Guest Author: Kevin G. Smith, Assistant Editor of Research in the Teaching of English
Issue 50.3 of RTE launched online this week just as our editorial team is preparing to send to press the final issue of this volume year. Wrapping up work on the 50th anniversary year of RTE is a moment that invites some reflection—on the field and on our editorship of the journal. In the first issue of this volume year, we noted that the articles provided a “conceptual turn from research report to story” (5). In that spirit, we would like to story our editorship of the journal by thinking about the questions that have animated us throughout this year.
The articles leading up to and in volume year 50 lead efforts in the internationalization of the journal, particularly by addressing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion that increasingly come to the foreground in plurilingual societies where all language speakers, and their languages, have not been equally -- or equitably -- valued. The articles explore some of the larger social, political, material and economic systems in which the teaching and learning of English(es) participates. A principal concern motivating us as an editorial team has been the internationalization of the teaching and learning of English in a global era where literacies traverse across boundaries of all kinds. In our editorship, we have asked four questions that very much remain at the forefront of our vision as we look to the future of this journal. These four questions also promote social change in and by researching in the teaching of Englishes.
First, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) bridge multiple contexts to explore the teaching and learning of language and literacy in diverse settings beyond the classroom?
This question responds particularly to historical, cultural, and political shifts in our global society. Rebecca Woodard’s The Dialogic Interplay of Writing and Teaching Writing: Teacher-Writers’ Talk and Textual Practices across Contexts in 50.1 links teachers’ out of school writing practices with their writing instruction. Also in 50.1, Amy Lachuk’s article, The Sociohistorical Mandate for Literacy and Education in the Rural South: A Narrative Perspective, uses data poems to better reflect the cultural and collective commitment to using literacy for self determination immediately. In #WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature, Denise Dávila responds to the social exigency of religious (in)tolerance reflected in the twitter stream #WNDB to argue that preservice teachers may inadvertently be contributing to the defamation of other cultures and religious identities when they adopt a non religious reading lens in their selection of books. These and other studies are bridging multiple historical, social, and cultural contexts in this past year of RTE.
Second, what impact do new technologies have on on students’ literacy practices, and how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) move digital literacy research in the direction of internationalizing English(es), honoring multiple ways of knowing, and resisting monolingual production?
Amy Stornaiuolo and Robert Jean LeBlanc’s multi-sited ethnography in issue 50.3 is a great example of the kind of innovative research that can expand our understandings of digital media and communication technologies. Their “scaling” approach to studying digital literacy can be useful to a range of literacy scholars working across borders. And keep an eye out for Kate Vieira’s piece in issue 50.4 (link will be active in May, when the issue goes online) that shows us that the influence technology has on our literacy practices don’t necessarily mean we should always be studying online communication. Rather, traditional qualitative research methods can reveal the movement of “writing remittances,” those material supports for literacy, across borders. In this way, Vieira’s study is not one of technology for technology’s sake, but an exploration of how the movement of technology and attendant literacy demands is bound up in complex economic, social, and political relationships that resist easy binaries between global north and global south.
Third, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) continue to work against the imperialist logic of languages which mirrors, creates, and sustains unequal and oppressive social hierarchies and work toward decolonial and pluriversal perspectives?
In issue 50.2, Melinda J. McBee Orzulak’s article, Disinviting Deficit Ideologies: Beyond “That’s Standard,” “That’s Racist,” and “That’s Your Mother Tongue”, pointed to how preservice teachers responded to linguistic ideological dilemmas that unfolded in their classrooms, and how teachers might respond to deficit language ideologies with approaches that value language variation. And looking forward to issue 50.4 (link will be active in May), we will see Susan Choo pushing back against oppressive social hierarchies through a critique of neoliberal, strategic cosmopolitanism.
