Posted in Calls to Action, CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Contingent Labor, Politics of Remediation, Resources

Petition for Human Readers (Anti-Machine Scoring)

Hi Folks,
This was already posted, but it got a lot of play at CCCC last week, so I wanted to repost it. This is a petition emphasizing the importance of human readers for student work, protesting a trend towards machine scoring.

Posted in CBW 2013, CBW Innovations Award, CCCC 2013, What's New in Basic Writing

2013 Innovations Award

CBW was pleased to award the 2013 Award for Innovations in Basic Writing to the University of Arizona for its Adapted Studio Model. You’ll be able to hear more about this exciting work at next year’s 2014 CBW pre-conference workshop.


Aimee Mapes of the University of Arizona, pictured here with CBW Executive Board Member, and Innovations Committee Chair, Greg Glau

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Uncategorized

There’s Nothing Basic About Basic Writing

This panel has been discussed in great detail below. So let me just summarize a few key insights for me during this panel.

The panel began with Elaine Jolayemi’s discussion of “what is a basic writer?” and “how do institutions designate basic writers?” The framing of this as two separate questions in itself is insightful for me. These questions made me reflect on the multiple perspectives that might respond to this question — the student writer, instructor expectations, disciplinary conversations, and institutional objectives.

J. Elizabeth Clark’s discussion of teaching basic writing with technology addressed the reality that the digital is overtaking paper as primary media for composition (written and visual). As Clark pointed out, this reality exists not only for our students, but also for us as teachers. So how do we use technology in a basic writing course? Clark provided some resources for commonly used tech tools in the basic-writing classroom as well as concerns, such as access, that might problematize tech in the basic-writing course. I really appreciated the observation that, while many individual instructors might use tech, digital composition has rarely been adopted as widespread curriculum objectives. Lastly, the suggestion that BW instructors integrate tech in their courses a little bit at a time resonates with me. We, as teachers, need to acculturate to these technologies, so we should slowly and deliberately introduce them to our course (what a great analogy she referenced from Dr. Hacker about how babies must slowly be introduced solid foods).

Melissa Klages and Debra Berry discussed professional development for basic-writing instructors. How can we encourage more professional development for teaching basic writing? Klages makes the really significant point that this must happen through giving value to professional development activities. Klages then introduced her system of instructors reflecting on patterns in their class through her coding system, A Classroom Notebook.

Carla Maroudas discussed placement — one of the biggest issues at my college. She asked the audience who used Accuplacer or COMPASS at their colleges for placement, and a significant majority in the audience raised their hands. She mentioned MOOCS that provide tutorials for students to study for these high-stakes tests (the stakes of which they are often not fully aware). This discussion related to the first panelist — how do we accurately define the basic writer through assessment methods?

Lastly, Amy Edwards Patterson discussed day-to-day activities and approaches in the basic-writing classroom. As she said, the research shows that retention improves when students feel connected to their instructors and their classmates. She then gave examples of getting-to-know-you activities and a really intriguing-sounding essay assignment “You Don’t Know Me,” as well as briefly discussing service learning/community engagement to increase retention.

I feel like I forgot someone’s name who presented (and I know I missed many wonderful insights), but much thanks for touching on so many topics and the conversations that followed in the Q&A. To the next panel…

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Publishing, What's New in Basic Writing

Publishing & Grant Writing Workshop

This afternoon’s session focused on publishing & grant writing with a particular emphasis on newer scholars preparing to enter the field.

     Jen Fishman and Joan Mullin presented about how basic writing scholars can get involved with REx: the Research Exchange Index.

     Susan Naomi Bernstein gave a beautiful talk about the process of writing Teaching Developmental Writing 4th Edition. She led the audience through the experience of losing her friend and how that informed her decisions in crafting the text. She ended with a final tribute to him, “Identify what you love and find co-conspirators.” These were his words & the group was compelled to take this on as a mantra in writing and publishing. 

