Tag Archives: “Basic Writing”

Small Groups!

CBW had 5 small groups to discuss “Race, Locality, and the Public Work of Basic Writing.”

Preparing and supporting students of color

We want to empower students & create a sense of agency in their lives;
There are tensions between expectations like end-of-term assessments (high stakes tests) and preparing and supporting students of color;
Why do these conversations exclude students? Why do we have these conversations without students at the table. How do we navigate this?
The group also shared grading practices (basic skills or inviting a conversation in the grade?);
The group discussed the difference between focusing on grammar and engaging in conversations about content.

Preparing and supporting faculty of color

The group discussed tokenism and the importance of avoiding it! (e.g. particularly when faculty of color are recruited for committee work and then don’t have time to publish and other do other work);
The group discussed teaching evaluations, (e.g. students commenting on “accents” as if all faculty don’t have an accent; that if a faculty member of color makes even 1 comment about race, that some students begin to make an issue out of it), so tenure and promotion committees need to be educated about issues like this;
Support: invite collaboration (in publishing, in teaching, etc.);
Support & mentoring: make tenure & promotion expectations clear.

Race and pedagogical practices

The group discussed My Writing Lab & how it’s become a stand-alone module;
CLASP (University of Washington)–professional development for teachers;
The relationship between curriculum & race & pedagogical practices;
The relationship of edited, standard American English and whiteness;
The position of the teacher in the classroom & giving race time and space in the class for conversation.

Basic Writing and Race Nationally and Locally

There was a discussion of the politics of remediation (who do we educate? When? Why?);
How do we address attacks on developmental education?
How do we address politicians and engage them in conversation?
How do we connect with other groups in order to make connections? (even outside of traditional academic groups?)
How do we use social media to raise the profile of basic writing?

Meeting challenges and attacks on basic writing programs:

The group discussed the Complete College America initiative;
Developmental courses have been dropped or outlawed in several states;
Their suggestions include a number of ideas that are exactly the work of basic writing;
Their goal is to end “traditional remediation”;
The group feels that the work attacks developmental programs (as a straw man for what’s wrong with education).

There was a discussion also about ways that we can appropriate the language of programs like Complete College American in order to get funding & recognition for our programs.

Another discussion followed the theme of how much “subversive complicity” is enough? Too much? How far do you go?

The group brainstormed ideas to address this:

Have WPA experts visit campus to discuss and evaluate basic writing programs (from our own colleagues);
NADE accreditation (National Association for Developmental Education);
Collect evidence (student success stories);
Accumulate statistics for success;
Advocacy within our own council. We need to be more like ATTW: we need to create awareness for CBW.

This group also wanted to talk about MOOCs, but ran out of time.



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Filed under CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Politics of Remediation, Who is Basic Writing?

Questions and Answer Session with Victor Villanueva

1. There have been questions and discussion about engaging faculty from other departments & disciplines. One issue that’s come up is what happens when students are kept out of the regular curriculum & faculty outside of basic writing do not engage with those students. How do we make those “introductions” and engage them in the conversation?

One strategy is to marshal the arguments for moving basic writing into a credit-bearing position in the university (rather than making basic writing a gate keeping course).

2. What happens when basic writers move into other classes and find themselves still in conflict with the academy? It’s not that this history goes away as students move into other courses.

“Subversive complicity”: how you move through the system and engage the rhetoric of power/dominant discourse while also maintaining your identity.

“Compliantly revolutionary”: alternate term suggested by the group.

3. Engaging students in a question of “how to get something out of the professor”–a question of agency & students engaging in a practice of figuring out what is helpful from the course.

4. See Victor Villanueva’s syllabi in a new book this week edited by Deborah Teague & Ronald Lunsford (Utah State UP, 2013)

These syllabi show his cycle of writing in working with basic writers & the classroom. For example, the syllabi demonstrate that he doesn’t require revisions: those are a practice of seeing if students can obey.

5. Why do we have students write about themes other than language & consciousness of language? Villanueva suggests that we want students to focus on language, not social topics. What we know and know well is language: why not engage students in that?

6. Hannah Ashley shared a teaching practice of “ghost writing,” having her students ghost write other student narratives in the class to think about the issue of learning language & discourse.

She suggested that perhaps we should “ghost” or “ghost write” with colleagues from other disciplines. We need to take ourselves seriously as we make connections & work in our colleges. Work to get them to see your point-of-view.