Another way that we’ve tried to address this question is by publishing studies that re-invigorate existing methodologies, such as the article by Paul Anderson, Chris M. Anson, Robert M. Gonyea, and Charles Paine (50.2) that drew the attention of Inside Higher Education. We’ve also sought articles that adopt novel methodological approaches. In our introduction to issue 50.1, we asked how storying our research could “help us to conceive of an RTE audience beyond the academy and to imagine our research being accessible to and inviting reciprocity with members of the communities we research” (9). This project began in issue 50.1 with Todd DeStigter asking: “why argument?” It continued in that issue with the already-mentioned innovative pieces by Denise Dávila and Amy Johnson Lachuk, and continued with Timothy San Pedro’s storying methodology in his article, Silence as Shields: Agency and Resistances among Native American Students in the Urban Southwest, in 50.2. As we look forward, we see an important area for exploration in imagining how methodological orientations can reproduce, but also respond to, resist, and reorder language hierarchies.
And fourth, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) continue to cultivate research from countries and cultures around the world where the teaching and learning of English(es) happens alongside, oftentimes in tension with, the teaching and learning of other languages?
As we finish the final issue in the 50th volume year of RTE, we reflect that this issue exemplifies the challenge to the field of literacy studies moving forward: How best to understand the teaching and learning of Englishes from a global perspective? In our editorial introduction to issue 50.2, “The Teaching of English”, we noted the importance that border spaces can play in working against imperialist hierarchies of language—that researchers, students, and teachers might not just cross, but also dwell in and occupy these border spaces (Tlostanova & Mignolo, 2012).
In many ways, we see the forthcoming issue 50.4 as the perfect close to RTE’s 50th year in that it takes up in compelling and unique ways all four of the questions outlined above.The focus of issue 50.4 will be rooted studies emanating from four nation-states on four different continents with four distinct colonial legacies—Cameroon, Singapore, Brazil, and the United States—responding to and helping to shape the internationalization of the teaching and learning of Englishes. Beyond nation-state diversity, the studies engage a range of contexts both within and outside of schools and classrooms. Vivian Yenika-Agbaw examines the legacies of imperialism in Cameroonian textbooks; Susan Choo argues for pedagogies of strategic cosmopolitanism as a way to promote ethical connections and border crossings in an increasingly globalized world, Kate Vieira traces the bi-directional movement of technological and material supports for writing between the global north and global south; and Mary Amanda Stewart and Holly Hansen-Thomas map the transnational life of a particular student and how that movement manifests itself in translanguaging practices for the learning of English. (Look for issue 50.4 in May; we will update this post when the issue is online!)
The articles in 50.4 will trace, create, occupy, and cross borders—borders that cut across political, geographic, and nation-state lines and exist in our very classrooms, schools, and institutions. The powerful directives these articles will offer to researchers, teachers, and learners of Englishes around the world exemplify the way that literacy and language learning is always already bound up in larger social, material, economic, and political systems and histories. The project of internationalizing and reexamining what research in the teaching of English(es) can and should be in the years ahead continues.
Inclusive learning offers all students a sense of belonging, the freedom to risk, the human dignity of making mistakes without censure. For several years, I've been interested in how diverse peoples come to engage language, texts, various media and each other in various in school and community contexts. I've been so honored to share this set of interests with the amazing preservice teachers enrolled in the nation's top-ranked teacher education and certification programs at Michigan State University. Together we've run workshops for middle school students visiting campus, week-long film camps for regional American Indian high school students, and have helped to teach and mentor first year writers together with talented first year writing instructors in preparation for College Writing Courses. Together, these preservice teachers, led by Joshua DeBrander, Cody Harrell, Shaniqua McShan, Anna Stirling, and John Thompson, created a living portoflio of lessons, activities, workshops, and resources for teachers of diverse learners interested in developing communities of belonging in their classrooms. Please visit this website often, contribute to it, and share it with your colleagues. You'll find it at inclusivelearning.org.
