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We’re looking for scholars who would like to write shorter reviews of important pieces about writing assessment.  Here are the submission guidelines for the JWA Reading List:

The Journal of Writing Assessment welcomes submissions for the Reading List. Submissions should be 500-750 words in length. The purpose of the Reading List is to highlight the importance of publications for practitioners in writing assessment. Reviews should include an overview of the main points of the publication, an overview of the methodologies, identification of controversies and then a brief discussion of the relevance of this publication for the field of writing assessment.

Authors should follow the style guidelines of the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, especially for reference lists and text citation of sources.

Currently, submissions to JWA’s Reading List are reviewed by the editors.

JWA Reading List submissions can be sent via our webpage at http://journalofwritingassessment.org/submit.php or as an email attachment to journalofwritingassessment@gmail.com.

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Part III: A Review of Kathleen Blake Yancey’s A Rhetoric of Reflection

Part III: Implicit Implications for Assessment

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, ed. (2016). A Rhetoric of Reflection. Logan: Utah State UP.

By Julie Cook, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Note: This is the third installment of a three-part review (see Part 1: A Comprehensive Review; Part 2: Explicit Implications for Assessment)

To conclude my review of A Rhetoric of Reflection (ROR), this last installment focuses on chapters that, while important to the work of assessment, were less explicit in their approach. The question underscoring the chapters reviewed here, however, is an important one that directly informs the work of assessment: Do we know what we value?

In Chapter 6, Bruce Horner complicates Freire’s (1970) “banking” approach to writing agency and demonstrates with great complexity that action-reflection (choice-driven) is limited not only in scope but also in reach if “norms” for writing are unacknowledged as having differences according to choice. Situating English as a lingua franca with a concentration on translation, iteration, and reiteration, Horner distinguishes all language practices as always containing differences and situates choice as an always existing rhetorical activity. His depiction of choice for what is commonly seen as normal practice is equally applicable to the process and work of assessment.

Acknowledging the tensions that exist between the process of reflective learning and the product of an ePortfolio, Christina Russell McDonald (Chapter XX) relates Virginia Military Institute’s implementation of a process-centered, social reflective pedagogy. McDonald’s chapter will be of interest to those who value social reflection and will resonate with those who are interested in knowing “why the educational, theoretical, and pedagogical underpinnings of ePortfolios” often lack “transparency, especially to the primary audiences for which they [are] intended” (p. 203).

Naomi Silver also considers the affordances of digital spaces in Chapter 9. Of interest for classroom pedagogy, Silver’s work introduces digital genres (revision histories, screencasts, blogs) that promote scaffolding and reinforce reflection as a dialogic process. Similar to Taczak and Roberson (Chapter 3), recursive reflection is the curriculum; however, Silver promotes the “seamless integration,” of reflection through genres that do not explicitly call for one to reflect (i.e. blog posts), thus preventing “reflection burnout” (pp. 173-174). While I found Silver’s chapter to be worth consideration for classroom practice, it is worth noting that the students discussed in her work are enrolled in the course as part of a writing minor and that there will likely be motivational differences for this student demographic and that of first-year writing students taking a required course to meet general educational requirements. In contrast, Kara Taczak and Liane Robertson (Chapter 3) present an interlocking pedagogy that promotes transfer through recursive reflection, where reflection is situated as the framework for transfer. Unlike Silver (Chapter 9), Taczak and Robertson’s model stresses the need for explicitness in reflection as the curriculum for transfer.

In Chapter 2, Anne Beaufort speaks to issues of agreement within writing studies. In common Beaufort fashion, she provides a relatable application of her work on transfer and its integration into the classroom context, making the chapter a rich resource for experienced and novice teachers. Beaufort also relates the importance of remembering our history as a field in developing an understanding of what we know about reflection, learning, and transfer—it is a history informed, revised, and repurposed by several disciplines. While it is important to continue viewing the study of reflection as an interdisciplinary activity, it is also necessary for writing studies to develop a shared understanding of what core concepts are important for the work of reflection and transfer.

