Margaret A. Syverson
Director, Undergraduate Writing
of Rhetoric and Writing
I University Station, B5500
The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of CompositionUniversity of California, San Diego, 1994
1995 James Berlin Memorial
CCCC Award for Outstanding Dissertation of the Year
Professor Charles R. Cooper, ChairProfessor Edwin Hutchins
Professor Michael Davidson
Professor Kathryn Shevelow
Professor Anthony Edwards
This study explores how a theory of composing situations as ecological systems might be productively applied in composition studies. In the process it demonstrates not only how new research in cognitive science and complex systems can inform composition studies, but in turn, how composing situations can be fruitful sites for research in cognitive science.
The first chapter introduces theories of complex systems currently studied in diverse disciplines. Complex systems are described as adaptive, self-organizing, and dynamic; they are systems which are neither utterly chaotic nor entirely ordered, but exist on the boundary between these two states. Ecological systems are "metasystems" composed of interrelated complex systems. Writers, readers, and texts, together with their environments, constitute one kind of ecological system. Four attributes of complex systems provide a theoretical framework for the study: distribution, embodiment, emergence, and enaction. Distribution refers to the concept that processes in complex systems are distributed (in both senses, that is "divided" and "shared") among agents and structures in the environment. Embodiment refers to the grounding of complex systems in physical experience and interactions. Emergence refers to the self-organization that arises globally in networks of simple components connected to each other and acting locally. Enaction refers to the situated practices and activities that structure the composing situation as it unfolds over time.
Three case studies provide evidence for the application of these concepts: an analysis of a passage from an autobiographical poem by Charles Reznikoff in chapter two, a study of first-year college students writing collaboratively in chapter three, and a conversational episode in a computer forum of social scientists during the Persian Gulf War, in chapter four.
The final chapter discusses some implications of an ecological approach for composition research, pedagogy, and assessment. Some challenges to the theory are presented, and further directions for research are proposed. Finally, this chapter argues that technological changes have created new environments for composing, providing an opportunity to reconsider conventional environments as well.
2006-present: Director, Undergraduate Writing Center
Recent courses include Information Architecture; Nonviolent Communication; Zen Rhetoric; Knowledge Ecologies; Ways of Knowing; and Minds, Texts, and Technology.
Associate Director, Computer Writing and Research Lab, University of Texas at Austin, Fall 1997 to January 1999
Assistant Professor, Division of Rhetoric and Composition, University of Texas at Austin, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Computer Writing and Research Lab (Fall 1994 to January 1999)
Teaching Assistant, Dimensions of Culture , UCSD, a required first-year core humanities and composition course (Fall, 1991- Spring, 1993)
Instructor, Third College Writing Program, UCSD, a required first-year composition course (Fall, 1988-Spring 1991)
Austin Zen Center Board
St. Alcuin Montessori School, Dallas, Texas
Former President of the Board, The Center for Language in Learning, which conducted research for, developed, published, and supported the Learning Record, a K-12 portfolio assessment, research, and professional development project. 1998-2004. This center closed in the wake of the ill-advised Leave No Child Behind Act.
Editorial Consultant, Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Winter, 1991-Winter 1992)
Consultant to the State of California's CAP Assessment Program: Prepared materials for guidelines to be used in the statewide Reading Assessment (Summer, 1990)
Consultant to the State of California's CAP Assessment Program: Prepared materials for the statewide Writing Assessment, Grades 8 and 12, and directed CAP writing teams in test preparation (Fall 1988-Summer 1990)
Editor, Praxis, an online, peer-reviewed journal for Writing Center research and scholarship.
Editor, Computers and Composition Journal web site, (Spring, 1995-2002) http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~ccjrnl and Editorial Advisory Board, Computers and Composition Journal, a peer-reviewed international journal published by Elsevier.
