Radical Museology/Radical Pedagogy: Curating Beyond Boundaries

In this born digital project, we use the practices, genres, and logics of exhibition as an organizing framework for communicating a subversive approach to writing pedagogy. We have selected, arranged, interpreted, and juxtaposed artifacts from museums and from the University of Rhode Island (URI) first-year writing curriculum that tell a disjointed and fragmented story about what social justice work is possible in both museums and schools. In keeping with our work to disrupt sedimented writing instruction practices, we cultivate here dis-orientation, dis-census, and dis-obedience as necessary dispositions for unlearning and unmaking hegemony in the classroom. We invite participants to experience these affective dimensions of radical pedagogy and listen to the “noise” as they step into a three-dimensional virtual reality classroom we developed with the open-source platform Artsteps. As a corollary to the VR exhibition, which is available at https://www.artsteps.com/view/5d795b7124396e1a5c2cfd0b, this exhibition catalogue further contextualizes and interprets the artifacts, theorizing the productive juxtaposition of radical museology and radical pedagogy.

In this born digital project, we use the practices, genres, and logics of exhibition as an organizing framework for communicating a subversive approach to writing pedagogy. We have selected, arranged, interpreted, and juxtaposed artifacts from museums and from the University of Rhode Island (URI) first-year writing curriculum that tell a disjointed and fragmented story about what social justice work is possible in both museums and schools. In keeping with our work to disrupt sedimented writing instruction practices, we cultivate here dis-orientation, dis-census, and dis-obedience as necessary dispositions for unlearning and unmaking hegemony in the classroom. We invite participants to experience these affective dimensions of radical pedagogy and listen to the “noise” as they step into a three-dimensional virtual reality classroom we developed with the open-source platform Artsteps. As a corollary to the VR exhibition, which is available at https://www.artsteps.com/view/5d795b7124396e1a5c2cfd0b, this exhibition catalogue further contextualizes and interprets the artifacts, theorizing the productive juxtaposition of radical museology and radical pedagogy.


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Curating Beyond


In this born-digital project, we use the practices, genres, and logics of exhibition as an organizing framework

for communicating a subversive approach to pedagogy. Our understanding of radical upends dominant

ideologies, rejects biased views, and remakes cultural institutions as more democratic and participatory

places. For this exhibition, we have selected, arranged, interpreted, and juxtaposed artifacts from museums

and from the University of Rhode Island (URI) first-year writing curriculum that tell a disjointed and

fragmented story about what social justice work is possible in both museums and schools. In keeping with

our work to disrupt sedimented writing instruction practices, we cultivate in this exhibition dis-orientation,

dis-census, and dis-obedience as necessary dispositions for unlearning and unmaking hegemony in

cultural institutions.

As writers and writing teachers, our initial efforts to communicate the touchstones of this radical pedagogy

were mired in the genre of the academic essay. By communicating in this limited form, we realized we

were sacrificing clarity and usability as well as privileging alphalinguistic over visual, spatial, gestural, and

aural modes—modes that engage more of the body in knowledge making. Thus, we turned to the opensource

application Artspace to create a three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) exhibition. Working in threedimensional

space forced us to limit the number of objects we put on display and moved us into artifactdriven


Audiences can experience this virtual exhibition much like visitors to a museum, focusing attention on

what they are attracted to and captivated by. You’ll find this application can be slow to render artifacts

and even glitches at times. While this can frustrate users, it also replicates the affective disorientation of

writing, sharing, connecting, and meaning making in the radical writing classroom. We liken this to the

disorientation students experience as we challenge them to rethink narrow, prescriptive constructs and

practices of writing.

As you enter this virtual exhibition, you’ll be guided into the uncluttered gallery space titled “Radical

Museology.” Here, we’ve mounted works that illustrate this progressive curatorial approach, focusing on

practices that promote equity and structural change. Next, you’ll move into the first-year writing classroom,

which includes three separate gallery spaces: “Radical Design,” “Radical Learning Communities,” and

“Radical Assessment.” These galleries feature everyday documents of the WRT 104 classroom; however,

these everyday documents, such as grading policies, are communicated in disruptive genres such as

the infographic. As our colleague Robert Schwegler reminds us, “To change the genres is to change the

organization.” Thus, we work with unexpected genres to displace the dregs of dominant ideology in the

writing classroom.

In these galleries, you’ll find the material traces of learning such as soda bottles, tables, earbuds, chairs, and

magic markers as well as representations of learners. These traces remind us of the gap between curricular

intention and curricular experience and prompt us to remember that we aren’t teaching a discipline.

Instead, we are teaching people to use writing as a means of getting things done in the world. In the last

gallery, titled “First Year Writing Student Gallery,” you can view what students do when challenged by this

radical curricular design. Their work demonstrates the learning that can happen when they are encouraged

by radical assessment practices and supported by a radical community that focuses more on what we can

compose together than what any one student can compose alone.

Here in the exhibition catalogue, we’ve expanded on each of the ideas in the virtual galleries. We’ve included

images from the exhibition accompanied by extended wall labels that provide a more in-depth discussion

of each artifact and contextualize its significance. Both the virtual exhibition and this exhibition catalogue

are designed to stand alone; however, in tandem they elicit a richer, more immersive experience for those

who want to understand the praxis of a radical museology and radical pedagogies. Thus, we invite you to

move beyond boundaries of text and make meaning in this juxtaposition of textual and three-dimensional

space. In the in-between, we hope you’ll find inspiration and direction for social justice work in your own

writing classrooms.


This exhibition would not be possible without the support of our partners, our colleagues, our editors, and,

of course, our students. We are grateful to Douglas Nickel, Andrea V. Rosenthal professor of modern art at

Brown University. Doug helped us to understand progressive moments and disruptive practices in museum

studies, pushing us to consider the latent strain of radicalism at work in even the most stolid institutions.

