Overview THIS, Media!

Placement, Assessment, and Tracking

"The essays many of the children were producing, flawed as they were, were not jibing with the various assessments of their ability that I had heard and read" (109).

There are many different ways of judging competency and literacy; assessment is subjective. One teacher says the student has a brain defect; another teacher says the student has psychological problem; another teacher says...The finger pointing and blame is infinite. So, what do teachers do? They give up. They categorize the student and blame the student's weaknesses as his or her problem and the reason for failure.

"Kids do come to school with all sorts of linguistic differences, and some kids, like Harold, arrive on our doorstep with big problems" (127).

The students' successes and failures, unfortunately, are only subjective snapshots of the whole individual. Due to time constraints or political constraints, it is a snapshot that is improperly extrapolated into the film of their whole lives.

"What was interesting to me and the tutors about Suzette's fragments was that they originated from a desire to reach beyond what she considered simple, beyond the high school way. She had an idea about how college writing should sound, and she was trying to approximate her assumptions" (171).

Often, students will play a role and perform to the desires of the instructor / teacher to their own detriment. Suzette made mistakes, albeit intelligent, were mistakes nonetheless.

"Those who study the way literature becomes canonized, how linguistic creations are included and excluded from a tradition, claim that the canonical curriculum students would most likely receive would not, as is claimed, offer a common core of American experience" (235).

The canon is an artificial construct that bifurcates the intellectual and political haves from the have-nots.

1970s Bus Drivers

Who are "basic writers" and how are they being defined?

“For Shaughnessy, blaming the students for supposed deficiencies was feckless and unjust; errors and other nonstandard features were the result of social inequities, not personal failings” (Otte 8).

“The ‘mystery’ of error is what most intimidates students—the worry that errors just ‘happen’ without a person’s knowing how or when …Freedom from error is finally a matter of understanding error, not of getting special dispensation to err simply because writing formal English is thought to be beyond the capabilities or interests of some students” (Otte 12).

“A policy of admissions that reaches out beyond traditional sources for its students, bringing in to a college campus young men and women from diverse classes, races, and cultural backgrounds who have attended good, poor, and mediocre schools…” (Otte 13).

“At the heart of these complex maneuvers, the simple fact was that the new collegians encamped in BW were the wrong color and the wrong class, too dark and too low-income to get the same access to 4-year campuses and degrees enjoyed by an elite prior to 1970” (Shor 40).

Who are the scholars/teachers and major articles/books published?

Scholars / Teachers:

Shaughnessy, Bruffee, Tate, Emig, Lyons, Ann Raimes, Harvey Weiner, Richard Freeman


1971: Emig, Janet, The Composing Process of Twelfth Graders

1974: No Author, CCCC Conference Paper, “Students’ Right to their Own Language”

1975: Merrill Sheils, Newsweek, “Why Johnny Can’t Write”

1976: Richard Freeman, The Overeducated American

1976: Gary Tate, Teaching Composition

1977: Mina Shaughnessy, Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing

1978: Muriel Harris, College English, “Individual Diagnoses: Searching for Causes, Not Symptoms of Writing Deficiencies”

1978: Sondra Perl, Dissertation, “Five Writers Writing: Case Studies of the Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers”

Summary: 2 Configurations (1) Standard Comp and (2) Standard comp w/intensive sections for BW who score low on placement tests.

Pros: Get general ed credit which speeds things up, comp class not remedial, positive connotation of "intensive" as opposed to "remedial" or "bonehead," and being with the same group a community of practice is formed.

Cons: Professor paid more / 5 hour block which might disrupt their schedule, students' budgets being charged for five hours

Questions: Is it the same instructor who teaches both? Do the students have to go to a lab / writing center? The model in the book says the students get the five hours credited as general ed, however, at the model school "Quinnippiac University" the students only get three hours.

Haswell: Chapter 4

On page 95, Haswell lists the processes a student would have to go through in order to apply "model reading" to his/her own writing.

Does this convince you? Are there other reasons to assign "model" readings?

