowledge through RAD methodologies (219).
  • H. ends by advocating for both methodological paradigms in Writing Studies research in order to ensure its survival.

Notes:

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