- Editors’ Introduction
In "Thinking Like a Program," his commentary for this issue of Pedagogy, Joseph Harris distinguishes between the disciplinary work of composition, with its "focus on rhetorical theory, on the analysis of cultural discourses, on the practices and processes of literacy, and on the history of teaching writing," and the programmatic work, with its "ambition to improve the teaching of first-year and basic writing." He argues that rather than battling over whether the discipline (theory) or the program (teaching) should orient the work of composition professionals, we should let both guide us, understanding that disciplinary work is necessarily constrained and diffuse, whereas the programmatic should be seen as multidisciplinary, organized around "a common sense of exigency, or a task or question that requires our collective response."
In Harris's argument, the common exigency is the political and intellectual project of first-year composition, but we also believe that his definitions illustrate what Pedagogy is trying to accomplish. Like Harris and the first-year writing course, we see the project of this journal as multidisciplinary and activist in the sense that we draw together in one site the voices of "faculty with varied sorts of training and scholarly interests [but with] a shared job of teaching." At the same time, we value and wish to advance disciplinary projects that articulate theories of teaching within particular fields and contexts. Both seem absolutely necessary.
While an academic journal like Pedagogy certainly performs a different function than the institutional program Harris has in mind, we might see their purposes as similar. In the current issue of Pedagogy, the articles [End Page 353] participate in what Harris might agree is a multidisciplinary project focused on teaching; in his words, we have brought together "disparate faculty . . . to address issues of compelling and public interest." Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, in "Respond Now! E-mail, Acceleration, and a Pedagogy of Patience," discusses how new technologies like e-mail have transformed our personal interactions with students—and thus the context of our teaching. In what Kathleen Blake Yancey, in her chair's address to the 2004 Conference on College Composition and Communication, has emphasized is an age of multiliteracies, Weinstock encourages teachers—regardless of specific discipline—to seriously ask, "How does responsible pedagogy address new habits of thought that emerge from the compression of time and space and the expectation that everyone should be available all the time? What is the pedagogical response to the speeding up of contemporary life? It seems imperative to consider pedagogical practice in light of such seismic shifts in the lived experience of culture."
Laura Callanan, in "Defining Expertise in the Interdisciplinary Classroom," takes on the issue of working in an interdisciplinary classroom context in which one's disciplinary "expertise" must be reevaluated and refined. Specifically, Callanan comes to define expertise as "consist[ing] of a changing set of relationships dependent on the articulation of clear disciplinary, pedagogical, and intellectual ideals in dialogue with particular bodies of information that are continually reevaluated within the evolving cultural context. It includes both content and action, produced within a particular historical moment, affecting bodies in the classroom in explicit and materially grounded ways." In her case, understanding the project of teaching in "a particular historical moment," and in dialogue with a distinct set of material conditions and student responses, pushed her beyond the limits of a disciplinary "specialty" in British Victorian literature.
Rochelle Harris also explores multidisciplinary understandings of teaching in her piece, "Encouraging Emergent Moments: The Personal, Critical, and Rhetorical in the Writing Classroom." As for Joseph Harris, the exigency for her consideration of teaching is the writing classroom, which forces her to consider how theoretical and pedagogical knowledge from multiple disciplinary sites—in her case, creative nonfiction, composition and rhetoric, and critical pedagogy—can inform the political and intellectual project of teaching English.
Our From the Classroom section in this issue also makes clear that understanding pedagogy from a variety of angles requires multiple and varied responses. This section typically includes three to seven short pieces (five hundred to two thousand words) on very specific pedagogical questions. Often, [End Page 354] those questions grow directly from a particular...