Recent revelations about Andrea Smith's claim to be Cherokee make this 2008 article I wrote about self representation seem more timely than ever. In it, I explore the cases of Ward Churchill and Resa Crane Bizzaro, whose claims to Cherokee identity may look similar to Andrea Smith's. I consider the differences between self identification (what Smith is doing) and self representation (what she's not doing very well). Self representation unites an identity claim with evidence, action with deed, in ways that matter most to the peoples we claim to identify with and by whom we are identified.
For many scholars of color and citizens of American Indian nations, race isn't separate or separable from knowledge making (i.e. research, teaching, and service). A group of indigenous women scholars responded to the Smith case with a "call first and foremost for accountability to the communities in which we claim membership...." In other words, academic honesty, professional integrity, and any identity claim always come back to questions central to accountability: what knowledge am I making, with whom, and for what purposes? Much of the evidence needed to support an identity claim comes from being and doing.
Steve Russell asks: "How can you be an Indian without knowing which of your relatives is Indian? How can you be an Indian with no ties to an Indian community? His first question is about being, the second about doing—both need to be answered by every scholar or professional claiming a Native identity. And these questions need to be answered with evidence deemed important by those with the rights, knowledge, and obligations to verify that evidence.
Being an American Indian scholar is about lineage and citizenship. In that 2008 article, I talk about "authenticity markers" and "identity fraud." By authenticity markers, I mean sources and instances of evidence used to establish an identity claim. I mean authenticity in the sense of validity, setting aside for the moment that validity itself has its own imperialist legacies. When these sources of evidence, or markers, are neither present nor presented, scholars leave themselves open to questions and disputes about their identity claims, and eventually, charges of identity fraud. Identity fraud happens when a scholar gains position, prestige, and resources by unjustifiably claiming an identity or being credited with particular accomplishments or qualities that have not been validated by those with the rights to validate these. American Indian nations have every right to ask people who claim to be affiliated with them about the nature of these affiliations and to seek evidence of lineage and citizenship. It's not only a question of academic honesty in Smith's case and professional honesty in Dolezal's. It's a question of the resources and position they seemed to have gained in whole or part by dint of their unsubstantiated claims. Their fraud rests in misrepresentations of themselves as belonging to a peoples when they have offered no evidence of being that identity.
Some have argued that Andrea is doing so much for indigenous people they claim to represent. Shouldn't that entitle her to a claim on Cherokee identity?' No. Her job as an academic as a public university requires professional accountability to the public. Doing a job well and with the peoples one is paid to serve doesn't entitle anyone to claim being Cherokee. Lineage and family show being. Being is about family, clan, and for many federally recognized tribes, citizenship. Doing however can happen even when a person cannot provide the evidence Nations seek in support of citizenship applications. Such is the case of Resa Crane Bizzaro, some would recognize her as the native woman she claims because of the hard work she puts in communities. In the article, I also describe her legitimate claims of lineage from families in the Eastern Band of Cherokees. Descendents have a place in conversations, workplaces and scholarly circles; their being and doing may well be recognized by the people whom they claim to represent. But their rights and obligations to their peoples are not the same, should not be mistaken as such, nor should they be recognized and rewarded as though they are. This is a key problem with self identification in Smith's case.
But her scholarship is so remarkably insightful, required reading really. Shouldn't that entitle her to the claim of Cherokee identity. No. Think of James Mooney. He did strong scholarly work, but never entitled himself as a Cherokee. To this day, she writes "I have always been, and will always be Cherokee. I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true." Not, "I believe I am descended from Cherokees." Or "I believe this to be true because..." This is a matter of accuracy and integrity both in self representation. No matter who the scholar, evidence of any claim is central to establishing ethos and maintaining the integrity of the work. A claim without evidence is misleading, unconvincing, and compromising of the quality of the work, that otherwise might be very helpful to the people she claims to represent.
Who gets to ask about an identity claim? When is it appropriate? When is the asking an 'attack'? One scholar asking another to provide evidence of a claim made in professional materials has the right to ask by dint of pursuing academic honesty and integrity. American Indian nations certainly and undeniably can ask scholars for their affiliations and can expose scholars who are not enrolled to relevant parties. Search committees and tenure review committees at public universities do not get to ask for certification of tribal affiliation because federal law allows for self identification. These committees do however have every right and obligation to seek alignment of claim and evidence in the body of a scholar's work to ensure the highest levels of scholarly and research integrity of scholarship.
