Category Archives: Scholarship of Basic Writing

TSIG Updates

We had a rowdy TSIG meeting discussing basic writing!

The TSIG began with a celebration of the University of New Mexico, who won this year’s INNY award for their Stretch and Studio program!

Then, we moved into small groups to explore possible areas for policy areas that CBW should explore. Small groups brainstormed some of the following policy & focus or inquiry areas:

  • A statement on ethical textbook selection: instructor-generated, no workbooks, costs, peer reviewed, derived from BW and comp Rhet pedagogy, ethical selection,
    themes like: education, freedom, community-building, social justice, non-cognitive;
  • How do we talk with instructors about how and why they use different texts?
  • A survey on student access to technology (what do our students actually have access to?)
  • Faculty preparation & qualifications necessary to teach basic writing (maybe a certification as an add on to an MA or PH.D. program).
  • State and Federal mandates on curriculum without research;
  • Transferring courses from one college to another;
  • Different ALP models;
  • Recommendations on effective preparation for teachers of basic writing (this would put the onus on programs and not serve as a mandate);
  • A sense of the house motion (or other legislation before CCCC) on M.A. and Ph.D. programs including basic writing as course that graduate students teach (there are a lot of issues here: mandating versus an elective– we need to explore this in more depth);
  • A sense of the house motion (or other legislation before CCCC) that M.A. and Ph.D. programs include a course on the teaching of basic writing  (The teaching of basic writing. See notes above about exploring this in more depth);
  • If graduate students don’t get a chance to put theory and practice together, this perpetuates ideas about basic writing that doesn’t really match the reality of the basic writing classroom;
  • We should look at the C’s statement on preparing faculty for college-level writing;
  • Could we think about asking people to integrate basic writing into different classes (upside: doesn’t segregate basic writing from the rest of comp; downside: doesn’t allow you to dig into basic writing);

We wrapped up after sharing from our brainstorm. The group was really excited about these issues!

Are you interested in working on these issues? If so, please reach out via the CBW-listserv to continue the discussion! We look forward to hearing from you!

 

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Filed under CBW 2016, CCCC 2016, Professional Developmwnt, Scholarship of Basic Writing, Sense of the House Motion, Teaching

Open Business Meeting

Michael Hill, CBW Co-Chair, opened the business meeting by welcoming everyone! The open business meeting is focused on making sure that we get lots of input from our basic writing community!

Agenda: 

1. WELCOME & INTRODUCTIONS

We had the opportunity to hear from colleagues around the country and hear some of the exciting research and scholarship faculty are working on!

Also in introductions, we heard about basic writing issues concerning faculty across the country such as placement, second language learners in basic writing, syllabi, etc. We discussed the importance of networking and the basic writing community coalition building.

2. MEMBER SURVEY:

Michael Hill and Lynn Reid, Co-Chairs, summarized the results of a member survey conducted by Marisa Klages-Bombich.

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CBW Membership Survey Responses

(for a Word Version, click here: SURVEYCBW2015)

Institutions with participants in survey:

2 year schools:  28

4-year schools: 26

Community College of Baltimore County
Helena College University of Montana
Bronx Community College, CUNY
Bishop State Community College
University of Wisconsin Madison
Kingsborough CC, CUNY
University of Wisconsin Colleges
Nassau Community College, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Lehman College
Johnson
McMurry University
Shawnee State University
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Hawkeye Community College
North Shore Community College
Central Virginia Community College
Prairie State College
City College at MSUB
Arizona State University
LaGuardia CC (2)
College of Lake County
Southwestern Illinois College
College of Southern Idaho
Housatonic Community College
Heartland Community College (Normal IL)
Boise State University
Community College of Allegheny County
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Lincoln University
Ivy Tech Central Indiana
West Chester University of PA
Texas Woman’s University
Bergen Community College
Bristol Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Roger Williams University
The Art Institute of New York City
Ivy Tech Community College
Northeastern Illinois University
Frostburg State University
Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University
California Lutheran University
Bishop State Community College (2)
Metropolitan Community College, Omaha Nebraska
Green River College
Westchester Community College
Salina Area Technical College
University of Dubuque
Whatcom Community College
Joliet Junior College
Heartland Community College
UMass Lowell
Lake Michigan College
The City College of New York
Kingsborough Community College

