As much as anything else, I wanted to gather together the full (re-released!)
collection of interchange on
"computer literacy" section of the WPA Outcomes Statement on technology.
Why? Just so I’d have it, evidence of the watershed moment.
Suggested Section: Computer Literacy
Outcomes, Technology, and a Blog
Computer Literacy Plank on Outcomes Statement
Party like it’s 1996
planks of technology
More on Technology, Outcomes, Walking Planks,
Being an Outsider”
While I’m at it, I’ve been thinking about outcomes statements for a few days
now, too, not only because of the WPA OS on technology, but also because I’ve
been deciphering quite a few acronym-rich emails with references to CO, CA and
CAR associated with my summer gig.
Just moseying along, minding my business, when I bump into an OS, I want to
ask, What comes out? (Is it possible to do so without seeming rude?) Put another
way: What do we gain and lose by shifting outcomes from a noun to a
question? What comes out? Or what, with adherence to the listed dictums,
would come out?
That probably wouldn’t work becomes outcomes are answers, affirmations of the
implications of a particular set of activities (often associated with formal
schooling). Because the answers or outcomes precede the activity, they run the
risk of overdetermining the activity, reducing it to its forecast. They
are, for the most part, inertial rather than accelerative, a happy cocktail of
teleology, ideology and institution-ology. They depend upon clear, concise
language, language that must not theorize, must not introduce perplexity (no
matter how vital these things might be throughout the activity!). Outcomes,
necessary though they are, might be the antithesis of inquiry. Inquiry
moves ahead without full certainty or reassurance of already knowing.
Inquiry knows not what will come out: wondering, wandering, guessing.
In fairness, we can all recognize the need for removing these three
nuisances: theory, perplexity and inquiry. Outcomes statements must be the
surest answers; the activity would be a failure if it didn’t come out as
predicted, if it didn’t come out, that is, an exact match with the lowest
replicable components (LRC).
Last thing: this brings up an audience problem. I mention this because
audience seems to be a crossed-wires issue here. In "Composition Studies:
Dappled Discipline," citing Farrell, Lauer writes, "In social fields, advocates
have two kinds of audience: 1) the epistemic court of experts and 2) larger
affected populations for whom social knowledge exercises a rhetorical function,
attempting to gain their acceptance of its conclusions and to induce their
action" (24). Eventually there’s a third audience (even if Lauer includes it
with the second audience): "those writing instructors and pedagogical advocates
who are neither in touch with existing scholarship nor contributing to it" (24).
What do I mean about an audience problem? The three audiences, again:
1. Epistemic court (experts who keep up with the reading and write actively
on the issues they profess)
2. General public
2a. Those who self-identify with the field but who neither keep up with the
scholarship nor write actively on the issues they profess
Outcomes statements can’t appease all three audiences at once, and it’s
altogether likely that those in the first group will find them to be egregiously
reductive, simplistic and lacking in vitality (fair enough; Lauer
wasn’t writing about OSes, exactly). They must name only what is already known
to be possible as an LRC (and often such sure things are a few years old) rather than naming what is
possible or recently emerging.