7. There are many conversations to be had: psychologists are focusing on cognition (how do we build on that and learn from them?).

8. What is the relationship between “second chance” and the language of “non-assimilation assimilation”?

In part, that language is about a social structure: “second chance” means students failed. It also means that they are an exploitable class. So, Villanueva suggests that we reject that language.

And, education is more than a chance.

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Filed under Calls to Action, CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Who is Basic Writing?

Villanueva, Part 3

Within faculty workshops, our colleagues can be shown that markers in students writing might be markers of other cultural organization.

We can listen, open the door, and learn more about conventions as conventions, discourse as discourse. We need to move into these interdisciplinary spaces to make our work their work and their work our work.

We need to do our work and help students go where they want to go, using academic discourse, without erasing where students have been.

It’s time we started talking basic writing across the curriculum.

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Filed under CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Uncategorized, Who is Basic Writing?

Villanueva, Part 2

Villanueva discussed the importance of political economy.

Considering the important question of maintaining political identity while also complying with the dominant ideology/culture, Villanueva invoked the idea of masks, masquerades, passing, jaiba (messing around): how can you be an academic writer without turning into an academic? How do you stay who you are while also playing the game (and seeing it as more than a game).

Villanueva talked about the idea of “Subversive complicity”: how you move through the system and engage the rhetoric of power/dominant discourse while also maintaining your identity.

Villanueva added the idea of jaiba rhetorics as a concept of “messing around,” somewhat like the idea of masks and masquerades and how we think about dealing with playing with identity, jargon, rhetorics, and language in the classroom.

E.G. Villanueva talks to a provost, invokes the language of academia and invokes the language of multiculturalism instead of remediation (back to where we started).

How do we create a rhetoric of survival? We argue for basic writing imitating the discourse of power. We use that rhetoric to make the argument that can be heard; we do this as part of a masquerade to achieve our goals.

But, we need to also engage our colleagues and our students in this work. How do we create an anti-racist pedagogy that uses the discourse of power?

For example, how do you ask students to “translate” academic discourse into their own language and back again, engaging basic writing students in the work of understanding contrastive rhetorics.

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Basic Writing for a Transcultural Era

William Lalicker started off the discussion with the ways we underserve basic writers by limiting what students have access to in their written discourses. Lalicker compared a basic writing approach to teaching, “Get it neat, practical, and readable” with selected titles from last year’s 2011 conference program. Why, Lalicker asks, do we allow ourselves the language of “Fuck Tradition!,” “Helping a NOOB PWN the Griefers,” and “Mo Rhetoric: Nomos, Nommo, Zapatismo, and the turn toward a Critical Transnational Rhetoric.”. Why do we allow ourselves this language but deny it to our basic writers in the name of “standard” English. Lalicker went on to highlight the rich voice and use of language in YA books like Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz.

How do we engage students in a trains lingual approach to teaching writing? Lalicker called on Alastair Pennycook’s 2007 work, “English is a translocal language, a language of fluidity and fixity that moves across, while becoming embedded in, the materiality of localities and social relations. English is bound up with transcultural flows, a language of imagined communities and refashioning identities” (6).

He ended with a quote from Deborah Mutnick, “Basic writing courses enact the crucial, if not always exemplary role…in the unfinished democratization of American universities and colleges” (323).

Kathryn Perry called for a reconception of how we evaluate student writing. Basing her theory on Mike Rose, she called for a practicality in assessing student writing, paying attention to a variety of issues that affect student writing.

Perry focused on the material conditions of labor in composition. She wanted to apply what she knew pedagogically, but when balancing scholarship, practice, study, and teaching, she felt she didn’t have time to find out all of the stories she knew her students brought to the classroom, the very issues Mike Rose chronicles in his work. her teaching load leaves almost no room for reflection. So, she has little time to think about her classroom; like many others, the classroom becomes triage.

She further compared annual review documents (from an anonymous university) for tenure track, term, and contingent faculty which reveal that only tenure track faculty are assumed to be conducting research.

Her paper is a call for simplicity in returning to description and reflection on the class, focusing on the classroom itself. We need to change how we evaluate our students and do so in conjunction with the material realities of teaching.

Yvonne Stephens addressed the reciprocal ethics of care. She opened by listing the issues she can’t prepare for in her classroom: the real life issues that affect our students such as health issues, family issues, and financial issues. Stephens addressed the “borderlands” of the classroom in addressing students’ personal concerns. What happens in that space of overlap and intersection?