Titles  of respondents:

Assistant Professor: 11

Associate Professor: 11

Professor: 11

Part-time Faculty: 2

Instructor: 12

Lecturer: 1

Graduate Teaching Assistant: 1

Senior Lead Instructor: 1

Developmental Program Coordinator: 1

WPA only: 2

WPA in addition to above title:  5

Do you consider yourself a member of  CBW?

N= 52

Nearly 63% of respondents consider themselves members of CBW.

(Yes: 34, No:  5, Don’t Know: 11, No answer: :2)

The Council on Basic Writing participates in or produces a number of different resources for its members and for the world of Basic Writing. Which of the following do you use?

A majority of respondents use a combination of CBW resources. Six respondents used only the listserv (3) or facebook (3).  The other 52 repondents used some combination of all the tools:

Screenshot 2016-04-07 14.12.22

How should people become members?

We offered three pathways to membership:

  • Participation at C’s or on listserve (n=29)
  • Online Sign-up or at a CBW function (n=30)
  • Recruiting members through social media (n=30)

Nearly everyone believed that all three pathways to membership are acceptable and no one method was strides ahead of the other, most people voted for all three pathways.

What should the duties of membership include?

We asked what the duties of membership should include and offered the following options, respondents could choose more than one option:

Participation at C’s and on the listserv  (n=47)

Voting on organization policy and board membership (n=37)

Voting on public policy and pedagogy statements (n=36)

Participation on CBW committees (n=30)

Commitment to regional action on Basic Writing issues (n=38)

Overwhelmingly, respondents found that participation at C’s and on the listserv should constitute member responsibilities.

However, a number of people also believed that voting on organization issues or public policy issues are also important, as is a commitment to regional basic writing issues. The lowest number of people selected participating in CBW committees.

Which of the following information would you be interested in?

 We asked members what information they’d be interested in having related to CBW. (n=52)

Screenshot 2016-04-07 14.12.37

Most people are interested in Official CBW literature and an Official Website.

On which of the following committees would you be interested in serving?

We asked people which committees they would be interested in serving on. People could select more than one committee.  There is interest in serving on CBW committees, though the interest is not entirely robust.

Professional Development (29)

Affiliations and Outreach (18)

Awards (9)

Social Media (17)

Conference (17)

Elections to Executive Board/Steering Committee (6)

Executive Board/Steering Committee (16)

Policy Task Force (17)

Would you be willing to pay CBW membership dues to help the organization grow? If so what would be reasonable? (people could select more than one option)

Screenshot 2016-04-07 14.19.03

 

The majority of respondents favor a sliding scale dues schedule; however, $15-$25.00 was the most popular dollar amount.  If we consider the 24 respondents who consider themselves members and set a $20.00 membership fee, that would have given us an annual operating budget of $680.00.

Other comments-see below.

Any other comments, questions or suggestions/and or concerns regarding the CBW?

  • All of this is a fantastic idea, and I can’t wait to see what you guys do!
  • I would really love to see CBW grow as an organization and offer a rich set of professional resources and policy statements. There is a tremendous need for national leadership to ensure that teaching, program administration, and state policies draw from scholarship and evidence-based disciplinary practices.
  • I’m extremely busy and just like to have access to the listserv–it gives me a quick and informal idea of what is of interest and/or concern to others involved in basic writing.
  • Although I indicated above that I consider myself a “member” of the CBW, I’ve never really felt like it’s been like a traditional academic organization. I am pleased to see this survey because I am hoping to become more involved (since before I wasn’t sure how to even go about doing that!).
  • I’m relatively new to my position and Basic Writing, but I have learned a great deal from the listserv and online resources. I appreciate the materials and all the work that has gone into creating them. Thank you!
  • I think this is a great idea! We need to develop a CBW presence in a variety of ways, and I am more than happy to be a part of the growth of this organization!
  • The question about dues is a challenging one, but to develop and maintain a more robust presence, it does seem like CBW will need resources. I nonetheless do think that part-time faculty should be asked to commit less than full-time faculty. Another option might be to suggest a donation, but to also offer prospective members the opportunity to “opt out” of a financial commitment without penalty. Even the high end of your suggested dues–$30 to $40–is significantly less than what I see some other professional organizations, including some of those involved with developmental education, charge their membership.
  • I am new to the listserv and greatly appreciate its existence. My professional obligations and limited funds usually prohibit my attending major conferences, but I would be willing to work behind the scenes as the organization grows. Thank you for doing this survey (along with everything else).
  • MAIN CONCERN: Opportunities for active participation throughout the year would offer more meaningful visibility than paid membership.

