Chapter 4: Pathways to Future Transfer
In other chapters, we have observed several students in the first-year writing study articulating and demonstrating a growing meta-awareness about composition in different areas. I define meta-awareness about composition as “an ability to move consistently between enacting compositional choices and articulating how and why those choices are or might be effective or ineffective within a rhetorical context” (VanKooten “Identifying…”). The concept of meta-awareness as a support for or pathway toward future transfer, though, needs more theorization and unpacking. Citing Perkins and Salomon on transfer as “hugging” and “bridging,” Nowacek states, “We lack a theory of transfer that would allow us to be more specific about how hugging and bridging work, about what meta-awareness recognizes. In short, the nature of these metacognitive abilities needs to be further qualified and described” (17). But better defining specific metacognitive abilities, as Nowacek suggests, might create even more problems according to posthumanists. Casey Boyle, for example, warns us not to separate the writer or writer's mind from "all those things with which she is codependent” in the writing ecology (533). Boyle’s view is grounded in a posthuman practice that honors seriality, objects, habits, and sensations as part of the complex ecological relationships that constitute writing experience.
How might we move forward, then, as we seek to flesh out frameworks for metacognitive moves related to writing that exist within an ecology that includes unconscious, affective, and nonhuman elements? Jason Palmeri reminds me that it is possible to “remix” what might seem to be binary theoretical taxonomies and linear progress narratives (13), and he ultimately concludes that for teachers, the goal “should not be to choose one pedagogy over another, but rather to consider how we can recombine them—remix them—in ways that can enable us to develop a more nuanced and complex view of what it means to teach composition and in the contemporary digital moment” (Palmeri 15). In search of Palmeri’s more nuanced and complex view, I still find it useful to carefully define and develop frameworks for observing meta-awareness about composition as one important part of today’s interdependent, digital media-centric writing ecologies.
This chapter thus examines moments when students developed different kinds of meta-awareness about composition—of the writerly self, of process, of techniques, and of intercomparativity. In this first section, I focus on two students, Gerry and Madison, who developed meta-awareness of the writerly self through their experiences with video composition, awareness they believed they would carry forward into future compositional contexts, serving as a pathway for future transfer.
Seeing Other Points-of-View: Spotlight on Gerry
Gerry developed meta-awareness of himself as a writer and the ways in which he might productively compose with others. In particular, Gerry discussed learning to see and interact with those with other points of view through his video project. Seeing another’s point of view became very important to Gerry because he composed his video project with a classmate, D’mitria. Listen and look as Gerry describes their composition process for the video, and then as he explains how he began to note the importance of seeing and hearing the work through D’mitria’s and others’ eyes and ears.
Gerry discusses the development of his meta-awareness of the writerly self through seeing other points of view as he composed his video.
|[No audio]||White text appears on a black screen, reading "Transfer to the Future: Spotlight on Gerry".|
|Gerry: Well, my video was about FYAC, the First-Year Advising Center. I made it with D'mitria. It was all about why should you go to the First-Year Advising Center. First, there was like this title "First-Year Advising Center," and then, we went to present our, the girl we were interviewing, which was Lisa Hook.||A clip from Gerry's video is shown on the screen. The first screen shows an image of Oakland's bear head logo, which then zooms out to reveal itself on the cover of a scrapbook titled "FYAC." In the top left corner, white text reads "From Gerry and D'mitria's video." The next screen shows a clip of Gerry talking to Lisa Hook at the front desk in the FYAC office, outlined in a scrapbook-style frame with a label "Interviewee-Lisa Hook." The third screen shows signs and the door leading to the FYAC office with white text appearing on the screen, reading "What is the difference between FYAC and a regular college counselor?"|
|Gerry in video: Hello. This is Gerry, and we're here with Lisa at the First-Year Advising Center. Thank you very much, Lisa. Three simple questions for you.||The final video clip in Gerry's video is of him interviewing Lisa Hook at the front desk in the FYAC office. He stands on the right as she sits on the left.|
|Gerry: But we took a lot of pictures from different pos—from different posters and signs that were outside of the First-Year Advising Center. But in the middle, we had a lot of transitions and with a lot of different pictures.||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry: And the questions were like written.|
Gerry in video: Can you describe the experience of an international student may have over a native student.
|Another clip from Gerry's video is shown. The first screen is of a picture collage on the wall from the FYAC. The second clip is of Gerry interviewing Lisa. The third shows a still image of the FYAC front desk with text reading "Can you describe the experience of an international student may have over a native student?" The fourth is the same clip of Gerry interviewing Lisa, with the text staying over the screen.|
|Gerry: We got the assignment, and then I got assigned to D'mitria. And then I started noticing that she is like completely opposite to me.||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry: Like I've never been in a situation like that. It was actually pretty cool. I learned a lot from that.||A clip of Gerry in a computer lab-style classroom is shown. He is working with D'mitria at a desk. They are both working off the same laptop and discussing their project as they work. In the top corner of the screen, text reads "In class..." in white.|
|D'mitria: Do you think that's cute?|
D'mitria: That's... oh, ok. That's cute
Gerry: That's cute. It's not cute?
