Sabbatical blogging: intro and week one

This week begins my first and probably only sabbatical. I have been teaching at a community college for sixteen years. I have received a one-semester sabbatical to study multiple measures placement data/procedures/efficacy for writing placement. This semester coincides with my comprehensive exams for Old Dominion University, so I am splitting my attention between the research project and preparation for and then the writing of comps. This may sound a bit intense for a sabbatical, but…

  1. For the past three years, I have been doing similar research while also teaching. Most of the semesters, the course release I received was for one course, so this was done on a 4-4 load.
  2. This is the first and only time I have ever been a FT grad student. The concept is mind-blowing to me. I don’t even know what FT grad students do with their time because my PT self has always been juggling the student/professor/mom life. (I still have the mom life)
  3. When the sabbatical ends, I have to go to the mom/professor/dissertator state, so I have to make the most of the time I have been given.
  4. There is a great deal of overlap between the research project, comps, and the future dissertation.

My record-keeping will focus primarily on archiving academic pursuits, but mom life will intrude, as it always does and should in my life. I’m working on making sure #wifelife intrudes more, too.

This is Week One, a week that would ordinarily entail attending multiple meetings intermingled with syllabus prep once my course load was firmly in place. I am able to skip any and all meetings this week, but I will attend two. This week is also the week my three kids go back to school midweek.

Day One: I attended the dean’s meeting because there has been a change in leadership. I finished the draft of my IRB packet and sent it to my dissertation chair and a few people who will evaluate whether or not I have fulfilled the spirit of my sabbatical. I added to one of my reading lists for comps/dissertation.

Day Two: a break from academic life. I mommed it up, watching three extra kids for a fellow teacher friend who had meetings while her kids were not yet in school. Five kids in the house, couch blanket forts, and Jumanji! Monday and Tuesday were also full of back-to-school orientations for me and the kids and back-to-school haircuts for my husband and the boys.

Day Three: After all three kids left for their first or second days of school, I spent the day camped out in my bedroom, assembling one of my reading lists for comps and tried to ignore the dog as he whined to go outside to hunt the rabbit he spied under the deck. Then I mentally committed to my earlier plan to leave the house and go to a library or coffee house to escape the needy dog and the presence of household chores. So far, no guilt over the household chores I did not do.

Day Four: I went to St. Louis Bread Co to escape the dog to read a book and then returned home in time to join my husband for lunch– hooray for work/life balance! I attended an evening meeting to catch up with English colleagues and plead for teachers to recruit students for my sabbatical study. The pleading went well, so now I am crossing my fingers for the IRB timing to work out well.

Day Five: I worked from home on emails, comps questions, reading lists, reading some items from the reading list. After sitting all day, I now realize the dog was trying to do me a favor by requesting to go out throughout the day. New mental note: schedule in some physical activity. How do FT grad students maintain muscle tone?

**Future blogs will be much less about the dog, I hope. Next week: prepare the blackboard shell for use in the sabbatical study while continuing to read, research, and hone comps questions.


Ann Bib #2: Situated Learning

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (91-117). Cambridge: Cambridge, UP.

Lave and Wenger examine the ways that newcomers or apprentices enter a community of practice. This chapter focuses entirely on situated learning, the idea that the members of the community learn from one another without being specifically instructed by a master. In fact, most often apprentices learn more alongside other apprentices than from direct instruction from the master (93). “A learning curriculum consists of situated opportunities (thus including exemplars of various sorts often thought of as ‘goals’) for the improvisational development of new practice (Lave 1989)” (p. 97). The social structure in a community of practice allows for participation at multiple levels, participation “in an activity system about which participants share understandings concerning what they are doing and what that means in their lives and for their communities” (p. 98).

The authors explain that one way to engage in the community is to understand and use the tools of the community. To become a full member “requires access to a wide range of ongoing activity, old-timers, and other members of the community; and to information, resources, and opportunities for participation” (p. 101). Further, understanding the technology employed by the community is also important, not only for learning purposes but to “connect with the history of the practice and to participate more directly in its cultural life” (p. 101). Full community members will be able to understand the ways of the culture with transparency. At that point, use of technology, tools, artifacts, etc. becomes not something else to learn but rather a means to learning more and participating more fully.


