Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Tracing Transfer across Media: Investigating Writers' Perceptions of Cross-Contextual and Rhetorical Reshaping in Processes of Remediation

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Tracing Transfer across Media: Investigating Writers' Perceptions of Cross-Contextual and Rhetorical Reshaping in Processes of Remediation

Article excerpt

Our thesis is that evidence of transfer is often difficult to find because we tend to think about it from a perspective that blinds us to its presence. Prevailing theories and methods of measuring transfer work well for studying full-blown expertise, but they represent too blunt an instrument for studying smaller changes in learning that lead to the development of expertise. New theories and measures of transfer are required.

-John Bransford and Daniel Schwartz, "Rethinking Transfer"

[W]e might . . . begin asking how the purposeful uptake, transformation, incorporation, combination, juxtaposition, and even three-dimensional layering of words and visuals-as well as textures, sounds, scents, and even tastes-provide us with still other ways of imagining the work students might produce for the composition course.

-Jody Shipka, "A Multimodal Task-Based Framework for Composing"

Inquiry concerning the transfer of writing knowledge has been of longstanding interest to composition researchers. As Jessie Moore's recent review of writing-related transfer research illustrates, scholarship on transfer in rhetoric and composition studies has been motivated by a range of exigencies over the last three decades. For a number of writing scholars, transfer research has grown from the need to better understand students' experiences writing across the curriculum (Beaufort; Carroll; McCarthy; Walvoord and McCarthy). Work on transfer has also sought to understand students' perceptions of how learning in first-year writing (FYW) courses might influence students' writing in their disciplines (Bergmann and Zepernick; Downs and Wardle; Driscoll; Nelms and Dively; Wardle, "Understanding"). Gaining insight regarding the ways students' transition from school-based writing contexts to workplace and community contexts has likewise motivated the study of writingrelated transfer (Anson and Forsberg; Bacon; Beaufort; Brent, "Crossing"; DePalma). Though less explicitly addressed in recent work, abolitionist debates over the value of required first-year writing (FYW) courses, too, serve as an important subtext to many of these discussions (Connors; Russell; Smit). Questions regarding the degree to which writers draw from and transform genre knowledge between tasks, classes, and contexts have also been central to writing-related transfer research (Artemeva and Fox; Devitt; Reiffand Bawarshi; Rounsaville).

One important development in recent scholarship is the ways transfer has been reconceptualized. This emerging body of research argues that transfer not only entails reusing past writing knowledge in new situations; it also entails reshaping writing knowledge (DePalma and Ringer, "Toward"; Devitt; Moore; Nowacek; Reiff and Bawarshi; Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak). Rather than emphasizing only the application of knowledge learned from a past situation to a new situation, these scholars highlight the ways writers integrate (Nowacek), transform (Brent, "Transfer"; Wardle, "'Mutt'"), remix and assemble (Robertson, Taczak, and Yancey), boundary-cross (Reiff and Bawarshi), recontextualize (Nowacek), and adapt (DePalma and Ringer, "Toward") writing knowledge as they move among activity systems. While the terms these scholars use to theorize processes of transfer vary widely, they all view transfer as a dynamic activity in which writers have the agency to both draw from and reshape writing knowledge to suit and influence writing contexts.

In "Mapping the Questions: The State of Writing-Related Transfer Research," Moore traces the ways that work on activity theory-as articulated by scholars such as King Beech, Terttu Tuomi-Gröhn and Yrjö Engeström, and David Russell-has been particularly influential to shifting notions of transfer. Of central concern to transfer researchers working from this vantage is the extent to which learners transform literacies, languages, rhetorical competencies, and knowledge as they traverse a range of activity systems. …

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