In addition, Doug gave generously of his personal space as we worked at his and Genoa’s dining room

table through the hot summer months surrounded by their ever-curious cats. We are thankful to Robert

Puckett, who designed and produced this beautiful exhibition catalogue, feeding children and dogs and

taking the former to music lessons while Stephanie worked long hours at Doug and Genoa’s table with the

cats. We recognize that our efforts to radicalize the classroom would not be possible without supportive

colleagues at all ranks in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Rhode Island. Their

commitment to innovative, research-based pedagogy as well as their excitement for pursuing the everemergent

nature of writing have created an institutional space that values this work. Journal of Multimodal

Rhetorics special issue co-author Karrieann Soto Vega, as well as editors Ames Hawkins and Maria Novotny,

have been generous with their feedback on our drafts, pushing us to experiment with new technologies

and genres, showing unbelievable patience throughout the process. Finally, we would like to thank the firstyear

writing students who have picked up this pedagogy and run with it, stopping along the way to give

us suggestions on how to improve their experiences and learning in the course. We are honored to work

with this historically underrepresented group and consider them co-creators and co-teachers of this radical

writing course.

Radical Museology

Numerous museum studies scholars have documented and theorized the “progressive” changes in the

“new” museum of the late 20th and 21st centuries (Munson, 1997; Vergo, 1989; Ross, 2004; Charman,

2013; McCall & Gray, 2014). The notion of radical museology, however, was first coined by Claire Bishop

(2014) in her titular book. The verbiage has also been adopted by Jean Barr (2016), who applies Bishop’s

concepts to her charge of “radical adult education,” using case studies of the works of contemporary artists

as templates for engaging audiences in much more active ways.

Drawing from these scholars and from the observed and documented practices of museums, radical

museology can be defined as a reimagination of the traditional roles, structures, and processes of the

museum, including its relationship to its audiences. It is a collection of practices marked by some implicit

understanding of the larger sociocultural context and history of the museum as an institution and the

present moment, ideally with an eye toward the future (Bishop, 2014).

Here are some of the hallmarks of radical museology: transparency, such as making processes public

and acknowledging the stance of the institution or individual curating ideas or artifacts for public use/

consumption; self-criticism, including implicit critiques of the institution’s history and ideologies; increased

access and accessibility; radically altered roles for participants; an invitation to question and to voice dissent;

the decentering of expertise and aesthetics for aesthetics’ sake; the historical and cultural contextualization

of ideas, texts, objects, and so on; innovative design; and surprising arrangements that evince new meaning

(Bishop, 2014; Henry & McLean, 2010).

Applying Radical Museology to

Curriculum Design and

Classroom Practice

Radical museology leverages the power of juxtapositions to activate new ways of making meaning while

simultaneously acknowledging infinite plurality and difference. As such, juxtaposition, as a transformational

modality, can be employed to disrupt outmoded thinking practices and patterns in our classrooms and

beyond. In this project, we illustrate how collecting and juxtaposing seemingly disparate artifacts bring

about new ways to think about learning across institutional boundaries.

Educators can adopt this practice of radical museology by using juxtaposition as an organizing principle

for course design. If we think of our courses as exhibitions, we can place divergent ideas, texts, materials,

bodies, tools, and technologies into physical and virtual shared spaces to make visible the dis-census

inherent in knowledge making and disciplinary communities. Instead of privileging agreement, smoothing

over differences, and minimizing complexity in the name of outcomes-focused efficiency and expediency,

we can cultivate the ability to listen to “noise” as a means of better understanding the underlying (social

and cultural) harmonies that make us feel comfortable and complacent.

In this section, we highlight a series of works that illustrate some practices of artists, museums, and collectors

that can serve as inspirations for the transformed classroom.

In early history, we sometimes see glimpses of our

future, moments that inspire, ways of thinking that in

their very “unthinkableness” deserve contemplation.

Take, for example, the wunderkammer, often considered

the predecessor to the museum and a useful metaphor

for radical museological and pedagogical possibilities.

In this image of a Baroque wunderkammer by Frans

Francken, the artist depicts the striking assemblage of

objects that might appear in these private collections—

natural objects, such as shells, seahorses, and fish, along

with human-made artifacts; here we see, among other

things, paintings, sculpture, books, tools, and oil lamps.

The display of these artifacts in what seems today like a

cacophonous arrangement often creates dissonance.

Although this discord is cultivated by some contemporary

artists, such as Damien Hirst, and innovative museum

curators, modern viewers are generally accustomed to

Linnaean-style taxonomies, which, for example, insist on a

division between nature and culture.

Michel Foucault (2005) recreates and dissects this

dissonance in The Order of Things. With no little

admiration, he invokes Borges’s “Chinese Encyclopedia,”

classified according to a taxonomy that breaks “up all the

ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are

accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things,

and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten

with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same

and the Other” (Foucault, 2005, p. xvi).

Likewise, in their fantastic relational structures and in the

multi-sensorial experience they encourage, cabinets of

wonder have something in common with this encyclopedia.

In at least one important way, they also approximate the

radical museology approach to pedagogy that we propose

here, although our motivations—to provide meaningful

experiences in writing classrooms to the broadest range of

people—differ from the early curators of wunderkammers,

Borges, and Foucault.

Still, we wish to inspire wonder in students and teachers

alike, to create conditions in which they can think and

“curate” in the most liberating and productive ways. In this

scheme, countless exciting arrangements are both possible

and “productive”; we can conjure and make new meanings

out of complex horizontal relational structures. How, as

Foucault suggests, would our thinking and teaching be

altered in marvelous new taxonomies such as Borges’s, in

which animals can be classified as “(a) belonging to the

Emperor” and “(b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs,

(e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the

present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn

with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having

just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off

look like flies” (Foucault, 1966, p. xvi).