Revision of Instructor's Manual and Evaluation Handbook for St. Martin's Guide to Writing, by Charles Cooper and Rise Axelrod(Summer, 1990)
Editorial Consultant, Academic Press, a division of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers
Revision of St. Martin's Guide to Writing, by Charles Cooper and Rise Axelrod (Winter, 1990)
Revision of instructor's manual, Reading Critically, Writing Well, by Charles Cooper and Rise Axelrod (Fall, 1989)
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, publishers, associate editor in the HBJ Reference Books division. (January, 1984-September, 1988)
Social Justice and Evidence-Based Assessment With the Learning Record. In Kriese, Paul, and Randall Osborne, eds. Social Justice, Poverty and Race: Normative and Empirical Points of View. Amsterdam/New York: Rodolpi, 2011, pp.
True Beginner’s Mind: Fresh Encounters with Zen, written by students in Peg Syverson’s RHE 330 C class, compiled and with a foreword by Peg Syverson . Austin, TX: Appamada, 2011
"An Ecological View of Literacy Learning," Literacy, a publication of the UK Literacy Association. Volume 42 Number 2, July 2008. pp. 109-117
Learning Record revision, including entirely new applications for college-level and K-12 students, new documentation, and completely revised web site (http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~syverson/olr), 2007
“Role-Playing Simulations Improve Writing.” Currents, Spring 2002, Issue 6, at http://currents.cwrl.utexas.edu/spring02/syverson.html
"Thinking Through Worlds Fair: Evolutionary Rhetoric." Computers and Composition, 18 (March/June, 2001).
The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition. Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.
Assessing Literacy with the Learning Record: A Handbook for Teachers, Grades K-12. Mary Barr, Margaret Syverson, Anne McKittrick. Heinemann, 1999.
Assessing Literacy with the Learning Record: A Handbook for Teachers, Grades K-6. Mary Barr, Dana A. Craig, Delores Fisette. Heinemann, 1999.
"Patterns and Process of Reasoning in Virtual Worlds." Virtual Worlds And Simulation Conference (VWSIM '98). ed. Christopher Landauer and Kirstie Bellman. Simulation Series Vol. 30 No.2. San Diego: Society for Computer Simulation International,1998. 107-112.
"Problems in Evaluating Learning in MOOs and MUDs: Preliminary Working Models." CAETI Technical Report. November, 1996. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~syverson/papers/caeti
The Online Learning Record web site. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~syverson/olr (1995-present) published online at Computers and Composition, 1999 (http://corax.cwrl.utexas.edu/cac/online/99/syverson/).
Syverson, P., M. Leusebrink, C. Guyer, M. Joyce. "Walk four ways one time: Narrative coherencies." Pre/Text. 16 (1-2), 1995.
"Integration of the Learning Record in Computer-Enhanced Classrooms." in The Primary Language Record and the California Learning Record in Use. Proceedings from the PLR/CLR International Seminar. Winfield Cooper and Mary Barr, eds., Center for Language in Learning, 1995.
Dissertation: "The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition". UCSD 1994
"Sarah Reznikoff: Pure Gold in the Archive." Archive Newsletter, Winter, N. 50. pp. 17-20
"The Community of Memory: A Reznikoff Family Chronicle." Sagetrieb, Vol. 11, N. 1 & 2, Spring/Fall 1992 double issue, pp. 127-170
"Noriko and Kirsten: I Could Have Been Another Tennessee Williams!" profile of two eighth-grade writers, in Children's Voices, ed. Sally Hudson-Ross and Mara Casey, Heinemann Boynton-Cook
"Guidelines for Responding to Student Work," a manual for instructors in Third College Writing Program, UCSD (1989)
The Lincoln Writing Dictionary. Christopher G. Morris, Editor-in-Chief, Margaret A. Syverson, Associate Editor. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Holt Rhinehart Winston (1988)
"The Learning Record: Assessment in the Community-Engaged Classroom,” CCCC, April 2011
“The Learning Record: Assessment in Their Own Voices.” CEA 2010, San Antonio
“IFS and Spiral Dynamics: Understanding the world view and value systems of parts.” 2009 IFS Conference, Chicago.
