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Sherry Richer: Case #4


Sherry Richer was excited about her new job. The major research university where she was to begin work provided her with exactly what she had imagined: a light teaching load (one class a term); a course release to work in the computer classroom with new graduate students to help them learn to teach in that environment; scholarly publication. This, she thought, was more than do-able; this was academic heaven.

Her first year, Sherry didn’t get as much accomplished as she’d hoped, not as a scholar at least. She taught one undergraduate course and one graduate course; she found the undergrads in her new institution resistant to her liberatory pedagogy, and she found the graduate students surprisingly unsophisticated, not at all like her peers from her own graduate days. And she found that teaching graduate students was really quite different than working with undergrads. The prep time was considerable, and the grading took longer as well. Fortunately, the work with the TAs in the computer environment was going well. Four of them had developed papers that were accepted for the Computers and Writing Conference, and Sherry herself had put in a paper on the topic for CCCC.

During the second year, Sherry made what she considered progress. Teaching seemed to go better, and in addition to working with TAs in composition studies, Sherry began to work with the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence in their development program for TAs across the campus. The paper for CCCC was accepted; she gave it to a standing-room only crowd, and she was asked to serve on the CCCC Computer Committee. Also, given the response to her talk, she began a moderated listserv for faculty working with TAs in computer mediated environments. The focus of the listserv was to bring others together for three purposes:

  1. to define what was meant by computer-mediated environment for composition studies;
  2. to identify the major research questions such an environment raised; and
  3. to define the kinds of texts possible in such an environment and to create assessments congruent with those texts.

She was also asked to coordinate a strand on this issue for Computers and Writing, and Kairos invited and then published a version of the CCCC talk. In addition, Sherry had one chapter included in a Josey Bass book on teaching with technology.

In her work with the TAs, Sherry saw that two major changes were needed. First, although the university used a commercial software provider, the software was both clunky and limited in functionality. Fortunately, Sherry knew enough to create a software prototype for a bulletin board, and she took that on as her next task. During her third year, she was able to mount a beta version of the bulletin board and begin an ethnographic study of how it was used in two classes. Second, as the TAs had shown her, they are using old assessment strategies and values to grade new digital texts. In other words, they need to know how to evaluate texts produced in electronic environments. To study this question, Sherry has invited a group of TA researchers to work with her, and one of her doctoral students is writing a dissertation on the topic. She feels confident that together, these projects will do ground-breaking work.

At the end of her third year, Sherry is called into the Chair’s office (or into the office of the Chair of the Personnnel Committee or into the Dean’s office)  to receive word about her re-appointment. She has a nagging feeling that she should have produced more scholarship. This is a university that wants a book for tenure, and all she has to offer so far is a publication in an electronic journal and a book chapter. At the same time, she’s been a good departmental citizen and continues to work with the Center for Teaching Excellence. As important, she believes that she is making a real contribution to the field, as evidenced by the role she is playing inboth the Computers and Writing group and the CCCC; her listserv is among the most active in composition studies; and the TAs are doing what is by everyoneís account very fine teaching, and they are beginning to theorize the texts they see and ways of valuing them. Not least, Sherry believes that her bulletin board software is a major scholarly effort; the reviews so far have been favorable, and next year it will be used by all the TAs.

Tenure and Promotion Cases for Composition Faculty Who Work with Technology

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