I will be arguing that the festival itself is a community of practice. Granted, it is one where newcomers do not need to be acculturated should they choose to merely attend as concert attendees and not full community members. Some bring their own mobile communities with them, while others have created temporary communities that are only in play during the time period of the festival each year.Because the festival requires the commitment of living on site for the duration, community is more likely to happen than at other festivals where attendees are more able to opt in or out of the community.

Question for the class: would the concert totems function more as artifact, tool, or technology, or a mixture of items?

I do see the concert totems as enabling a more full participation in the festival community of practice, and I see a difference between the totem-creating skills of a newbie and an experienced old-timer. I will explore further in my project.

Annotated Bibliography #1

Gee, C., & Bales, S. (2012). Manchester Tennessee’s assimilation of the “Bonnarite”: A qualitative analysis of the “other” in local press on Bonnaroo. Studies in Popular Culture, 34(2). Retrieved from

Bonnaroo is a modern music festival described as “an event where certain behaviors traditionally considered ‘deviant’ (e.g., rebellious or sexually charged music, recreational drug use, etc.) receive social sanction within the temporal and physical confines of the event space” (p. 73). The authors contrast this space to Manchester, TN, a small, southern town of 10,000 that gets overtaken by Bonnarites (an odd term since the current parlance is to call them Bonnaroovians) each year with 70,000-100,000 tickets sold. Manchester is defined as “typical of the small rural towns found throughout Middle Tennessee: close knit and traditional” (p. 75).

Gee and Bales performed a qualitative and quantitative study of what was printed in local Manchester newspapers about the influx of festival attendees for words that indicated the alien or the accepted. They collected published stories about Bonnaroo and examined perceptions of outsiders through grounded theory and also quantified terminology used for both outsiders and authority figures. After applying open coding, they found that the articles largely referred to the outsiders as a homogenous mass even though diversity was often also mentioned. The outsiders are not referred to as tourists at all; instead they are linked to music: fans, enthusiasts, spectators, etc. (p. 78). (Sidenote: You know the paper is from the South when it never refers to outsiders as tourists but manages to refer to them as “folks” a couple of times).

This study uses the same methodology as a previous study of a Knoxville World Fair with different results. Most notably, the rhetoric around the World Fair made it sound more like the town was being invaded and mentioned the number of “undesireable” attendants, whereas the language surrounding Bonnaroo makes it sound more like Manchester becomes a temporary metropolis instead of being overtaken. The language often de-emphasizes the negative aspects of the festival (drug use is one example given) and instead celebrates the communal aspect. The articles do not emphasize youth but rather the range of ages that attend the festival (Sidenote: The majority of attendees in 2015 were traditional college-aged fans, but one could readily find people of all ages including a group of grannies who attend each year) The concert-attenders are also referred to as being socially responsible.

The overall conclusion of the study is that the locals are glad to welcome the festival attendees as the festival is now a leading industry in the town, even though it lasts a mere four days out of the year. The festival organizers work with the community, and the community extends their hospitality to the festival.

The article will be of use when defining the festival and its place in Manchester as well as perception of the communal aspect of the festival.

**The articles I am finding for my research about festivals mostly pertain to the community aspect as well as analysis of what festival attendees are seeking. I am not finding anything directly written about signage at festivals.

Article about Test-Taking Reactions

*Note: I may have to change the micro-study for class to focus on students’ reaction to the test rather than the test itself because the IRB process is prohibitive. I will need to email you or Skype later this week.


Bradshaw, Jenny. “Test-takers’ Reactions to a Placement Test.” Language Testing 7.1 (1990): 13-30. Print.

Students were asked to take a questionnaire half an hour after taking a placement exam. The students were divided into groups based on their first language. The questionnaire features 7 point Likert scales that are individualized by question type.