There is no attack in the asking when the asking is a matter of sovereignty or professional integrity. There is no scrutiny when the question is begged by circumstances of the day. Dozelal's case is exactly what the doctor ordered, and what for many many years scholars in American Indian studies and the Cherokee Nation have known about Smith, but were in no position to openly, publicly, and frankly talk about. There is no policing when there's dialogue, and social media has opened up the dialogue, for better or worse.
The bottom line: the burden of proof for an identity claim is on all scholars, professionals, and American Indian peoples. Proof needs to be provided the claims made in professional materials, especially when these materials work to bolster a scholar ethos and position. For the time being at least.
In future posts, I'll take up your questions beginning with: But white people don't need to prove their identity in scholarly articles, why should American Indians?
Living and working as a team involves understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about representation, access, presence, and demographics of communities. It's about bringing all kinds of people to the table. Inclusion is about the culture and climate that unfold when everyone around the table is invited to share and respect their ideas, knowledge, stories, and experiences.
While public universities have made noteworthy strides in diversifying college campuses, work remains in retaining diverse students and faculty. This is where inclusion comes in. Inclusion remains so hard won because it is deeply rooted in everyone's everyday dispositions to act in biased or prejudiced ways. Sometimes these actions are conscious and intentional and take shape as aggressions (e.g. the kind of bullying, brow beating, demeaning or dismissing behavior seen when people insist that their experiences are the baseline against which all other people's experiences should be judged). Oftentimes though, these actions are more insidious or simply unconscious and unintentional mistakes. These manifest as microaggressions experienced in comments or gestures of dismissal, disrespect, or disregard when someone of difference offers a perspective at the table.
Offering a concrete example, Kristie Dotson's article "How is This Paper Philosophy?" opens with a story about a guidance counselor at a Historically Black College warning her sister away from pursuing philosophy as a major. It goes on to reveal the culture of justification in philosophical knowledge making and "the kind of exceptionalism and incongruence that such a culture amplifies, which serves to create a difficult professional culture for diverse practitioners" (6). In another article, Dotson illustrates efforts that "can be made to demarcate the different types of silencing people face when attempting to testify from oppressed positions in society." It is crucially important to continue this work of identifying, understanding, and redressing sources of microaggressions that create the culture of campuses and classrooms. This year, the CATILAH team joined forces with ISP/VIPP and teams of faculty from WRAC, the ELC, CELTA, and the College of Education to create Cross Cultural Teaching Exchanges. In these we've worked together as teams to explore the topics of cultural reciprocity, schooling, learning, teaching, language and literacy. The results have been a raised capacity to understand and sustain the cultural and linguistic assets of diverse students and language learners. We've also identified several ways in which dispositions to learn and teach can inadvertently exclude the very learners we hope to reach.
Diverse and inclusive classrooms and universities are not only possible, but can take place when everyone attempts to live and work together as a team. This begins with the assumption that everyone's knowledge and experience is equally important. It means supporting each other through listening, respect, and understanding the social responsibilities that stories and testimony demand. It means recognizing that silence itself has meaning. It means identifying goals and taking agreed upon steps together. It means recognizing that we are all capable of microaggressions, that we can gently identify these, make people aware, and together work as a team to create new dispositions and cultures. It means directing one another in the right way: ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᏕᏝ ᏕᏣᏓᏎᎮᎮᏍᏗ /duyugodv ditla detsadasehehesesdi/ .
Want to know more about microaggressions?
Boysen, G. A. (2012). Teacher and student perceptions of microaggressions in college classrooms. College Teaching, 60(3), 122-129.
Solorzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1), 60-73.
Sue, D. W. (Ed.). (2010). Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact. John Wiley & Sons.