"Social Justice in Education: Evidence-Based Assessment with the Learning Record," Invited lecture, Oxford Round Table 2009, Oxford University, England
"The Learning Record for Multimodal Learning" Conference on College Composition and Communication, 2009
"The Embodied Teacher," Hakomi Conference, 2008
"The Learning Record," New Media Conference, 2003
“The Making of The Wealth of Reality” University of Illinois Center for Writing Studies, Urbana-Champaign, 2002
“Collaborative Learning and the LRO,” 2002 Computers and Writing Online Conference
“The Learning Record Online,” Sharing What Works, UT Center for Teaching Effectiveness, 2002
Princeton Roundtable “Who Owns Teaching?” sponsored by the Knight Collaborative, Institute for Research on Higher Education
“Measure for Measure:” Open Source and Assessment, Computers and Writing, 2002
“The Learning Record Online” AAHE Annual Meeting, 2002
"Revisiting Latour: Thinking with Eyes, Hands, and Mouse." Conference on College Composition and Communication. March 14-17, 2001.
"The Learning Record Online." AAHE Conference on Faculty Roles and Rewards. Tampa, February 3, 2001
"The Heart of the Matter: Humane Evaluation Using the Learning Record." Modern Language Association, Washington, D.C., December 27, 2000
"Building a Wildlife Preserve: Administering a Complex Lab When Violence Is Not an Option" Computers and Writing conference, Fort Worth, May 26, 2000.
"Designing Environments for Optimal Cognitive Development." Computers and Writing conference, Fort Worth, May 26, 2000.
"The Online Learning Record: Architecture and Design." Carnegie Scholars Meeting, June 18-30, 2000
"Worlds Fair: Imagined Futures" Computers and Writing Conference, May 1999.
"Information Architecture." Invited keynote address, University of California, Berkeley Summer 1998 Faculty Instructional Technology Institute, Berkeley, CA, August 12-14.
"An Introduction to Cognition in the Wild." Conference on College Composition and Communication, Chicago, IL, April 1-4, 1998.
"Patterns and Process of Reasoning in Virtual Worlds." Virtual Worlds Simulation and Modeling Conference, Western States Multiconference, January 1998.
"What's Happening with the Learning Record Online?" Colloquium on Using the Learning Record, Claremont Graduate University, October 31-November 1, 1997.
"An Interactive Conversation on Graduate Programs in Computers and English Studies: What do Our M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s Need to Excel?" Computers and Writing Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, June, 1997.
"Beyond Portfolios: The Online Learning Record." AAHE Conference on Assessment and Quality, Miami Beach, June 1997.
"What Are Teachers and Students Learning In MOOs and MUDs?" CCCC, Phoenix, Arizona, March 1997.
"Virtual Learning Environments for Writers, Teachers, and Researchers," Computers and Writing, Logan, Utah, May, 1996.
"Learning in Virtual Environments," CCCC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March, 1996.
"The California Learning Record: Using Technology," a presentation for the Illinois State Board of Education Center for Accountability and Quality Assurance, at the Illinois Student Learning Record Workshop, La Jolla, Feb. 18-20, 1996.
"Integration of the Learning Record in computer-Enhanced Classrooms." PLR/CLR International Seminar, New York, New York, October 20-22, 1995.
"Evaluation and the Computer Classroom," Computers and Writing Conference, El Paso, Texas May, 1995.
"An Ecological Approach to Coherence," and "From 19th Century Yiddish Manuscript to Email in a Computer Forum: Absence, Longing, and Desire in the Archives." CCCC, Washington D.C., March, 1995.
"Of Course It's Fun, But How Do We Know It's Working?" Invited talk at the ARPA Workshop, MUDShop: a Workshop on MUDs and Schools, December 10, 1994. MIT's Endicott House.
"Textual Worlds: Ecological Approaches to Cognition in Composition. "Invited talk at the University of Texas Cognitive Science Club, November 21, 1994.
"Changing One Rule Changes Everything: The California Learning Record." NCTE National Portfolio Series conference, Portfolios for Learning and Beyond: Portfolios, WAC, and Program Assessment, Scottsdale, June 16-18, 1994.
Three presentations at CCCC in San Diego, March 31-April 3, 1993:
"Introduction to Qualitative Research," a one-day preconvention workshop
"The Politics and Ethics of Involving Students in Classroom Research," a roundtable presentation
"Qualitative Research in Composition," a special interest group
"Rhetoric, Technology, and the Middle Ages: A New Perspective on Collaboration." Presentation at the annual Conference on Computers and Writing, Ann Arbor, May 20-2, 1993.
