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 CCCC 2013, Politics of Remediation, Race, Scholarship of Basic Writing, What's New in Basic Writing

On “Honoring Vernacular Eloquence: Pathways to Intellectual and Academic Discourse”

This session featured Peter Elbow, “Multiple Versions of Written English: In Our Past—and Also in Our Future” and Sheridan Blau, “Vernacular Eloquence as the Foundation for a Vital Academic Discourse.”

Where are we in terms of the use of “multiple versions of written English” and “vernacular eloquence” in Basic Composition? I found this session to be delightfully controversial. Elbow’s advocacy for the vernacular is about making the sounds that the mouth likes to make and the ear likes to hear. It sounds poetic, like a song. Elbow argues that the best critics use the language that is pleasing. It is not about using a different, awkward academic language.

The shared theme from the talks is that mimicry does not work, and students should be allowed to use their own voices. Instead student voices evolve as their learning emerges in communities.

Blau offered workshop that teachers could reproduce in their classrooms–a rare practical application of a theory. The workshop went like this: students write a “commentary” in response to a text. In this case, Blau used the poem “Nineteen” by George Bogin for the workshop. With ongoing tensions between Composition and Literature, this seemed like a somewhat controversial choice. Nevertheless, in his workshop, he indicated that students write weekly commentaries throughout the semester. They post their work online. They also have to reply to at least one peer each week.

After explaining the assignment, the teacher asks the students, “Are there any questions?” As the questions emerge, the teacher indicates that s/he does not know what the final product will look like. Blau encouraged teachers to respond with “We’ll see.” Do we need a thesis statement? “We’ll see.” How long does it need to be? “We’ll see.” The idea being that students will discover the genre of the commentary as it evolves in the academic community.

After students write their commentary, in small groups of three, they decide together what a commentary might look like–what it’s features might be. It is not a list of what the commentary must look like or what the commentary must *not* do, but rather a list of possible characteristics. In this way, students discover the genre as they create it. They practice naming the features of this particular genre.

In the end, Blau encourages us to notice important points about sharing the commentaries and working together to determine the features of the assignment. Blau notes that each possibility (reading each other’s commentaries) actually opens up new insights for the listeners, insights they would not have had if they had only read their own commentary.  In this way, a thesis emerges in a community and as part of an ongoing conversation about a text. The thesis is something that lives when it emerges from discussion and argument from the class.  Blau states, “We are constructing the genre of the commentary on the basis of what we do and who we are.”

As part of the classroom practice, Blau selects commentaries to share in order to generate class discussions and raise issues. Blau reads commentaries in class to acknowledge real contributions to knowledge making. Students learn from each other and the teachers. Questions are important.  The work is published online.

This practice acknowledges the value of multiple perspectives. Students acquire a more critical literacy. Students see themselves as part of an academic conversation. They start to write in their home language. The language in which they speak and think and serve them well in their role as speakers and thinkers in this context. Students learn that they can expand the resources of their home language without having to abandon it, and they take on new terms and phrases that emerge in the learning community. Students learn that academic discourse is about the construction of knowledge and ideas. Students extend and expand their “language competence.” This practice offers a way of interrogating text and illuminating it. Finally, Blau says that the practice allows us to “witness students as intellectuals.” ~ Sheri Rysdam, UVU

Posted in CCCC 2013

A.17: There’s Nothing Basic about Basic Writing

Hello, CBWers! Greetings from Las Vegas! This session has five speakers, so I’ll do my best to keep everybody straight. 🙂 I also apologize now for typos–I’m on an iPad.

Liz Clark is introducing the panel and reminding folks of the online conversations that occurred pre-CCCC. Each panelist will discuss the conversation they facilitated.

Elaine Jolayemi of Ivy Tech CC in Indianapolis, IN and Leigh Jonaitis of Bergen CC in Paramus, NJ are beginning by discussing “Who are Basic Writers?”. Their Facebook discussion began in mid-February. The online discussion began with three threads: how do you get to know your students throughout the semester? How do they get to know each other?