The purpose of the study was not to test particular hypotheses but rather to identify possible areas of future research. The study was interested in whether a difference in amount of test time or instructions given would influence students’ perceptions of the test. Control groups were created

They had 4 groups of students. The first two groups spoke the same first language and were given the test and questionnaire under similar circumstances as a test of questionnaire validity. Once the results were studied to confirm reliability of the instrument, these groups were combined. The third group spoke a different first language. The fourth group spoke the same first language as the first two groups but had extended time and further instructions.

They predicted that students who scored higher on the test would respond more favorably to the test than the students who scored lower. The students who scored lower on the test “rated the tests significantly lower for time available, clarity of instructions, nervousness and difficulty on all three parts” (21).

Many charts were included with explanations of the mean score as well as separate columns that indicate whether the answer was largely neutral or the mean was a result of almost equal negative and positive scores.

The analysis of the positive components of the test finds that “perceptions of difficulty appeared to have more connections with reactions on other dimensions than did test score” particularly on the third part of the test (22). A chart with correlation coefficients was included as evidence of this finding.

While there were differences between students who scores on either end of the spectrum, there were no significant differences for gender,  first language, or nervousness. Provision of more time did not seem to have an impact.

A different set of questionnaires was given to the teachers. Teacher perceptions of test difficulty differed from student perception.


In particular, I liked that the study included a reliability test for the instrument being used. The researcher sited criteria by Nevo as their guide for this. I also appreciate the inclusion of data that shows whether the mean was reflective of largely neutral responses or a wash of negative and positive responses.

Little discussion was given to why the perceptions of difficulty seem more significant than the actual test scores in terms of student reactions, especially in light of differences in negative perceptions by the students who scored the lowest on the test.



Paper #2 ENGL 810: Basic Writing Pedagogy and Content

Key terms: basic writing, pedagogy, skills/error, confidence, metacognition, literacy

Basic Writing helps students to improve their current writing skills to the point where the students should be able to earn a C or above when taking FYC the first time. Placement tests determine their writing level. In some institutions, students also have to pass an exit exam in order to be eligible to take FYC. The goal is to prepare students who were previously deemed unable to succeed at college work to be ready in 8-32 weeks, depending on the Basic Writing course set-up.

For additional information about placement, visit this site: National Survey of Basic Writing Programs: placement

Initially, BW courses focused almost entirely on basic skills. Although this method of instruction fell out of favor at least 40 years ago, it is still possible to find lower level BW courses that focus on sentences and then sentences to paragraphs and so forth. While the textbooks for the courses are not quite that reductive, the electronic course supplements that are promoted by publishers still have that tendency.

Rhet/comp moved from a current traditionalist focus on product in the 1960s and 1970s to a “linear and reductive conception of the composing process” (Lauer 113). It then got stuck in the modes, particularly EDNA: exposition, description, narration, and argumentation (Crowley qtd. in Lauer 115). Even though Janice Lauer writes of rhet/comp studies, what she says is particularly true of Basic Writing as well:

The reasons for this intransigence are multiple. A huge percentage of composition teachers are unfamiliar with the above work on modes and genres because they have not been educated in the field of rhetoric and composition. Others wish to remain comfortable with a modal and form-based approach to teaching writing with which they are familiar. Textbook companies are also loath to go against this profitable grain. (116)

Although more rhet/comp professors have training in their field today, the same cannot be said of basic writing instruction. Considering basic writing students are an amalgam of unprepared students, teachers frequently retreat to safe assignment designs so there will be enough time to address all levels of error (organization, purpose, mechanics, etc).

Assignments are often course-driven classroom exercises that lack the authenticity of “real college work.” Basic Writing is proverbially stuck in between that rock and a hard place; while not wanting to focus entirely on error, it does have to be addressed for students to function in FYC. Teachers who adopt more complicated writing assignments than the modes often draw time away from mechanics to help students revise what could be messy ideas and complex organizational schemes. “If postmodern thought helped English educators understand the complex dynamics of language, knowledge, discourse, and power, it also helped reveal their vexed role in the normative process that is formal schooling” (Yagelski 304).

If Basic Writing is not supposed to be a skills course and is not to focus on the modes or aims, what should be the content and pedagogy?

