HybridPod, Ep. 15: Publishing
Chris Friend and Cheryl E. Ball
You’re tuned to HybridPod: an ongoing conversation about Critical Digital Pedagogy, where we listen for ways to empower learners and enhance student agency. It’s the aural side of Hybrid Pedagogy: an online, open-access journal of learning, teaching, and technology. I’m Chris Friend, from Saint Leo University.
Why do we teach students how to write? Is it for their benefit or for ours? That’s a serious question—composition classes, and the five-paragraph essay, were initially invented as a service to teachers, not because students needed specific skills for life after college. How can we teach meaningful writing classes that are designed to address student needs beyond the classroom? To get help looking for an answer, I chatted with Cheryl E. Ball about the ways she gets professional editing, modern publishing, and digital pedagogy to intersect. Because Cheryl’s work doesn’t fit neatly into traditional academic silos, I’ll let her introduce herself.
Cheryl: I am a scholar within rhetoric and writing studies, and my inherent disposition within the field, because it’s the field’s values and disposition, is as a feminist pedagogue, where we want to help people learn how to write. I’m sort of spread out from rhetoric and composition and multimodal composition, or new media studies, as we were calling it then within writing, to this more digital publishing stuff, it’s all been centered around webtexts and how we compose these pieces of research-driven multimedia, how we compose them, how we read them, how we publish them. So, I’m taking that into the classroom, and I’m taking that into my scholarly work, where it’s true that not every journal, even within writing studies- most of the webtext based journals are very helpful in their formative feedback to authors, and so I’m taking that into the classroom as well, because that’s who I am, and that’s who the field represents.
One of Cheryl’s major projects she’s been working on for several years now is the Vega publishing platform. Again, it doesn’t fit neatly into things we might expect, so here’s her take on it:
Cheryl: Vega is this academic publishing platform that I’ve been working on with a team of developers in Norway for the last three years. We were graciously funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and that project is nearing completion, and one of the exciting things about it is that it is built to take on this editorial mentoring as the workflows that it uses. I say workflows, because it has multiple ones embedded in it, so it has an authoring platform, it has a collaborative editing platform, and it has a reader interface that can have collaborative options built into it.
How work gets composed and produced and published in academic writing, in scholarly publications, has been essentially the same for the last 400 years, and I think Vega is poised to turn that on its head in some ways, to open up the peer review process and the developmental process, to draw on what journals like Hybrid Pedagogy are doing with its intensely collaborative editorial discussions with authors, which Kairos has begun to model more of since my work with publishing the editorial pedagogy piece with Hybrid Pedagogy to say aha, let’s get the author involved even more in here.
Vega is built using those best practices in open peer review. Sure, it’s got a traditional closed double anonymous peer review process, but I don’t care about that.
Chris: Who uses that?
Cheryl: I know right?
Chris: It’s like print journals. Geez.
Cheryl: It’s got this built in multimedia authoring platform, so that people can do more innovative scholarly work. Potentially, even students could use this platform, because it’ll be free. I’m pretty excited that Vega has become the manifestation, the physical representation, if you will, of this editorial pedagogy that I’ve been sort of trying to develop for the last 10 or 15 years. I’m excited.
Back in 2012 and 2013, Cheryl wrote a three-part series of articles for Hybrid Pedagogy in which she introduces what she calls “editorial pedagogy”—a combination of the real work of the publication process (which if done correctly should teach authors how to write better) and the classroom environment (which if done correctly should teach students how to write better, using “real-world” projects). Cheryl’s editorial pedagogy is a sensible approach, but it needs a bit of explanation. That’s where we’ll start with this interview.
Chris: Your editorial pedagogy is worrying more about how students will use writing outside academia than inside?
Cheryl: Yes, correct. Yeah, because how many students are going to become academics? Very few. Fewer and fewer in some cases, as we go forward, because the job prospects are fewer.
