- Writing Centers and Cross-Curricular Literacy Programs as Models for Faculty Development
Faculty development often gets a bad reputation, sometimes for very good reasons. Faculty may be coerced to attend sessions at which they are required to listen to speakers on topics selected by administrators (and occasionally trustees), topics about which the faculty have little interest except to figure out the subtext, that is, what top-down "good idea" is going to be imposed on their teaching or research lives this time. Sometimes what is called faculty development involves applying business models to education, as in the Total Quality Management initiatives that many of us endured in the early nineties. [End Page 523] In some less onerous forms, faculty development can be a way of ensuring that all faculty have covered, at least superficially, current legal and ethical issues. For example, at my current institution, all faculty and most graduate students are required to undergo several kinds of training: in human subjects research, in student privacy issues, and in diversity issues. This training is usually conducted with some combination of online "read and quiz" modules and training lectures (called workshops) with PowerPoint presentations. These are all important things for faculty to know; however, the pedagogy by which they are disseminated embodies Paulo Freire's "banking" model of education, good for the multiple-guess testing that shows that these topics have been covered, but hardly appropriate for developing the more nuanced thinking that could induce university faculty to rethink their teaching and learning practices. The books discussed in this review, on the other hand, envision models of professional development as collaborative processes of education and reflection, not as episodes of training or developing skills. They could suggest models for faculty development that would encourage faculty to rethink their practices, not just conform to changing laws, rules, and pet projects of administrators with the authority to impose them.
The authors and editors of these books for the most part hail from writing programs, whether within English departments or freestanding writing departments. Writing programs tend to develop local knowledge and practices, which are swapped among programs in rhetoric and composition through presentations and publications, but which may not be disseminated beyond this field or enriched by the pedagogical work done in other disciplines. These books suggest at least some potential for larger interactions among teaching disciplines, to the advantage of all.
As the field of rhetoric and composition has developed since the 1960s, one of its enduring features has been devising and developing new pedagogies that transcend the banking model of education, the privileging of product over process, and the domination of teacher over learner. Research in composition theory and pedagogy suggests that more effective learning takes place when teachers trust learners to consider what they want and need to know, when they invite learners to devise variations and applications of received knowledge, and when they resist keeping things simple to be sure they are correct. Clearly, this is a gross oversimplification of over thirty years of theory and research, and, as I will suggest again later, there has been as yet too little assessment of how well composition pedagogies have served to develop students as writers when these pedagogies are applied in composition courses, writing across the curriculum initiatives, and writing centers. [End Page 524] Nonetheless, the ideas and practices espoused by many faculty and students in the field of rhetoric and composition, particularly those teaching in writing centers and writing across the curriculum programs, provide a useful context for considering these three books, in which the targeted learners are teachers of one sort or another: faculty, graduate teaching assistants, or writing center tutors and administrators. All three books, albeit in very different ways, consider how to put teacher-learners at...