Most concur that practice with literacy is needed. In 1996, the New London Group wrote, “The new fast capitalist literature stresses adaptation to constant change through thinking and speaking for oneself, critique and empowerment, innovation and creativity, technical and systems thinking, and learning how to learn” (New London Group 67). In The Way Literacy Lives, Shannon Carter argues that we must give basic writers “the tools they need to experience literacy differently– to look again at the ways in which literacy functions in the multiple and intellectually viable lifeworlds in which they are already full-fledged members” (163). Susan Naomi Bernstein agrees: “a curriculum which foregrounds students’ prior and developing knowledge presents exciting possibilities for basic writing pedagogy” (67).

The core writing assignments should build from worlds familiar to students and gradually introduce them to the discourse of the academy. Pedagogy should also focus on students’ identities as writers and helping them to grow in confidence as student writers. This should be done through a combination of pedagogies: situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, transformed practice (New London Group 88). In particular, students in BW benefit from the metacognitive work of transformed practice.

Shannon Carter discusses a way in which to show students where they are and where they could be through her pedagogy of rhetorical dexterity: “Rhetorical dexterity treats learning new literacies as a situated activity” (162). Students examine the literacies around them in an effort to become more aware of their multiliteracies and their relationship to them. Students who were previously agitated at the ways in which the rules seemed to change from one course to another could now see the system that creates the different rules and be able to adapt to the change without as much frustration. In a pedagogy like this, students are transformed not only as writers but as students.

A similar conversion occurred when Klages and Clark used ePortfolios with BW students; the students “began to transform their relationship to writing, emerging as confident writers with a new sense of how they can translate their authority onto the page” (47). Klages and Clark’s emphasis on reflective practice, at both the individual level and by commenting on the work created by their peers, enabled students to grow as both readers and writers.

At the heart of this type of pedagogy is concern about social inequality. Students in BW often feel as though others have been given a rule book while they are navigating the world without one of their own or that the rules were created intentionally to benefit a group of people other than them. Through pedagogy, Basic Writing instructors seek to level the playing field and reveal not only the rules but the systems that have created the rules.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Susan Naomi. “Basic Writing: In Search of a New Map.” Modern Language Studies 40.2 (2011): 60-75. JSTOR 24 Sept. 2015. Web.

Carter, Shannon. “The Way Literacy Lives.” Teaching Developmental Writing: Background Readings. Ed. Susan Naomi Bernstein. 4th ed. Bedford: Boston, 2013. 161-183. Print.

Klages, Marisa A. and J. Elizabeth Clark. “New Worlds of Errors and Expectations: Basic Writers and Digital Assumptions.” Journal of Basic Writing 28.1 (2009): 32-49. ERIC Web. 21 Sept. 2016.

Lauer, Janice M. “Rhetoric and Composition.” English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline. Ed. Bruce McComiskey. NCTE: Urbana, IL, 2006. 106-152. Print.

New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review. 66.1 (1996): 60-92. Print.

Yagelski, Robert P. “English Education.” English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline. Ed. Bruce McComiskey.NCTE: Urbana, IL, 2006. 275-319. Print.

PAB #2, Articles 1 and 2

Klages, Marisa A. and J. Elizabeth Clark. “New Worlds of Errors and Expectations: Basic Writers and Digital    Assumptions.” Journal of Basic Writing 28.1 (2009): 32-49. ERIC Web. 21 Sept. 2016.

Student typing at a computer
Basic Writing student, typing a journal entry into Blackboard (Photo credit: Nicole Hancock)

Keywords: basic writing, eportfolio, digital literacy, student reflection


Klages and Clark write about their experiences using ePortfolios with the basic writing students at LaGuardia Community College in the CUNY system. They write briefly of the digital divide of the 80s and 90s but insist that that digital divide has largely been erased by the presence of computers everywhere. Instead they believe the digital divide to be between what students do in their social lives with computers and what they do in the classroom with them: “while most basic writers are adept at accessing information digitally, they are not as proficient when it comes to producing digital information, nor are they able to code-switch between informal cyber-situations and the more formal academic and professional expectations of cyber-literacy” (33).