    Since most of the people that would benefit from a more active CBW are probably NOT tenure-track faculty, charging for membership at this time seems inappropriate. Once we build a more visible and more participatory organization that works THROUGHOUT THE YEAR on Basic Writing issues, then paid membership could be reconsidered.

    Indeed, participation seems more crucial than “membership.” Building committees and other opportunities for participation could be crucial for helping to create the main issue that CBW has now: participation outside of CCCC. Committees that stay active throughout the year would help to increase CBW visibility. Membership– especially PAID membership– with not much to offer in return other than CCCC-related pursuits — would not have as much impact.

  • This survey is a great idea! 🙂
  • I would love to see a CBW presence at regional TYCAs. Some of us cannot afford to get to CCCCs or will not choose to leave our classrooms in order to attend it, but we’re able to attend TYCA more easily. I would be willing to serve as a CBW representative at my TYCA region. I only attend CCCCs when it coincides with Spring Break so I miss out on many CBW opportunities.

    Please plug BWe more. I intend to check it out but forget. Including TOC in an email instead of attachment is recommended because then I see why I need to leave email-land right now and check out X article.

    P.S. I’d also like to help with the pedagogy statement that was started at CCCCs, and, um, while I’m suggesting things…what are the possibilities the CBW workshop could be a half day instead of the marathon 9 to 5 session? I sort of get burned out 2 days into CCCCs when I start it with such a lengthy day right after traveling and then try to hit the SIGs and otherwise do all the things. This might just be me though.

  • Thank you for the work you have done and continue doing to create and sustain the CBW community.

    I might consider serving on a committee, but it would depend on the time commitment involved as my role on campus and my system-wide committee work leaves me with limited time for meaningful work serving my professional organizations.

  • Collecting dues, maintaining records, establishing a bank account, cashing checks in a timely manner, etc.–all can be a huge challenge. When I was Chair in the early 80s, we did have a low membership fee of $5 or $10 or so. Members were to receive mailed newsletters for the fee. It was extremely difficult to keep track of and handle money and get the newsletter out in a timely fashion to the right addresses. Often the newsletter was done just days before the CCCC, and of course, some people’s addresses had changed. Sometimes people complained if they had not received a newsletter and naturally enough wanted their money back. So I would proceed with caution where money comes into play. If you go this route, I recommend getting someone else to handle it–would the CCCC handle money for CBW maybe?
  • Thanks for this!! Let me know what else I can do. We need more presence between other groups such as NAADE, etc. they are so elitist and get so bogged down in local issues, not realizing we all need to work together.
  • I am a basic writing specialist and would love to be better connected to people, conversations, research, etc. I feel like I’m having a hard time finding that community and hope that changes!
  • Establish standards for faculty who teach Basic Writing.
  • This is a great group, and I loved the workshop. I wonder how we can encourage more two-year college faculty to join the group and find it relevant to the work they do.
  • I think the list serve does qualify me as a member, but I’m really not sure. But I think making the membership and organization of CBW more parallel to CCCC/NCTE would legitimize it more. Thanks for the survey–good idea!
  • I’m not quite sure on the CBW relationship to other organizations: CCCC, NCTE, etc. I know TYCA has an unusual relationship; CBW?
  • Don’t make it complicated or exclusive. Invite and include everyone who may be interested. Emphasize what we do in terms of social justice.
  • Thank you for this thoughtful survey. I agree that more systematically reaching into the BW community for CBW is a good idea. Regarding the drafting of policy statements, I’m concerned that making the participation too far-reaching too soon, things might become unwieldy. Perhaps there could be policy forums online and the voting/ crafting of policies could find its major shaping influence at CBW or within its committees.