ᎾᏂᎥ ᏴᏫ ᏕᏥᏠᏯᏍᏗᏍᎨᏍᏗ: Include everyone
Including everyone means understanding difference in and on its own terms, helping others find their strengths, and showing them ways to build on them by aligning words, choices, and actions. A fundamental Cherokee life way, including everyone can inform all areas of the work that teachers do: from one-to-one work with students, small groups, and classrooms; to organizing and administering departments with transparency; to building projects together in teams of teachers, students, and parents.
It compliments the ethic of ᎦᏚᎩ /gadugi/ working together as a team and the ethic of ᏗᏣᏓᎫᏍᏓ ᎢᏤᎮᏍᏗ /ditsadagusda itsehesdi/ live and support each other. I've tried to manifest this in the work I'm doing as the director of the MSU College of Arts and Letters Center for Applied and Inclusive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities.
Specifically, I'm thinking of two peer mentoring projects that focus on successful students helping others become successful by building on each others' language and cultural assets. CAITLAH master teacher, Alissa Cohen, developed the idea for a peer mentoring program in the rich soli of our master mentor teachers collective. Her program pairs advanced undergraduate English language learners with newcomer international students as they progress through the English Language Center's curriculum. The program has grown to include over 100 students students working together to help each other make sense of college life and to practice English as they immerse themselves in American culture.
In CAITLAH's Teaching Diverse Learners project, preservice secondary teachers are placed in MSU's preparation for college writing (PCW) classrooms. The master instructors have engaged in and use regularly CAITLAH workshops and materials on sustaining pedagogies. The preservice teachers enrolled in my English education courses also engage in developing activities and pedagogies to facilitate the linguistic and cultural perseverance of our PCW students. In their PCW classroom placements, the preservice teachers work 1-2-1 with ELL and first generation students, facilitate small groups, lead activities, and run entire class periods by the end of the semester.
The Cherokee ethic of including everyone comes to life for me in these peer mentoring projects. They help me imagine what decolonial education can look like in day-to-day.
A new study by the World Wildlife Fund suggests that when languages die, ecosystems do as well. Supporting linguistic diversity challenges the colonial imperialism of Western romance languages in the Americas, English chief among them. As co-editors of Research in the Teaching of English, Mary Juzwik and I have been thinking quite a bit about the ways in which we might pluralize access to the journal's English-only content.
With the tremendous efforts of assistant editor, Maria Novotny, and several translators, the editorial team is pleased to announce that volume year 49 marks the beginning of RTE publishing the abstracts of each article in Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. Many thanks to the translators, without whom this would not be possible.
Teaching philosophies show how teachers commit to the students, content, schools, and places we teach in honest and correct ways. But what types of teaching philosophies help change the individualistic, materialistic, and imperialistic nature of education?
In Cherokee, ᏚᏳᏙᏛ /duyugodv/ can mean honest, correct, and right. It's a word found in Cherokee concepts like axiom, dictum, and committed.* ᏚᏳᏙᏛ /duyugodv/ is also found in this Cherokee Lifeway: ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᏗᏝ ᏕᏣᏓᏐᎮᎮᏍᏗ /duyugodv ditla detsadasohehesdi/ Direct one another in the right way. So the question becomes, what axioms might teachers have in their philosophies if they're committed to decolonizing education?
Long recognized for his outstanding teaching that follows a tribal philosophy, Comanche professor of American Indian Studies at Portland State College, Cornel Pewewardy recently spoke at the National Congress of American Indians. He offered this teaching philosophy that directs teachers in honest and correct ways to decolonize education. I thank Richard Allen for passing these along.
