Kairos 20.1

Transnational Writing Programs:

Emergent Models of Learning, Teaching, and Administration

David S. Martins with Patrick Reed
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Re-Framing WPA Work

"Framing is concerned with the way interests, communicators, sources, and culture combine to yield coherent ways of understanding the world, which are developed using all of the available verbal and visual symbolic resources ... Frames are organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world."

Stephen Reese, as cited in Linda Adler-Kassner's The Activist WPA (p. 12)

Writing program administrators are uniquely positioned to see opportunities for improving the structures and activities that constitute the writing instruction students experience. Opportunities for improvements often become visible at moments of institutional change—during curriculum reform, calendar conversion, or program creation—when the framing of educational structures change, activities become the focus and not simply the way it's done.

Transnational Writing Program Administration is just one example of the opportunity- and constraint-filled scene of institutional change. A key element of any international education scene is the overt negotiation of multiple, competing models for how to accomplish the educational and business aims of any given program, campus, or instructional service. In the global expansion of higher education, the tension between economic and pedagogical interests strongly influence decisions made about what kinds of programs to offer and how to offer those programs. Writing teachers and administrators involved in the creation or development of international programs must negotiate these tensions based upon what they know and value about learning, teaching, and writing.

This site reflects my attempts to achieve what Linda Adler-Kassner (2008) called a "balance between ideals and strategies" (p. 9). In her award-winning book, The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writing and Writers, Adler-Kassner described ideals as the "goals, aims, ultimate objectives—as well as whose interests are represented in those ends" (p. 8). She elaborated on this sense of ideals, writing: "Ideals are our personal stories and motivating factors—the things most important to us. They extend from what we hold in ourselves, what we see through our emotions and experiences"(p. 9). In the contexts of transnational higher education, I find my ideals—shaped as they are by training in composition, rhetoric, and literacy studies, and my commitments to meaningful writing instruction and to ethical labor and teaching practices—are challenged and invigorated by powerful economic trends and business practices.

Strategies, described by Adler-Kassner (2008), are "the means by which those objectives are measured and achieved" (p. 8). The strategies that I have begun to develop have emerged only as I have come to see and question local institutional infrastructures as they interact with, respond to, and influence globalized, transnational infrastructures. Writing program administration, in a transnational context, has begun to re-frame the terms I use to think about my work:

Curriculum: What happens when a curriculum is exported from an institution located in one country to another? Are the same learning outcomes and activities relevant and meaningful for all students enrolled in the exported course? And if not, how might it be made to be more relevant for both the students enrolled in the course and the faculty teaching it?
Program Identity: What is the identity of the program? Does the program have the same identity at each site? What roles do program or course assessments play in the articulation of program identity? What policies or procedures establish program identity, and who creates those policies and procedures?
Resources: What resources are available to the writing program? What structures are in place to identify the needs and means of instructional support for students and professional support for faculty at the different international branch campuses? To what extent do local resources offer unique opportunities for each campus? To what extent do globally available resources offer unique opportunities for each campus?
Communication: How do administrators, faculty, and students at each campus communicate with one another? What work—administrative, curricular, social, learning—do communication pathways facilitate?
Control: What kinds of balance might be struck between the benefits for students and faculty realized by local control of the curriculum and the institutional-based concern for coherence, continuity, and standard experience of curriculum?

These terms and their related questions foreground tensions between the needs of local populations of students and faculty with global ideals and strategies. By focusing on the tension between the local and global, this site contributes to a discussion of balancing ideals and strategies as institutional infrastructures become visible, and of keeping infrastructure visible while responding both ethically and effectively.