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.)

Posted in CCCC 2012, Politics of Remediation, Scholarship of Basic Writing, What's New in Basic Writing, Who is Basic Writing?

Join Us For an On-Line Discussion About Basic Writing!

There’s nothing basic about Basic Writing!

Please JOIN US for an online roundtable hosted on Facebook to discuss
issues in Basic Writing!

Elaine Jolayemi, Carla Maroudas, Ilene Rubenstein, Amy Edwards
Patterson, J. Elizabeth Clark, Leigh Jonaitis, Marisa Klages, Debra
Berry, Kelly Keane and Shelley Rodrigo got together after CCCC last
year with the idea of extending the conversation around Basic Writing
using technology. We wanted to provide an opportunity to hear about
Basic Writing from our colleagues across the country. So, you’re all

What is this about? As the number of students placed into Basic
Writing courses grows, especially in the two-year colleges, how to
best support these students has become an increasingly complex area of
inquiry for faculty and researchers. Who are these students? How are
they placed and evaluated? How can Writing Centers best support them?
How can technology best be employed in the classroom or online? What
kinds of training do faculty need? How does day-to-day life in the
Basic Writing classroom differ from a transfer level or advanced
composition classroom?

The purpose of the dialogue is to engage as many people as possible in
a discussion about issues related to Basic Writing. We hope that in
these discussions individuals will share resources, best practices as
well as develop a national community that can also help members
respond to local issues.

How will it work? Each week, new topics will be launched on the CBW
Facebook Group for an informal, asynchronous chat. This will lead up
to CCCC where we will synchronously chat (face-to-face and online) at
CCCC in a roundtable on Saturday, March 24, 2012. By starting the
discussion online we will engage a larger audience as well as
document, summarize, and synthesize the discussion to remain as
resources for others after the conference. So, no matter where you are
and whether or not you’re coming to CCCC, we want to hear from you!

We’ll post one of the following topics each Sunday and Wednesday on
Facebook and then open up the conversation. Please listen in, join
the discussion and participate!

Topics and Themes:

*2/26: Who are Basic Writers?
*2/29: Student Placement
*3/4: Day-to-Day in the Life
*3/7: Teaching with Technology
*3/11: Teacher Preparation
*3/14: Professional Development
*3/18: Academic Skills & Writing Centers

How do I get started? Just join the CBW Facebook Group (you ask for
membership and we’ll add you) and start posting!

The group is “Council on Basic Writing

If you have questions or need technical help, please feel free to
contact Shelley Rodrigo at shelley.rodrigo@gmail [dot]com or J. Elizabeth
Clark at lclark@lagcc [dot] cuny [dot] edu

Posted in Calls to Action, CBW 2011, CCCC, History of Basic Writing, Mission Statement, Politics of Remediation, What's New in Basic Writing

Developing Ideas for the Mission Statement

Idea #1: Mission Statement
The Council on Basic Writing is an organization that advocates for all basic writers across all institutions types and supports basic writing teacher-scholars in the professional endeavors. We pursue these ends by:

· Working to raise the visibility of basic writings’ central role to the academic and civic enterprise across our campuses, in the profession and in the public eye.
· Fostering a network that encourages the development of new research and collaborative strategies to enhance teaching excellence through BWeThe Basic Writing E-Journal and an annual meeting,
· Advocating for the best conditions for teaching and learning Basic Writing, and
· Providing support for the development and dissemination of best teaching practices that foster student access and success.

We think we need position statements and Core principals!

Core Principals (we really like the way ATTW set this up)

  • To the public
  • The Council on Basic Writing sees a literate citizenry as the foundation of social justice.
  • To academy
  • To the promote the academic traditions as of advancing and sharing knowledge.
  • The CBW values diversity and diverse learners.


Idea #2: CBW Mission Statement and Core Principles:

The Council on Basic Writings’ (CBW) core values promote public and institutional basic writing policies and scholarship that advocate for and support students, faculty, and programs, in  connecting and enhancing their collective developing voices within a linguistically diverse world.

  1. Should have a role in building a culture of scholarship around basic writing
  2. Public voice of Basic Writing Scholarship:
  3. Support faculty and students in competence in using English for academic disciplinary, professional and social power for a linguistically diverse world.
  4. Work to influence public policy supportive of goals.
  5. Provide Professional development for faculty teaching Basic Writing
  6. Provide assistance in preparation of graduate students for teaching Basic Writing
  7. Support, promote, and provide community for instructors and graduate students of Basic Writing
  8. Advocate for public institutional Basic Writing Programs nationally
  9. Disseminate effective basic writing pedagogies.

Idea #3: CBW advocates and promotes the professionalizaton of basic writing studies, to provide access to diverse adult learners (or educational opportunities for an engaged citizens), embracing our knowledge and expertise in multiple literacies at multiple sites for all adult learners. To afford diverse adult learners access to academic, professional/technical, and other language communities.