Markers for Engaged Pedagogy in Indigenous Nations Studies
By Cornel Pewewardy
A Future Teacher's Perseverance
Cary Edington sat in front of me clicking through his teaching portfolio. Hair in a tuft, eyes bright, and wearing a huge smile at the accomplishment and ideas, he's always been tireless and strident in pursuing his belief that all students deserve engaged and engaging Math and English classes. The portfolio features lessons, activities, and his philosophy on teaching diverse learners, oftentimes through problem based lesson plans. A lesson plan on addressing discrimination in a community, for instance, will teach argumentative writing based on an analysis of statistical evidence gathered during the Math lesson. I admire him deeply for the ways in which he's trying to create the types of educational opportunities for his students not seen in our reports and tests about teaching. He'll soon be entering his first year of the Teach for America program. He decided to leave MSU's top education certification program to take a route more likely to place him in the kinds of classrooms and with the types of students he hopes to teach. Students not unlike himself.
Cary has been raising himself since the age of 13 when he became an emancipated minor. He worked his way through college at MSU as a janitor cleaning schools and rode his bike between campus and work or took the bus when the snow got too deep. Categorized a female at birth, he identifies as a man. When his students ask if he's a boy or girl, he smiles and asks them: "What do you think?" Whatever they answer, he smiles and turns their attention back to the lesson at hand.
Cary's teaching portfolio represents that hard-won place where possibility can emerge in curricular and pedagogical designs created for students' in urban and impoverished schools. In his well-written and provocative revised edition of Why School?, Mike Rose takes up "the experience of eduction when it's done well with the student's well-being in mind" (34). Tracing his own educational journey alongside the students he's taught and observed in master-teacher classrooms, Rose explores questions about school reform, adult education, cognition, work, development, and the possibility of public education in a society with staggering poverty rates and that too often fails to hear the stories of students like Cary. But what do we listen for when we hear a story like Cary's?
Some will hear evidence of a bootstrap story of hard work, perseverance, perhaps even, bravery. In a new chapter on, "Being Careful about Character," Rose takes up the problem of reading stories like Cary's as an indicator that meritocracy in our educational system works. Bootstrap stories (and their newest iteration in character building exercises that emphasize teaching perseverance) amount to little more than placing the onus to change squarely on the very people who are most oppressed by poverty. "If you work hard in school, through sheer perseverance, you will succeed," the thinking goes.
Cary's story is exceptional in large part because it is an exception-- an exception that offers evidence of the rule: Too few people in Cary's position actually make it out of high school, let alone through college, let alone through Math AND English. Even fewer of them actively pursue a teaching career, especially in the hopes of working with students in schools hit hardest by poverty. Rose reminds us that stories like his own, like Cary's, like so many others, are really examples of what is wrong with a capitalist society that tolerates poverty, broken social safety nets, and very unequal access to education.
Cary's curriculum will surely have impact and be helpful to students he teaches. But his success and his teaching are small doses of medicine that will only treat the symptoms of what ails the United States today: unchecked capitalism, institutionalized racism, vast and growing inequities, and failing infrastructures. We need more teachers like Cary teaching students like Cary; we need educational policy bold enough to provide the best educational practices for students in poverty without finding fault with their characters; and we need broad and smart social policy on the scale of Roosevelt's WPA projects and the scope of Johnson's War on Poverty— policy that treats all people humanely and provides safe, clean, state-of-the-art learning spaces.
Trends in Writing Research
One theme of the 2014 Writing Research across Borders conference in Paris, France concerned research that promotes social equity, an especially important topic in a time when teachers around the world are seeing demographic shifts in their classrooms and communities. Here are a few trends in writing research that hold promise for addressing questions of equity.
Methodological Innovations Writing research continues to develop more robust ways of approaching language learning. Promising trends include cognitive ethnography, ethnolinguistic studies, mapping, neuroscience research, and cross cultural genre studies. These approaches might offer the scale and depth needed to understand language learning in diverse communities and across multiple languages.
International Research Teams Increasingly, humanities, engineering and sciences, and education scholars are working together to develop large-scale projects. Their research questions are tending to address cross cultural understandings and approaches to questions of the transfer of writing skills and strategies, genre studies particularly across disciplines, the materiality of literacy, and assessment.