Like the act of walking, if the human brain has to synthesize all of the acts the human body must experience in order to move one foot in front of the other, the body would cease. Although "[n]one of these steps are beyond demonstrated human capacity, ...none of them occur easily or frequently..." (95). Some of these steps, like walking, are intrinsic; however, like walking, some elements are learned. We are convinced that these steps can happen, but they will not happen in a vacuum or in isolation. The student and the mentor and the field have to be a part of the process.

The most profound other reason to assign "model" reading would be to walk the mall and window shop for different genres.

Haswell dismisses both "imitative" and "formative" models of writing development. What are the reasons, in your own words?

Haswell doesn't totally dismiss both; rather, he recommends combining the two: the external and the internal. It goes beyond handing the students the mentor text and expecting them to deconstruct, recognize the value, and apply the style of the mentor text. This is unrealistic. The beginning writer needs guidance. The model needs to operate under the control of the mentor. The only way the students will understand is if they are shown how to work through the process regardless of the process. This is similar to when Haswell writes that we separate the student from the work. The idea of overlapping the vectors is a romantic idea; that is why he keeps bringing up Wordsworth.

Readings discussion

In what ways does literacy instruction, even in the best of worlds, reinforce racism?

"The one sure thing when grappling with the complexity of identity was that labels and assessments and placements couldn't begin to do it justice, which is to say that the focus...was very much on the institution, the source of such reductive labels and simplifications" (O&M 110).

"Rowena has learned to use the five-paragraph theme formulaic pattern" (A&M 95).

Literacy instruction, regardless of students' backgrounds, reinforces racism by constraining their identities to an incredibly structured monolithic standard. Some students' home languages may be different but still clear. It is when the instructor begins labeling errors that the good / bad writing communication begins. Spanish students invert their nouns adjectives; Chinese students have trouble with fusional 'functions;' Japanese students are verb final. This does not constitute bad writing; the students' are understandable if the instructor is understanding.

How can we "educate" faculty and teachers re: linguistic bias?

Who's we? If 'we' is the institution, then, we can offer classes / workshops on dialectical diversity. If 'we' is the faculty, then, we can share anecdotal evidence / lore. If 'we' are the students, then, we can explain our culture's grammatical structures / usage. If 'we' is the classroom, then, we can explore other dialects in our class and in our community.

Agnew & McLaughlin? state, "In no way are we suggesting that African-American students should not gain a reasonable mastery of the conventions of written standard English by the time they graduate college" (p. 98). How could this be accomplished while avoiding the "prerequisite" model of BW and timed test described in their chapter?

Instead of using an isolated examples of students' writing, use a collection of their writings. Start with their voices and move into the structure of academic writing. The students do not come to us 'tabula rasa;' they enter our classroom with backgrounds in media res. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Instead of using timed writings, the instructors who loop with the students would help the students keep track of their composition portfolios. The assessment will not be an isolated example, but a collection that shows progress.

CCCC Position Statement

At the end of the semester (4 and 10), each student will submit an electronic portfolio (6 and 9) that will show his or her growth as a writer (5) in multiple areas. The portfolio will contain work that has been composed throughout the semester on various real world relevant topics (1) and peer evaluations that report on what the students do well (7 and 8), including the student’s voice, organization, and purpose (2 and 3).

1. the user wants to accomplish for particular listeners or readers within that environment: compare / contrast , real world relevance, personal connection 2. language by definition is social: paper needs to be understood by classroom peers 3. reading / evaluation is socially contextualized: peer evaluations (once at the end) focus on organization and voice and must work towards audience understanding 4. writing ability is a sum of a variety of skills and should not be one paper: portfolio that contains papers on the same topic from throughout the semester 5. writing assessment is useful primarily as a means of improving learning: gradation of improvement 6. assessment tends to drive pedagogy: portfolio 7. standardized tests, usually developed by large testing organizations…portfolio will focus on what they do well 8. the means used to test students’ writing ability shapes what they consider writing to be: focus on elements the students ‘do’ well and what they can improve 9. financial resources available for designing and implementing assessment: use the money to purchase 1 GB thumb drives instead of ‘study material’ 10. there is a large and growing body of research on language learning, language use, and language assessment that must be used to improve assessment on a systematic and regular basis.

