Working With Human Subjects

Interview-Based Study Questions for Administrators

Interview Questions: Writing Program Administrators

Personal research/education/teaching history and information: In what specialization area did you do your doctorate work? What are your major areas of interest and publication? What is your history as a Writing Program Administrator (WPA)? How many WPA positions have you held? Where? How long did you have those positions? What are your current administrative roles with the English department? What do those roles entail?

[Reason women begin teaching as adjunct] Howard Tuckman, one of the first researchers to address the connection between contingent status and gender in the teaching of composition, said that there were two main people who teach part-time: flexibility seekers, who don’t count on part-time teaching as their main income, and work seekers, those why rely on part-time teaching for their main income or work experience. Within the flexibility seekers are semi-retired faculty, students, and those who care for children or relatives. Within the work seekers, there are those who work full-time outside the academy but teach because they want to, and those who teach for supplemental income. In your experience, what seems to draw many women to teaching composition as adjuncts?

[Gender and role as adjunct] Eileen Schell reports that there are social and institutional factors that inhibit women from moving into permanent, full-time positions in the academy. She says that the gendered division of labor, the wage gap, the “glass ceiling” phenomenon, timing and geographic mobility, and even conversational cues and lack of support networks affect women’s further involvement in the academy. Do you see these factors at work for female composition instructors here in the English department? If so, can you share an experience or give an example of these factors and how they might have affected instructor(s)?

[Local context; compensation] Eileen Schell reports that nationally, instructor salaries range from $800 per course on the low end and $3500 per course on the high end. Additionally, Schell quotes one of her interviewees from her study, “It frustrates me to know that there are people at the university who teach one or two classes per semester, who refuse to meet with students about their papers and then rake in high salaries—it feels like I get paid nothing to work very hard so that they can pay somebody whose name means something an obscene salary.” How does CSU compare to the national context as far as compensation for composition instructors? What is fair compensation? Do you feel that the instructors here feel they are compensated fairly? Can you give an example or share a story of an experience or situation that shapes your opinion of how well or poorly the instructors are compensated for their work?

[Local context; professional development] In the mid eighties, the NCTE published its “Statement of Principles and Standards for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing” as a result of the Wyoming Resolution in which the attendees of the Conference on College Communication and Composition rallied for the fair treatment of composition teachers. The standards include that “all writing instructors should have access to scholarly literature and be given opportunities for continuing professional development,” and “they should receive adequate introduction to their teaching assignments.” How do the instructors’ professional development opportunities here compare to those outlined by the NCTE? Do they receive adequate information about how to perform their jobs (work orientation and training period)? Do they have the teaching resources that you require for effective performance at your job? Can you give an example of how instructors have been adequately or inadequately supported in this context in terms of professional development?

[Local context; psychic toll] In response to the CCCC meeting in which the Wyoming resolution, three attendees wrote in College English that some of the conference attendees had “many inquiries and have found that indeed composition teachers at their colleges or universities are exploited, denied privileges,” and some expressed fear that “if the conditions for teachers of writing were improved, tenured faculty members would have to carry a heavier burden in teaching composition.” This quote touches on the power relations between instructors and tenure-track faculty. What, if anything, would you change about the power relations between instructors of composition and other faculty members in the English department? Do you feel that the instructors’ work as professionals is valued? Can you share a situation or story that illustrates how you feel about the power relations between instructors and tenure-track faculty members?

[Local context; economical reasons for instructors] A quote from Cary Nelson, an outspoken advocate of non tenure-track faculty: “English departments have made the college teacher what standard economic theory calls an elastic commodity, one for which there are any number of substitutes.” This is a strong claim, and certainly a threatening one towards English departments, but it implies the economic realities that universities encounter. Can you explain any economical reasons for which the department hires composition instructors?

[Local context; future] Schell says that in order to improve conditions for adjuncts in composition, “It is not enough for tenure-line faculty in composition studies to point out the “feminization” of writing instruction and to distance ourselves from its “feminized” status by founding more graduate programs and publishing more scholarship; rather, we must find ways to incorporate, value, reward, and develop the knowledge and contributions of part-time and non tenure-track faculty, namely to integrate scholarship and teaching in rewarding, productive, and meaningful ways for all who make writing instruction their livelihood.” Can you explain the specific changes that you would advocate for composition instructors going forward?

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