Because the “virtual world is process-less” (33), students are able to write and publish in the same instance and skip the vital revision steps necessary for basic writers. Klages and Clark almost make it sound as if basic writers are flaunting their lack of skills online. One benefit is that students understand the exigency of audience without instruction; however, this is complicated when teenaged writers fail to see most of their electronic writing as real writing (36).

Klages and Clark define their students: “Like most basic writers, they are uncomfortable with writing and experience high levels of writing anxiety in academic situations. They have little or no confidence in their writing, reading, and critical thinking abilities” (37). To help students gain confidence in their abilities while also improving their writing, Klages and Clark require ePortfolios. “The ePortfolio, and students’ understand of their progress and their limitations as writers, serves to provide them with a powerful counter-narrative within an otherwise anonymous and punitive writing context” (39). Additionally, students use electronic methods they are already comfortable with: sharing photos, making their presences known online, experimenting with short videos and PowerPoints. Everything they produce in their ePortfolios is public to the class in the ePortfolio system. It is password protected. This type of pedagogy allows writers to enter public academic discourse (42).


This piece was selected because it advocates positively for basic writers to engage with digital pedagogy. As I will discuss in my second paper, BW as a field does not always embrace this. Even though LaGuardia is a large and diverse community college where students struggle financially, Klages and Clark’s students do not appear to struggle with access to the ePortfolios. The anecdotal evidence provided about student progress suggests that students submit their work online and on time. The ePortfolio pedagogy in this article also unites other types of pedagogy: community building, metacognition, and process. Collaboration, reflection, and process-writing are all listed objectives in the Basic Writing course I currently teach.

Bernstein, Susan Naomi. “Basic Writing: In Search of a New Map.” Modern Language Studies 40.2 (2011): 60-75. JSTOR 24 Sept. 2015. Web.

Keywords: basic writing, pedagogy, social justice, universal design

One of the major questions I plan to write about is, quite simply, what should be taught in Basic Writing. Less simply is to what extent Basic Writing should differ from FYC. In this piece, Susan Naomi Bernstein describes a class she taught and how the pedagogy creates a new map for Basic Writing courses. Though the class was taught in 2008, it overlaps interestingly with syllabi generated post-Ferguson. I am Facebook friends with Susan, so it was fascinating for me to read this and observe that her teaching style has not diverted from this in the years following publication.

Bernstein begins by noting the problematic boundaries that exist in Basic Writing classes: the infernal placement tests and exit exams. These boundaries are external forces that cannot be changed by individual teachers. Bernstein instead focuses on the pedagogical choices we can make within these boundaries. Instead of focusing on what Basic Writers cannot do, she advocates for a course description like the following:

  • Basic Writing creates a space—physical and/or virtual—for students to develop as writers.
  • Basic Writing provides an opportunity for students to discover the kinds of writing they will encounter throughout college and in the workplace.
  • Basic Writing offers time to practice writing intensively and extensively.

Increasingly, Basic Writing teachers need to move away from deficiency models. (Many scholars have written similar sentiments and yet it still needed to be written in 2011 and today) Bernstein also draws from universal design to incorporate multiple learning styles, allowing students of all abilities to benefit from the course instruction. The change in her course was at a student’s prompting. Bernstein taught Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and then had planned to move through a novel and other readings. Instead, a student asked why they couldn’t analyze some of King’s later work. The class voted to suspend the novel and instead dedicate a large amount of the semester to truly understanding King’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.”

They analyzed King’s sentence structure and word choice as well as his persuasion. They listened to the entire speech using class-time. The extraordinary part of Bernstein’s approach was a collaborative presentation students gave using kinesthetic learning techniques. Students could work together to create a visual project that would analyze a selected passage or do so orally/aurally or even kinesthetically through dance, pantomime, or a skit (72).

