Haswell: "NCTE/CCCC''s Recent War on Scholarship"

Richard H. Haswell. “NCTE/CCCC''s Recent War on Scholarship.” Written Communication 22.2 (2005): 198-223. Web.



Author''s abstract:


This article documents aspects of the history of support for scholarship by two professional organizations involved with teaching composition at the postsecondary level: the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). Evidence is found that for the past two decades, the two organizations have substantially withdrawn their sponsorship of one kind of scholarship. That scholarship is defined as RAD: replicable, aggregable, and data supported. The history of RAD scholarship as published in NCTE and CCCC books and journals, compared to that published elsewhere, is traced from1940 to 1999 in three areas: teaching of the research paper, gain in writing skills during a writing course, and methods of peer critique. The history of NCTE and CCCC attempts at scholarly bibliography is also traced. Implications are considered for the future of the study of college composition as an academic discipline.




Begins by referencing Witte, who founded Written Communication. Notes that quant/qual rift alive and strong. Charges CCCC and NCTE anti-empirical research. Intent is to prove it through historical survey of NCTE/CCCC work and then discuss implications.  Focusing on RAD studies (replicable, aggregable, data supported).


NCTE 1972-- defines "enduring" as reflecting pedagogical or scholarly concerns of a more or less enduring nature vs. ephermeral (204). Haswell counters with argument that empirically researched pieces more enduring, but what is normally found is opposite. CCCCs 17 research : 478 other. Trends in supported scholarship demonstrates statistically fewer empirical.


Uses historical analysis as methodology. Explains terminology.


Table 1
Definition of the Categories RAD and Non-RAD (208)


RAD Studies Non-RAD Studies
Data resulting from a set procedure of observation, elicitation, or analysis Data or data-like material presented as illustrative examples of a point being made
Study of texts or human participants picked randomly or through an explicit and transferable system of selection Study of texts or human participants selected by the authors as isolated examples, points of clarification, or demonstration of an argument
Description of a system of text analysis or a research method or a research tool, application, and report of results Description of a method of analysis or a research methodology or tool without applying it, even when examples or cases are used to explain it
Establishment of a descriptive or validation system and then application to text, course, or program Description of a test, course, or program, without establishing a descriptive system that could be applied elsewhere
Review of past research or texts, with parameters set, items fully reported, and an effort to be exhaustive Review of research, without coverage defined or exhaustive searches (the typical “Review of Research” section of a article)
Replication of a previous research study, confirming, qualifying, or disconfirming it with new data Reporting of other researchers’ RAD study, data, or statistics without qualifying them with new data obtained through RAD methods
Textual analysis with report of application, using a systematic scheme of analysis that others can apply to different texts and directly compare Textual analysis, illustrating parts of the analysis, without systematic application and report of findings
Case study where participant is randomly chosen or is chosen to represent a specific background Case study where participant is not randomly chosen or where background is so vague that comparison with other participants cannot be made meaningfully
Historical data helping to understand participants or texts in a study with RAD methods Historical data for their own sake or presented to understand current times


NOTE: RAD = replicable, aggregable, and data supported.


"Since about the mid-1980s, there has been a fairly common opinion in NCTE- and CCCC-sponsored journals, even in Research in the Teaching of English, that hard facts on gain in student writing from the beginning to the end of a writing course are difficult to get or are not worth getting (e.g., Thompson, 1980). The improvement of writing has not been discredited as a main objective of writing courses, just efforts to document it. The notion that pre-post gain studies may be not possible or not meaningful, however, seems to find little support again in publications outside of NCTE/CCCC." (209)


CCCC claims RAD research outmoded, but other publications and disciplines doing it.


Research not being done by NCTE/CCCC, but by ERIC or grad students, or ancillary disciplines.


Haswell argues that this may lead to end of composition as professional discipline.


"The answer is that during these two decades,NCTE/CCCCdefined scholarship broadly but supported it selectively. More exactly, they have been hostile to one kind of scholarship while promoting the rest, with their exclusion of one kind and support of the rest growing more and more entrenched. Most crucial is that the kind of scholarship they are killing off happens to be essential to the rest they nurture" (218-19)


Points out that Rhet/Comp not a category in the NRC "classification of disciplines used by accrediting agencies, nor a numerical code in its Annual Survey of Earned Doctorates, nor a category in the Chronicle of Higher Education for new academic books, nor a field used by the National Endowment for the Humanities for grants. These are just symptoms of a deeper malaise" (219)


Conclusion: Connors’s (1997) novelesque image is compelling:“We are already pursuing research paths so disparate that many thoughtful people have feared the discipline will fly apart like a dollar watch” (p. 18). Witte (1987), as was his habit, offers a more commonsense picture, though in no way less horrifying: “Afield that presumes the efficacy of a particular research methodology, a particular inquiry paradigm, will collapse inward upon itself” (p. 207). (220)