Posted in Uncategorized, Who is Basic Writing?


Hi CBW-ers,

I started keeping a blog this semester about teaching developmental writing at the College of DuPage. It’s had an uneven start, but the entry I wrote today, Test Results Day, is one that many of you could relate to. It’s very in the moment. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to comment. Hope you are having a peaceful end to your spring semester.

Here is the link:

Karin Evans, College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn IL

Posted in CCCC 2012

E.06 Reframing Basic Writing and Sites of Transfer

Joyce Inman, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg
“Basic Writing Programming: Gateways to Access Accompanied by Institutional Whispers”
Inman argues that it’s essential to liberate basic writing programs from the ghettos of institutional discourse and of special programming: “We want you, but not really.” She compares basic writing program descriptions posted on university web sites to review how the students are stigmatized by standards-based discourse, or better served by other approaches in the descriptions. Inman discussed the failure of her own efforts to market an expanded Comp I program to students. The students were preconditioned to see the program as “dummy English” – separate, different, and unequal. She is currently working on a redesign!

Paula Patch, Elon University, NC
“Fluid Boundaries: Constructing a Meaningful Assessment of a Basic Writing Workshop”
Patch teaches at Elon University, which is private with competitive admissions. Elon offers a writing workshop in a co-enrollment format with the regular fycomp course. Students are invited to enroll based on SAT verbal and high school GPA. Students who elect the course may have a range of special factors affecting their readiness for fycomp. The workshop course supports the fycomp course with additional workshops, shorter preparatory assignments, and conferences. Instructors found that assessing the workshop course according to the same objectives and in the same format as the fycomp course did not work – they tended to teach to the fycomp objectives rather than meeting what they knew were the real needs of the students in the workshop. Thus the assessment objectives for the workshop course were partially changed. Students submitted assignments they completed in other courses and reflected on how what they had learned in the workshop course had helped them. A remaining challenge is to capture what students learn in the workshop course that is different or separate from what they learned in fycomp; these tend to be conflated.

Ellen Schendel, Grand valley State Univ, Allendale MI
“(Re)Conceiving of the Writing Center as a Site of Transfer”
What would a writing center look like, if it were organized to promote transfer? Tutors would have to take more of a guiding role to help students see the implications for transfer. “High road transfer” requires a lot more teaching (more dissimilar tasks) than “low road” (more similar). Tutors might alsomhave to be able to “unsettle” some students who are comfortable in a particular genre, rather than simply encouraging/building confidence. Discipline-based tutors or centers, drawing beyond English majors, can help students see differences and similarities among disciplinary discourses. Notes from the writing tutorials could be used to better inform instructors in different disciplines what students are bringing to the writing center and what they are taking away. Faculty and tutors would be more discipline based and thus more aware of “threshhold concepts” for a discipline or course.

Posted in CCCC 2012

Legacies, Gateways, and the Future of Literacy Studies (Featured Session)

This feature session had a panel including Harvey Graff, Morris Young, Deborah Brandt, and several respondents. I’m just going to report a few of Deborah Brandt’s comments about “deep writing,” since they were so startling and unexpected (to me) and have me pondering about how they pertain to basic writers.

Brandt began by raising a point about a recent book by Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which argues that the Internet is destroying our ability to read deeply. Brandt problematized the assumption that “bad” (technology-driven, surfing-style) reading leads to bad, shallow writing. Writing and reading are not mirror processes. Recent brain research shows that reading and writing fire up different parts of the brain. Writing is recursive and associative, not linear. Writing is interactive with an audience, and it engages deep memory and deep cognitive processes.

Historically, there were many readers, but few writers. Now we are entering a stage of “deep writing.” Now we write among other people who write. We’re learning to write from other people who write, instead of learning to write from authors. We write alongside other people who are writing.

Brandt shared quotes from recent literacy interviews in which respondents shared how they read in order to find what they needed for what they are writing. Reading serves writing. Writing is both a means and end in the economy. People are under pressure to produce writing – and they look around for material by reading in that surfing-style way. Reading is happening to support the writing, and the role of reader is subservient to the role of writer.

So, I’m thinking about what this means for teaching basic writers. I realize that a lot of the pedagogies we’re excited about are ones in which our students are engaged, hands on, talking to each other about their writing – in essence, learning to write among and alongside others, as Brandt described. Hmmm.

Posted in CCCC 2012, Scholarship of Basic Writing

A.23 Basic Writers in Transition: A Developmental Process

This session intensively foregrounded the words and experiences of student writers navigating boundaries of academic writing. The researchers honored the students’ experiences and shared them in ways that reveal students developing agency and growing as writers.

