Posted in CBW2019, CCCC2019, History of Basic Writing, Mission Statement, Scholarship of Basic Writing, Uncategorized, What Is Basic Writing?

Towards a Position Statement on Basic Writing

This is draft text we are working on for a Statement on Basic Writing. We are seeking input into the principles, including action steps, questions, and summaries of information/knowledge/research.

Principle 1:


Principle 2:


Principle 3:


Principle 4:


Principle 5:


Suggested Changes In Today’s Session

What is our goal here?

Statement for admins?

Statement for BW instructors?

Best practices for TEACHING vs. Best practices for HIRING? Both? Neither?

Preamble: precarity

Three moves in the polemical preamble–1st claim our origin story as radical democracy and opportunity for students, 2nd to own our own positionality, and to transition to our principles

What do we MEAN by Basic Writing?

The Council of Basic Writing Statement of Ethos and Principles

Basic Writing is a pedagogical program designed to empower students who have been failed by racist and classist structures in education. Basic Writing grows out of the ideal of democratic equitable education–an ideal meant to provide accessible opportunities for all people.

The Council of Basic Writing understands that Basic Writing is a fraught and imperfect enterprise. Given the decades-long underfunding of education and neoliberal logics dominating educating, conditions in institutions, the classroom, and in society are even more precarious. The Council of Basic Writing refuses to capitulate to notion that there is no value in developmental education. Instead, we see the work of teaching underprepared writers as a direct challenge to these structures.

BW is an important way to address generational inequalities and promote access to higher education but we should not that BW can also be used to perpetuate inequalities and limit access to higher education.

We recognize Basic writing as a site with the most vulnerable students with the most vulnerable teachers. Basic Writing students are vulnerable in the sense that they often come from majority minority communities, use varieties of English that are not privileged and are denigrated. Basic writing students are often first-generation students and students affected by adverse socio-economic conditions. Basic writing students face racist and classist structures and assessment practices. Basic writing teachers are vulnerable in the sense that they often receive less professionalization and are frequently contingent.

Basic Writing instruction must include anti-racist and critical pedagogies. Basic writing must be driven by research-based best practices and the mission of these programs must recognize the social justice implications of our work.

Where does BW live? Dual enrollment/ALP/etc.

We recognize Basic writing as a site with the most vulnerable students with the most vulnerable teachers.

Basic Writing students are vulnerable in the sense that they often come from majority minority communities, use varieties of English that are not privileged and are denigrated. Basic writing students are often first-generation students and students affected by adverse socio-economic conditions. Basic writing students face racist and classist structures and assessment practices.

Basic writing teachers are vulnerable in the sense that they often receive less professionalization and are frequently contingent.

Here in the preamble, we need to define BW as opposed to “remediation” and “basic writing” and “developmental writing.” (and developmental English)

CONTINGENT labor–how do we address the labor conditions of BW faculty

Add the adjunct faculty data!



[trying to take a less defensive posture for Principle I?) →    We should recognize and value the humanity and individuality–including their voices, expertise, experience, languages, intelligences, and identities — of students who enroll in basic writing courses.





Notes from Today’s Session on these proposed principles–from our discussion

  1. Should principle 4 be a subset of principle 2?
  2. Preamble: thinking about having it be a political preamble–should we do this work / continue this work — we need to take on those preconceptions and the basis and foundation for basic writing as a radical part of open admissions pedagogy–also issues of dual vulnerability–students and faculty
  3. Preamble: claiming and enacting principles based on this
  4. Question about language: can we say democratic, access inclusive
  5. Principle 2 is defensive (as written): suggestions for writing it more positively–see photos below.
  6. Focus: we should not be defensive in our language
  7. Principle 4 should be a subset of principle 2
  8. Discussion of adjunct/contingent labor/non-tenure-track labor–need to make sure that we are supporting fair labor conditions AND pointing to adjunct/contingent labor/non-tenure-track–question about linking it to this work that already exists:
  9. Principle 5: justification of how basic writing studies should proceed / how basic writers make up a large component of what we do, but it makes up a smaller amount of the scholarship
  10. Principle 5: basic writing research should not be to fix students. It should be to understand who they are and how they compose
  11. Principle 5: we need to be aware of the social cultural that the research must be ethically bound to address
  12. Principle 5: students should be actively engaged in the research and design
  13. Principle 5: where could basic writing of the future lend a hand? Distance learning; recognizing how mental health is playing a role; tracking basic writers in their lives beyond the classroom and supporting them beyond the composition classroom
  14. Clarify that students who place into basic writing might still benefit from additional types of support
  15. Economic arguments around courses
  16. Principle 1: students who enroll instead of place
  17. Principle 1: “intellectually capable”–name the way students are capable
  18. Principle 1: look at WPA statement
  19. What types of calls for research?
  20. They are basic in a particular way
  21. Deserving of equal scholarly attention
  22. These writers operate from a different knowledge base