Notes:

The survey was created from the desire to learn more about how CBW could serve the Basic Writing Community. This survey was released on March 21, 2015, shortly after CCCC 2015. It was open for over 1 month and the link was posted in multiple online venues.  We received 54 responses. Forty-eight responses were NOT from current executive board membership. Most questions had 52-53 respondents.

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3. Discussion of the Survey: 

There was general agreement that the survey was very useful! This is a summary of the group discussion in response to the member survey:

How do we adapt to changing notions of basic writers? How do we support them? How do we support the work of supporting those students?

How many people do we have in the CBW?

Susan Naomi Bernstein raised the issue that categorizing students as “basic writers” essentializes the students.

How might we identify the populations that we serve? How might we identify the work we are doing in the world? The work our students are doing?

We need to make sure that people know what resources are out there (and to provide a central place for those resources–like an expanded resource share). Because of language: “basic” writers, “developmental” writing, “remedial” writing, etc. it’s hard to know where to start.

It would also be helpful to have a library of resource and position statements (e.g. course caps, budgets, etc.).

How do we talk about our work so that other people can find it without being reductive? (again, how do we talk about our work)?

We need keywords in Basic Writing (and something like an Amazon recommendation: if you like this… you’ll like this…).

We need more ways for people to participate actively and feel an important part of the CBW. We would like to create opportunities for people to consider themselves members of CBW by doing.

We also discussed ideas for next year’s workshop.

4. What is the work of CBW when we are not at CCCC?

How might we think about committee work and the work of CCCC?

We recently lost funding for our travel award. This was one way that we were able to help participants.

We discussed ways to support the scholarship of graduate students; contingent faculty, etc.

 

Should we find ways to connect to NADE? How do we participate in NADE discussions about basic writing? A connection point might be some of the larger politics around developmental education.

Also, we need to continue the TYCA connections. These were useful to promote the work of CBW and a gathering of figuring out who is interested & who wants to be connected to this work. If we are strategic about it, it’s a starting point to build panels together and to take  concerns and translate them into action in a particular geographic area.

Also, we discussed how we are defining ourselves and how we represent ourselves in our outreach.

There was a discussion about funding and how to get funding (to be continued).

We discussed several new possible committees to continue the work of CBW outside of CCCC:

  • A committee to support the work of scholars in the form of an annual award for the best graduate student work in basic writing.
  • An issues committee to work on policy issues.
  • A promotion committee/outreach for people who don’t get to come to CCCC to make our work more visible.

We’ll continue this discussion in the SIG tonight at 6:30 p.m. Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Many thanks to everyone who attended!

We look forward to seeing you at the other CBW events at CCCC this week!

  • Thursday, 4/7  4:45-6:00 
    • E.06  CBW Sponsored Session  Hilton Ballroom of the Americas, Salon E, Level 2
  • Thursday, 4/7  6:30-7:30
    • TSIG.02  CBW Sig  GRB Room 351C, Level 3

 

 

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Filed under Basic Writing Projects & Initiatives, CBW 2016, CCCC 2016, Politics of Remediation, Scholarship of Basic Writing, What's New in Basic Writing, Who is Basic Writing?

Submitted to CCCC 2015? We want your info!

Happy Labor Day Colleagues,

The Council on Basic Writing would like to start to get a handle on how BW will be represented at CCCC in 2015. If you had a paper, panel, or roundtable accepted at CCCC that will have a primary focus on BW, can you please send me an email? In your email, please include your session title and any relevant abstracts.