Frans Francken the Younger

Art and Rarity Cabinet,

ca. 1620–1625

Courtesy Kunsthistorisches

Museum Wien

The Reina Sofia museum in Madrid defied

the traditional art historical periodization

model by rehanging its permanent

collection as a reflexive critique of Spain’s

colonial history instead. In this model, the

juxtapositions create an implicit, affective

experience of the complexities of this

country’s past, allowing the visitor to make

meaning in new ways. In a section of the

exhibition titled “Art in a Divided World,

1945–68,” for example, the Picasso painting Three Lambs’ Heads,

1939, is juxtaposed with the documentary Night and Fog, 1955,

by Alain Resnais, which famously chronicled the horrors of the Nazi

death camps (Bishop, 2014). The work Three Lambs’ Heads—a still

life in the vanitas style, a genre that evokes the certainty of death and

the ephemerality of life, as well as the vain pursuit of happiness and

worldly accomplishment—followed Picasso’s Guernica cycle, which was

a critique of dictator Francisco Franco’s collusion with the Nazis during

the Spanish Civil War. The painting references Spanish examples of

the vanitas tradition, which sometimes featured slabs of meat (such as

Spanish artist Goya’s Still Life with Sheep’s Head, 1808), and resonates

with Christian symbology; the lamb is a sacrificial animal representing

innocence and purity.

Installation view of Pablo Picasso, Three Lambs’ Heads, 1939, and

Alain Resnais, Night and Fog, 1955. Part of “Art in a Divided World,

1945–68,” 2012

Courtesy the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Photograph by Joaquín Cortés

Look at Art. Get Paid. (LAAGP), founded by artists Maia Chao and Josephine Devanbu, is a program that stands the

traditional museum model on its head to create greater access to and accessibility in the museum. The initiative takes the

form of “interventions” meant to prompt a radical reconsideration of multiple museum functions—collecting, exhibition

programming, surveillance practices, admissions policies, signage, interpretive materials, and marketing. LAAGP posits

actions that are equally relevant to classroom/curricular practices: “creatively address inequity and interrupt closed

hierarchical structures,” “develop practices that center marginalized voices without requiring them to assimilate,” and

“destabilize conventional ideas of expertise” (Look at Art. Get Paid., 2019).

In a complete reversal, rather than charge visitors to attend a museum, LAAGP pays people who would normally not visit

the museum to spend some time in museum spaces and then to comment on their experiences there. Rather than rely on

the thoughts of art historians and critics, it privileges lived experience over academic expertise, which program founders

then encourage museum management and staff to factor into their decision making. Rather than accept the literal and

figurative silences of the galleries, it asks for open discussion and recognition of hierarchical and racist barriers to the museum.

The program has informed, for example, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum’s discussions about marketing,

collecting, and programming, as well as visitor access issues. Rethinking display and collecting strategies that center on

white art, the museum organized a Latinx exhibition on Mayan weaving. Advertisements for the museum have gone up

in predominantly non-white neighborhoods. Museum guides have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Korean.

RISD Deputy Director, Exhibitions, Education, and Programs Sarah Ganz Blythe stated, “Look at Art. Get Paid” proves that

data sets aren’t enough to change perspectives. It is actually the affective elements that can really reinforce efforts, create

urgency, and change how we think about community” (Look at Art. Get Paid., 2019).



Maia Chao

Look at Art. Get Paid. Documentary, 2017


Displayed in the exhibition titled Readykeulous by Ridykeulous: This is What Liberation Feels Like at

the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2014, this piece revises the Guerrilla Girls sardonic text “The

Advantages of Being a Woman Artist” from a queer perspective. Using a pen to write over the original,

Ridykeulous moves beyond the bourgeois critiques of space and gender representation to highlight the

sensual, enfleshed pleasures of being a lesbian artist—one who won’t be coerced into fellatio for professional gain.

Exhibition co-curators Nicole Eisenman and A. L. Steiner approach their curatorial work in fabulously

flippant ways. They refuse to settle on a motto or an intention for the exhibition; instead, they cite affective

motivations—boredom and anger—as the impetus. They argue that anger is the most primal of human

emotions, and this exhibition makes space for raw anger in an American culture that fetishizes happiness.

In line with Bishop’s (2014) notions of radical museology, Eisenman and Steiner discuss the exhibition

work as an opportunity to create a moment that breaks the chronology of late capitalism (Baran, 2014).

As the world approaches impending doom, in the form of a patriarchal-capitalist apocalypse, This is What

Liberation Feels Like enters the “space-time continuum…[to] interrupt forward motion” and create a

liminal, temporal opportunity to imagine futures that are “open for your pleasure.”




Guerilla Girls amended by Ridykeulous, 2014

Photograph by Hyperallergic

“We wanted to transform the Art Gallery into a dynamic place for experiencing art where visitors are

inspired to make their own meanings and personal experiences with the artworks on view.”

—Barbara Henry, Chief Curator of Education

In 2002, the Oakland Museum of California undertook a major renovation, expansion, and reinstallation.

Using models of community co-creation and collaboration, and with extensive research that gleaned input

from multiple constituencies, including more than 3,300 visitors, the museum reconsidered its processes,

structures, roles, responsibilities—and even language. A selection of these visitor-driven changes include

interdisciplinary exhibitions; wall labels and interpretive materials addressed to a wider array of visitors

and engineered to allow them to make their own meaning; “loaded lounges” with provocative interpretive

materials that promote dialogue among visitors; “loud hours” for teens; activity stations; and an installation

in which people could digitally draw and post their own self-portraits, which would then be displayed on

the California Portrait Wall (pictured here) (Henry & McLean, 2010).