Chris: Do you adjust your pedagogy for students who are intending to go to grad school and those who aren’t?
Cheryl: No, it’s not even easy to identify who might be considering going to grad school, but for my classes, it’s irrelevant. I teach primarily now within a professional writing program, so to differentiate that from the general education classes of first- year composition and advanced composition and things like that, where my classes are not filled with English majors. They’re filled with students from across the curriculum who want to take classes in professional writing and editing, so I teach classes like editing and multimedia authoring and digital publishing, things like that, where any major could learn from those, but my expectation from a course sequence like that is that students are going to want to seek jobs upon finishing their four-year undergraduate degree.
The same is true, actually, of the master’s students who I teach. I’m at a particular school right now where I’m not teaching Ph.Ds. I do mentor Ph.Ds. in creating job market materials, and again, that’s to go on the market. That’s to get a job. For me, I don’t distinguish in my classes whether a student is tracked towards graduate school or industry, because I assume that in either case, they’re going to need to learn how to learn to analyze a new writing genre for a new situation that they’re in, to compose and recompose and revise that genre for that particular situation in order to produce a professional looking document.
I don’t assign research papers, because I don’t think research papers get at the kinds of learning outcomes that students most need these days, in part because a lot of times, when the research paper is assigned by professors, they don’t give explicit instructions on what that’s getting the students. They just assume that the students know how to write that thing, and then the teachers don’t have to worry about teaching it specifically, because they’re like oh, it’s not a writing class.
In my classes, I don’t assign any of what Elizabeth Wardle calls mutt genres, things where the teacher is the only audience. I only assign pieces of writing, or pieces of editing, or pieces of multimedia that have an audience that lives outside of the classroom.
Chris: Your students in all of your classes are doing public work.
Cheryl: Yeah. Yeah, because those audiences have assessment criteria built in for those genres that are all implicit, like the research paper, but my job as the writing teacher is to help the students figure out how to make those genre conventions explicit so that they can replicate that kind of work and that process.
Chris: Where do you find all of the opportunities for public work?
Cheryl: I usually bring in my own research and practice to find opportunities. For instance, I’m teaching multimedia authoring this semester. It’s an undergraduate level class. I’ve got juniors and seniors from across the arts and sciences enrolled in it. In it, we’ve gotten to the point where we have to start dabbling in multimedia so that students can start putting texts together in ways, where they can figure out how all of the different modes of communication work together, and I realized we were at that point where I was like we need to stop talking about this stuff and start doing stuff about it, right? I was like crap, I need an assignment for them to work on today, because that’s how it happened in the schedule.
Chris: That’s how it always happens with me.
Cheryl: I was like I just need like a 30-minute in-class exercise for them to work on, and I said aha. I know that the major project for that class is to have them build webtexts for journals like Kairos, the one that I edit, and other kinds like that, but that’s weeks off, still. We’re still scaffolding up to that. I said but just yesterday, I got an email from a client in the UK who I work with as part of this organization of editors that I help run asking me if I wanted to place an ad in their special issue – it’s for the Times Literary Supplement for my journal – for Kairos. I said aha, this is it.
I don’t know whether I want to place this ad or not, but that’s irrelevant for the purposes of bringing that rhetorical situation into the multimodal classroom for this set of undergraduate students and saying okay, let’s do a genre analysis on what are magazines. Here are 17 kinds of what counts as a magazine. Now, let’s talk about scholarly journals as a subgenre of magazines. What are the genre conventions of those? What are the genre conventions of something like the Times Literary Supplement? Who’s the audience for the Times Literary Supplement?
Now you know the rhetorical situation of this particular client-based exercise that we’re going to do. Sketch out on an 8½×11 piece of paper, noting that it might need to shrink to fit in the print-based journal-
Chris: They still make those?
Cheryl: Yeah, I know. Right?
Cheryl: Yeah. I’m like print?
Chris: Who does that? That’s even a thing, still? Gosh.
