Writing networks: A participatory design initiative for preparing teachers of professional writing for networked environments

William F Hart-Davidson, Purdue University


This project combines theoretical and qualitative modes of inquiry in an action-oriented research project designed to improve teacher preparation for networked environments. The study builds on the idea, introduced in Chapter 1 and developed more fully in Chapter 2, that writing technologies are not simply neutral tools but cultural artifacts comprised of complex and conflicting social values embodied in their design and use. Network writing technologies are locations where writing teachers have the opportunity and responsibility to intervene and redesign. This project focuses on both the theoretical and practical hurdles writing teachers face in networked classrooms. The methodology of this project, discussed in Chapter 3, is based on participatory design, a multi-disciplinary research tradition which values the participation of stakeholders in the development of some product, work process, or policy. The present study adapts methods familiar to researchers in writing studies as well as participatory design: classroom observations, interviews, and focus groups with eight experienced teachers negotiating their first semester as professional writing teachers in a networked environment. The primary outcome of this study is a training approach that encourages writing teachers to analyze the networked classroom as a landscape comprised of assumptions and values about writing. In proposing this model for teacher preparation, the project demonstrates the potential for teachers of writing to overcome a crisis of expertise that reinforces existing relations of power regarding who can initiate change in networked contexts. The training model, elaborated in Chapters 4 and 5, captures local problems as they arise in the networked contexts in which the teachers work and, in group meetings, (re)presents these as opportunities for evaluation, critique, and re-design of the network spaces. The implications of this model, discussed in Chapter 6, are not limited to a specific institution or even to classroom spaces. Rather, the (re)training of writing specialists as technology experts opens a range of potentialities, positive and negative, that the fields of professional writing and rhetoric and composition are only beginning to recognize.




Sullivan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Composition|Teacher education|Educational software

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