“You Are Here,” 2010, from the California Portrait Wall at the

Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)

Digital interactive

Photograph by OMCA staff

Radical Design

Writing instruction has long been about disciplining and punishing students for their failure to meet

outcomes and expectations, and nowhere is this exercise of power more prevalent than in first-year writing.

This dogmatic view is exercised in the curricular and assessment structures that West-Puckett began to

undermine while serving as a lecturer at her previous university. In 2017, she assumed the role of First Year

Writing director at URI, bringing with her a host of alternative grading paradigms and experience designing

open-ended writing and learning curricula. West-Puckett joined forces with Shepley, and together they

tackled the challenges of developing a curriculum that would meet the needs of URI students, as well as

figuring out how these unconventional approaches would scale. After a two-semester pilot, West-Puckett

and Shepley worked with the graduate teaching assistants and full- and part-time department faculty, as

well as high school faculty in the concurrent enrollment program, to implement a full rollout of the new

curriculum in fall 2019, comprising approximately 35 sections.

Similar to the radical museology presented here, URI’s Writing to Inform and Explain (WRT 104) curriculum

is designed like an exhibition with various pathways, which enable greatest freedom and experimentation

and encourage agency and active engagement. Through this exhibition structure, students choose the

kinds of reading, researching, and writing experiences they will engage in, similar to the free choice that

museum audiences make in gallery spaces. WRT 104 students are working on different projects at the same

time, which—unlike a traditional sequenced curriculum—situates juxtaposition at the heart of the classroom


The course design intentionally puts markedly different types of writing artifacts in close proximity to one

another to expand understandings of what writing is, what it does, and how it might be done. For example,

we exhibit and encourage both formal and informal writing, valuing equally writing-to-learn (Forsman,

1985; Parker & Goodkin, 1987; Carter, 2007) and transactional drafts, which we call writing-to-lead. In the

project pathway titled “Writing Lives,” we prompt students to pay attention to how writing functions in their

social, professional, and academic lives, contrasting what counts as effective in each. We pair high-tech

writing, such as using Mozilla X-Ray Goggles to “hack” the HTML code of existing fake news sites in another

project pathway (West-Puckett, Shepley, & Gray, 2020), and low-tech writing in the form of field journals in

which students are encouraged to sketch, freewrite, or make grocery lists (as did da Vinci in his notebooks).

We also pair paper-based storyboarding with digital movie-making programs like Adobe Spark or iMovie.

We teach professional writing, expressive writing, and academic writing as students write proposals for their

projects; compose travel essays that help them understand and share place-based insights; and learn the

academic moves of summarizing, paraphrasing, and attributing their sources. Students are also challenged

to practice composing in and with disparate genre models to produce essays, guides, digital stories, teachins,

research posters, news articles, and blog posts. This juxtaposition of genres, artifacts, and divergent

writing and learning pathways breaks down barriers about what writing is, what it does, where it lives, and

to whom it belongs. In this course, it is no longer possible for students and faculty to think in comfortable

frames (i.e., discursive modes) about writing.

Issue-oriented, themed pathways in WRT 104 facilitate self-guided tours through a series of activities that

are progressively more complex and culminate in a final public production. Represented as badges, the

pathways allow students to mark their rich composing experiences by completing their tour of the chosen

theme, such as “Social Justice,” “Science Communicator,” “Adventurer,” “Hacker,” and “Critical Identity

Narrative.” These badges were designed to meet our student populations where they are and encourage

them to connect concepts to their personal experience. Reading, writing, and thinking activities such as

audience research or topic research situate their understanding of why the work in this badge matters to

others and might matter to them. Working with the concept that curriculum is a set of possibilities instead

of a roadmap to a predestined end, the course design works on a low-barrier, high-ceiling, and wide-walls

model (Resnick, 2016) that aims to help all students, not just those who are good writers, to feel welcomed

into the space.

Bodies, Identities, and Desires

In the early days of class, students are asked to explore the curricular exhibition, paying special attention

to the core artifacts of the course—the syllabus, the digital badges that outline different multimodal writing

options, and the playlists of prior students’ writing produced in response to those project pathways.

Students are then encouraged to dwell on artifacts that excite, surprise, agitate, or somehow provoke a

bodily response. In class, students share their impressions, and instructors, too, are encouraged to talk up

their favorite projects and share what other students have found interesting, exciting, and challenging. In

this way, affective desires and aversions lead students down particular learning routes.

Students’ first written assignment is to produce a badge proposal that articulates their choice and rationale

for a particular writing and learning experience. For their proposals, instructors stress the formal aspects of

the genre such as using section headers; using clear and concise language; being specific about deadlines,

tools, etc.; and permitting the silly, the strange, the banal, and the unutterable, as students can be honest

about their motivations—whether they are seeking to avoid a particular aversion such as public speaking,

pursuing a project that seems (deceptively) easy because the descriptive text is shorter, or following their

curiosity about how to work with video-editing software to make a digital story. By articulating their rationale,

their desires, their uncertainties in the badge proposal, they are centering themselves, their bodies, and

their desires among a host of possible pathways toward knowledge making and literacy acquisition.

In addition, our project invitations and instructional materials explicitly mention race, ability, sexuality,

socio-economic status, and other identity categories. This is an intentional move that signals to students

that bodies and identities matter. We know bodies, identities, and desires are always already central to

writing and literacy instruction; however, they are too often ignored in writing classrooms, particularly the

first-year writing classroom (Banks, 2003; Alexander & Banks, 2004; Alexander, 2008; Rhodes & Alexander,

2015). Thus, we bring bodies and embodiments—particularly those that have been ignored, marginalized, and

persecuted—to the forefront of our student archives. In this way, we don’t presume to speak for others and their

experiences; instead, we amplify their voices through intentional selection and arrangement in the exhibition.