Stephens outlined the different roles faculty members play: mentor, confidante, teacher, coach, guide. How does this complicate teaching & research with students?

Stephens outlined a heuristic for thinking about affective issues in teaching:

1. Reflect on current practices
This essentially creates a reservoir of practices and stories

2. Be informed about institutional rules
Additional knowledge and sensitivity helps us to make appropriate accommodations

3. Be informed about students
Be a good listener and observer of students in the classroom and one-on-one interactions

4. Engage in dialogue

This common sense, smart approach to knowing our students is really important to student success and meaningful teaching.

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Filed under CCCC 2012, What's New in Basic Writing

Mike Rose, Exemplar Award

Mike Rose
Winner of the 2012 Exemplar Award

Mike Rose offered these words of advice to us as a community (paraphrased):

1. Develop what jazz musicians call “big ears”
Read: read outside of the discipline, read and experiment with different kinds of inquiry
2. Connect your academic work to the world outside of the academy
Listen to the news and think about what touches you. Take your work out into the world.
3. Seek the public sphere
Seek the widest audience possible. Frame a career and a writing style that has a public reach. And, write about the classroom.

The full remarks will appear in CCC.


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Professional Development: How Do You Know You Are a Good Teacher?

We started off this morning with a great presentation by Robin Ozz, Jason Evans, and Rosemary Arca. They presented on their participation in a two year long professional development program focused on basic writing pedagogy. Full disclosure: they were presenting on a project I which I was also a participant and it was one of the best things I’ve done since graduate school (just wanted to fully reveal my bias).

They explained the Global Skills for College Completion project. It’s an on-line project that brings basic skills faculty from around the country together to examine pedagogical practices with the aim of teaching better.

So, here’s the elephant in the room: what do you spend most of your professional day doing? If, like me, you teach basic skills at a two-year or four-year college, you probably spend most of your time on teaching or teaching-related activities. Now, how much training did you receive in graduate school to do that? I don’t mean here being thrust into teaching as a TA–although an apprenticeship model is certainly important and instructive–but really studying pedagogy and effective teaching. Few graduate programs have an emphasis on producing effective college-level teachers. As Jason Evans said, we all have our home grown pedagogues that we’ve developed based on trial and error. What the project allowed us to do was develop a shared, common vocabulary about our best practices.

Enter GSCC. The project took faculty from around the country and brought them together to think about their teaching. What resulted was a two-year, intensive experience of examining our teaching in many different ways.

Rosemary Arca began by explaining the project and the tools we used. This project was primarily on-line. She provided an overview of the on-line forums, the ePortfolios, the reflective practices, and the large and small group work and explained how the group was able to work virtually.

A participant in the audience raised the issue of the on-going nature of the project of how doing professional development more than once (a one time event) allows people to raise questions, interact, and really learn (just as we ask students to do in our own classes).

Jason Evans provided a thoughtful overview of coaching and it’s role in the project, Through on-line forums, analysis of videos, and weekly entries in ePortfolios, project participants provided feedback and coaching to one another to help improve teaching in targeted areas. Part of the project revolved around the development of themes in teaching like the role of affective issues in teaching or group activities or organization in instruction. Participants then examined one another’s work for effectiveness in addressing these themes. Rather than receiving a list of “best practices,” these themes developed from the group over time as a practice of inquiry and critique.

Evans, Ozz, and Arca discussed how they analyzed their practices using the themes and regular data reports provided by a group of outside researchers (participants in the project were studied by the Stanford Research Institute–SRI). They showed the audience examples of analyses that were conducted on their teaching by SRI. They discussed the importance of developing greater awareness in their teaching and developing a sense of who they were in the classroom.

The group also discussed the importance of investing in faculty development for all faculty, both full-time and contingent faculty.

Robin Ozz rounded out the presentation by showing her ePortfolio and explaining how we documented our teaching in the project. Each week, faculty documented a lesson by providing a narrative description of the lesson, objectives for the lesson, examples of student work from the lesson, and an analysis of the student work and what it demonstrates about the lesson objectives.

ePortfolios also included mid- and end-of-term reflections and videos 3 times a semester. All of these artifacts were digitally available to the community through ePortfolios.

You can read more about the project here: GSCC
GSCC is also recruiting a second cohort of faculty for the project. You can apply on-line at GSCC.


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Filed under CBW 2012, Professional Developmwnt