Our purposes in collecting this information is two-fold. First, we would like to start thinking about how we might promote BW panels ahead of CCCC in order to encourage robust participation both by CBW members and by the larger CCCC community. Second, we would like to start considering how and why BW panels are accepted by the larger CCC organization in order to consider how we might foster more BW scholarship at CCCC.

Please send me your acceptance information by September 15. You can get my email address on the listserv or on the CBW blog (see “Board” info) or you can IM me on FB. At this time, please send this information to just me so that we do not burden the list with these announcements. In the future, we will send out another email asking you if you’d like to be included in the BW session pamphlet that we create for CCCC. As CCCC approaches, we will also encourage you to advertise your sessions on the email list and on our FB page.

In solidarity,
Mike, Co-Chair of the CBW Executive Board

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Filed under CBW 2015, CCCC 2015, Scholarship of Basic Writing

CBW@ TYCA Northeast

 CBW will be presenting at TYCA Northeast this fall. Those of you who have regularly attended CBW know that finding more links between CBW and TYCA has been a goal of both groups. I’m delighted to say that thanks to Leigh Jonaitis’ leadership, we will be presenting 2 sessions on CBW at TYCA Northeast this fall. If you’re in the regional area, we hope that you will join us for this great conference!
Barbara Gleason, Marisa Klages, Lynn Reid, Thomas Peele and J. Elizabeth Clark will all be presenting on behalf of CBW.
I’m including some conference highlights below. You can read all about the whole conference here: http://www.tycanortheast.org
We are hoping, for those of you in other regions, that this can begin to serve as a model for other conferences to strengthen our Basic Writing community work.
Please consider joining us if you can for this great conference!

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS
Two‐Year College English Association Northeast (TYCA‐NE) Annual Conference
October 3‐5, 2013
Morristown, NJ

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3

2:30‐3:30: Breakout Session A
3:45‐4:45: Breakout Session B (includes Conference on Basic Writing workshop) 5:00‐6:00: Breakout Session C (includes Conference on Basic Writing workshop) 6:00‐7:00: Cocktail Party sponsored by Pearson
7:00: Hosted Dinners

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4

8:15‐9:15: Breakfast and Panel: “From Professor to Administrator” 9:30‐10:30: Breakout Session D
10:45‐11:45: Breakout Session E
12:00‐2:00 Lunch and Keynote Speaker Gary Shteyngart

2:15‐3:15: Breakout Session F
3:30‐4:30: Breakout Session G
5:00‐6:30 Cocktail Party sponsored by Bedford

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5

8:15‐9:15: Breakfast and Panel: “The Future of Journalism” 9:30‐10:30: Breakout Session H
10:45‐11:45: Breakout Session I
12:00‐2:00 Lunch and Keynote Speaker Richard Miller 2:15‐3:15: Breakout Session J

4:00‐8:00: Meeting of the TYCA Regional Executive Committee

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Resources from Session F.28

Karen S. Uehling has generously provided this incredibly useful bibliography for her talk on “Assessment, Placement, and Access: Framing Arguments from Local and National Histories” as part of her CCCC presentation March 15, 2013.

Assessment, Placement, and Access: Framing Arguments from Local and National Histories

A Bibliography by Karen S. Uehling

Adams, Peter, Sarah Gearhart, Robert Miller, and Anne Roberts. “The Accelerated Learning Program: Throwing Open the Gates.” Journal of Basic Writing 28.2 (2009): 50–69. Print.

Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Susanmarie Harrington. Basic Writing as a Political Act: Public Conversations about Writing and Literacies. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton P, 2002. Print. [See Chapter 5, “Looking Outward: Basic Writing and Basic Writers in the Mainstream Media,” for information on newspaper coverage of the General College of the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis in 1996 and City University of New York in New York City in 1999.]

Bartholomae, David. “The Tidy House: Basic Writing in the American Curriculum.” Journal of Basic Writing 12.1 (1993): 4–21. Print.

Buber, Martin. I and Thou. 2nd ed. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958. Print.