The creations were presented to the class. It was not part of the plan, but one student recorded the presentations on his phone. Serendipitously, this allowed for greater reflection in the class as students were able to review their presentations and observe their fellow students’ reactions to them: “The multimedia of kinesthetic learning offers an embodied experience of adding detail through voice, body language, color, and digital videography, as students learned through creating the video and then replaying that experience on YouTube” (67). The students then had persuasive and analytical writing assignments to write, using the whole process as inspiration and material for those assignments. This assignment also featured in their exit exam writing.

One of Bernstein’s final thoughts about the experiment is, “’Exiting remediation’ is a finite, institutionally imposed goal, with punitive consequences for non-compliance. Yet a curriculum which foregrounds students’ prior and developing knowledge presents exciting possibilities for basic writing pedagogy” (67).


As I sit in my office writing this post, I can’t believe Ferguson was over a year ago and also only a little over a year ago. This time last year, I was teaching a Multicultural Contemporary American Literature course for the first time at a college campus that is half an hour east of Ferguson. When I turned on the tv the day of Michael Brown’s death and saw his body on the pavement and the crowd gathered on the nearby sidewalk, my first thought was, “He could have been one of my students.” To say Ferguson hit home for me is an understatement. I was teaching FYC comp that semester as well, but tensions were high in the literature course, particularly among my white students who were being confronted with their white privilege in very real ways. The black students (I use this term because it is how my students self-identify) were thrilled to be reading literature that expressed what they had been experiencing all along. I had made the decision before the semester began and before Ferguson happened to begin in the present and work our way back to less contemporary pieces. As the semester wore on, we delved into times of even less equality. Themes of social justice were inescapable.

As I said earlier, I am friends with Susan Naomi Bernstein on Facebook. We have mutual Basic Writing friends and have met at conferences on more than one occasion. Last year, I observed her teaching ideas from afar as she posted about her courses on Facebook and on her blog. There were multiple places to find Ferguson syllabi to use the events as teachable moments. The speech she had students analyze in 2008 was even more relevant last year, as it is still relevant today. Ironically, given the title of King’s speech, “Breaking the Silence,” my campus was in top-down-enforced silence: we were not allowed to host a public discussion about Brown’s death or the protests that followed.

Ferguson protest sign
A young man protests in Ferguson, MO. Picture source: NPR

Social justice is a theme in Basic Writing literature, so it is often also a theme for writing and discussion in class. This overlaps with the Villanueva piece on subversive complicity. What makes Bernstein’s approaches unique is that she also embeds disability studies into her social justice. Basic Writing often involves a pedagogy of empowerment. Both this piece and the Klages/Clark article refer to confidence-building. I argue that this is a hallmark of Basic Writing pedagogy, though I have yet to discover the perfect article about this subject alone.

This is a link to a Ferguson Syllabus page: It explains how the #FergusonSyllabus project originated and its purpose as well as linking to the hashtag on twitter for further resources than those compiled in the article.

Picture source: Scott Olson, Getty Images via the NPR website:

Paper # 1 ENGL 810

The discipline of Basic Writing has a few possible dates of emergence. If one refers to it simply as remediation, then it has existed since 1870. Most, however, mark the emergence of the field as a discipline of study to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In particular, CUNY’s open admissions policy that was enacted in Fall 1970 is credited with shifting the emphasis from remedial education to developmental education; rather than a deficit model, developmental education (of which Basic Writing is a part) focuses on student potential. In the late 1960s-early 1970s, Mina Shaughnessy of City College wrote Errors and Expectations and cofounded several publications, including The Journal of Basic Writing (Soliday 65). Shaughnessy defines the need for “a pedagogy for writing that respects, in its goals and methods, the maturity of the adult, beginning writer and at the same time admits to the need to begin where the beginning is, even if that falls outside the traditional territory of college composition” (9).

