Thursday, July 07, 2005

Numbers as a way of knowing

Today was the last day I’ll attend the WPA workshop for new writing program administrators (*sigh*). Today we talked about staffing issues, understanding budgets, and time management issues. While all of these are important, I think that understanding budget issues generally and numerical data specifically is useful for all writing center directors. One of the workshop participants pointed out that quantitative data is often used to shut out (or shut up) those of us trained in the humanities – which is ironic, considering that citing numbers is really just another form of rhetorical evidence, that stuff with which we’re generally pretty savvy. But if we don’t understand the relationship between a standard deviation and a mean, for example, how can we argue against the claims that this information represents? A pretty compelling argument, if you ask me . . .

Same thing with budgets, really: sometimes it seems like budgets are constructed to obscure our understanding of the information they contain (what is the capital fund? Something in Washington D.C. maybe?) Even if we don’t control budgets, just understanding them is terribly useful – otherwise we don’t really know what resources our programs are even using – which makes it pretty difficult to know if they’re efficient!

Speaking of numbers, it’s 11:10PM here. And while it’s still light out, I should probably go get some sleep – I have an assessment workshop tomorrow.

More tomorrow, dear readers


At 6:14 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

I love the term "standard deviation" --- it makes me think alternately of amusing and disturbing things.

But did you have to use that dirty word, "budget"? I'm allergic to it and now feel quite ill. Perhaps if I were at the conference with you something might be done to treat my ailment. As it is, I'm here reading and learning.

Thanks for sharing.

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