D'mitria: No, it's not cute
Gerry: Oh my god, Ok. What about...?
D'mitria: No that's not cute at all.
|The clip continues with Gerry and D'mitria, and the text is replaced by the words of the conversation between Gerry and D'mitria, reading "Do you think that's cute?" and later, "Is this cute? Yeah, this is cute." It then reads "That's... oh, ok. That's cute" and "That's cute. It's not cute?" Following this is "No, it's not cute" with D'mitria shaking her head and laughing. Then it reads "Oh my god, ok. What about...?" and finally "No that's not cute at all."|
|Gerry: It's so funny because, I don't know, if I like green, she would have said, "No. I don't like green. I like black." And I was like, "I don't like black."||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|D'mitria: You changed this one.|
Gerry: What? No. Look.
D'mitria: Just change that one to the mosaic.
|Gerry and D'mitria are back in their classroom working on their project. They are bickering about the details of their video. Across the top of the screen in white text reads "You changed this one" followed by "What? No. Look." Gerry then gets frustrated when he realizes D'mitria is right. More text appears, reading "Just change that one to the mosaic."|
|Gerry: We had these, like, big, little fights about the the more unnecessary and little and ridiculous things. Like they weren't even important, but they were actually important for us. I don't know.||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry: Pure audio|
D'mitria: Yeah. No, no video.
Gerry: No video? Okay.
D'mitria: Unless you want to do video? But then we have to merge the videos together and I kinda think that's doing too much when we could just put the audio over it.
|A clip of Gerry and D'mitria in their classroom is shown again. White text appears on the screen to show a transcript of their conversation.|
|Gerry: And I've never been in this kind of a situation where I'm with an opposite person as me. And this being the first time, it was like, wow, it's, it's actually not that bad.||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry: You can actually get to an agreement with someone. It doesn't matter if she's like super, super different to you.||Gerry and Dimitria are shown in an over-the-shoulder view, working on their video project together.|
|Gerry: It's all about communication, and about just giving your point-of-views and learning about other point-of-views. It's, it's good. Learning from other point-of-views. That's something beautiful.||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Crystal: Was anything from the video applicable to the paper that you wrote right after it?|
Gerry: Oh yeah.
Crystal: The one that you guys just turned in?
|The same inteview with Gerry and Crystal is shown from a new angle. They are both on screen with Crystal to the right of the screen facing the camera and Gerry to the left, with more of his back to the camera. They sit at opposite ends of a table, and Crystal is taking notes with a pen and paper.|
|Gerry: It was actually, yeah. Everything. I think everything was about the video and about my experience with D'mitria.||The camera angle switches back to show only Gerry as he responds to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry in class: So this is D'mitria and I'm Gerry, and we are about to talk about FYAC, the First-Year Advising Center.||A clip of Gerry standing at the front of his class is shown. He and D'mitria, who is standing next to him, are presenting their video to the class. He stands in front of a podium with the video pulled up on the screen behind him. He gestures as he talks to his classmates. In the bottom right corner, white text reads "Class Presentations".|
|Crystal: So tell me a couple of the things. Like what was helpful for the paper?||Crystal and Gerry are both shown again in the interview set-up in the office as they talk with each other. Crystal continues to take notes.|
|Gerry: Well, learning from another point-of-view,||Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen. He is holding a water bottle that he uses to gesture with as he answers Crystal's question.|
|Gerry: that was actually good because in some way it helped me more to write better. Know what I mean? Like usually I see things in one way, but now when I was writing that paper, I could have, like, I just stopped for a minute and tried to look at it from the other way, you know what I mean?||Gerry and D'mitria are shown in their classroom again laughing and joking around while working on their video project.|
|Crystal: You think working with D'mitria helped you to think about that?|
|Gerry is shown again at the table talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Crystal: So if you had to describe your overall experience with making the video in the class, how would you describe it?||Crystal and Gerry are both shown again in the interview set-up in the office as they talk with each other. Crystal continues to take notes.|
|Gerry: It was like... I don't know the word in English, though. But like it really opened my eyes.Like spending all that time with D'mitria, and other point-of-views, and learning from other videos and... |
Crystal: What's the word in Spanish?
Crystal: Like illuminating?
Gerry: Yeah, like illuminating. That was actually pretty good, yeah.
Crystal: I speak a little bit of Spanish.
Gerry: Oh really?
