If you’re a comp/rhet researcher or scholar who hasn’t yet seen the CFP for 2015 CCCC, fear not! There’s still time to get your proposal gathered and submitted (deadline is May 19 at 11:59pm CST for online submission; postmarked by May 12, 2014 for snail mail submission — this is a recent update, not the same as listed on the CFP I linked to!).

I’m really digging the plans for the next conference, and I will probably find a way to go even if I don’t get to present. Joyce Locke Carter, the 2015 Program Chair, has put out an inviting plan for the theme Risk and Reward, and innovation is a key part of the CFP.

I’ve been dwelling on my own proposal since #4C14 wrapped up by thinking a lot about innovation and what exactly that means for me as an instructor of FYC courses. I already see myself as a reflective practitioner, and in some ways that leads naturally into also being an “innovative” practitioner. But what exactly am I innovating?

Dr. Google tells me that innovate means to “make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” How can you innovate without reflection?

And when does something initially “innovative” become the new status quo, sometimes called “best practices”?

I have a love-hate relationship with “best practices.” They certainly do help provide direction for teaching effectively. At the same time, things like best practices and standardized curricula can do more to hinder innovation that could potentially reach students in more meaningful ways.

That’s one thing that I love about composition as a field: in general, we tend to just try things out, report on them, and see where they go. In most cases, if you want to try something new in the classroom or your research, there is a precedent for making that change and, also very likely, someone willing to support you as you do that.

One thing that I definitely know I (have) used innovatively is the rubric.

Yes, I use rubrics.

Yes, I call them rubrics.

No, they do not actually make my grading process any faster.

I’ve touched on this before at #4C13 when I presented some early results on my study of student perceptions of transfer from FYC and two activities that could help develop the metacognition necessary for such transfer.

I ask students to both help me develop rubrics and to comment on the rubrics themselves, with the goal of fostering class discussion about writing in a meaningful way. Many scholars have discussed the importance of metacognition and having a language with which to discuss writing. Rather than asking students to adopt my own language of writing, I ask them to use their prior experiences with writing and writing evaluation to help develop the classroom language (which, in many cases, is often heavily influenced by other contextual factors than just us as reflective learners).

I am planning both an article draft and a CCCC proposal on the use of rubrics right now. Is anyone else thinking about proposing a discussion of rubrics and their uses, specifically in the FYC classroom? I would love to swap ideas and perhaps propose a panel rather than an individual proposal.