Lori Brack & Mary Hammerbeck, “We Walk the Lines”

Brack and Hammerbeck discussed case studies of two students they pseudonymed as April and May, extensively quoting from these students’ reflections. May described how both teachers and peers take over a writer’s ideas, telling the student writer what to say, no matter what the writer’s original intention. April described trying to grasp the language of the classroom and reach others through it, rather than stay with a familiar language. Students in both cases lose authority over their own work in the writing classroom.

How can teachers consciously support this transition more effectively, so that students can adapt/refine a familiar language rather than learning a new one, and so that teachers can assist students to convey their own ideas rather than having the teacher take over or direct the student?

  • The student has to be actively constructing the rhetorical relationship.
  • Students should enter the discourse as researchers of their own language use.
  • Students should write for a practical, real, responding reader – not an abstraction.

3 Recommendations:

  1. Course readings should help students understand the possibilities of various literacies and identity constructions. Readings can help students see how others have positioned themselves in relation to academic discourse.
  2. Papers should have a known audience, such as an exchange between classrooms or an online community, to help basic writers learn from the responses of real readers.
  3. Assign projects that allow students to explore their own home languages as they are transitioning to academic discourse. This can be an interview/ethnographic project.

As one student wrote: “Although my writing has improved, my voice is still my voice, and I can hear it just as clearly today.”

Dawn Finley, “Using Text-Based Assignments to Build Student Confidence”

Finley saw lack of context for student writing assignments, as well as a high attrition rate, in BW and fycomp at her community college. She designed a new curriculum and a study based on the Daly-Miller instrument. She selected two students with very high apprehension for focused interviews.

Students read 3-5 articles every week and worked in small groups, conducting peer review conversations in writing. They got feedback about their ideas, as opposed to feedback about their writing mechanics. They read each others’ work at every class and got constant feedback.

Finley’s two case study students reported that their confidence rose with the intense practice, and their grades improved. Their writing apprehension scores dropped significantly.

Finley also reported that in her class overall, students’ reading responses as well as formal essays improved in part because of the constant feedback but also because students were reading constantly. She selected high-interest articles based on topics requested by the students.

Posted in Basic Writing Projects & Initiatives, CBW 2012, CCCC 2012, Fun!, Scholarship of Basic Writing, What's New in Basic Writing, Who is Basic Writing?

W7 The Accelerated Learning Program as an Evidence-Based Success Model

Peter Adams, Community College of Baltimore County; Heidi Johnsen, LaGuardia Community College; Michelle Zollars, Patrick Henry Community College; Jan Allen, Community College of Baltimore County

Jan Allen discussed some context for Developmental Education, including disappointing outcomes for students enrolled in developmental courses. There is significant pressure for students to earn degrees, and the overall financial crisis of our time. This is leading to threats to providing developmental education classes, reductions in the numbers of seats available.

Why do so many students drop out of developmental courses or fail to progress? Survey data at CCBC shows that the problem is NOT learning, but rather that “life happens” – legal, financial, transportation, health issues – and that students lose confidence because of these life issues.

At CCBC, the ALP gives students a choice at placement. Either they can take developmental writing separately, or they can take an “ALP section” in which they take developmental and 101 at the same time. They are in a 101 section of 20 students – 8 are  developmental, the rest are not. The 8 students take the developmental course with the same instructor in the period immediately following. In the second period, they have a workshop that supports the 101 class – answering questions, reviewing drafts, scaffolding the assignments. In addition, affective issues are addressed – how to succeed as a college student, solve problems that interfere with their progress. Because of the combination of classes, there is more time to address these additional issues and more ability to address individual needs.

Students have a much better attitude about being in ALP than in the regular developmental course. They are in a supportive community, they are getting credit for their 101 course and are engaging with students at the next higher level, their “pipeline” is shorter, and they are more likely to try the same model in their math classes if they succeed in the writing course.

Peter Adams mentioned that ALP is a combination of several other approaches including “stretch,” the studio model, and learning communities. Adams presented data showing that ALP has doubled pass rates in English 101, from 27% to over 60%. In English 102, pass rates increased even more. In credits earned after two years, twice as many ALP students had accumulated 30 credits. Adams commented that he does not think ALP creates better writers, but keeps them in college.

There has been a deliberate effort to scale up the size of ALP. It has grown dramatically at CCBC and also been instigated at 46 other campuses.

Michelle Zollars represents one of those other campuses. At Patrick Henry College in Virginia, she had to “tweak” ALP to get the program to fit the campus culture and gain acceptance from administrators, including alterations in class size and room arrangements, as well as credit hours. Several faculty attended the ALP Institute in order to allow ALP to scale up. Data show significant improvements in pass rates and retention. It’s cost-effective for the college even offering the small ALP section since students don’t drop out.

