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  • Writing Program Administration and Faculty Professional DevelopmentWhich Faculty? What Development?
  • Margaret K. Willard-Traub (bio)

As at many other universities, I have local colleagues who view the teaching of writing as primarily a service function that can be accomplished apart from any particular disciplinary expertise. This perception is reinforced by the fact that most writing courses are taught by part-time faculty most often credentialed in fields other than composition and rhetoric and sometimes in fields other than English studies. In addition, the phrase "writing across the curriculum" at times has an unusual, institutional valence —one which leads to activities thus labeled being viewed by some not as invitations to collaborate on the joint project of developing students' language use in diverse contexts, but rather as cloaked abdications by the writing program of its primary responsibility for preparing students to write in the disciplines. Given this context, the likelihood that collaboration and mutual learning would occur between writing program faculty and faculty from other disciplines —much less the likelihood of learning that would increase the critical consciousness of both —could be seen as, at best, minimal.

Yet because my primary concerns as an administrator are both writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives in which writing program faculty come into contact with teachers from other programs (including literature programs) and the professional development of faculty, it makes sense to explore the former as one site for accomplishing the latter. But what do we mean, exactly, when we say "development"? To which faculty are we refering? [End Page 433] And how does the notion of "faculty development" relate to issues of critical consciousness and to identity for individual instructors, for curricular programs, and for the disciplinary fields of study most closely identified with those programs?

In this article I consider faculty development and its potential relationship to the ethos of collaborative practice modeled both by critical (Freirean) pedagogy and by interdisciplinary research. As a primary concern for any academic administrator, faculty development is not only a teaching moment but I would suggest also an opportunity for reciprocal exchange, learning, and knowledge production. Seeing faculty development as a means of producing new knowledge, I propose, allows participants to challenge the received wisdom of their fields and to come to a more rhetorical understanding of their identities. The collaborative construction of new knowledge and an emerging understanding of identities as rhetorical can help both to define and to expand the boundaries of disciplines and the identities of individual instructors.

By "critical pedagogy" I do not mean the educational discourse some scholars have critiqued as "foreground[ing] the teacher or educator" and the "theoretical and political framework[s] within which teachers" work at the expense of acknowledging the complexity of who students are. In such a discourse students are often presented as the "subjects of and subject to critical pedagogy" (Lee 2000: 7). By contrast and like Amy Lee, I envision critical pedagogy more as a "process of (re)learning to teach, rather than as an argument about teaching or a theory of education" (5), a process based on an openness to students' subjectivities, and a rejection of assumptions about their worldviews as predictable at best or as "purely reactive (and reactionary)" at worst (Gallagher 2002: 75).

Following such a view, critical pedagogy's ethos of reciprocal collaboration, like Paulo Freire's "problem-posing education," can be seen as offering an alternative to educational structures which act uncritically to reproduce ideological hierarchies or perpetuate material inequities. The interdependence that is generated when "teacher-student" and "students-teachers" (Freire 1989: 67) work alongside one another makes possible the development of a critical consciousness —for both teachers and students —that "develop(s) [these individuals'] power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves." As a result of this emerging consciousness, teachers and students "come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation" (70–71) and come to see themselves as actors in that transformation. Such changes in perceptions [End Page 434] of self and world —that is, such changes in identity —have the potential for driving shifts not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6255
Print ISSN
1531-4200
Pages
pp. 433-445
Launched on MUSE
2008-09-18
Open Access
No
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