That shared understanding may come from inter-disciplinary conversations, like the ones Pamela Flash discusses in Chapter 11. As part of a writing-enrichment program, Flash asked multiple disciplines to articulate what it is that those in the community believe to be “good” writing. The dialogue and meetings that followed this question created a “productively disruptive” discussion fostered by a social and recursive reflection—“generating, implementing, and assessing multiple iterations of comprehensive documents”—used as a tool to “divert resistance” and move toward an understanding of tacit, paradigmatic assumptions (Brookfield, 1995, as cited in Flash, p. 247, p. 232). Hers is a fascinating—and relevant—study of institutional activity systems, drawing heavily upon activity theory. Those interested in WAC and LAC will find Flash’s work to be informative, and it is likely her work will be of most benefit to departments and programs involved in local assessments, as they ask, “What do we value? Why do we value it? How do we relate that knowledge? How do we observe its use? How do we assess it?” It is for this reason that I can think of no better work to end this review on. While there are chapters in ROR that are more consequential to practice, to reflective studies, and to assessment, Flash’s work, though largely implicit, holds each answerable to the other in a pragmatic manner. 


Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum.
Source: jwa

Part II: A Review of Kathleen Blake Yancey’s A Rhetoric of Reflection

Explicit Implications for Assessment 

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, ed. (2016). A Rhetoric of Reflection. Logan: Utah State UP. 

By Julie Cook, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Note: This is the second installment of a three-part review (see Part 1: A Comprehensive Review; Part 3: Implicit Implications for Assessment

A Rhetoric of Reflection (ROR) has much to contribute to the discussion of writing assessment. While the authors’ approaches are diverse, two questions remain primary through their work with reflection: 1) Do we assess what we think we are assessing? and 2) Do we value what we say we value? 

Like others in ROR (Beaufort, Sommers, Robertson & Taczak), Michael Neal (Chapter 4) builds from his previous work on reflection and assessment with the reflective cover letter. Neal notes an interesting phenomenon resulting from the large-scale adoption of portfolio reflective letters in educational contexts: “the relationship between reflection and assessment […] became so closely related they were often used interchangeably and thus are difficult to distinguish” (p. 69). Here, Neal critiques Edward M. White’s (2005) Phase 2 model for portfolio assessment: Assessing reflection alone is only assessing the argument and not the evidence for the argument. As a faculty member who has often been in the thick of programmatic assessment, and who has felt pressures alongside colleagues tasked with evaluating a large number of end-of-semester portfolios, I found Neal’s issues with the Phase 2 model relatable and relevant as they echoed concerns often voiced and felt by faculty. Those of us who are conflicted when assessing portfolios because either the reflection appears disingenuous or disconnected from other portfolio materials will appreciate Neal’s chapter. 

In Chapter 13, Jeff Sommers addresses The Writer’s Memo, which he first presented in 1984. For Sommers, evaluations of student work in The Writer’s Memo raise questions for motivation and reflective experiences. The Writer’s Memo is a space to describe and analyze, but in Sommers’ evaluation the genre does not support a metacognitive articulation of learning. By adding an end-of-semester reflection, Sommers’ response integrates an end-of-semester reflection for methodological reflection to account for the limits of a Writer’s Memo; like Neal (ROR), Sommers’ work brings attention to the implications of genre selection for reflective practice. 

Doug Hesse’s work in Chapter 14 complicates the dynamics of a familiar genre. Using reflection as the frame for deconstructing essays in creative nonfiction, Hesse makes an interesting case for the reflective activity inherent in the genre. As Hesse notes, “the line between reflection and interpretation is dusty” (p. 292). For Sommers (Chapter 13) the Writer’s Memo invites description and analysis—interpretation. For Hesse, “Essays give the act of interpretation explicit attention through reflection” (p. 291). In a time where the art of a well-crafted essay has often lost its luster for students who only hear the words “five-paragraph” with the mention of the word “essay,” and where critical reading and critical reflection are not just buzzwords or good practice but also prudent for civic engagement, I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. 

Kevin Roozen (Chapter XX) takes up Odell, Goswami and Herrington’s (1983) focus on methodology as a vehicle for making implicit assumptions explicit. Using reflective interviews to develop a methodology that fosters constructive reflection (Yancey, 1998), Roozen’s chapter resists simple constructions of a writer or researcher identity. Like Roozen and Sommers (Chapter 13), Elizabeth Clark (Chapter 8) adopts a reflective, integrative method and pedagogy for reflection. Of interest to WAC and LAC assessment, Clark builds from Carol Rodger’s (2002) dimensions of reflection to reinforce student-centered learning, space for ambiguity, and time for recursive reflection that supports LAC. 