Ecologies and Materialities of Writing This longstanding area of research pays attention to the interconnected, networked, collaborative, material, infrastructural, systemic ways in which writing unfolds or is hindered in workplaces and communities. A new dimension to this research, ethnolinguistic studies of writing codes in contact, traces the imperialistic introduction of new writing technologies in cultures and communities.
Professional Development for Teachers in all levels and educational settings remains an important development in writing research. Along this line, look for didactic learning and teaching methods, competency based approaches to teacher education, as well as mentoring and professional development initiatives for faculty.
Global writing networks, digital contact zones, connectivity, citizenship, social networking, and activism all remain important areas of theorizing and research. While not a new area, look for interesting pedagogical innovations between teachers and researchers uniting classrooms across the globe to enhance learning of all students through project based assignments.
Trans (insert noun here) Cultures. Languages. Disciplines. Nations. All of these areas were represented by several presentations from scholars around the globe. The results of these studies show how learners develop metalinguistic awareness as they develop abilities to transfer skills and strategies; they show how literacies travel and accrue across life spans; and they reveal deeper understanding of the translating process as it unfolds in learners' texts. This important trend in writing research promises better understandings of circulations of power in literacies and language learning.
Interested in learning more? Browse the convention program here.
Diversity in Writing Assessment
The first three pages of my Master's thesis draft were covered with penciled comments from my committee director, Ed White. At the end page three, he drew a line and said simply, "I stopped reading here. See me." Ed was a tough reader to please, fair and challenging. He showed me where my writing was confused and confusing and listened as I tried to talk through my ideas. I struggled mightily with that thesis, trying to make some sense of cognitive processes for reading and writing. Ed had in mind a type of writing that mine fell far short of with its fragments, misspellings, awkward phrasings, and run on sentences. A key founder of holistic assessment measures of student writing in college entrance exams, his responses were well-informed and well-intentioned. Under his leadership, I had helped read blue book applications of thousands of students applying to enter California State University, San Bernadino. I saw how students' form impacted deeply their placement into various tracks of preparatory writing classes. That draft of my thesis was only a little better than those entrance exams. I had to wonder if I'd ever make it through. But I had made it that far. And my acceptance into a few PhD programs kept me motivated to finish the job and get Ed reading past page three.
Writing assessment matters. It matters in the classroom, in entrance exams, and in standardized tests. All potentially impact writing development. How we give these kinds of feedback to learners and what they do with it, or feel enabled and compelled to do with it, are matters of equity. Just how so, for whom, and with what stakes are questions hotly debated in the media and scholarship. Few know this better than Mya Poe, the guest editor of 48.3, a special issue of RTE featuring international perspectives on diversity and writing assessment. Mya's research in this area includes the important book Race and Writing Assessment (with Asao Inoue). The issue includes an all star line up.
It features international scholars from across language and writing communities keenly interested in the effects a range of assessments have on diverse learners. David H. Slomp, Julie A. Corrigan, and Tamiko Sugimoto lead the issue with their article that "provides researchers, test developers, and test users with a clearer, more systematic approach to examining the effects of assessment on diverse populations of students." Mary Ryan and Georgina Barton's article details the teaching of writing in Australian elementary schools to reveal how diverse students create powerful identities for themselves in writing when given a space to do so. Asking how teachers define failure in students' writing, Asao Inoue explores "the nature and production of failure in writing classrooms and programs." Liz Hamp-Lyons widens the lens again to the global context:
"English tests have great value. Everywhere in the world, English proficiency is one of the essential keys to unlock the door of educational opportunity and all that promises for an individual’s future. The assessment of writing is, then, socially and politically significant not only within a country’s internal struggles for opportunity for all through quality education, but also between nations."
Global-scale tests in English proficiency, assessing writing at the university level, and every act of responding to writing in classrooms and third spaces impact diverse students especially. Together, these can perpetuate social inequities or help realize global equity. This issue offers paths of possibility to move us further along this continuum toward more equity for diverse learners. Hope remains strong.
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.