Crystal: Un pocito.
Gerry: Si. That's cool.
|Gerry is shown again at the table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. The words "I don't know the word in English, though" appear in white text on the top left corner of the screen. It is later replaced by "Illuminativa".|
Gerry described the video project as illuminativa (illuminating, eye-opening, and revealing) as he began to perceive that his preferences and ways of composing were not the only possibilities. For Gerry, watching video models in class; discussing what seemed at first to be unimportant details about the video with his partner, D'mitria; coming to an agreement about how to proceed; and then reflecting on this process during his interviews with me allowed him to develop and demonstrate an articulated and enacted awareness of a writerly self who not only looked to his own opinions and interests, but also stopped to consider how others might respond to or conceive of form and content differently.
Building Confidence: Spotlight on Madison
One frequent code pairing that emerged from grounded theory analysis of participant interview data was confidence and anxiety. When I asked students to consider knowledge developed through the video project that might transfer to the future, many discussed how composing the video had helped them to overcome composition anxiety and build more writerly confidence that would be useful as they faced new, challenging, or unfamiliar future composing situations. Listen and look as instructor Angie and students Mikayla, Gerry, and Tiara describe the importance of building confidence in a first-year writing course.
Angie, Mikayla, Gerry, and Tiara discuss building confidence in first-year writing.
|[No audio]||White text appears on a black screen, reading "Building Confidence in First-Year Writing".|
|Angie: It's hard to predict what kinds of creative processes or tasks are going to really help first-year writing students get comfortable expressing themselves and get comfortable making arguments and doing the kind of writing they're going to be called upon to do.||Angie is shown sitting at a table talking to Crystal, who is off screen. Angie is seated in front of a chalkboard. She looks around as she considers her answer, and looks back at Crystal. In the top left corner, white text reads "Angie, FYW Instructor".|
|Angie: A lot of it is just building confidence, I mean, some of it is that anyway.||A clip from Angie's class is shown. Students in large groups sit at round tables with laptops and discuss their projects and assignments with each other. In the top left corner of the screen, text reads "Angie's Class" in white.|
|Angie: And that this is something, I think, that could really help them do that.||Angie is shown again sitting at the table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Mikayla: Well, I was a really bad writer, like a really bad writer, and I feel like an okay writer now. You know, feeling confident in my writing now is a big step for me.||Mikayla is shown sitting at a table in an office, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. In the top left corner of the screen is her name in white text.|
|Mikayla: Which is a lot about what writing is. If you're confident about your writing,||Mikayla is shown in her classroom working on a desktop computer, getting help from an instructor with her assignment.|
|Mikayla: it normally turns out better.||Mikayla is shown again sitting at the table, talking to Crystal who is off screen.|
|Gerry: When I first came here, I was a little bit afraid about taking a writing class.||Gerry is shown in the same office as Mikayla, sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Gerry: What am I going to do writing papers in English?||Gerry is shown in his computer lab-style classroom with another student, and they are collaborating on editing a video on a laptop. They are talking and pointing to the screen.|
|Gerry: Now, I feel a little bit, a little bit more confident about it.||Gerry is shown again in the office talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Tiara: I am very thankful for this class.||Tiara is shown in the same office as Mikayla and Gerry, sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Tiara: I feel like I did open up, and I did express myself in a way that I wouldn't normally do. And it helped me learn a lot about myself||Tiara is shown presenting her Prezi to her class. She is standing at the front desk talking to a classroom full of other students and presenting her work as they listen.|
|Tiara: and grow in confidence.||Tiara is shown again in the office, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
As these short clips indicate, composing with digital media such as video can be a means to support students in building confidence as writers and overcoming performance anxiety, in part because video composition places many first-year writers in an unfamiliar and potentially anxiety-producing composing space they are forced to negotiate. Madison’s experiences with the video project illustrate more specifically how video supports the growth of confidence for some learners. Both Madison and her instructor, Katie, told me that Madison was a particularly anxious student when it came to composition assignments. In the following video, we hear from Madison and Katie about Madison’s increase in confidence through making the video and the potential for this confidence to transfer across media as well as watch and listen to some of Madison’s video composition, “Is Cheerleading a Sport?”