Multimodality—at the center of this course—is about access to a host of embodied ways that we make meaning

and communicate beyond the linguistic mode (Bruggeman, 2017; Arola & Wysocki, 2012; Ball, Sheppard,

& Arola, 2018). By broadening our definition of “writing” to include digital and non-digital communication

using visual, aural, spatial, and gestural modes, in addition to alphalinguistic text, we have opened up

access to a host of possibilities for our first-year writers. As we demonstrate through our artifacts, we have

designed instructional materials that take advantage of multiple modes, providing text-, audio-, and videobased

resources. In addition, we challenge students to analyze their own rhetorical situations to determine

the most effective ways to communicate with different audiences, prompting them to think about modality,

access, and accessibility as responsible public composers.

Picture This

Our program’s former curricular structures had privileged the teacher as expert; however, the new model is

too expansive and too diffuse to support claims of an all-knowing expertise, even on the part of its creators.

As in radical museological practices, we work with faculty to help them take on the role of co-curators

as they and their students collaboratively assemble a shared collection of expertise about writing with a

dizzying array of modes, media, tools, technologies, audiences, and contexts. De-centering the teacher

makes space for the students to take on new roles in the writing classroom, and the Leadership Badge, for

example, encourages them to find ways to support their peers and their instructors.

The actual and virtual space of the WRT 104 classroom looks very different from a traditional classroom.

As in this exhibition, the classroom rejects recto-linear, sequential models of teaching in both design and

instructional strategies. Students experience the course through a multimodal website gallery that connects

them to images, sound, and text, rather than a syllabus of sequenced lessons. They also physically arrange

themselves in groups of shared interests and work collaboratively both on teams and as peer advisors. The

teacher is liberated from the “expert” position in the “front” of the class and instead circulates among the

groups, acting as guide, facilitator, and co-learner.

Thus, first-year writing students and faculty take on new roles in the new WRT 104 course and the FYW

program. They make decisions about their (professional) learning, choose the projects and learning

pathways they undertake, and define their own notions of success.

The WRT 104 website is an online exhibition that outlines divergent possibilities for composing in the course.

WRT 104 students browse the works on display and choose, based on their interests, curiosities, affinities, and

aversions, to pursue writing and learning opportunities in one or two decidedly different pathways. These

pathways, to date, include: Critical Identity Narrative, Hacker, Science Communicator, Adventurer, Maker,

Writing Lives, and Social Justice. Rather than writing papers about science communication or social justice,

students produce practical, real-world multimodal writing that is intended to make a difference (however

large or small) in their world. Inside these pathways, students are challenged to select different audiences,

research audience demographics and psychographics, juxtapose the needs of different audiences, and

approach writing with audiences as social action.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

WRT 104 Course Website, 2019


Student writing is, by design, the primary text of the course. This curated collection provides ongoing

opportunities for student writers to become published authors whose work is circulated, experienced, and

discussed by new students each semester. In this way, former students become mentors for new students,

creating peer-to-peer learning networks. Also by design, the Rhody Writes anthology foregrounds nondominant

perspectives, texts, and bodies rendered through multiple media and modes. The anthology

contains both print-based texts as well as images, QR codes, and links to audio and video content.

For the cover art that graces our most recent edition, we browsed the visual collections of Writing and

Rhetoric students whom we follow on Instagram to find an image that spoke to our program’s broadest

understandings of writing. The image featured here was posted by Nate Vacarro, an openly queer, noncis-gendered

Writing and Rhetoric major who graduated from URI in 2019. We were immediately drawn

to Vacarro’s writing tools and technologies—the Instax camera, the daybook, the markers, the planner—as

well as to their queer aesthetic, which they discussed in their honors thesis presentation as having been

cultivated by their participation in “Internet Heaven,” a collective of queer poets and artists exploring issues

of bodies, sexualities, and technologies through public online writing.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Rhody Writes, 2nd edition, 2019

Photograph by Nate Vacarro

The Adventurer Badge is one of the project pathways students can choose in WRT 104. After reading and

analyzing examples of travel writing, students choose a theme that uncovers some hidden, unconventional,

marginal, unfamiliar, weird, or offbeat aspect of URI such as “Accessible URI,” “Historic URI,” “Magic URI,”

“Queer URI,” “Animal Kingdom URI,” or “Mental Health URI.” Students share their experiences with their

peers by writing either an online multimedia guide or a travel essay.

This badge exemplifies one of the ways we encourage students to explore non-dominant themes and

tell counter-narratives about experiences on URI’s campus. In the Adventurer Badge, as well as in other

badges, we foreground topics that can speak specifically to marginalized audiences. This explicit naming

of identities outside of the mainstream culture prompts students to consider what needs, perspectives,

interests, and desires are invisible and unacknowledged by our university’s marketing materials. Drawing

on practices of radical museology that challenge museums to address audiences other than the straight,

white, cis-gendered, middle class, this pedagogical practice supports students in thinking about and writing

for a plurality of heterogeneous audiences with a multiplicity of experiences, litearacies, goals, and desires.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Adventurer Badge Learning Pathway, 2018


Radical Learning Communities

The success of the course and of the students enrolled in it depend on establishing learning communities

that encourage and support full participation. All students, regardless of their writing proficiencies, deserve

to participate fully in all aspects of the writing process; to engage in peer- and self-assessment; and to

freely share their cultural, technological, and rhetorical expertise in the classroom. While digital writing

classrooms have historically encouraged students to share functional, critical, and rhetorical support (Selber,

2004), digital writing instruction has, at times, sacrificed a focus on identity, culture, and power in favor of

seductive technologies and the utopian promise of a digitally connected information society.