Cheryl: Right? I’m like that affords us, having it in print affords us different kinds of communication needs and requirements than the online medium does. You have to take that into consideration when you’re authoring. Now, sketch out what you think that ad is going to look like, and we’re going to workshop them on Thursday in relation to the readings we’ve been doing on design principles and rhetorical situations, etc.
Chris: Cool. Let me know if what I’ve just identified is actually a contradiction, here. I’m not sure.
Cheryl: I am full of contradictions.
Chris: Okay. Any time I mention academic publishing to people, and I’m having a conversation about academic publishing, your name invariably comes up, and yet, what you just told me is that the work that you ask students to do in a classroom is not what we would traditionally call academic writing, so the work that you’re known for professionally is- this is probably not accurate, but the pinnacle of academic writing, because it’s stuff getting published in academic spaces, and yet, when you go into the classroom, you’re telling students here’s how we’re going to work with something that’s not necessarily academic. Is that a contradiction or a tension?
Cheryl: It’s not a tension, but I like how you phrased that as a contradiction. Yeah. Okay, so, in a multimodal authoring class, my end goal for that particular class has typically been to have students compose a webtext. Now, the thing about a webtext is it’s a screen based scholarly article that draws on the affordances of the web basically so that we can use digital media to make meaning. The design and the content of the piece enact the argument simultaneously, and I had the students working collaboratively to get them to that point.
This is the way that I’ve taught that class for the last 15 years, although, to be honest, this is the first time I’ve taught the class in like six years, so I’m reconsidering some things and how that works. I’m teaching it online for the first time in a decade next semester, and that also changes how I teach it slightly. Mostly, it just means that they won’t be doing group work.
When I present this pedagogy as a model for how people can implement something like an editorial pedagogy, they always say but where’s the writing, which makes me laugh. I’m like, in order for students to be able to compose, in order for a scholar to be able to compose a webtext, so much research and so much writing has to go into that process that it’s there, but unless you’re familiar with that genre, you don’t know that there’s this whole scholarly process that leads up to it. Plus, it’s not all like you’re going to write an academic article that’s 20 pages long or a seminar paper and then remediate that into a multimodal object. I think that’s a really bad idea, frankly, but a lot of people do it that way. If that’s your goal, fine, but that’s not the goal of a multimedia authoring class, to remediate something from print into digital. That kind of defeats the purpose.
In any case, you have to think about the whole genre ecology of academic publishing, and when you think of it as the ecology, with all of these genre sets that happen within that ecology, then in order to get to a webtext, you have to build it up along the way with all of these micro assignments, essentially. Like, you’ve got to learn how to design, and so let’s play around with this ad that’s going to help teach you the audience for these different venues that you might be publishing in while helping you build this finger exercise, essentially, of how ads get done.
I do actually do academic writing of a sort in the multimedia class, but in the editing classes that I teach, students are working on academic writing that other people have done. I don’t need, in an editing class at the undergraduate or graduate level, for a student to write a seminar paper about editing. That gets them nowhere in a class like that. That’s not going to get them a job.
What is going to get them a job is hands-on practice copy editing and doing developmental editing, peer review, of texts, and so in that case, I bring in the kinds of editorial projects that I work on and have students edit them. For instance, last semester, I was teaching the grad level version of the editing class, and I was in the publication process of this edited collection that I helped put together with Drew M. Loewe called Bad Ideas About Writing. I love this book.
Chris: Isn’t it fun?
Cheryl: It’s so much fun! You’re in that book, right?
Chris: I do happen to be in that book, yes.
Cheryl: You are. You have a chapter on how not to grade.
Cheryl: I don’t remember the title of it, though.
Chris: It’s Teachers Should Grade Everything.
Cheryl: That’s right.
Chris: Or something like that. Teachers Should Grade Everything Students Write.
Chris: Which, oh, my gosh.
Cheryl: It’s a bad idea.
