composition, English studies, epistemologies, genre, matsuda, methodology, Objects of Study, second-language, second-language writing, theory
Faced with questions as I started to think about paper #5, I realized this paper has the potential to be my stream of consciousness post. It is not only about who I am and where I align myself within the field of English Studies, but also about what I am learning and what is out there in 2015 — the possibilities for scholarship, for aligning my various personal and professional objectives. As such, this paper will directly lead into my last Paper #6: Being a Scholar of . . .
How do I align myself theoretically and etymologically? This term, I have focused on second-language writing within composition studies for all of my readings and posts. I did this because it was an area I was interested in, but knew nothing about. I am only just beginning to explore how it aligns with who I am as a student, scholar, librarian and teacher. First, I need to explain the largest part of who I am as a professional librarian and educator for the past 25 years. I do this by providing background on my specialty area within information literacy, as this concept and its accompanying standards are the methodologies by which academic librarians base the majority of their epistemology related to library instruction. Within the library profession, the Information Literacy Competency Standards are the equivalent of the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ Outcomes Statement. Used as both a theoretical foundation and guide for practice within librarian instruction, the IL Standards were first adopted by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in 2000.
Now in the midst of a major revision, to be renamed the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, Information Literacy is defined by ACRL in this revised Framework as “a spectrum of abilities, practices, and habits of mind that extends and deepens learning through engagement with the information ecosystem. It includes
- understanding essential concepts about that ecosystem;
- engaging in creative inquiry and critical reflection to develop questions and to find, evaluate, and manage information through an iterative process;
- creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and civic purpose; and
- adopting a strategic view of the interests, biases, and assumptions present in the information ecosystem.
The Standards will be referred to in the revision as a Framework, as they will be “based on a cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation” (1). In this revision, threshold concepts are introduced as those ideas within a discipline that are “passageways or portals to enlarged understanding of ways of thinking and practicing within that discipline. Six are identified within the Framework
- Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
- Information Creation as a Process
- Information Has Value
- Research as Inquiry
- Scholarship Is a Conversation
- Searching Is Strategic
Added to these are knowledge practices, “demonstrations of ways in which learners can increase their understanding” of information literacy concepts, and dispositions, “ways in which to address the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension of learning.” Finally metaliteracies are to be included as they offer “a renewed vision of information literacy as an overarching set of abilities in which students are both consumers and creators of information who can participate successfully in collaborative spaces” (ACRL 1).
How I align all of this with my growing interest and scholarship in First-Year and Second-Language Writing are the current balls in the air. As I look to my posts and readings from the term, I see connecting threads amidst my interests, goals, and seeds…points I identify as areas for future study.
From PAB #1, I described how I came to my focus area of second-language writing for this term:
At my own university, as in many without a composition sequence in the first year, students all take first-year seminars and second-language students often face writing challenges during their first year, but only a small percentage of second-language students are enrolled in an additional course to support their second-language needs.
Much of the second-language writing research I have read so far is over 10 years old, but as I have no background in this area, it is informative to research and learn the history of the field, its relationship to composition studies and how best I can align myself within these two areas for my future research and study.
In PAB #3 and #4, the grammar debate both in L1 and L2 scholarship is of interest to me, as I began teaching English in 1985 as a staunch current-traditionalist amidst process composition frameworks. I didn’t know that was what I was, but over the years, my focus on grammar, “correct” writing and formalist traditions now make me cringe as I see how much scholarship and pedagogy has been focused on alternatives…ouch.
With the death of George Hillocks this week, my post discussing his 1984 article that Janice Lauer argued “discredited the full-frontal teaching of grammar” (128) begs for a reread in his memory.
How do my identified objects of study fit in? Moving to PAB #5 and #6, I identified students as objects of study within second-language writing. Looking ahead, I plan to expand to both second-language and L1 students, examining how they approach writing from sources and move into research-based writing.
I looked to the section I wrote on students’ identities – how they are
“negotiated in text formation,” citing additional scholarship on language use within “situated context and community” and “notions of imagined community”– all of which lead to students “affective roles of investment and belongingness in generating writing characteristic[s] of discourse communities” [my emphases] (114). There are very different student reactions to writing, research and citing conventions in Western academic writing, and students’ first-language knowledge is often at odds with academic English.
As I thought about my own agendas and professional/personal objectives, I looked to PAB #7 and #8 and my reading in Process, Post-Process, Translingualism and Genre Theories within writing studies as these opened up yet more areas for potential exploration. Genre theory, as Hyland’s 2003 article points out, can align itself with social contexts and “complement process views” even as post-process theories have now displaced the areas of process-based pedagogies,
While process methods in writing have had “a major impact,” Hyland maintains that they have not resulted in improved writing due to approaches “rich amalgam of methods [that] collect around a discovery-oriented, ego-centered core which lacks a well-formulated theory of how language works in human interaction” (17).
