Moria M. Torrington will present "Bounded Learning: Systems Theories and the Issue of Transfer"
Abstract: Sharon Crowley has argued that “[c]ommonplaces are part of the discursive machinery that hides the flow of difference, that firms up identity and sameness within a community."" In the field of writing studies, and, more broadly, rhetoric, commonplaces concerning the existence and nature of learning transfer concretize the community’s identity as one that is able to “help students learn how to write,” and thus, contribute to the shape and efficacy of the general university. Most transfer scholarship in this vein can be traced back to David Bartholomae’s seminal argument that students learning to write must “invent the university” by performing understanding in appropriating both the language and forms suitable to the particular disciplinary contexts of the academy. Though this scholarship enables me to join the conversation on transfer in this presentation, the weight of the learning-in-context commonplace suggests that as a field, our notions have transfer have become, as Crowley puts it, too firm in shoring up our identity. Loosening this commonplace requires attention to other, less dominant discourses of transfer circulating in the field. As such, at issue here are not questions such as “Does transfer happen?” and “If so, how?” but rather how we might theorize this concept in ways that account for the complexities of learning in multiple situations. Given that exigency, my presentation seeks to provide not a framework from which to understand if and how writing students use skills across contexts, but more broadly to bring together general systems theories and activity theories in order to provide a basis for observing how boundaries mediate instances where writers repurpose knowledge and actions.
Moria Torrington is a second year Ph.D. student in composition and rhetoric, with a focus on writing studies, activity theories, and learning transfer.