Additional Notes & Edits (from the wall)

Small Group Work

Next Steps:

We will circulate this on the Facebook page, on the Blog, and on CBW-L for comments and feedback.

Posted in Accessibility, CBW Exec Board, CBW2019, CCCC, CCCC2019, Teaching, Tech

Lean On Me: Self-Accommodation and Teaching with Disabilities

The amazing Sara Webb-Sunderhaus generously made her entire keynote presentation, “Lean on Me: Self-Accommodation and Teaching with Disabilities” available on Scribd (link below).

I hope you’ll read her full talk. This is an amazing story and journey. Sara’s brave story touches on: mindful teaching, abundant self-care, questions about identity, changing identity, the role and load of writing program administrators, disclosing impairments to students, feminism, the whole self, vulnerability, and a call to think about how to structure work in ways that allow you to do your best work–whatever that means at a given time in your life.

A few quotes from Sara’s talk that really spoke to me:

“I vividly remember thinking that one moment had changed my life in ways I did not yet understand…”

“Over the past year and a half, I have struggled to come to terms with a changing identity, sense of self, and expectations.
Today I’d like to talk with you about what this process has been
like. Specifically, I will discuss the impact of my disability on my teaching, the types of resources I have needed and continue to need, and how I have learned to practice self-accommodation as I continue to come to terms with the ways my life has changed over the past 18 months.”

“If I had been an adjunct, with no health insurance, there is no doubt I would have had to declare bankruptcy. But I was not an adjunct—I was a tenured associate professor, with a great deal of sick time, supportive colleagues, and a caring chair. All of these factors were critical resources as I adjusted to my new reality.”

“What I have had to learn this academic year — and what I am still in the process of learning — is how to implement low-spoon theories of writing program administration and teaching and make use of the resources available to me. I refer here to Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory, which uses spoons as metaphors for energy.”

“Self-accommodation is an intensely important and woefully overlooked academic practice, especially for women,” adding that “it is directly at odds with America’s culture of ruthless self-reliance and ‘toughing it out,’ with women’s perceptions of self-worth being tied to usefulness, with expectations of female availability, and with our own (often founded) fears of appearing ‘weak’ or less capable than male colleagues” (173).”

“It forced me to become comfortable with accepting help and relying on others when appropriate, and it made me explore why I had such a fear of being a burden to others. I have learned — and am still learning — that it is okay to ask for help when I need it. That does not mean that I am over-reliant on others or not doing my job. I do not have to constantly prove to myself that I am strong or independent, because I know that I am all of those things; accepting a dear colleague’s help does not lessen me in any way.”

“I’ve now reached a place where it feels like a responsibility, not a burden, to disclose my disability to students. I want all students to know that people who at first glance may appear “able bodied” may not be. I want students— both those with disabilities and those without — to know that being born with or acquiring a disability may change someone’s life, but it doesn’t necessarily have to change their goals and ambitions.”

“I will never be able to work in the same ways I did before, because I live in crip time now. That is okay — more than okay — to admit. I still sometimes feel embarrassed to have these conversations with students, but without exception they have been kind and generous. I hope that sharing my vulnerabilities with them has led to a classroom environment in which they feel can be vulnerable, and I know I feel closer to this particular group of students than I ever have by this point in a semester. My students have helped me reach a point of self-acceptance, and I am grateful to them for that.”

During the Q&A Session, participants shared experiences, strategies, and questions such as:

–it’s difficult to file for accommodations; many people don’t file for accommodation



–invitation to join the CCCC Standing Group for Disability Studies

Please read the full text of Sara’s talk here:

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Politics of Remediation, Who is 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.