Chris: Worst idea ever.
Cheryl: Especially when you’re teaching a six-six.
Chris: I don’t know what you’re talking about. No one in academia teaches a six-six.
Cheryl: Oh, that’s right. Even when- yeah, that’s right. When we were working on that collection, there’s 62 chapters, and that’s a lot of chapters. Now, each chapter’s only three to four pages, so they’re these short, digestible pieces written in jargon-free language about these myths about writing and the teaching of writing. I said aha, this is the perfect way to get the graduate students to understand the scope of the history of research in writing studies, which is simply a byproduct of them actually getting the hands-on work of copy editing these 62 chapters.
Of course, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I get some copy editing work done, and of course, I still have to go back and go through it all myself. As a professional editor, that’s part of my job is to make sure that the manuscript is clean, but they’re learning the processes and the workflows of editorial work on an actual project that will be published that will have their name on the masthead. Then they get a CV line or a resume line out of that and say aha, I was an assistant editor on this mighty collection.
They’re not writing academic texts in a class like that. They’re working on academic texts.
Chris: The way that I phrased the question was you could also almost be seen as the queen of academic publishing at this point, and that gives you access to lots of needs, lots of products that need work, lots of stuff that requires the kind of labor that you are teaching students to perform. You have direct hands-on access to the stuff to work with, and so you can basically just feed that to your classes, bring those into your classes, and you’ve got—your work as a professional academic editor provides the sandbox in which you get your students to play.
Cheryl: Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s not going to everybody’s situation. Not everybody who wants to implement an editorial pedagogy is going to have that kind of access to those kinds of materials, but that’s not the point. I tell people that when I’m dealing with webtexts. Just because I use webtexts or the kinds of editorial work that I have access to — which authors know when they sign on to work with me for different editorial projects that this work is pedagogical also in nature — so not everybody has access to that kind of stuff, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t introduce an editorial pedagogical model into their classrooms. It just means that they have to find the genres and the kinds of texts that they know well, or they introduce it into their class and say hey, what kind of texts do you all want to work on?
Let’s say you have students who are really interested in comics or manga or Japanese cinema or – I don’t know. I’m stuck in a particular genre today, aren’t I? – bring those things. Collect those documents. Bring them into the class. Let’s do genre analyses on them to figure out how they work, why they work the way that they do, let’s compose some examples like that, and then, where do comics go? Comics have a particular kind of readership, so how do we produce something that will meet that particular kind of readership, and college campuses are ripe with audiences who would read comics.
It’s not that you necessarily even have to deliver the text to the audience itself. Just as when students author webtexts for me, they are not required to submit them for publication. They’re just required to make them submittable, to get them in a format where they could be submitted. Some of them do, and some of them get published, which is fantastic, right? By doing an analysis of the genre conventions, that’s our evaluative criteria. That’s how we assess the piece. We use that assessment to come back at the end to say okay, you all said here are the conventions that you have to meet in your particular text. Did you do that?
Chris: They go find the wheelhouse they want to play in, they then identify the nature of that wheelhouse, and then they contribute to it and use what they identified to assess themselves at the end?
Cheryl: Yeah. It cuts down on the teacher having to be the authority all the time and having to be the one who’s grading all the time when the students become the experts in their own genres, and then they can assess each other. It doesn’t preclude us from having to assign a grade. In the end, we are the teachers, and unless we’re teaching at a school like Evergreen, where narrative grades are the norm, then we have to assign a letter grade, and the way that I end up doing that is through this 100 percent class participation model. Students have really taken to it.
It confuses a couple of them, and that’s understandable, but this isn’t just show up and you’re going to get an A. It’s show up, be on time, learn to be a professional, which I’m going to teach you how to do in this particular context, which is going to be transferrable to other professional contexts, and do excellent work, and I’m going to help you do all four of those things, but you do have to show up, and you have to participate, and you have to engage. If not, you get a B or a C. That’s the average. It’s also helping to decrease grade inflation in a way that was sort of unexpected to me when I first started grading.
