Assignment Sequences and Intellectual Labor

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This blog was originally posted on March 5th, 2015.

Work on Emerging 3e is, thankfully, coming to a close.  Don’t let anyone ever, ever tell you that writing a textbook is easy.  It’s much more work than I ever imagined.  Right now I am working on the new sequences.  We’re going with eight brand new sequences, touching on every reading in the book and including two new research-based sequences.

What’s on my mind is the nature of intellectual labor, particularly in relation to teaching.  You know, one of my colleagues pointed out that when someone asks us about our work we’re likely to talk about our research, but the truth is that the bulk of the actual work we do is connected to teaching.  For me, working within composition, pedagogy, and writing program administration, the relation between my research and my teaching is even stronger.

My passion and my intellectual labor—my work—is deeply connected to teaching: to the classroom, to the design of courses, and to the shaping of assignments.  I’m not sure the depth of this intellectual labor is always recognized by departments or the institution, which is a real shame.

I will say that crafting each sequence for Emerging involves re-reading each essay I plan on using, thinking about the ideas of each, thinking about the ideas of each in relation to each other, considering how these ideas sequence, carefully wording assignments to guide students to explore those connections, crafting questions to prompt students’ thinking, integrating work from other assignments connected to the readings.  That’s a lot of thinking.

So much has been written about the status of composition and its laborers within the institution.  I can’t help but think that if we continue to foreground not the work but the intellectual work we do then perhaps we can begin to shift the conversation and then the culture.

Or maybe I am being totally unrealistic.  Thoughts?

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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.