Kopp and Stevens

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Professional Dialogue

To open up a new dialogue around what it means to be a professional, classroom writing instructor, the Southern Arizona Writing Project (SAWP) publicity video suggests that teachers advance their professionalism through collaborative, reflective dialogue with other teachers. The video uses multiple visual and verbal rhetorical strategies to promote this message. For example, speakers in the video look to the side, as if in dialogue, instead of talking to camera. As they do, they link SAWP to required schemes for ongoing professional development and accreditation, while simultaneously stressing the exemplary collegiality of SAWP programs. One associate school superintendent, for example, mentions that SAWP provides mentoring groups that can help toward National Board Certification; another speaker favorably compares the collegiality in SAWP Saturday Seminars with teacher in-services. These comments, though seemingly offered as an aside, provide both extrinsic and intrinsic professional incentives for K-12 teachers, and they represent SAWP as a program that makes much of collaborative dialogue as the appropriate approach to professional development.

Additionally, throughout the video, teacher after teacher enthusiastically shares how SAWP supports action research, professional networking, and writing. The Summer Institute, speakers explain, leads teachers through a process of reflexive thinking and writing as they identify their own interests and needs to develop their professional expertise. This conversation recognizes and values the university's role in providing resources and scholarship, but the emphasis lies with the principle, articulated in a clip above by 2006 SAWP Director Anne-Marie Hall, that "teachers, themselves, are the experts." Later in the SAWP video, Hall discusses her leadership from the university, and she stresses that she has learned to listen and support teacher-led projects rather than push her own ideas. Teachers, too, speak as leaders, as in the case of Harriet Scarborough, above. By offering up a positive identity of teachers as professionals to its multiple possible audiences, the SAWP video invites teachers to identify themselves as subjects-with-agency within the project's many professional development programs; it invites administrators to support the professional development of teachers and to see SAWP as a means to that end; and it invites other audiences to have respect for the work done by teachers, first, and, second, for the work done by SAWP.

The video thereby works to re-set the starting premises for discussions of writing instruction by selectively using print text. Major assumptions of the National Writing Project (Gray 1986, pp. 38-39; also cited in A. Hall 2002, p. 320; see this case study's opening clip) are highlighted, in slogan form, by writing them on-screen while people speak about the concepts in the slogans. This happens once in the middle of the above clip, for example. Further, as is reproduced above, the closing shot for the SAWP video gives additional emphasis to all these slogans by repeating them and leaving them on-screen until the video's end, when face-to-face audiences can begin talking amongst themselves, taking these slogans as the starting point, that is, as the media-constructed exigence, for further dialogue.

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