“The Who Are Basic Writers?” online discussion included these issues:

Students setting policies (like attendance) in the first week

Openly engaging students in what it means to be placed in a BW course

Meta-cognition: “why would I ask you to engage in this activity?”

What is the purpose of the BW course? Does it serve as a gateway/training/service course? What about transfer?

Participants also discussed their institutions’ course offerings, including placement.

Whose purpose is most central to our sustainability as a field–students? Teachers? Institutions? System legislatures?

Ilene Rubenstein, College of the Desert: “Academic Skills/ Writing Centers”

Some centers are being cut because they are perceived as duplicating other services at universities. In this era of tight budgets, how do we make it work?

Liz Clark, LaGuardia CC: Teaching with Technology

Do we understand what digital literacy looks like and what happens when we merge BW and digital literacy?

If Web 2.0 is changing us…

How does technology impact the way you write, research, teach, access info, and live your daily life?

How has your work environment changed?

How is it changing the classroom?

How can we use new technologies. to engage students in writing?

Kathleen Yancey’s Writing in the 21st Century is a book available through free download on NCTE’s site. Clark strongly recommends all read it. Yancey’s points: how do we…

Articulate the new models of composing developing right in front of us? How do we create new models for teaching? Assess it? Create curriculum?

We must help students negotiate the digital world.

What technologies are people using? Blogs, smart boards, Comic Master, Prezi, TED videos, Xtranormal, and more to do collaborative writing/grading, visual presentations, staged writing, low/high stakes writing, and more.

Clark discusses using Jing to grade papers–it’s a free screen capture program that allows us to offer audio feedback and a screen cap to students. Note: I use Jing as well and cannot recommend it highly enough!

Is technology part of the curriculum? Usually no. Tech isn’t often part of course outcomes. Are we putting students at risk by not including technology as part of the curriculum?

Concerns: digital divide–it still exists, folks! mobile technology vs other resources. Is technology a distraction? What about online research? How do we scaffold tech skills? Access?

Marisa Klages and Debra Berry: “Teacher Prep and Professional Development”

How were we prepared? All too often, it’s sink or swim. How does that affect student success?

Way professional development do we have, and what would we like to have? Writing/teaching circles, listservs, blogs–but too many feel as if we are all alone.

The ideal: mentoring, more knowledge about students with different learning disabilities, online forums for discussion.

There are some grad programs that focus on BW issues: City College (MA in Language and Literacy); Grambling State and Texas State offer Developmental Ed advanced degrees.

But to what end is our prof development? PD needs to more than “just in time.” Needs to be sustainable, supported, and value-added.

Take advantage of re-accreditation process to create good professional development–one way to be strategic about getting the resources we need.

A new model for professional development? Klages talked about her use of a model called College Notebook. Hallmarks: builds faculty culture, embedded in practice, generates patterns, informed by evidence, and powered by social networks.

Carla Maroudas, Student Placement:

Most participants reported students are placed by Compass and Accuplacer.

What are students’ understanding of placement tests? Most students don’t understand the stakes. What about test prep? Maroudas’ college is developing a MOOC that would help students prepare for the placement test.

How is misplacement addressed? Too often students are stuck in classes that do not meet their needs, can’t re-test, etc.

Basic Writing and Online or Accelerated Courses: we have to consider access and success. Online courses better meet some of our students’ work and family needs, but online courses in general have higher attrition rates; BW online courses have even higher rates.

How does your curriculum/campus culture view BW instruction? Common answers: providing additional instruction, not different instruction; prepping for FYC and college; skill-n-drill.

Who teaches BW? Some schools report 85% of teachers are FT; at others, 85% are part time. Too often BW is assigned to new/contingent faculty while literature courses are taught by full timers.

Amy Patterson, Day to Day Life in the Classroom:

How do we use activities to build community in the classroom? Some ideas included rhetoric of place assignments, taking pictures of (and sharing with) students at work, treasure hunt type activities at midterm, ice breakers, service learning/civic engagement,

Icebreakers: writing their own trading cards, quizzes about each other.

