CFP: “College Writing”: from the 1966 Dartmouth Seminar to Tomorrow

Call for Proposals

College Writing”: from the 1966 Dartmouth Seminar to Tomorrow

A conference commemorating the 1966 Dartmouth Seminar and exploring the state of writing research in higher education

August 10-12, 2016 at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA

August 1966 – the summer of the Dartmouth Seminar, which many have said seeded the beginning of the formation of our discipline. 1966 – the year fifty-some scholars and teachers from the UK, the US, and Canada, representing diverse disciplines, met over three weeks to exchange ideas and test their thinking about English and writing, language and speech, growth and development: comparing and contesting, hashing out and reflecting.

And now, August 2016 – fifty years later, it’s time to test our thinking again, to exchange and reflect, with new questions, new partners, and new energy. Today, the words “college” and “writing” are no longer uncontested terms: we have learned to recognize an extraordinary array of social, institutional, and cultural influences operating in the scene of “college writing” around the globe; we know that writing growth and development do not have obvious endpoints or uncomplicated applications; we have realized, in contrast to 1966, that the UK, the US, and Canada own neither “English” nor “writing”; we have committed ourselves to understanding questions of identity and power in our research and teaching; we are grappling with global forces of assessment and publishing.

At this conference we aim to create the spirit of inquiry, the productive debate, and the summertime inspiration of that first time fifty years ago, while focusing on new questions with new voices. We hope you will join us!


Conference focus:

The conference, building on the annual Summer Seminar for Writing Research and a writing summit hosted by Dartmouth in 2012, asks: what is the state of the art in writing research today? What are the driving research questions? From which disciplinary frames? Using which diverse methods? Informing local practice in what ways? Engaged via which 21st century digital tools, global contexts, and language realities?

In 1966 as now, there is this simple truth: writing well matters, and it matters in institutions of higher education across disciplines and around the world. Yet how writing instruction should work best, why it matters, and just what writing well is, remain the site of controversy, study, and discussion. Studying these questions using a range of methods drawing from the sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and interdisciplines is needed now more than ever.

Those methods have been unevenly discussed and taught in writing studies in the past decades: less than we might hope in some contexts, while deeply studied but not widely shared in others. In addition, scholars using methods from different disciplinary grounds or across national borders have rarely worked together. The attendees of the 1966 Seminar represented a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds, which was part of what led to its depth and rich results. We will seek to match that disciplinary diversity and to broaden the diversity across other borders in our focus on the methods used to productively study writing and writing instruction. Methods today might include those in the social sciences (such as ethnography, social analysis), sciences (such as eyetracking, keystroke logging, cognitive research), humanities (such as textual analysis, archival study), or unavoidably interdisciplinary domains, with fertile future possibilities for intersecting, inter-informing methods and frames.

The focus on research will also connect the event to current topics worldwide, such as evidence-based decision-making, the value of the humanities, big data research, the usefulness of writing knowledge, writing in relation to post-college demands, and interdisciplinary innovation. We will focus on the diversity of research traditions, the questions they try to answer, and how they should speak to each other. A focus on research traditions, methodologies, and methods in our field should, in part, broaden what “in our field” means. In the process, we hope to engage and reframe the method <=> methodology question and to interrogate the method <=> methodology distinction.

Guiding questions include:

– Do methods work as neutral tools, useful and useable in any configuration, or are they always constrained by epistemological frames?

– How do researchers make choices about engaging with methods?

– What might be the cultural, linguistic, technological, political, ideological, social, ethnic, racial, or socio-economic interests shaping or driving those choices?

The conference will follow on a small, focused eight-day Institute during which the conference keynoters including, to date, Chuck Bazerman, Deborah Brandt, Ellen Cushman, David Galbraith, and Clay Spinuzzi will have worked those ideas in conversation with twenty Institute participants. These authors will present their new work as keynotes at the Conference; the Institute participants will respond to the keynotes and present their work in concurrent sessions.

We are now seeking proposals for additional presentations at the Conference, from a range of disciplines and sites, in several concurrent sessions.


Process for proposals:

Please submit, by May 21, 2016, an abstract of your proposed presentation:

  • For individual proposals for inclusion in a concurrent session, up to 350 words.
  • For panel proposals (three presentations for one concurrent session), up to 700 words.


You may submit the proposal here:


A proposal can take three angles:

  1. A report on a study. In this case, your proposal should emphasize your methodological approach and methods choices in responding to questions you address in your work. We recommend you state your research question(s) clearly, situate your research in a larger conversation, and describe your methodology and methods choices. You might briefly describe the data with which you are working and outline your results as a way to further illuminate those choices.
  2. A theoretical presentation about methodology and methods. We are looking for only a few presentations of this type.
  3. A session entirely focused on a particular methodology or method. This kind of session could include interactive work with sample data.


Please indicate the type of presentation you are proposing using the menu for “type of presentation.”

The proposal should demonstrate how you can present engagingly to non-specialists, with clarity, and how your specific method(s) fit(s) into a larger epistemological frame and research tradition. We welcome presentations that use formats other than traditional exposés (please indicate your plans in the proposal abstract).

We welcome audio-visual proposals of up to one minute. If you submit an audio proposal, send it as an attachment to an email to

< > and indicate in your proposal form that you have done so. If you submit a video proposal, please post it to Youtube and put the link into the conference proposal form box.
We expect to notify accepted presenters by June 15th; registration will be required by July 1st. Additional conference information will be posted in early May.

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