We think that digital writing classrooms can develop students’ functional capacities with emerging

technologies while simultaneously engaging them in social and cultural issues. Thus, we prompt students

to experiment with new technologies and genres as ways to make meaning about their identities and their

relationships to culture at the same time that they fortify their understandings of and sense of responsibility

toward addressing power differentials and inequities in their communities. Through their writing and sharing

in face-to-face and online course environments such as the FYW YouTube channel, students learn about

each other and the radical diversity that makes up our student body at URI. This work, which is student-, not

instructor-, driven, is showcased in both the Critical Identity Narrative Badge as well as the Social Justice

Badge, artifacts included in this section.

In addition to transforming the digital writing classroom with these consciousness-raising projects, we also

encourage and develop student capacity to write and learn together in diverse communities. The FYW

Program requires that students work with a partner or a team on at least one badging project and supports

collaboration by facilitating matchmaking, team-building, monitoring, and reflecting activities. Students

are encouraged to recognize their writing and learning strengths and preferences and to articulate them

to other members of their teams. Finally, students learn explicit strategies for managing collaborative

workflows, offering students options to divide projects by media or by section or to work by consensus,

coming to hard agreements about their rhetorical choices. Students often report that their experiences

collaborating in WRT 104 are far more positive than in other classes. To hear more about how students

experience collaboration, listen to the podcast produced by Sarah Titus, Jackson Cafferty, Justin Crooks,

and Carl Lindewall available in the gallery.

Not only do instructors work to build community inside the classroom, they use digital technologies to

connect students with audiences beyond the university. The course website, which is used by all WRT 104

students and faculty, is an open-access WordPress site, which makes content publicly available beyond

the university’s password-protected learning management systems. For example, the website is used by

high school teachers and students participating in our 104 concurrent enrollment program, as well as by

faculty in high schools and universities across the nation (Hicks & Schoenborn, forthcoming). We believe

that radical ideas about teaching should be shared beyond the narrow audiences who have traditionally

had access to what goes on inside the ivory tower.

We’ve also been encouraged by the ways faculty, particularly part-time faculty (PTF), have taken on new

leadership roles in our emerging FYW Program. Early curriculum adopters among the PTF started an email

group to discuss issues and brainstorm solutions to challenges they were facing in their classrooms. One

faculty member has remixed the existing 104 archives to create a hybrid course structure that better serves

students who meet in the classroom only once a week, and another is leading efforts to reform another

first-year course, Introduction to Research Writing (WRT 106), using the core principles of 104 that we’ve

articulated here.

Over the past two years, we’ve worked to build understanding of and support for this radical project

among students, faculty in our department and beyond, deans and associate deans, as well as university

college administrators and advisors. Depending on the constituency, we’ve highlighted different facets

of the course design. While coalition building is never easy or efficient, this process is particularly slow

because many people need time to experience the shock of these juxtapositions, unfreeze, and open up

to the possibility of doing first-year writing in such a different way. Our experiences underscore the need

for program administrators to plan for relationship building and the affective responses that accompany

pedagogical and programmatic reform.

This work points to the democratic power of radical pedagogy as teachers and students have become

organizers/interpreters/catalysts/caretakers of the classroom space and our FYW commons. In this way,

both students and faculty are taking on curatorial roles as they select and assemble new technologies,

objects, artifacts, and experiences in our ever-unfinished programmatic “gallery.” These curators, learners,

and educators are transgressing the institutional boundaries that fix meaning, bodies, and objects by

relaxing their grip on hegemonic cultural practices and allowing meaning to emerge and re-emerge in

radical and unpredictable ways.

The Social Justice Badge engages students in exploring diverse perspectives on social justice, choosing an

issue that matters to them, conducting research on the issue, and designing an interactive teach-in for their

peers. While students are familiar with argumentative writing and often ask if they can share their opinion

on some controversial topic, they are, on the whole, much less familiar with writing about established,

demonstrable social inequalities that impact particular groups and communities. Thus, this project helps

students to recognize and articulate inequality using the following fill-in-the-blank prompt: [X] group lacks

[access to, opportunity to, rights to, safety from, fulfillment in] [X, name the issue] that other groups are

routinely afforded.

Once students have articulated a claim that can be supported through evidence, they conduct primary

and secondary research to answer questions about the history and context of the problem; the impacts on

a local, regional, national, and international level; mitigating factors; the consequences in action; and the

ways others are taking action to create equity. Students then compose a 30-minute teach-in for their peers

in the classroom, which they can also opt to feature on the Social Justice YouTube playlist, that includes

participatory activities for their audience; an opportunity for their audience to take some action on the

issue; and a survey about knowledge about, interests in, and commitments to the issue before and after the

teach-in. Students have designed “rigged” card or board games to help their peers understand privilege

in the criminal justice system, sampled and rated chocolate while discussing the cost of unfair labor in the

cacao industry, and co-written/co-signed petitions about disability access on campus. This project pathway

helps students to practice skills and dispositions necessary for advocacy work while they take on the role

of a public activist.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Social Justice Learning Pathway, 2019


The Critical Identity Narrative Badge encourages the individuals who choose this path to examine the many

parts that make up their sense of self and how they carry these parts with them through their academic

and personal lives. Moving well beyond the territory of the standard memoir assigned in first-year writing,

Critical Identity Narrative asks students to contemplate the complexities of their own identities, to examine

how they reconcile contradictory aspects of their personalities, and, in so doing, to contemplate the

complexities of the human condition.