Idea #4: Because we believe that all students are learners capable of constructing and expressing ideas that are both valuable and worthy of expression, the CBW supports student success, valuable academic partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, innovative practices in teaching/leaving and improved working conditions for Basic Writing teachers.

**this is a preamble to a larger statement**

Idea #5: CBW is dedicated to teaching, research, and administrative work that promotes social justice and supports students for whom continued support is necessary as they transition to new, more demanding rhetorical contexts. CBW’s core principles include:

  • collaboration between 2 and 4 year colleges
  • communication and cooperation between various campus support services
  • sophisticated pedagogy that integrates reading and writing across diverse learning styles
  • accessibile high quality education
  • scholarship that integrates theory and reflective practice

Discussion Points:

Are all learners capable of “constructing and expressing ideas that are both valuable and worthy of expression” or is it that we want to ensure that all students have ACCESS?

What happens when you put labels on people? What happens when you institutionalize those labels? What happens when we pigeon-hole students? Limit them?

On ACCESS: The Chronicle of Higher Education is regularly reporting on students who are closed out of classes that are full (courses close in April for a Fall semester).

We cannot assume that developmental studies are going to survive.

Our mission is wider than basic writing courses (writing centers, adult returning courses, community literacy, etc.)

We have to defend egalitarianism (again). Basic writing is on its way out. We need to go back to our basic values.

These statements assume that we’re okay. They do not assume we’re at risk.

We’re at risk.

We need to have a strong emphasis on advocacy: access, social justice. Advocacy must be one of our roles.

Gate keeping and standards seem to dictate our roles (legacy of the double function–Mary Soliday)–how do we push back.

The key is public.

The evisceration of the pubic sector is at work here: the privatization of what used to be public (K-12 and higher education); our students are expendable in this society.

In the 1960s, it was “cool” to have a basic writing program. It’s not “cool” anymore. The four year schools didn’t put up as much of a fight as they should have when basic skills were pushed to two year schools.

We also need to recognize that there has been a lot of research that indicates that what we’ve been doing for the last 20-30 years has not been as effective as we have hoped it could be. This is a complicated issue; it can work against us.

National push on completion rates: the more developmental students we can send to adult basic education, we don’t have to count in our completion rates.

Students need access to support services. Access doesn’t mean anything if students do not graduate.

Also, what happens with outsourcing of basic courses (including composition I).

We need to educate our colleagues.

The corporate move gets great support from the home schooling folks. Home schooling people have great suspicion of public education (and a negative perspective on public education). This limits the diverse mix of classrooms. Privatization of education in the homes leads to looking down on people who can’t privately educate their children.

The pecking order in departments: literature/creative writing, composition, basic writing.

Expendable students: we have more students who need the kind of support we can offer in basic writing.

We need to have an articulated sense of who we are; we need to clean house. How are we NOT LISTED IN THE CHAIRS’ ADDRESS? What does this say about the perception of basic writing within our own field?



Posted in CBW 2011, Politics of Remediation

Basic Writing and Community Colleges

Wendy Olson from Washington State University presented “Basic Writing and Community Colleges: Another Open Admissions Context” looking at models of basic writing in community colleges in Washington.

  • Professionalization of composition
  • Faculty reported being well-trained
  • Faculty with training specifically in writing
  • Faculty are choosing to teach in community colleges
Posted in CBW 2011, Politics of Remediation, What's New in Basic Writing

Rebecca Mlynarczyk: The End of Open Admissions at CUNY

Rebecca Mlynarczyk presented another perspective on basic writing at CUNY entitled, “The End of Open Admissions at CUNY? Not With a Bang…”

Mlynarczyk traced the shift in basic writing and open admissions at CUNY. CUNY has shifted from its history as a site for open access in higher education and open admissions to increasingly closed access. A new policy seeks to shift basic skills instruction for students needing triple remediation (writing, reading, math) to auxiliary spaces outside of traditional academic departments. Students will work outside of the college/university in a vacuum completely separate from the college/university. These “immersion” programs will separate basic skills students while they take up to 25 hours a week of instruction.  One positive aspect of the program is that it costs $75.00; the university has committed significant resources to do this. This preserves student financial aid. However, these programs serve as a significant barrier in an institution providing open access and ghettoize basic skills students. This is in contrast to the “vibrant path of choice” that Mary Soliday began the day with. As Mlynarczyk pointed out, community colleges offer hope and access to the American Dream.

Mlynarczyk focused on why faculty have not protested this change and why this is not a significant point of discussion for faculty. There has been little discussion or attention. In fact, the attention has been deafening. What does this say about institutional missions? Shared responsibility? Faculty investment in basic writing students?

See also: “CUNY Adjusts Amid Tide of Remedial Students.” See especially the comments section including comments from faculty and former developmental skills students.

Read more about Mlynarczyk’s work in the Journal of Basic Writing and her 2010 book Basic Writing