Posted in CBW2019, CCCC2019, Who is Basic Writing?

Welcome to CBW 2019!

We began CBW 2019 with the CCCC 2019 Land Acknowledgement. CBW also recommends Daniel Heath Justice’s 2018 Why Indigenous Literatures Matter for additional reading!

To open our session, I as the chair of this session and our panelists would like to recognize and acknowledge the indigenous people of this land: the Lenni Lenape, Shawnee, and Hodinöhšönih (hoe-den-ah-show-nee) — the six Nations, that is, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga and Tuscarora. We are gathered today on Jö:deogë’ (joan-day-o-gan’t), an Onödowa’ga (ono-do-wah-gah) or Seneca word for Pittsburgh or “between two rivers”: the welhik hane (well-ick hah-neh) and Mënaonkihëla (men-aw-n-gee-ah-luh). These are the Lenape words for the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which translate to the “best flowing river of the hills” and “where the banks cave in and erode.” While a land acknowledgment is not enough, it is an important social justice and decolonial practice that promotes indigenous visibility and a reminder that we are on settled indigenous land. Let this land acknowledgment be an opening for all of us to contemplate a way to join in decolonial and indigenous movements for sovereignty and self-determination. Lastly, I am grateful to Melissa Borgia-Askey and Sandy Gajehsoh Dowdy for valuable etymological and pronunciation help. Also, we thank Andrea Riley Mukavetz and the American Indian Caucus for helping with this land acknowledgment.

The first session focused on small groups. We began working in small groups with vignettes about access & inclusivity; basic writers in the classroom; teaching with disabilities; affective issues in the classroom; and basic writing studies. Each group was asked to create a scene to share with the group that highlighted student experiences in these areas.

In one small group, we began by sharing the different definitions of Basic Writing, demonstrating the range of participant experiences and one of the inconsistencies in the field: institutions define Basic Writing differently.

One of our participants discussed teaching basic writing in Chile and Argentina. There, there was an assumption years ago that first you need to learn to write. Basic writing was something you did before you entered the university. More recently, this perspective has changed to something that has moved into the university and is included as part of the curriculum.

Another participant shared that at her former university, Basic Writing was a credit-bearing course. Students self-placed based on an online assessment, high school GPA, math SAT score, a test that measured test anxiety. Basic Writing was a course where students

Another participant shared that Basic Writing is an “empty signifier” because the placement test is inaccurate and student preparation is wildly different. The course is also not credit-bearing.

At another institution, Basic Writing is not credit bearing unless students take a version of ALP, the accelerated learning program.

At still another institution, Basic Writing is not credit bearing at all and there is no ALP pathway into the credit bearing course (so students have to pass non-credit bearing Basic Writing before moving into first year composition).

In general, no matter how Basic Writing is structured on different campuses, Basic Writing serves to prepare students to be successful in first year composition.

The Accessibility group then focused on definitions of access and inclusivity. One participant shared that in Latin America, access means social class. Around the table, other participants shared that in the United States, this means race, social class, physical and cognitive ability, underperforming high schools, students with GEDs, financial aid, and more.


Thanks to Rakka at for my gravatar image, "Binary Easter Egg." Awesome photo!

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