Praxis and Allies: The WPA Game

Game Writing and Design: Harris Bras, Dana Lynn Driscoll, Cristyn Elder, Megan Schoen, Tom Sura, and Jaclyn Wells

Graphics and Packaging: Dana Lynn Driscoll


In spring 2008, the authors participated in a seminar on writing program administration, taught by Shirley Rose at Purdue University. The theme for the course was "WPA Ways of Knowing" and our class project needed to address this theme in some manner. As the semester progressed, we grappled with issues of what could be taught about writing program administration that would help pre-service WPAs and how to teach it.

A key moment for us came when we read Trudelle Thomas's 1991 essay on graduate students as apprentices. She writes:

This morning I teach two classes and hold conferences with students. Then I meet with the academic vice president and my department chair to discuss plans for a writing assessment program for the six hundred students who move through our composition program each year. By mid-afternoon, I hope to escape to the library to fine-tune plans for a faculty workshop later this week. It's a typical day in the life of this writing program administrator. I delight in the variety of tasks and relationships that make up my job, but sometimes I think back on graduate school and wonder: how did all of those captivating seminars in Barth and Berthoff and Woolf prepare me for this? (41).

What we realized was that part of WPA knowledge is what might be referred to as procedural knowledge. In other words, WPAs need to know procedures for navigating the many complex challenges they encounter in their work. The only other place we'd seen discussion of procedural knowledge was in the context of gaming (e.g. computer games). Ian Bogost has argued that "procedurality refers to a way of creating, explaining, or understanding processes. And processes define the way things work: the methods, techniques, and logics that drive the operation of systems, from mechanical systems like engines to organizational systems like high schools to conceptual systems like religious faith" (3). This game extends that notion of procedurality, that definition of how things work, to writing program administration.

George’s story about WPA work is one of many WPA narratives we encountered in our WPA seminar. WPA literature abounds with narratives about the joys, opportunities, challenges, and grief of writing program administration. As Shirley Rose argues, narratives are extremely powerful because they “impose order and coherence by sequencing and suggesting cause-effect relationships, making experience predictable by fitting it into familiar patterns and making it make sense by transforming it into stories with recognizable characters, conflicts, and resolutions” (222). As players of Praxis and Allies move around the board, they effectively become characters in their own narrative, developing their own stories about how best to juggle their tasks, manage their resources, and achieve their objectives.

Praxis and Allies articulates particular arguments about the nature of WPA work and how prospective WPAs can learn about such work. First, by adopting a team-play model, we aligned ourselves with scholars such as Jeanne Gunner who suggests that WPA work is best conceived as collaborative. Additionally, by creating a text intended for use in a graduate WPA seminar, we have asserted that writing program administration is scholarly work, a notion championed by foundational documents in our field such as “The Portland Resolution,” “Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Program Administration,” and Christine Hult’s “The Scholarship of Administration.” Another argument implicit in the game is that we can learn about and prepare for this scholarly work in the graduate school context. In this way, the game underscores the work of Louise Phelps, Edward White, Trudelle Thomas, and many others who have advocated a greater role for pre-service WPA preparation in graduate school through formal coursework and experiential learning. We happily invite you now to develop your own arguments, your own narratives, your own procedures for writing program administration as you play Praxis and Allies: The WPA Board Game.

The WPA Game PDF contains all that you need to play Praxis and Allies: The WPA Game. The PDF includes: game construction guidelines, rulebook, game board, deck of scenario cards, set of energy tokens, deck of chance cards, knowledge tokens, ethos tokens, funding tokens, and decks of activity cards for the various locations on campus where resources can be collected.

Please see our article in WPA: Writing Program Administration Spring 2009 32.3 for full bibliographic citations and more information about the game’s development.


Download Praxis and Allies: The WPA Board Game (11MB--updated 8/31/09).