There is currently a call for papers from BWe about BW and service learning.

Q and A:

How do you address the time students spend on their BW class in comparison to what they consider their “more important” classes?

Response: Maroudas talked about her BW course that is in a learning community with a intro political science course. Encouraging students to not see classes as silos, but as interconnected.

Is BW always non-credit?

Response: No. That’s a local decision.

Response then evolved into a discussion of other questions: What about Basic Writers in a non-BW course? What are the implications? What about placement?

Several audience members described the challenges of placement at their institutions and how they address them. The issue of machine-graded essays emerged.

Question: how are people getting more money and resources for their programs, given economic realities?

Response: link it to retention. Use the accreditation process to argue for my funds.

Q: if we teach in a program not aligned w/ best practices and that have outcomes we must meet, how do we address that tension?

Response: defining terms–correctness versus linguistic awareness. Too often we conflate grammar with helping students make linguistic choices. We need to focus more on the latter.

California has put forth a bill that would move BW into only for-profit colleges. This is something all of us need to pay attention to, as trends in Cali often spread.

This presentation was recorded and will be posted here on the CBW blog!

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 CCCC 2013, Politics of Remediation, Race, Scholarship of Basic Writing, What's New in Basic Writing

Scott Lyons: “American Indian Writers and the Question of “Assimilation”

Scott Lyons began by confessing that he does not consider himself an expert in Basic Writing. Interestingly, his work seemed absolutely crucial to the conversations we’ve been having all day on teaching basic writing students.

He writes about his experience teaching at a tribal college in Minnesota. He was the first PhD to be hired at the college to teach writing. There were four full-time instructors. There were three Ojibwe teachers and one white teacher. Because of his degree (and not his experience, he assures us), Lyons quickly became the head of the department. One day, the white teacher, one of the best at the school, came to him in tears. She said that she felt like a bad person. She wanted students “to be themselves.” She wanted them to be “the sovereign people that they are.” The teacher said she “did not want to be a part of their assimilation.”

Lyons acknowledges this teacher’s concerns and does so by showing some of the black and white images of assimilation that many of us are familiar with. Lyons included a “before and after” picture of American Indians in schools of assimilation. The “after” photo has been noticeably lightened. The clear message is that assimilated students actually have lighter skin.

The whole story is not just about assimilation though. There were prominent arguments for annihilation as well. Lyons shared newspaper excerpts from notable writers, like author L. Frank Baum (writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), who wrote that it was “better that they die.” Lyons demonstrates that these writers seemed to simultaneously revere the American Indian culture, while they depicted them as vanishing tragically *but necessarily.*

Lyons makes the distinction between cultural assimilation and economic assimilation. Cultural assimilation usually includes religious assimilation to Christianity. However, economic assimilation is a crucial part of the story too. When it comes to economic assimilation, American Indians have been historically exiled. Lyons argues that progressive pedagogy understands economic assimilation and the role education plays in that process.

Lyons ends this talk by returning to the image of the teacher crying in his office, the teacher who does not want to be complacent in the assimilation of her students. Lyons ends by making the following points. If you want to help Indians engage “settler culture,” you need to not see yourself as a bad person. “Rez English” is not useful because the market that we share does not use that language. Lyons states that teachers should point out that English is an American Indian language now. Finally, he encouraged teachers to emphasize the importance of studying the writing of American Indians.

from the panel “Race, Language, and Access: Possible Futures of Basic Writing”

Moderators: Steve Lamos & Wendy Olson

Featuring: Scott Lyons, Beatrice Mendez-Newman, Min-Zhan Lu, & Shirley Faulker-Springfield

~ Sheri Rysdam, UVU

Posted in CCCC 2013, Social Media, Who is Basic Writing?

There’s Nothing About Basic Writing Session Tomorrow, 3/14 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time: Log In Details!

Hi Everyone.

We apologize again for those of you who tried to follow the live stream today.