Collins, Terence G. “Basic Writing Programs and Access Allies: Finding and Maintaining Your Support Network.” CBW Newsletter 13.3 (1998): 1–6. Print. [Available as a PDF through the CBW archives.]

———. “A Response to Ira Shor’s ‘Our Apartheid: Writing Instruction and Inequality.'” Journal of Basic Writing 16.2 (1997): 95–100. Print.

Glau, Gregory R., and Chitralekha Duttagupta, Eds. The Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing. 3rd. ed. NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.

Gleason, Barbara. “Evaluating Writing Programs in Real Time: The Politics of Remediation.” College Composition and Communication 51.4 (2000): 560–88. Print.

Greenberg, Karen L. “A Response to Ira Shor’s ‘Our Apartheid: Writing Instruction and Inequality.'” Journal of Basic Writing 16.2 (1997): 90–94. Print.

McNenny, Gerri, Ed. Mainstreaming Basic Writers: Politics and Pedagogies of Access. Mahwah: Erlbaum, 2001. Print.

Otte, George, and Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk. Basic Writing. West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor P, 2010. Print. [Also available as open access book on the WAC Clearinghouse: http://wac.colostate.edu/books/basicwriting%5D

Ritter, Kelly. Before Shaughnessy: Basic Writing at Yale and Harvard, 1920–1960. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2009. Print.

Rose, Mike. Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves A Second Chance at Education.
NY: New Press, 2012. Print.

—. Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America’s Underprepared. New York: Free, 1989. Print.

—. Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America. Houghton Mifflin: 1995. Print.

—. The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker. NY: Penguin, 2004.

Shor, Ira. “Our Apartheid: Writing Instruction and Inequality.” Journal of Basic Writing 16.1 (1997): 91–104. Print.

Soliday, Mary, and Barbara Gleason. “From Remediation to Enrichment: Evaluating a Mainstreaming Project.” Journal of Basic Writing 16.1 (1997): 64–78. Print.

Soliday, Mary. The Politics of Remediation: Institutional and Student Needs in Higher Education. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburg P, 2002. Print.

Sternglass, Marilyn S. Time to Know Them: A Longitudinal Study of Writing and Learning at the College Level. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1997. Print.

Traub, James. City on a Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College. Reading, Mass.: A William Patrick Book/Addison-Wesley, 1994.

Uehling, Karen S. “The Conference on Basic Writing: 1980-2005.” The Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing. Ed. Gregory R. Glau and Chitralekha Duttagupta. 3rd ed. NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. 8-22. Print.

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Filed under CCCC 2013, History of Basic Writing, Resources, Scholarship of Basic Writing

On “We are Borg: Composing Processes and Identities”

The session “We are Borg: Composing Processes and Identities” dealt with using multimodal composing to break students out of “genre knowledge” that might not be serving them in composition classrooms. The first talk was by Angela Laflen. Her talk was entitled “Charting the New World between Whiteboards and Slides: Composing Online with Prezi.” She demonstrated the ways that Prezi can be used to help students become more aware of the performative aspects of composition as they explore their online identities.

In her talk entitled “Negotiating Metacognition in a Digital Landscape: Multimodal Reflection in the 21st Century Classroom, “Anna Knutson demonstrated the ways that students use video in her classes to make more meaningful reflections about their compositions. The results, and the sample student reflections she shared, seemed really insightful.

Finally, Sara Hillin detailed two assignments that she uses in her writing course: the technoliteracy memoir and the text-to-webtext literacy project. Hillin described the ways that she used Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manfesto” and Katherine Hayles (I think) to frame the assignments. In the text-to-webtext assignment, students repurpose traditional essays into online texts in really interesting ways. In the technoliteracy memoir, students use “infinite canvas style” programs like Prezi to create literacy narratives.

The big take away from this session was that I now have some ideas for how I to integrate some of these assignments into my own writing classroom (or change some of my existing assignments). I’m also motivated to help students think more about identity as a crucial aspect of composing online and everywhere else. ~ Sheri Rysdam, UVU

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Filed under CCCC 2013, Scholarship of Basic Writing, Social Media, Tech, 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

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