In Chapter 5, Cathy Leaker and Heather Ostman revisit their previous findings on the portfolio-based “rhetorical-reflective transfer” model for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) (2010). Differently than Roozen (Chapter XX), Leaker and Ostman suggest assimilation is of value in academic contexts concerning the rhetoric of reflection. In Chapter 7, Asao B. Inoue and Tyler Richmond also address epistemic tensions in their preliminary study of four female Hmong students who struggle to negotiate both individual and communal identities within and beyond the classroom as observed through the students’ reflective letters. Inoue and Richmond propose this observation could affirm reflection, and what is valued in the assessment of reflections, as a racialized discourse—one that privileges “whiteness” and interpellates the Other. Though the study and sample was too small to be conclusive, Inoue and Richmond’s work and insights align with current observations in the field, giving much to consider especially for local assessment. Both chapters, I would argue, challenge current understandings of what is of value—and at stake—in the assessment of reflection. 


Odell, L., Goswami, D., Herrington, A. (1983). “The-Discourse-Based Interview: A Procedure for Exploring the Tacit Knowledge of Writers in Nonacademic Settings.” In Research on Writing: Principles and Methods, ed. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean Walmsley, 221-36. New York: Longman. 

Sommers, J. (1984). “Listening to Our Students: The Student-Teacher Memo.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 11(1): 29-34. 

White, E. M. (2005). “The Scoring of Writing Portfolios: Phase 2.” College Composition and Communication, 56(4): 581-600. 

Yancey, K. B. (Eds.) (1998). Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan: Utah State UP.
Source: jwa

A Review of Kathleen Blake Yancey’s A Rhetoric of Reflection

Part I: A Comprehensive Review

Yancey, Kathleen Blake, ed. (2016). A Rhetoric of Reflection. Logan: Utah State UP.

By Julie Cook, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Note: This is the first installment of a three-part review (see Part 2: Explicit Implications for Assessment; Part 3: Implicit Implications for Assessment)

A Rhetoric of Reflection (ROR) is an important, critical, and timely text that offers much to consider for those interested in the assessment of writing, critical thinking, Learning Across the Curriculum (LAC), Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), and Teaching for Transfer (TFT). As important as what might be assessed is where one might find the text applicable for assessment considerations: in classrooms, programs, departments, and institutions, at both local and national levels.

Edited by Kathleen Blake Yancey, the collection of 17 essays offers a multi-faceted approach to reflection that “fosters an explicitness about learning and supports all of us in articulating and claiming what we know [emphasis added]” (Yancey, p. 11). As an “epistemological practice” and subject of study, reflection, as Yancey observes, “is considerably more complex than the literature has suggested” (p. 303). For the purposes of my reviews (see post 2 and post 3), I will largely focus on what ROR offers to understand the concept of reflection, its applications for writing studies, and implications for writing assessment. The text has much to offer across disciplines, as reflection is increasingly becoming integral for many fields of study and, likewise, as our current understanding of reflection is informed by interdisciplinary approaches to its study. However, ROR is also not “an introduction to” reflection. Those new to reflection, writing studies, the classroom, or assessment will likely benefit most from Yancey’s introduction, Anne Beaufort’s contribution in Chapter 2, and the authors’ dialogic reference lists.

Readers will find the current scholarship on reflection does not provide neat answers. While this collection in no way shies away from ambiguity or conflict, and more precisely positions its work as a sophisticated model of meaning-making through problem-posing, perhaps the most significant contribution comes through in its main area of agreement across texts. As Yancey articulates, this collection demonstrates that reflection is rhetorical: It is a product and a process where “a primary function … is to make a kind [emphasis added] of meaning” (p. 18).

Fittingly, Yancey authors the final chapter of ROR but in no way provides closure. Rather, she identifies “a way forward” by coalescing even the disjointed parts of ROR to suggest areas we still need to know more about (p. 318). She thus leaves readers with a series of critical questions to consider, noting “we don’t have all the answers” (p. 320). Understanding reflection as an epistemological practice and subject of study, Yancey’s closing questions are necessary and act as a preamble to inquiries likely to follow the scholarship of ROR. Although the title of Yancey’s closing chapter is “Defining Reflection: The Rhetorical Nature and Qualities of Reflection,” reflection, in its current state, is defined though its characteristics; it is describable but not definable. As a subject of study, this collection demonstrates that while there are recognizable qualities within its process and practice, there are also “competing values in reflection (Yancey, p. 319). In turn, the second and third installments of my review address how contributors’ work speaks to and revises each other.
Source: jwa