Observations on WPA Outcomes Statement and NCTE Position Statements

My observations start with the Revisions to the WPA Outcomes Statement.  One assertion is writing process’ increasing reliance upon digital technologies: “Writers’ composing activities have always been shaped by the technologies available to them, and digital technologies are changing writers’ relationships to their texts and audiences in evolving ways (Harrington, et al. 321-325).” This indicates teaching of writing should be in accordance with that evolution.

The trend is also reflected in the NCTE Position Statements on Multimodal Literacies.  The section titled Declarations concerning the unique capacities and challenges of digital forms stresses collaboration between students and teachers to bridge the digital divide reflected in addressing diverse abilities and needs.  According to the NCTE, bridge building calls for educators to include “students who are advanced technology practitioners in the development of curricula, professional development experiences, teacher recruiting and the setting of relevant policies.”


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The revised NCTE statement titled Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing (February 2016) replaced the NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing (November 2004). The revised statement addresses technologies’ influence on writing.  The revision asserts: “Increasingly, handheld devices are important instruments for people’s writing, integrated tightly, nearly seamlessly, with their composing in video, photographs, and other media…The ways writing and the spoken voice are mutually supportive in writing processes have become increasingly facilitated by technological capabilities.”  There is no escaping the need for teachers of writing to keep in step with digital and technological advances.

The WPA Outcomes Statement speaks to first-year students growth in writing as they advance past the freshman year.  “…their abilities will diversify along disciplinary professional, and civic lines as these writers move into new settings where expected outcomes expand, multiply, and diverge (Harrington, et al. 321-325).”  This declaration coincides with a characteristic of threshold concepts disclosed in the Naming What We Know assigned text we’ve studied over the past 7 weeks: “Learning them is generally transformative… (Adler-Kassner and Wardle 2).” The precept that writing exacts change is echoed in the NCTE Teaching Composition: A Position Statement.  It proclaims that “Writing confers the power to grow personally and to effect change in the world.”

The WPA Outcomes Statement provides a framework for what first-year composition students should attain by the end of that term.  Also outlined are the ways in which “Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students… (Harrington, et al. 321-325).”  We have discussed in class how some first-year composition teachers are using outdated concepts relative to topics in the WPA Outcomes Statement.  I have a question:  How, then, do faculty members in all programs and departments access this knowledge and acquire the necessary skills for implementation?  I welcome comments on my question.  I may have missed something on how it should be executed.

Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2016. Print.

Harrington, Susanmarie, et al. College English. 63(3):321-325; National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. Database: JSTOR Journals.

3 Replies to “Observations on WPA Outcomes Statement and NCTE Position Statements”

  1. Arlene,

    You raise an interesting question. If the things we teach in our composition classes are not reinforced in other classes/departments, how can we ensure that our students understand and continue to apply what we teach them? Say they get a professor who doesn’t know what good writing is, or wants them to follow specific rules that contradict with what we’ve taught? I read some interesting things in the position statements about continued professional development for faculty. These resources are available to them, but it’s not really their responsibility to teach composition. An expert on mathematics, though they might require their students to complete research essays or other documentation, is not going to be an expert on writing and doesn’t need to be. Maybe the answer is the writing center?

  2. Hey Arlene,

    I like that you opened on a note of the ongoing changes of composition activities. People seem to think it’s trivial to apply technological advancement to any craft or practice that has (or has had) a conventional norm. But I think it especially speaks to us and the application is justified because of topics in composition and compositions studies such as multimodality and rhetoric. It’s not even just computers or the internet. It’s the subject matter that comes about from the topic of advancing technologies (pretty common) in addition to the effect it has on what we do. It’s also a thing of mediums, take for example in multimodal genres. Technology is more than just a medium or extension. In the classroom, and in the activities used to inspire or develop compositions, we use technology in several ways. It’s practically a fundamental of composition now. And it applies to new generations of instructors and really anyone in the field (arguably). I know I will rely greatly on these variations and new mediums to provide material and activities for my students, and they will accordingly use it as an instrument in their own studies. Great post, Arlene.


  3. Arlene,

    I agree, how could we teach students to absorb these critical concepts if they aren’t carried over into other classrooms? I wouldn’t want a threshold concept police force (similar to the IRB), but there HAS to be a way to make this conceptual framework relevant to every discipline. I also liked the idea of implementing handheld technologies into the writing process, and plan on using it in my future classroom.

    Great post,


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