Posted in CBW 2016, CCCC 2016

Diverse Needs and Talents: Acting on the Promise of BW

This session focuses on contact points between the mission(s) of BW programs, the institution, and teaching practice, highlighting the diverse needs and talents of students enrolled in basic writing courses. The chair is Barbara Gleason, and speakers are Andrew Lucchesi (CUNY Grad Center), Hope Parisi (Kingsborough CC), and Christie Toth (Utah).

Andrew Lucchesi, “Experiments in Disabling the Basic Writing Classroom” (access talk at Central question: How can a disability studies approach enable me to support students in the writing classroom? Focusing on two types of disabilities: learning disabilities (dyslexia and information processing impairments) and psychosocial disabilities: psychiatric impairments, such as depression or anxiety; development impairments, such as ADD; and social processing impairments, such as ASD.

Disability is an asset in the classroom, and a disability studies approach improves our pedagogy and pushes us to be more inclusive in the writing classroom. Lucchesi argues it’s the disparity of strengths that characterize learning disabilities, and he sees the BW classroom as an exciting place to build on written, aural, and spoken modes of composing. Lucchesi shows various adaptive tools and argues these tools can work for all students.

Speaker Two is Hope Parisi: “Writing Through the Academic Looking Glass: A Basic Writing and Support Services Tutorial Model for Multiple Repeaters.”At Kingsborough Community College, an exit exam must be passed for students to move into first-year writing courses, and some students repeatedly fail the exam. Her central question is whether a place still exists for “repeaters” in remedial structures, beyond a college’s or program’s default structures. How long will this place exist, and will it eventually result in remedial exits? At what cost? In other words, are we thinking about the students who don’t progress, students in whom a lot was invested?

Parisi identifies part of the problem as the “silo effect” of separable service units within a college/university, each addressing distinct needs. The tutorial model developed at KCC is an academic-driven model modeled on the work of Kathleen Manning et al. This model tailors support to students’ actual academic challenges found within the classroom. The tutorial offers a range of support services–counseling; advising, and occasional topic workshops, largely through TRIO–as well as “third space” comfort and social belonging via the studio model. This third space is important, because it is where the classroom experience can be safely re-processed and navigated.

The final speaker is Christie Toth from the University of Utah; her talk is entitled “‘Assimilation’ in Basic Writing: Learning from Tribal College Faculty and Students.” Her presentation focuses on the vexed issue of assimilation in basic writing instruction, specifically in the context of Native American student writers and tribal colleges. She performed an ethnographic case study at Dine’ College, which serves the Navajo Nation.

Tribal colleges face many challenges and are a complex site for research and teaching. Toth’s takeaways from her research: culture is important, but being focused only on the dangers of cultural assimilation removes us from the importance of teaching academic literacies as a means of challenging colonialism. Toth emphasizes Lyons’s concept of rhetorical sovereignty and that teaching academic literacy can be an example of rhetorical sovereignty; she also draws on Heath’s critical language awareness. Toth asks us to interrogate settler ideologies in the context of academic language and examine the role of writing in both perpetuating and resisting settler colonialism. She has found recent conversations in translingualism very helpful in understanding these dynamics. At the same time, we must teach students about language variation as rhetorical choices.


I'm an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in writing, literacy, and folklore.

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