Chris: Earlier, you mentioned developmental editing rather than copy editing and such. Is there a difference, or is the stuff you just mentioned similar?
Cheryl: It’s slightly different. In any kind of publication process, there is a part where the author composes something. The part where the author sends that work to somebody who approves it, and a part where that approval is accepted. It’s done, and the piece goes some sort of production in order to get it ready for publishing, and then the piece is then published out to readers. Now, I said any. Any kind of process, because even when we write a blog post, or even when we tweet something, we are going through all of those steps in our heads to greater or lesser extents.
We might occupy three of those positions until we hit the send button or the update button, and then it goes out into the readership, when we can still edit if we realize we’ve made a typo or something like that, but because of the kind of texts that I’m working on in my own classroom, where scholarly and academic texts are the norm, depending on the class, I focus on different parts of that workflow, that publication cycle.
In the multimedia authoring class, I’m focusing on the authoring part and the peer review developmental part, and then in the editing class, I’m focusing on the developmental part and the production and publishing part.
This developmental part overlaps, and the way that it overlaps most readily, which will be recognizable to any teacher who teaches writing, is through peer review. The peer review that we do at an academic journal like Kairos, where we send an article or a webtext out to a group of peers who provide responses to that is exactly the same process that we go through in an English 101 type of class, where we’re asking students to get into small groups and review each other’s texts and give feedback on it. Those are the same processes, right? How much that’s taken up in a particular class that I’m teaching depends on the audience for that class, whether it’s an authoring class or an editing class.
I focus on it- while what I mentioned earlier about doing genre analyses to use the conventions of a text to assess it, that does happen in a multimedia class, there’s a kind of different evaluative process that happens in the editing class during the developmental editing process, which is where we’re giving much more in-depth feedback, because we spend more time on it in the editing class, frankly.
That process mimics the peer review process that’s used in scholarly publishing.
So far in this discussion, Cheryl has talked about participation-only grading and developmental editing based on unique texts authored by others outside the classroom—how does this all stand up against expectations for academic rigor we so often hear? Or, from an editor’s perspective, how can such personal, fluid, situationally derived processes coalesce into a system that reliably produces reputable or rigorous content? To Cheryl, these questions are directly linked. I started with my favorite pedagogical love/hate relationship: student outcomes. How can we, as we said before, let students choose their own wheelhouse and define their own standards and still ensure consistency in student learning?
Cheryl: We can break them down into student outcomes, right? Where we say in an editing class, when I’m asking students to do developmental editing on a sample webtext that I’m bringing into class, I’m asking them to learn that writing is recursive. In other words, it doesn’t just happen once, and then it’s done with. It happens through a process. Writing is a process, if we want to say it that way. I’m telling them that peer review draws on rhetorical principles that are embedded within a particular rhetorical situation and can be applied to a text. I’m looking at peer review as a process that is not a gatekeeping method, but as a way of providing developmental critique in a friendly and useful way.
It’s not that we want to shut these texts down or these authors down. It’s that we want to provide them a method for moving forward in their text, and that can’t be done through harsh criticism. It can be done, instead, through mentoring.
Chris: You had mentioned not being gatekeepers and, instead, allow writers to see the way to make something better than what it is. You work on Kairos, which is pretty much like the gold standard for a journal publishing webtexts, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know of any other one, at least within composition studies, that has the same reputation and that has established itself as being always of consistent quality, though the webtexts themselves are remarkably diverse. The approach that the authors take to making their argument changes so drastically from one piece to the next, but the quality is always there. How do those two coexist? How do you preserve quality and not be a gatekeeper, because I think most academics would believe you have to be a gatekeeper if you want to preserve quality, and that’s why we grade stuff, because we need to preserve quality, and we need to be the ones to read it, because we are the experts. We can’t entrust our students to evaluate things. We have to do it. How does that work?