Ultimately, the student selects two conflicting identities to explore in a multimodal digital story format. The

final digital stories may be photographs with narratives and music, videos paired with a narrative and music,

or any combination of these. One requirement of this and all projects in this course is audience analysis and

attention. As such, the digital video project requires at least two moments in which the narrator slows down

time and recounts a scene with sensory details and action, making use of the art of storytelling to increase

audience engagement.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Critical Identity Narrative Learning Pathway, 2019


Produced for the final course learning reflection, this podcast features students discussing their experiences

collaborating in different configurations during the semester. Their discussion focuses on the productive

value of collaboration, specifically the benefits of co-generating ideas and sharing the workload to produce

richer compositions. When conversing about peer review and usability testing, the group expresses

frustration about the quality of feedback they received from other groups. They express disappointment

when peer reviewers didn’t invest sufficiently in their projects, and they describe how they found it

challenging to work with peers who were role-playing personas during usability testing as opposed to

working with actual members of the target audience. They underscore the importance of articulating the

kinds of feedback that you want from reviewers, stating that peer review works best when authors have

authentic questions for their reviewers. Despite the “learning curve” for collaborative work, these students

experienced heightened interest and enjoyment working together as a team on their course projects.



Sarah Titus, Jackson Cafferty,

Justin Crooks, and Carl Lindewall

Collaboration: A Student Podcast, 2018


Radical Assessment

Despite a proliferation of scholarship in composition studies and a clear articulation of student outcomes

from the Council of Writing Program Administrators, first-year writing continues to be perceived as a

remedial service course where ill-equipped students are taught to be “good writers” without regard to

the situated nature of “good writing.” For students, teachers, and administrators who subscribe to this

a-contextual, unrealistic, and cruel approach to writing instruction, foundations writing courses are, at best,

ineffective. At worst, these courses become educational trials for students marked by fear, shame, failure,

and the perpetuation of linguistic hegemony.

In contrast, WRT 104 employs an unconventional user-controlled assessment protocol that fosters social

justice. Students’ writing is cultivated through a revision-based approach, but it is never graded. Instead,

students and faculty mutually agree on when compositions are “finished.” The more compositions a student

chooses to work on, the higher their grade in the course; thus, students decide the number and types of

projects they will complete as well as their resulting grade in the course.

Similar to contract grading, this approach privileges process, habits of mind and body, and intentions over

outcomes; however, this protocol uses digital badging to make alternate assessment more legible and

tangible to students and faculty alike (Perlman, 2008; Inoue, 2012; Poe & Inoue, 2016). The shock value

of writing without grades, which is introduced and modeled on day one of the course, promotes more

intensive engagement and prompts frank questioning from students about how this strange schema is

going to work. We’ve learned that those students who are traditionally most comfortable in the space

of the writing classroom are those most disoriented by these alternative assessment and open-ended

curricular models. Conversely, students from marginalized backgrounds respond favorably to badgebased

assessment (West-Puckett, 2016).

In the redesigned WRT 104, students choose the grade they would like to earn in this course and complete

badges accordingly. Earning more badges means they will receive a higher grade. Because revision is

the most important part of the writing process, they have to revise all or parts of their badge applications.

Badges must meet the requirements stated on the website. Students may submit a badge application

as many times as they need to earn the badge. As an alternative assessment structure, this creates equal

opportunity for all students, regardless of prior writing experiences and preparation, to succeed in the

course. It also makes the grading process transparent to the student.

First Year Writing Program,

Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Badge-based Grading Graphic, 2017


The non-traditional assessment structure of WRT 104 enables students to revise their project work as

many times as needed to earn a badge. To guide students in this process, instructors frequently provide

formative feedback on project components, offering encouragement and guidance, rather than evaluating

the work for a grade. Each of the three levels of the badge activities includes a feedback loop for students

and instructors to pause and assess whether project requirements have been met. Through this process,

students and teachers operate as co-learners; students can understand what they are doing well and

what is needed to progress in the course, while instructors can determine if certain aspects of the course

instruction should be reinforced in large- and/or small-group settings, or even revised.

At times, instructor feedback is delivered in one-on-one conferences in class; at other times, instructors

may communicate with students through comments on their electronic submissions, along with summary

emails. Formative feedback puts greatest emphasis on higher order concerns, such as audience, purpose,

genre conventions, mode, and meaning making. Only once these issues have been addressed to the

satisfaction of student and instructor do the finer points of sentence construction come under discussion.

And, importantly, these discussions are always conducted within the context of the student’s work and

never independently in the form of grammar drills. Moreover, the course purposely de-centers hegemonic

notions of “good writing,” taking a much broader view of acceptable “grammars” and appropriate style as

the syntax and diction that are appropriate to the chosen audience.

Stephanie West-Puckett

Formative Feedback Email, 2018


First Year Writing Student Gallery

As in most American universities, for many years URI’s Department of Writing and Rhetoric employed a

genre-based approach to the first-year writing curriculum. The course was intended to introduce students

to a variety of writing forms and modes, including expressive and research-based writing. Taking a “menu

approach,” instructors selected four projects from six options. Over the years, the course produced

thousands upon thousands of “papers,” representing such genres as memoirs, profiles, proposals, position

arguments, and investigative reports. While the course text addressed the rhetorical situation, these papers

often failed to address any audience but the course instructor. Eventually, this course generated a large

“paper mill,” from which students could purchase work produced by peers that they would then pass off as

their own.

The new WRT 104 effectively shut down this paper mill; the nature of the projects made it impossible

to buy, borrow, or steal work to get through the course. Now, students must produce original work that

is multimodal and addressed to a well-defined public audience through a real-world genre. And in the

first two years after we launched the new curriculum, students have produced truly interesting, inspiring,

original work.

After reading countless memoirs (perhaps not even generated from that student’s actual experience)

about that triumphant soccer/football/baseball game or investigative reports (perhaps written by other

students) on generally unoriginal topics and so on, seeing a procedural video on, for example, how to

make rocket fuel (featured in the student anthology Rhody Writes, 1st edition) was beyond refreshing. In

the new curriculum, rather than a memoir, students compose a digital story that critically examines parts

of their identities that come into conflict, that make them the complex people they are (as illustrated by an

example in this section). Rather than writing an investigative report, students’ social justice teach-ins have

engaged their classmates in issues such as urgent water shortages, unfair labor practices in the farming and

production of chocolate, and the nuances of language used by sexual assault survivors as contrasted with

legal definitions (available in the exhibition gallery).