"A Different Subject: Case Study of an Interdisciplinary Conversation in a Computer Forum." Presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse, Boulder, June 16-18,1993 in conjunction with the Cognitive Science Society.
Two presentations at the CCCC Annual Convention, Cincinnati, March 18-21, 1992:
"Emerging Discourse Structures in Expert Systems" in the Research Network
"Introduction to Ethnography: Collaborative Writing in a College Composition Classroom," a pre-convention workshop
Two Presentations at the NCTE Spring Conference, Washington, D. C., March 26-28, 1991:
"Emergent Knowledge Structures in Computer-Mediated Discourse." Presented at the Ramon Veal Seminar
"Classroom Ethnography: Collaborative Inquiry into Collaborative Writing"
"Interpreting Interpretations: The Complexity of Classrooms and Classroom Research" Presentation at the NCTE Spring Conference, Indianapolis, March 14-16, 1991.
"An Awful Lot Is Lost." Southland English Graduate Student Conference, UCLA, 1990.
"What They Talk About When They Talk of Text." Case study research on collaborative writing involving first-year students in a college composition course. NCTE Fall National Conference, Baltimore, November 17-22, 1989.
IITAP Silver Award for innovations in instructional Technology, for the Learning Record project, 2007
Liberal Arts ITS grant, Summer 2006
McGraw-Hill Technology Design award, Computers and Writing Conference, for the Learning Record Online (2001)
Innovative Instructional Technology Award, University of Texas, for the Worlds Fair project (2000)
University Cooperative Society Subvention Award for publication of The Wealth of Reality with Southern Illinois University Press (1998)
University of Texas Dean's Fellowship for study of research methods in the cognitive sciences (fall 1998)
Grant awarded under the Computer-Aided Education and Training Initiative (CAETI), sponsored by DARPA "Evaluating Learning in Virtual Environments" (1995-96)
University of Texas URI grant for revision of the dissertation for publication (1995)
1995 Hugh Burns Dissertation Award for Outstanding Research, presented by Computers and Composition Journal(May, 1995)
1995 CCCC James Berlin Memorial Outstanding Dissertation Award (March, 1995)
Fellowship, Mellon Foundation Seminar on Graduate Education in Literature (Summer, 1993)
Practicing Zen Buddhist since 1966; intensive training since 1990 primarily with Joko Beck and Flint Sparks, as well as Jan Chozen Bays and Hogen Bays. In my role as resident teacher for Appamada, an Austin-based Zen center, I provide individual and community spiritual direction, lead meditation retreats, and offer classes and workshops, as well as leading daily meditation practice and the Sunday morning program.
Founder and Resident Zen teacher, Appamada, formerly Ordinary Mind Zen-Austin, Zen practice in the tradition of Joko Beck. Established 1995.
Residential training, Great Vow Zen Monastery, Chozen Bays and Hogen Bays, Abbots. January, 2005-July 2005
Residential training, Austin Zen Center. Barbara Kohn, head teacher. August, 2004-January 2005.
Ordained at the Austin Zen Center as a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. August, 2004
Residential student, Zen Center San Diego with Joko Beck. August 1998-January 1999
Zen student, Joko Beck, 1990-present.
Zen student, Flint Sparks, 2001-present
Formal roles: Tenzo, Great Vow and Austin Zen Center, Head Student, Tenzo, Ino, Jisha at Austin Zen Center
Related Classes Taught:
Ordinary Mind Zen
National Council of Teachers of English
College Composition and Communication
Soto Zen Buddhist Association (Zen teachers association)
Lay Zen Teachers Association
Right Use of Power (Certified Facilitator)
Appreciative Inquiry (Certified Facilitator)
Hakomi Method (Level III Training)
Spiral Dynamics (Level II Training)
Rhetoric and transformational change in Zen training, psychotherapy, organizations, and new media
Distributed cognition and complex systems in electronic environments
Stages of higher-level literacy development, particularly as mediated in online environments
Recent research across disciplines in chaos theory, complexity, and emergent properties
Information architecture and knowledge ecologies
The intersections of technology, literacy, cognition, and culture