Four or So Publishing Clues—Or, Dr. Peacock in the Study with the Typewriter—Or, Be Machiavellian, Cocky, Not Too Cocky, and Weird by Hannah Ashley (full talk published below)

That title was just to put you and me in the right mood:  play.  Getting published is very serious, but it does not have to be solemn.  It’s a game—we are rhetoricians; we are not immune to the effects and openings of rhetoric.  Onward.

First of all—be Machiavellian.  What I mean is, it’s not amoral to be opportunistic and crafty.  As long as you are not deceitful.  I don’t mean make up your data because it just takes too long to actually gather it.  I mean: we can do good by doing well (too).  If there is an opening to give an invited talk, even locally, and then to convert that talk into a paper, and then to convert that paper into a grant application, and to turn that grant into an alternative work assignment so you have more time to write—do it.  Ask for GA’s, see if there are English Department interns you can supervise to their benefit and yours.  If I could have had my pre-schoolers coding data for me, I would have.

Being Machiavellian also, paradoxicall,y means collaborate.  Collaborate with editors.  (You can contact editors with synopses of article ideas, inquires about what your revise-and-resubmit feedback means, or at conferences like this one).   By the way, revise and resubmit, in case no one has mentioned this?  That’s really, really good.  No editor asks for a resubmit if they are not serious about the article; that’s a close-to-yes, not a probably-no.  Collaborate with students (some journals and institutions value that highly, and it’s good for your workload, and it’s good for them too—as long as we don’t steal their work). I can honestly say I can attribute some of my career success to collaborating closely with students. Collaborate with colleagues (especially more well-known ones!).  In sum, be a totally shameless self-promoter and Oprah-Winfrey-like self-care buccaneer.

Second, follow the orthodox advice.  Here I will credit many prior panels, plus a fantastically opportune discussion on the WPA-list in February which was digested and sent back out, and which I craftily saved for this talk.  I would summarize the standard advice asBe cocky, but not too cocky.  Let me elaborate, with some of the standard orthodoxies and a few less standard ones.

Being cocky means conveying your article’s importance.  The leading journals in the field want leading contributions, articles that will change the way we do business (or at least the way we talk about doing business).  What is the tiny corner of the field that your piece is going to redefine, re-evaluate, revolutionize…or just plain fix?  Theory, practice, even methods—it all counts—your piece has to do something new, challenge someone or something.

Being cocky can also mean starting high.  Don’t be afraid to submit to leading journals.  At worst, you will get a good slapdown, and at best a great line on your CV, and often, a rejection with significant feedback for further revision.  I have been soundly slapped down by some of the very best journals.  Thank you.

Finally, being cocky means: Don’t write like a graduate student (anymore) (or still).  Journals do not need a demonstration that you are Being Good, and have read (seemingly) everything in the field, and understand it.  Don’t summarize interminably.  Just enough literature that readers believe you have read everything in the field—we have to play the part. 

So that’s the cocky part.

But don’t be too cocky. Do actually read a whole lot prior to submitting, drafting, or even thinking about an article beyond your first cup of sweet-and-light coffee.  Every editor’s roundtable says it, so I feel obliged to repeat it here: New to you is not new to the field. Do read several back issues of that particular journal.  Do pay attention to editorial guidelines.  Do make your thesis and argument clear, if only in an abstract, if you prefer to be obtuse.  If you can’t write your abstract concisely, you probably have a problem.  Don’t assume your reader will ignore your typos or formatting deviations.  In sum, don’t submit first (or second, or even third) drafts.

Not being too cocky also means paying your dues.  Lower profile publications are good too.  Lower stakes projects like book reviews help your CV and help you keep up with the field—that’s being opportunistic again.  You can often volunteer to do a book review and there you have it: a nearly guaranteed publication.  Also, volunteer to serve as a reviewer on some journals. Serving as a reviewer gave me a whole different sense of process and product.  Once you start reading as a reviewer, it is a lot easier to write for one.

Lastly for the orthodox advice, while you are busy being cocky but not too cocky, be careful not to insult people.  That duck could be somebody’s mother.  That research you diss could be your potential reviewers’, or your reviewers’ bff, or worse, your reviewers’ kid.  So foment nice revolution.  I’m actually still learning this one.