Cheryl: The idea of teachers or editors as gatekeepers seems utterly ridiculous to me, and yet, I know that in the sciences, and in other disciplines, where they’re getting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of submissions a year, it has to be a much different story, because there’s just simply not the space, be it in print or through digital resources and human resources that make the digital happen, to print everything that there is in the world. That’s what blogs are for. No, I’m just kidding.
Cheryl: Yeah. Kairos has gotten the reputation that it’s gotten because we have developed editorial workflows in the developmental side and in the production, copy editing side, if you will, that allow us to mentor authors to create the best possible text with the feedback that we give, and then, once we’ve accepted a piece, we put it through one of the most rigorous copy editing processes known to man. It’s hugely laborious, and we have an amazing staff. We have almost 30 people on staff who help us develop and copy edit and design edit these texts so that they put the author’s voice forward in the best light possible.
At Kairos, because we have that mentoring threshold and we want to help people, we get more texts sometimes. Not more than anybody else, but we have gotten, over the years, more and more submissions. That has made it a challenge for us to maintain our level of not being gatekeepers, and the way that we do that is through a generous peer review process. It’s incredibly rigorous. They go through three tiers of peer review, and usually multiple times, before a piece gets accepted for publication, and then it goes through this huge six-month long copy and design editing process.
Our acceptance rate has gotten lower over the last 10 years, and a lot of that has to do with the increased number of submissions, the increased understanding of what the genre of a webtext should and can do, the changing technological standards, and what people are able to do, because Kairos doesn’t actually have the facility to help people design their own texts, which limits our potential audience of writers, but again, that’s why we still have to mentor people through this. It’s things that we try to do, outreach, more in different ways, through workshops, like KairosCamp, through workshops that we give at local conferences, and things like that to help people to facilitate the composition process for authors from the start, because we don’t want to reject anybody.
In fact, we rarely reject people. Usually, people get a revise and resubmit, and then they just decide either not to revise it, or they try to revise it, but they’re just not ready yet to do the level of work that we need at Kairos. They can send it to another journal if they want, and they often do, which is good for them, but it also helps Kairos sort of maintain a standard that I’m proud of, while I’m also nervous about it, because I don’t want to exclude any potential authors.
Sometimes authors just aren’t ready yet. You can give them all the feedback in the world, but it’s just like a student in a class who you can see exactly where something is supposed to go, and you’re also a good teacher, so you’re able to articulate it to them in a way that they should be able to interpret and take up, except that they just can’t see it, and they don’t have the time, and they can’t meet with you, and you would have to work with them like every day for two months, and so they’re just not there yet, but give them a year or two, and they’ll come back to you and send you an email and be like oh, my god. Thank you so much for all that hard work that you put into me, and even though I was a shit student then, now I understand what all that was about, and I get it. Sometimes people just have to mature as scholars in order to produce their best work for a particular venue.
That’s the hardest thing is having to say no to people who have worked their damndest, and we’ve had to do it in a couple of cases, and it breaks my heart. But some of them come back, and that’s what I want to see. That’s exactly what I want to see is people continuing to hone their skills and knowing that we’re a place that will support that.
Chris: I’m hearing echoes in what you said of what I’ve heard Asao Inoue say before, where with his assessment practices in class, it’s based on the labor that students produce for the class. It’s not the product. It’s basically the process they put into it, and at the end of the semester, if a student does not have excellent quality work, but that student has participated in the process, their grade is fine, but the feedback that they basically can give themselves at the end of the semester is it wasn’t the right time for me. I wasn’t ready for this class this semester. I hear an echo of that in what you said, where you’re just not quite ready for this piece, or this semester, you didn’t have the time to be able to put into the work that you’re doing here.
