Kopp and Stevens

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Representing the UAWP to Indirect Audiences

In addition to offering incoming first-year composition students the opportunity to re-articulate aspects of their identities within the writing program's terms, the University of Arizona Writing Program's (UAWP's) orientation videos also assist an ever-renewing body of incoming graduate instructors as they also identify themselves within the UAWP's structure and practices. Since 2005, incoming UAWP graduate instructors annually view excerpts from the orientation videos at the beginning of a two-week long pre-semester preceptorship (described by Amanda Brobbel at al. (2002)). Although the orientation videos do not address incoming instructors directly, this viewing situation creates a notable rhetorical effect: incoming instructors not only hear from seasoned instructors and from students who express quite clearly what they experience in the course; these instructors, significantly, also watch a video knowing that all of their future students will have already watched and deliberated upon it before entering the classroom on the first day of the semester.

Knowing that incoming students form expectations from the videos, incoming instructors, in one way or another, may feel constrained to bring their own set of teaching practices into conversation with those of the writing program. For example, through viewing the above clips, instructors become aware that students are likely to expect them to address writing across the curriculum, not just writing in English. Knowing that their classroom audience has these expectations does not control the way new instructors teach, but it does create a rhetorical constraint, one that structures the exigence for dialogue in preceptorship. Just as the videos allow students to see the UAWP as a program they can reflect on and then discuss, instructors can also focus on an objectified view of select program practices as a starting point for further discussion in their training and development. Where new instructors identify with the program's goals, they take on a subject position that has agency in the UAWP's own terms, but resistance also has a particular space as it provides a context for critical dialogue, leading to a co-constructed subject position.

In sum, videos originally intended for one audience, because they are visual, objective artifacts, can be circulated to represent the writing program to a different audience crucial to the writing program's functioning. This immediately opens the door for the videos to be used for other audiences. The UAWP, for example, has screened its videos for discipline-specific advisors and orientation leaders. In this context, the above clip's focus on writing across the curriculum, coupled with its consistent emphasis on critical thinking, represents other disciplines to those disciplines in positive terms that suit the UAWP's priorities. The videos have also been screened to upper-level administrators whose responsibilities include allocating resources of time and funding. Months after one such viewing, Drew Kopp met the UA president by chance in a public setting, and the president still remembered the video clearly and commented on its effectiveness in communicating the writing program's mission. Even though--in fact, because--the videos were not originally intended for administrators and faculty outside of writing program, they can be more widely influential. Secondary audiences know that students and instructors have used the orientation videos as the starting point for critical reflection and dialogue about the program, so that the UAWP's self-representation works to construct its own institutional reality. This reality then serves as a proactive response to the exigence provided by oversimplified views of writing instruction, views that might, for example, excise the critical approach to writing presented in the above clip.

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