For tomorrow’s session, we will be using Adobe Connect, which we’ve tested on site this afternoon & is working (fingers crossed for tomorrow!!!!). That session, “There’s Nothing Basic About Basic Writing” will be Thursday, 14 March 2013 @ 10:30 am Pacific Time.

You’ll be logging in, you’ll be able to hear us, and you’ll be able to participate via the Live Chat option. We will not, after this morning’s technology glitch, be video streaming it.

The session will be on-line tomorrow at 10:30 am Pacific Time:

You’ll log into room cccc13 as a guest.

Meanwhile, we continue to blog and tweet basic writing at C’s! So, you can follow session posts & reflections by our bloggers here at

You can follow basic writing & CCCC on twitter: #cbw, #4C13.

Thanks to our tweeters: Sara Webb-Sunderhaus, Marisa Klages, Leigh Jonaitis, Abby Nance, & Trent Kays.

Thanks to our bloggers: Sheri Rysdam, Anthony Warnke & Sara Webb-Sunderhaus.

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

Posted in CCCC 2013, Uncategorized

My first 4Cs, my first post: Translingual pedagogy

With a large international-student population and a suburban community increasingly diversifying due to urban gentrification, I teach in an incredibly linguistically diverse two-year college. My precollege writing courses, for example, have students from China, South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan  Vietnam, Mexico — and I’ve probably forgotten others! This diversity is a privilege and challenge. Therefore, a key objective for me at this conference is to better understand how to teach in a “multilingual” setting in ways that value non-English languages and cultures, resist linguistic hegemony, while also preparing students to navigate future “academic” writing situations. On the one hand, I want students to maintain their linguistic identities. Yet as Adrienne Rich writes, “This is the oppressor’s tongue / yet I must speak to you.”

Workshop: Crossing BW/ESL/FYW Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing and Programs

The first workshop I attended (but, unfortunately, didn’t catch all of) already troubles my language above. Instead of multilingual pedagogy, this workshop defined and gave examples for translingual pedagogy.  So I’d like to lay out just a few of the insights from this workshop, though, unfortunately, I had to miss the last part of it.

Defining/Theorizing Transcultural Pedagogy

Juan Guerra presented a very enlightening tripartite way of considering dominant ideologies of literacy and approaches to language difference. According to Guerra, the traditional paradigm, monolingual pedagogy (“life in the either/or”), encourages assimilation, code segregation, and is a colonizing project. Multilingual pedagogies give a “tolerant conception of literacy” (“life in the either/or”), but are still neo-colonial projects that encourage “code switching” and “acculturation,” but maintain linguistic power relations. Translingual pedagogies (“life in the neither/nor), on the other hand, value the hybrid, “code meshing,” and is a decolonizing project.

As Debarata Dutta suggested in her presentation, the binaries that still operate in multicultural pedagogy, such as “native” and “non-native” speaker, still associate the native speaker with being “American” and dominant. Dutta wants to overturn the common belief that native speakers teach non-native speakers English and non-native speakers teach native speakers “culture.”

Curriculum and Assessment:

Asao Inoue presented on assessment practices for translingual pedagogy.  His key question was: How do you create conditions for translingual pedagogies to be effective?

Borrowing from Ira Shor and Peter Elbow, Inoue laid out grading contracts as an assessment method that values labor rather than product. As Inoue suggested, “When grades used to judge writing, hegemonic English is always used for that judgement.” Therefore, the absence of grades on writing and focus on labor deconstructs hegemonic approaches. It encourages error and failure are natural part of learning.

Dylan Dryer and Paige Mitchell offered an assignment sequence on “language and the self” and discussed how, in portfolio assessment, translingual writers are often critiqued in wide-ranging, inconsistent ways, whereas monolingual students are more uniformly praised.


I had to duck out of the workshop early, so I missed some of the other conversations about translingualism. Most of these speakers referenced first-year composition courses for translingual pedagogy. So I’m left with the questions about translingual pedagogy in basic writing courses, which seem even more focused on “fixing” the non-linguistically dominant student.