I think that we both have an approach of anybody would be able to produce an article for our respective venues given enough time and material, and when we say no to someone- I don’t like using the word reject, because it’s not the person we’re rejecting, it’s the piece, and like you, I usually just offer a revise and resubmit of varying levels of severity. I very infrequently say just no. When we do that, it’s because it’s not the right time, or the resources aren’t available at that time for that person with this particular piece.
Cheryl: Right. Yeah. That’s exactly it. You mentioned a conversation that you had with Asao Inoue about evaluating students on the work that they’re putting into a class as much as the final product, and I agree with that to a certain point. I used to grade students on you showed up, you’ve given it a good try, A for effort sort of thing, and I don’t want us to confuse those two things, because the A for effort is crap. It took me a long time to understand that.
A lot of times, and I hear teachers all over the US do this, they assign multimodal projects that they don’t actually have evaluation criteria for in an explicit way. Like, I’ve been talking about the genre conventions as a way to help assess a particular text later on. Or, they ask for a piece of digital media that the students don’t have the technological sophistication to produce in the course of 10 weeks or whatever, and so they ask the students to write a reflection letter about the text, and that reflection letter takes a bunch of different names, but it’s essentially asking the student to talk about their design choices and where they wanted to go with the text and why it looks the way that it does, etc.
I used to assign those, because I was like oh, okay, I’ll read that alongside and see where they thought they were going, and A for effort, and then I realized that reflection letter is a mutt genre that doesn’t really exist outside the confines of the classroom, and it’s not something that I ever see as an editor. Authors never send me a submission that says you know, I couldn’t really do this the way that I wanted to do it, so here’s this half-assed thing, and here’s all the reasons why it does what it does, but can you still peer review it?
Actually, occasionally, we get disclaimers, which is a different thing, because I do encourage authors at the Journal to send me stuff that’s not quite ready, in some cases, because we know they’re going to have to revise it in a certain way, or they’re having a technological thing that they can’t quite figure that they want some feedback on, and I’m like that’s understandable, but otherwise, the text has to live on its own. In the real world, we don’t have justification papers slapped up next to texts that we’re encountering to try and help us make meaning out of them, to try and help us evaluate whether they’re good or not. We just look at the text and say well, that’s crap, or that’s good, or- given whatever the rhetorical situation is, and we do that implicitly.
Why are we asking students to do that in a classroom as a crutch for teachers to grade with when essentially we’re relying on the reflections as a way to grade the multimedia stuff instead of just figuring out how to read and evaluate the multimedia on its own, but I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people in writing studies who believes this way, because every time I bring up this issue, everybody gets really mad at me.
I, for one, am totally on-board and always looking for ways to make the work people do in my classes more authentic and less predictable, procedural, or teacher-centric. That goal gets particularly tough when working in large or distributed institutions where standardized syllabi become the grease of the teaching machine. As you might imagine, standardized syllabi don’t fit in well with Cheryl’s idea of editorial pedagogy because of the personalization and flexibility inherent in her course designs and projects.
Cheryl: The thing about standardized syllabi, and not to get anybody in trouble, but I know a lot of people are in this similar situation, one size does not fit all.
We’ve seen that over and over again with standardized testing, for instance. I see that the motive to have a standardized syllabus and the motive towards standardized testing is being the exact same motives, that it’s not going to do any service to either the teacher or the students, because the teachers have to be invested in teaching the class in a particular way, and the students have to get invested in a certain way, and if it’s lock-step, then that kind of rigidity doesn’t allow for the individual levels of engagement that are necessary, that teaching requires. That good teaching requires.
So I’ll leave you with that as a challenge: How can we make our classrooms more responsive to individual students; to real, meaningful work; and to the application of transferrable skills to nontrivial scenarios? It’s a tall challenge, but the potential for professionalization—for students and for higher ed—shouldn’t be overlooked. For more details, I recommend reading Cheryl’s three-part series on Hybrid Pedagogy about Editorial Pedagogy, available from your favorite search engine or in the show notes for this episode.
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