Huot and Shaughnessy?

Huot and Shaughnessy both talk about what it means to "read like a teacher." Both authors discuss teachers reading prescriptively; some read for identifying surface errors and some for higher order concerns. Regardless of purpose, the relationship between teachers and students "...becomes what one student described as 'simply two people learning from each other'" (Shaughnessy 13). "Reading is a dynamic, meaning-making activity that revolves around the individual readers attempt to understand and interpret what has been written. The meaning anyone makes of a given text depends upon her prior background, training, experience, and expectations" (114).

"To understand the nature of writing, and therefore the nature of writing can be learned, it is necessary to understand the connections and distinctions between speech, writing, and reading and to identify skills that are implied in the ability to write" (Shaughnessy 3).

Huot believes that we have to marry theory and practice more in order to shift the focus “from how we respond to why we respond, making us reflect upon and articulate our beliefs and assumptions about literacy and its teaching” (112)

Shaughnessy critiques English teachers as both the "victims and perpetuators of these apparently mistaken appraoches" (p. 3).

Huot questions, “Why do teachers read student writing in the first place?” (112-113), and Shaughnessy claims, "the answer to improve writing is writing" (p.3)

Huot argues, “It is important for us to understand that reading and responding to student writing constitutes a particular kind of literacy event.” (119)

Shaughnessy, "The writing teacher has but one simple advantage to offer: he can save the student time, and time is important to students who are trying to make up for what got lost in high school or grade school" (p. 5).

Anzaldua, Jordan, and Jaffe?

As a teacher of English, you teach Standard American English. How can these texts inform your teaching?

Anzaldua: Music analogy, Everything comes from something else. "The rhythms of Tex-Mex music are those of the polka, also adapted from the Germans, who in turn had borrowed the polka from the Czechs and Bohemians" (307). This is the same principle with English. We can show students that although we have a standard English, it can be culturally inflected to sound different or to express unique facets of the students' agency.

CCCC: The "...plurality rules for another dialect may simply represent to them the rituals of someone else's linguistic reality." When we, as teachers, harp on the surface errors, we risk giving our students a "...mistaken sense of inferiority..."

Jordan: "...[W]e approach our maturity inside a larger social body that will not support our efforts to become anything other than the clones of those who are neither our mothers nor our fathers" (312). Students schlep their families' cultures and languages around with them like a heavy backpack that sometimes mothafuckin' weighs them down.

Jaffe: "...[S]tudies indicate that all students, and especially those at risk, benefit from strong and competitive writing skills along with counseling in personal and academic issues" (171). This sounds a lot like the Elite program with the focus on extended consultations at the writing center, recommendations for personal counseling, and academic assistance. The idea is that since this is able to be put into practice in different ways, it is adaptable for various classroom settings.

Why does CCCC advocate that all teachers be educated (as you are being) about these issues of language difference?

The CCCC advocates that all teachers be educated so teachers can be aware of different dialects and the impact traditional teaching approaches have on the various dialects. The idea of 'error' as an indicator of being wrong is wrong.

In what ways is the information we've discussed about American English true of all languages? Why?

All languages have a standard and several dialects! French, The Queen's English, Arabic, Swahili, Irish, etc. And ENGLISH has invaded all the languages, or so it seems. There is Engrish, Swenglish, Spanglish, Konglish, Japlish, etc.

Lastly, what is the responsibility of the English teacher? (to society, to her/his students, to the institution, to her/his colleagues?)

...no se...

10 basic writing students, 18 - 30 years old, 8 Hispanic males / 2 Hispanic females.

Two expository texts about the reading process.

Since each article would have multiple purposes, when the discussion occurred the students would see how purpose is connected to reading, and we could then connect that to writing, i.e. what different processes 'look' like, which was the most compelling and which was the least, etc. The exercise would suggest to students that there are multiple perspectives on each reading, based on purpose and personal skills, and that note taking might be a good skill to acquire so that nothing is missed on assessments.