In addition, for the Maker Badge, students have shown us through the genre of the procedural video

everything from how to program a sophisticated app to how to dress up everyday ramen (included in

this section). Science Communicator Badge work has produced illustrated blogs that draw our attention

to environmental problems, such as light pollution, along with neuroscientific examinations of semantic

learning, and so much in between. Adventurer has taken us on explorations of non-dominant perspectives

of our own campus through travel guides and essays. Writing Lives has provided valuable insight on

students’ own writing practices, expressed through data-driven poster presentations. Finally, Hacker has

uncovered the disturbing, the strange, and the dangerous fictions circulating in “news” outlets, such as the

medically unsound advice proffered in an article about coffee enemas—hacked and rewritten by a student

and featured in the exhibition gallery.

All project pathways in WRT 104 include opportunities to write both transactional and informal texts,

leveraging writing-to-learn as an important modality for knowledge making. Some of these writing-to-learn

invitations provide space for collaborative writing, such as the five-column identity free association that is

pictured here. As an early activity in the Critical Identity Narrative project pathway, students write a quick list

of identity categories that they claim and pass the list around the classroom to seek anonymous feedback

from classmates on these various dimensions. Classmates give one-word responses to identifiers such as

“transgirl” and “optimist.” Students then reflect on these responses, as well as voice their own thoughts

about what meanings they assign to these labels. This portion of the project often results in surprise at the

stereotypes evoked by various characteristics or identity descriptions; some elicit pleasure and a sense

of belonging and/or specialness, while others can elicit anger. In all cases, the needle of self-knowledge

is moved to a greater or lesser degree as the student reflects critically on what makes them their own

unique selves. The second stage of this project asks for a mentor text analysis, enabling students to learn

by example. Importantly, the student selects the digital story they analyze, giving them agency to apply or

even reject the models presented to them.

Anonymous with classmates

Five-Column Identity Stereotypes

and Associations, 2018

Paper and ink

The Social Justice Badge pushes students to employ multiple modes—aural, visual, linguistic, gestural,

and even haptic—to educate their peers on societal inequities that deserve their attention. The researchintensive

project culminates in a teach-in that must include an interactive component. The goal of the teachin

is a meaningful, affective, accessible experience for students—both the presenters and the audience.

The examples of social justice teach-ins included on the First Year Writing YouTube playlist broach such

important topics as water scarcity, unfair labor practices in the chocolate industry, and the disconnect

between the language employed by sexual assault survivors and legal terminology and how this impacts

the victims (this last video is available in the gallery).



Sherif Fahmy and

Bella Aracena

How Should We Talk About Sexual Assault

and What Should We Do About It?, 2019


Our most popular playlist with nearly 1,000 views, the Critical Identity Narrative playlist includes, to date,

seven digital stories that explore intersectional identity from students’ perspectives. The stories we selected

for this playlist represent a wide range of identity issues that our students navigate on a daily basis. This

public collection, available on YouTube and linked to the WRT 104 course website, includes stories about

inequitable gender roles in Cape Verdean culture (the video playing in the gallery); conflicts between

religion and (homo)sexuality; failures of the body in youth; and the difficulties that women of color face in

science, technology, engineering, and math. As co-curators, we intentionally mounted work that represents

bodies and identities that aren’t typically reflected in first-year writing—those of fellow students—creating an

exhibition that speaks to a multiplicity of student backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.



Morgan Monteiro

Being a Cape Verdean Girl, 2017


Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, asserts that “making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We

must make, create, and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical

things. These things are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our souls” (2013). The Maker

Badge exemplifies this spirit.

Produced in response to the Maker Badge, Fancy Dorm Ramen is a procedural video that shows an astute

awareness of and insight into the interests, needs, and concerns of the audience—fellow college students. It

shows that real writing—writing that gets things done in the world—can entertain as well as educate.



Caden Cabral and Tim Murley

Fancy Dorm Ramen, 2019


This screenshot demonstrates the kind of high-tech, socially engaged digital writing students produce in

WRT 104. William Connelli, a student in fall 2018, produced this web article as the culminating piece for

the Hacker project. Connelli used Mozilla X-Ray Goggles, a free browser plug-in that allows users to make

a copy of a website and remix it by changing the text, hyperlinks, images, and videos, with only a basic

understanding of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Here, Connelli remixes a “fake news” article praising

the benefits of coffee enemas, using evidence from medical professionals to refute the original claim and

help audiences understand the dangers of injecting coffee into the rectum. While the project focuses on

ethics of journalism and the real-world consequences of trafficking in fake news, the deep archive of fake

news articles on the Internet tempts students to take on more risky subject matter, like the use of enemas,

that is historically prohibited in the first-year writing classroom.

William Connelli

Coffee Enemas Are Still Unproven and Harmful,

According to Medical Professionals, 2018

Screenshot, Mozilla X-Ray Goggles Remix of Fake News Article

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About the Curators

Stephanie West-Puckett is an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric and director of First Year Writing

at the University of Rhode Island. Her research focuses on equity, access, and diversity in writing curricula

and assessment, and she specializes in digital, queer, and maker-centered composition practices. In 2018,

her dissertation won the College Composition and Communication Lavender Rhetorics award for queer

interventions in writing studies theory and practice, and her scholarship has been published in College

English, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education,

as well as in several edited collections.

Genoa Shepley serves as lecturer and assistant director of First Year Writing at the University of Rhode

Island. Her areas of specialization are visual rhetoric and the relationship between text and images in a

historical context. She has served as director of communications for a major museum of modern art and

director of publications for an art college and its gallery of contemporary art. Her work has appeared in a

variety of publications, from popular art books and magazines to scholarly journals.

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