There are also many trans- theories I potentially see myself aligned with.
- Transdisciplinary–Matsuda’s call moving second-language learning from an interdisciplinary area of concentration.
- Transfer—looking at how writing and first-year skills can be better aligned to demonstrate movement from the first-year to subsequent classes and learning. This can include both the WID (Writing in the Disciplines) and WAC (Writing across the Curriculum) movements.
- Translingualism – the move from multilingual to a wider acceptance of the diversity in languages is a rising area of scholarship; but I am more interested in watching this – as Dr. DePew said – to see how it all plays out in practice.
In reading Matsuda and Horner et al for PAB #8, I realized how translingual approaches can provide me with ways to think differently about the writing classroom, tying together my growing discomfort for how Standardized English and its accompanying rules privilege a minority of students in the 21st century educational environment.
By arguing for the fluidity of languages, translingual approaches “question language practices,” asking “what produces the appearance of conformity, as well as what that appearance might and might not do, for whom, and how” (Horner et al. 304). With translingualism, there is no “standard” English, described as a “bankrupt concept” by the authors. Rather the varieties of English, as well as other languages, are looked at by way of what “writers are doing with language and why” (Horner et al. 305).
I find that the more I read Matsuda’s scholarship, the more I am interested in aligning my professional work as a librarian and teacher, with continued scholarship and study in the field of second-language writing, concurring with Matsuda as he recommends that scholars learn “more about language—its nature, structure, and function as well as users and uses” and to “develop a broader understanding of various conversations that are taking place—inside and outside the field” (483).
As I continue to review my posts and readings for the term, thinking about these last few weeks of class and how I might align myself within the discipline, I return to Fulkerson’s, “Four Philosophies of Composition” (1979), and “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century” (2005). He discusses the landscape of composition theory, in what he refers to as his “every ten years frustration” in trying to make sense of where composition studies has been, but also where it is going. Throughout his 2005 article, he looks at the “social turn” of composition (655) and I see myself most aligned with this latest social-constructivist approach to pedagogy and teaching as I move forward. The text that I have begun to look more closely at A Guide to Composition Pedagogies is helping me more clearly delineate the varied areas of focus within the field. I am really just beginning to return to this area of scholarship, since first teaching in the mid-1980s, having aligned myself with library research and instruction until this past year. Much has happened in the last 30 years!
Lingering questions of alignment to be explored in Paper #6…
- Composition Theories – Am I a latent current-traditionalist or have I moved to post-process? What is next?
- Social Constructivism – The social turn in composition (Bizzell, Bartholomae, Berlin, Harris) appeals in some ways to me, as to how the language and mind work together to construct meaning – and how the various discourse communities align with my current teaching methods.
- Critical pedagogy – The ideas surrounding power in the classroom (Delpit, Freire) – the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of students and teachers – how does this apply to my beliefs and teaching style?
- Post-structuralism – Bringing rhetoric back into composition and exploring how invention can persuade within an argument (Crowley). How can I apply this to my own teaching and scholarship?
While Matsuda’s work in 2L scholarship has opened up my eyes and interest to continue exploring in this area, I have three paths that are converging – first year writing (including how these skills transfer – and the connections to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines), how students research and use sources (which includes the ugly P word, plagiarism), and from the library instruction and critical literacy lens, I include issues of English as a second language in writing/research in the first year. How these will ultimately align and play themselves out in my study and scholarship, I honestly have no idea at this point. I will look at this more in Paper #6 as I examine how I can contribute to the Major Debates in English and Library/Information Literacy Studies, as I plan to keep moving all three paths forward, adding theory, scholarship, new insights and knowledge. I am in a collection/learning mode for a little while more.
 Threshold Concept Theory is noted by Ann Johns as “a relatively new framework that deepens our understanding of critical learning experiences. The theory provides a framework of characteristics for identifying crucial conceptual knowledge that represents learning portals within a subject area of discipline” (150).
Jan Meyer and Ray Land’s Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (2006) and Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines (2008) provide additional background and establish their Meyer and Land’s ground-breaking scholarship in this area.
Works Cited & Further Reading
A Work in Progress…Staring at the Labyrinth
As I start looking through all of my accumulated articles related to my posts, as well as those I have identified as “must reads,” I put them here in my blog as my growing learning path…
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