As for the unorthodox advice, it sums up as:  Be weird.  Don’t be afraid to bring in unusual stylistic moves, unusual connections.  Go outside the usual dozen citations that everyone uses, or the expected disciplinary moves.  Quote a sociologist, or better yet, a physicist.  Surprise sometimes works; good weird titles and unusual (but still useful) subheadings.  

Personally, I have had success with showing myself, by which I mean, being a subject in my writing, being clear where I sit, breaking the now-somewhat-more-often-broken rules of removed objectivity.  But much of my work has called for that kind of writing from our students, so it was an affected and self-conscious subjectivity I was enacting.  Perhaps better advice is to match medium with message: enact your own brand of studied weirdness. Dr. Peacock in the Study with the Typewriter.

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Race

Race, Language, and Access: Possible Futures of Basic Writing

This afternoon we delved into basic writing and whiteness; the role of basic writing in Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs); race-conscious basic writing pedagogies; and basic writing and “Generation 1.5” students with scholars Scott Lyons, Beatrice Mendez-Newman, Min-Zhan Lu, Shirley Faulkner-Springfield, Steve Lamos, and Wendy Olson.

Steve Lamos started off the session framing it with the work of Nedra Reynolds: “Dwelling” as Embodied Spatial Practice.

“People’s responses to place—which are shaped in large part by their bodies, by the physical characteristics they carry with them through the spatial world—determine whether they will ‘enter’ at all, or rush through or linger—and those decisions contribute to how a space is used…”

He was interested in using Reynolds’ conceptualization of dwelling as a way to understand BW spaces and transforming them into third spaces.

Min-Zhan Lu explored “A Translingual Approach to Basic Writing.” She explored several myths of monolingual classrooms: Edited American English is a neutral tool, other languages and English varieties interfere w/ learning EAE, writers must be fluent in EAE before they can tinker w/ those rules (i.e., know the rules before you can break the rules). Instead, Lu explained, ask students to reflect on context and identity projected by these rules.

Scott Lyons presented on American Indian Writers & the Question of “Assimilation.” He explored the nature of assimilation as primarily economic, not cultural. This “settler colonialism” is apparent today in the forces of capitalism. Lyons’ question on assimilation: what would happen if a student could not participate in the political market? He argues that Lyons argues native kids need the language tools to participate in the marketplace.

Shirley Faulkner-Springfield focused on Standard American English as racism. Here, she’s very much in conversation with Villanueva’s talk early today, focusing on the arbitrary nature of rules. Faulker-Springfield probed 3 key concepts in teaching basic writing: deficit, initiation, translingual.

If we believe our students’ writing is “deficient,” how do we engage in conversation with our students? Do we really believe that they only discourse our students need is the discourse of academia?

Beatrice Mendez-Newman presented on “Listening To and Learning From Student Writing.” She talked about her students, the geographic challenges of teaching in Southern Texas, showed photographs of her students and then samples from their work. All of this led to some of the observations about challenges for students:

  • lack of college readiness;
  • lack of college-going culture (limited family support);
  • entrenched language deficiencies;
  • instructional scaffolding that fails to take ethnographic realities into account;
  • continued insistence that Gen 1. 5 students are ESL students;
  • these students don’t fit the Shaughnessy and company basic writing definition.

For me, the point that Gen 1.5 students are NOT ESL students and that the students don’t fit the “standard” basic writing definition are incredibly important and crucial to national dialogues about basic writing and race. These points, so true, too for my students in CUNY are too overlooked in the larger discourse.

Mendez-Newman Offered This List of Possible Pedagogical adjustments:

  • agressive one-on-one conferencing;
  • extended atention to Gen 1.5 and immigrant writers;
  • listening and learning: what are the students truly trying to say in their apparently incomprehensible texts?;
  • professional development;
  • knowing students’ stories;
  • less is more: fewer writing assignments, more writing time and space;
  • writing workdays for processing writing and conferencing;
  • incentives for on-line feedback and in-person conferencing;
  • audio feedback.

This post written with additional reporting by Sara Webb-Sunderhaus @webbsusa and Marisa Klages @mklagesnyc