Academic journal article College English

Repositioning Curriculum Design: Broadening the Who and How of Curricular Invention

Academic journal article College English

Repositioning Curriculum Design: Broadening the Who and How of Curricular Invention

Article excerpt

Conversations surrounding the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing have made scholars and practitioners of composition more sharply aware of the need to think inventively about how we create what Judith Summerfield and Philip Anderson call "intellectually expansive" spaces for writing (547). As the Framework shifts attention to how writing curricula teach students habits of mind such as creativity, openness, and responsibility (O'Neill, Adler-Kassner, Fleischer, and Hall 525), we also have a crucial moment to think about how these same habits are fostered in the process of curriculum design and rendered through the minds of curriculum designers. The occasion of the Framework makes it all the more evident that creativity, curiosity, and other habits of mind do not spontaneously appear in the minds of composition students: these habits must be framed carefully by thoughtful, attentive designers who shape curricular experiences to engage and challenge students. Yet, as we face environments increasingly restricted by accountability measures and outcomes-based expectations (as Chris Gallagher has recently documented [44]), it is worth looking again at the questions of who designs our curricula and how these designers learn to negotiate the demands of curriculum design with inventiveness and creativity. In this essay, I argue that attending to these questions opens up new ways to imagine both the basic goals of curriculum design and the fundamental responsibilities of curriculum designers. C

Now is a valuable time to reconsider curriculum design in the context of cre- ativity, responsibility, curiosity, and other desirable habits of composition. Even while discussions of the Framework pursue writing curricula that will foster what Summerfield and Anderson call "a larger version of literacy" (546), the freedom to design truly expansive curricula is a privilege currently limited within the field of composition studies to a narrow range of established scholars, teachers, and ad- ministrators. It would perhaps surprise us to recognize that the habits of inquiry we expect of undergraduate students often are not extended in practice to early-career instructors. In publications addressing curriculum development and faculty education, design is a nuts-and-bolts skill of application, imitation, and replication. Design is neither inventive nor expansive: rather, it is given a perfunctory role as a mechanical skill of applying knowledge to ready-made "professional genres" of syllabi, lesson plans, and assignment sheets (see Franke 19). This limited role oversimplifies design as a task of replicating existing knowledge rather than engaging in the more difficult work of forging new connections between ideas and practices within environments of uncertainty and contingency. Over time, this oversimplification of design has made it less likely that students, teachers, and scholars of composition recognize design as a space for experimenting with writing in inventive ways.

Recognizing the opportunity to reposition how we define design and incorpo- rate it into our practices, I argue here that we as scholars, students, teachers, and administrators of composition must take on the responsibility of fostering design as an act of invention-an act that prolongs our engaged inquiry into the values, habits, and assumptions that we practice as students and teachers. Expanding the inventive potential of design in composition studies offers promising new ways to imagine both interdisciplinary inquiry and faculty education in general. Fostered as a creative, generative struggle with questions of meaning and value, inventive design (which I will spend a good portion of this essay defining) invites new perspectives on disciplinary knowledge and new space for the ongoing revision of disciplinary values and practices. Inventive design offers a point of contact for students, tenure-track faculty, and non-tenure-track faculty to engage together in pursuing basic questions of how and why writing matters. …

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