Zollars also described how ALP will be the model across the state of Virginia in the redesign of developmental English, in which reading and writing will be combined statewide.

Heidi Johnsen described implementation at LaGuardia, a large urban campus, where ALP students are also showing impressive gains in a context driven by placement and exit testing on CATW.

Peter Adams listed what seems to really make the difference with ALP – no matter what type of campus:

  1. Students are mainstreamed into comp – rather than being held back and demoralized by the stigma of developmental placement.
  2. Pipeline is shortened by one semester.
  3. Exposure to stronger students.
  4. Cohort spends more hours per week together.
  5. Meaningful context for the developmental course, since it’s concurrent.
  6. Small class size – should not be more than half of the 101 class.
  7. Attention to affective and life issues.
  8. Same instructor teaches ALP and comp.

Adams also commented on pedagogy for an accelerated classroom, advocating a “backward design” for curriculum development. In other words, what is the target course, and what happens there? This is what should happen in developmental writing. If developmental writing course looks like the fourth grade, it’s demoralizing. He also advocated for active learning and thinking skills in the developmental classroom. Adams commented about the integration of reading and writing as another significant goal he hopes to see taking more shape in ALP.

Faculty development is key to the success of ALP. Elements include workshops each semester, a 20-hour institute for new faculty, and ALPIN, the ALP Inquiry Network. ALPIN is an online community that supports conversations among faculty (using Drupal), structured around weekly posts by instructors, with comments following.

(Note: I put this presentation in the Fun! category, along with all the usual ones, because it was fun to hear these enthusiastic presenters talking about these magnificent successes. Plus, Michelle was hilarious.)

Posted in Basic Writing Projects & Initiatives, CBW 2012, CCCC 2012

W7 Poster Session: Challenging the Standard

K. Hyoejin Yoon, Devon Kehler, Ilknur Sancak-­‐Marusa, West Chester University

College as a “gated community” – BW students need alternate points of entry.

West Chester has writing placement through SAT scores. Students may elect to take a “challenge” exam, which has a 50% pass rate. The students who passed the challenge exam fared just fine in passing their regular fycomp class.

Summer bridge program – residential program with academic and social components. Very diverse students, have a lot of baggage, focus on validating the knowledge they bring, writing in academic style. Outcomes for these students are strong; they retain/succeed at higher rates than the general student population.

Tutors are a key element of the summer bridge program. Tutor works in a dual role, as peer and partner to students, but also connecting back to instructor.



Posted in Basic Writing Projects & Initiatives, CBW 2012, CCCC 2012, Resources, Uncategorized

W7 Poster Session: Academic Literacies Through the Looking Glass

Hope Parisi, Kingsborough CC/CUNY

Developing a tutorial/studio model with TRIO, a federally funded DOE program to serve disadvantaged students. Dialogue between two models of student development – one based on skills/transfer, and the other based on a more rhetorical concept of academic literacy. This program has not yet been implemented but is being constructed.



Posted in CBW 2012, CCCC 2012, History of Basic Writing, Politics of Remediation, Scholarship of Basic Writing

W.7 Gathered at the Gate: Basic Writing in Evidence

Our first speaker this morning is Bruce Horner, University of Louisville, “Re-locating Basic Writing.”

Horner reviewed a familiar-sounding situation – the struggle in which we fight for the same things over and over – reframing this in light of Alistair Pennycook’s argument that every new iteration is changed by its location in time and place.

BW’s tradition refuses to settle for fixed ideas of who can be taught, and how. Rather than using the difficulty students have as a reason to cast them aside, we use the difficulty productively, as a site of for creating new knowledge about reading and writing.

Basic writers and their teachers and programs are always located ideologically on the periphery of institutions. Basic writing can be re-located at the leading edge, instead, since it calls assumptions into question and brings on new insights about literacy.

Horner described an “archipelago model” of languages and literacies in which different languages are seen as separate and stable. Pegagogies transmit these stable languages. This model overlooks the “traffic” among languages, literacies, and their users.

The “traffic model” takes into account location practices – what happens in time and place, by users of language, through engagement. Users adapt their practices according to their experiences in traffic. Our students are participants in the traffic. They are rewriting English and literacy practices themselves, and the basic writing course is a site in which English is reworked.

Pennycook’s term is “sedimentation” – to the extent that language consists of fixed forms, it’s the result of iterations practiced by language users, participating in “fertile mimesis.” Basic writers are engaged as agents in this process.

(This is my first try at doing this – trying to capture some key points, apologies for any errors as well as lack of overall coherence.)