Posted in Calls to Action, CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, 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.

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, Uncategorized, 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.

Posted in CBW 2013, CCCC 2013, 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.

Posted in CCCC 2012, What's New in Basic Writing

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.

Posted in CCCC 2012

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.


Posted in CBW 2012, Professional Developmwnt

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.


Posted in CCCC 2012, History of Basic Writing, Who is Basic Writing?

Featured Session on Basic Writing!

Can I tell you how exciting it is to have a Basic Writing featured session? Our community owes a huge thank you to Program Chair Chris Anson to listening to our concerns last year! In his 2012 Greetings, Chris Anson says of this year’s program that “as promised in the 2011 Annual Business/Town Meeting, heightened focus on basic writing will be noticeable this year.” Given the roots of composition studies in basic writing, it’s gratifying to see this focus on basic writing.

Mike Rose begins with an analysis of how we have always had a version of basic skills in higher education. While higher education focuses on the numbers of students placed into basic skills, it ignores the fact that more students attend college today than ever before. Yet, today, basic skills education is only 1-2% of the total higher education budget. Basic Skills has a lower status than other courses for both faculty and students. This is part of the bigger picture about basic skills and higher education. And, there’s a connection between legislative and economic attacks on basic skills, who teaches it, and who takes these courses.

In keeping with his Exemplar speech this morning, Rose moves to a vignette about a basic writing class. We are invited to take a seat in the back of the classroom as we hear a compelling sketch of who is taking basic writing courses and why they are there. Rose details a classroom very familiar to those of us who teach basic writing, a rich and diverse classroom of students young and old who share a history of being undeserved in their prior education and for whom economics are the most compelling force against them. there is, notes Rose, a big dose of optimism that doesn’t fully address the challenges students in the class will confront such as interactions with the justice system, medical systems, and more.

Rose notes that they were placed in basic skills based on a placement exam which “no one knew about before hand and no one prepared for it.”

Rose moves on to document the differences in social class with another vignette about a visit to his friends who had small children. Surrounded by books, computers, and parents focused on their success, the differences between these children and the students in the classes he observed is based on material and economic disparities. Rose notes that it’s not about parental method, process, or intent: it’s about economic disparity and familiarity with American higher education.

Rose then moved on to address differences in educational preparation. Why, he asks, do we focus on techniques (how to underline and take notes) and not on how to interrogate and analyze the world around them? Why don’t we teach students how to think?

Back to the original classroom, Rose updated the success rates of students in the class. A familiar pattern of students who had to drop the class or who failed the course because of external forces: illness, jobs, pregnancy. Still others failed for missing too many classes and others because of difficulties with the digital platforms for the course.

Rose went on to address critiques of “college-for-all.”Our society, he says, does not provide a rich set of programs and possibilities for vocational training. We don’t provide counseling or advising to help students find their place in society. Does college attendance for financial aid not point to problems with our economic policies?

Rose then moved on to address the labeling of remedial/developmental students. He reminded us that we have always, in higher education, had a tradition of developmental education.

Rose ended his eloquent remarks with a story about a student who was laid off, went back to school, and graduated successfully.

This summary does not capture the beautiful writing of Rose’s carefully prepared remarks, but I hope you will check out his new book coming this September, Back to School: Second Chances at Higher Ed.

Lynn Quitman Troyka followed with some reports from the field on the state of developmental education: Pima College is cuttingndevelopmentalmeducation entirely because, “it only affects about 2,000 students.”

She also detailed the White House conference on community colleges that included no full-time faculty in the conversation.

Peter Adams followed by focusing on the ALP project. In his remarks, Adams looked at the the way in which developmental education has been increasingly moved to the community college. He raised questions about what that means for faculty, students, and the study of rhetoric and composition. He focused on current trends in innovation in community colleges and large national organizations/foundations. The huge list of programs and studies like stretch and bridge programs, studies on basic skills pedagogy like GSCC, and the ALP program point to ways that basic skills educators are innovating and trying to serve the students Mike Rose talked about.

Peter Adams ended by saying that these are critical times for developmental education. “If your focus is social justice,” Adams said, “then developmental education is the most important sector of higher education.”



Doing Developmental Education Differently