Remedial classes existed prior to open admissions. Even Harvard and Yale had classes for students whose college prep schools had not prepared them well enough (Villanueva 98). In America from 1900-1920, colleges began to differentiate student ability level by placing them into tracks. “Institutions use this strategy [differentiation of student ability levels] to resolve a fundamental paradox in American society: how to fulfill students’ aspirations– and demands– for class mobility through postsecondary education without relinquishing the academy’s traditional selective functions” (Soliday 71).
Students march for open admissions, Spring 1968, CCNY

In November 1968, students demanded a change when they overtook City College’s campus and gave the administration a signed petition critiquing the city’s plan to create a system of schools that would further divide students along tracks (Soliday 71). Students pushed for the right to attend the school of their choice. The problem of preparation, or the lack thereof, persisted. Adrienne Rich taught in CCNY’s SEEK program: “Teaching at City I came to know the intellectual poverty and human waste of the public school system through the marks it has left on students– and not on black and Puerto Rican students only, as the advent of Open Admissions was to show” (19).

While the new students lacked certain skills in writing, they had other strengths. Rich defined a quality of Basic Writers that persists today, when she said their best strength was “an impatient cutting through of the phony, a capacity for tenacious struggle with language and syntax and difficult ideas, a growing capacity for political analysis which helped counter the low expectations their teachers had always had of them, and which many had had of themselves” (18).

Shaughnessy was the administrator of a Pre-Baccalaureate program before creating the Basic Writing sequence. In The Politics of Remediation, Mary Soliday explains, “Shaughnessy’s struggle to integrate her program into a traditional liberal arts curriculum challenged the anomalous status of remedial education that has been its lot for a century” (68). The creation of Basic Writing was not only about preparing students for the rigors of college-level work but also about allowing them to join the college in academic work in spite of their current level of preparedness.

In 1993, Bartholomae wrote, “I felt then, as I feel now, that the skills course, the course that postponed ‘real’ reading and writing, was a way of enforcing the very cultural division that stood as the defining markers of the problem education and its teachers, like me, had to address” (Bartholomae 6-7). Basic Writing teachers struggled with what precisely to teach. They debated how much emphasis to place on skill versus allowing the space for students to engage in college-level work on their own terms. This is further complicated when one considers that most teachers of Basic Writing have received little to no formal training in the teaching of Basic Writing.

Too often, Basic Writing scholars reinvent pedagogy rather than refer back to scholarly work already done. In an article about construction of student identity in the Journal of Basic Writing, Laura Gray-Rosendale emphasizes how scholars use the unique situations of their own schools to dictate what should be assumed about student identity. In 1993, Mike Rose pointed out that although there are 40 years of articles in JBW, zero were cited in higher education journals: “Most of us are trained and live our professional lives in disciplinary silos” (29). Most Basic Writing instructors align with some form of Rhet/Comp theory but are often at least one step away from full alignment, contributing to the nature of the disciplinary silo.

Basic Writing programs were tolerated as a necessity. Soliday explains that Basic Writing courses always reflect the current political situation of the larger economy as well as the specific schools or even the departments in which they are housed; the programs have always been used “to boost enrollments while espousing standards; to move students into professional schools without surrendering more credits to an English department; to establish a course of elective literary study while maintaining a compulsory writing program; or to fulfill certain commitments to access for historically underrepresented groups” (62).

Video about the future of Basic Writing, an interview with Rebecca Mlynarcyzk and Ira Shor at CUNY

Works Cited

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

Rich, Adrienne. “Teaching Language in Open Admissions.” Teaching Developmental Writing: Background Readings. 1973. 4th ed. Ed. Susan Naomi Bernstein. Bedford: Boston, 2013. 12-26. Print.

Shaughnessy, Mina. “Some Needed Research on Writing.” Teaching Developmental Writing: Background Readings. Dec. 1977. 4th ed. Ed. Susan Naomi Bernstein. Bedford: Boston, 2013. 12-26. Print.

Soliday, Mary. The Politics of Remediation. U of Pittsburgh P: Pittsburgh, 2002. Print.

Villanueva, Victor. “Subversive Complicity and Basic Writing Across the Curriculum.” Journal of Basic Writing 32.1 (2013):97-110. Print.

Photo Credit:
“History of CCNY.” West Harlem. WordPress, 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

Video Credit:

“The Future of Basic Writing: How Can We Grow the Field?” YouTube. YouTube, 30 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.