Katie and Madison discuss the development of Madison's meta-awareness of the writerly self through building confidence as she composed her video.
|[No audio]||White text appears on a black screen, reading "Building Confidence: Spotlight on Madison".|
|Katie: I think there was a lot of anxiety about creating, doing the video comp. Because initially when I said, ok, all of you are going to create videos, everybody was like, "eehh!" So nervous about it.||Katie is shown in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. In the upper left corner, text reads "Katie, Madison's instructor".|
|Madison: The video was drastically different, I thought.||Madison is shown in the same office, talking to Crystal, who is also shown on the screen. Madison is on the left and Crystal is on the right. They are sitting across from each other at a table, and Crystal is taking notes as Madison speaks.|
|Madison: Just because, ok, a proposal's on paper. A bib's on paper. An essay's on paper. And I was like, wait, what? Now I have to do techy stuff? I was like, I don't know how. It's not in my element. I don't know. So I was freaking out about that.||The angle of the interview shifts and shows only Madison, who is talking to Crystal, who is off screen. Next to her, text in the top corner reads "Madison".|
|Madison in class: I have an update. I finally got Windows Movie Maker to work. So some movie maker is on my computer.|
Katie in class: Yeah! Snaps for Madison. Awesome.
|Madison is shown in a classroom among her peers. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "In class..." Students are all sitting at their desks, and Madison has her laptop out. She raises her hand and then points to her laptop as she starts talking to her instructor, who is off screen.|
|Katie: One student, Madison Mardney, wanted to answer the question "is competitive cheerleading a sport?"||Katie is shown again in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen. In the upper left corner, text reads "Katie, Madison's instructor".|
|Katie: Her whole video composition was original footage, which was very impressive, hard to do. I could see that she worked her little tukus off to get this done.||A clip from Madison's video is shown. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "From Madison's video." First, a blue title screen is shown, reading "Is Cheerleading a Sport?" Then, the clip cuts to a video montage of cheerleaders practicing and performing.|
|Katie: And there was one particular section in her video, I remember,||Katie is shown again in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Katie: where she introduced the idea of how rigorous and sometimes dangerous cheerleading can be.||A clip from Madison's video is shown. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "From Madison's video." A clip of cheerleaders performing their stunts is shown.|
|Katie: And she showed this, kind of this montage of cheerleaders practicing,||Katie is shown again in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Katie: you know, girls falling. Which I thought was really effective. Because it was, like the footage was so persuasive to the audience. And actually visualizing this is what these cheerleaders do, I think was more effective for her than actually doing writing about it.||A clip from Madison's video is shown. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "From Madison's video." A montage of cheerleaders practicing and performing their stunts and sometimes falling out of them is shown.|
|Katie: Her primary research through video really helped her make a definite, define her argument and her thesis a bit more.||Katie is shown again in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Katie: And it was also even more impressive and touching for me as a teacher because she's one of my students who struggles with self confidence.||Madison is shown in her classroom talking with her peers and instructor. On the top left corner of the screen, text reads "In class..."|
|Katie: And so to see her do such an amazing job on that video was awesome. Yes, writing a paper, putting together a video composition, it's a very anxiety-inducing task. But look what you did.||Katie is shown again in an office sitting at a table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Crystal: You think the video assignment had anything to do with your change in anxiety over the semester?||Madison and Crystal are shown again at the table in the office and Crystal takes notes and askes Madison another question.|
|Madison: Yeah. Because now I feel like, ok, I've done it before. I can do it again. It's not as fearful as it seemed before. Now I'm even more confident.||The angle of the interview shifts and shows only Madison, who is talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
|Madison: And I know if I have questions, I know I have resources around me, and I know how to get those now. I've learned you can accomplish anything and get over your obstacles and fears.||Madison is shown in class working on her laptop, very focused.|
|Madison: You just got to have a lot of motivation and got to push yourself forward.||Madison is shown again in the interview room sitting at the table, talking to Crystal, who is off screen.|
Madison concluded our interview by stating that the video project helped her to learn to “get over...obstacles and fears” by motivating her and pushing her forward. Madison demonstrates how John Dewey’s theory of effort, thinking, and motivation from Interest and Effort in Education can work for students faced with a challenging task. Dewey says, "[E]ffort as mere strained activity is not what we prize” (46), but instead “continuity in the face of difficulties,” or meeting obstacles (47), is valuable when an activity is carried forward to fulfillment for a purpose. Applied to school, Dewey's theory suggests that motivating educative tasks need to have difficulties that stimulate, not discourage (56). For Madison, the video project and the functional and rhetorical obstacles that came with it served as such a task. Dewey reminds us that the kind of effort Madison put forth to compose her video is connected to learning and thought: “[T]he question is not the amount of sheer strain involved, but the way in which the thought of an end persists in spite of difficulties, and induces a person to reflect upon the nature of the obstacles and the available resources by which they may be dealt with” (51). As Madison reveals, she finished the project newly aware of "the resources around" that might help her with new or similar challenges in the future.
Gerry's and Madison's experiences reveal how students might develop meta-awareness of the writerly self through video. While each student learned about a different aspect of writerly identity—how to look beyond the self, how to approach a challenging compositional obstacle with confidence—each student spoke about how that learning was now available for future use. The kind of meta-awareness about composition we see being developed here through video is an important pathway for future transfer.