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.
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.
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.
When talking leaves...
One way ᏍᏏᏉᏯ /Sequoyah/ went about convincing Cherokees to adopt the syllabary was to write letters to friends who had removed to the Arkansas territory in the mid 1820's. When his friends replied to him using the syllabary, all doubts about its usefulness were laid to rest. Cherokees, without mass education and print, became fluent in reading and writing using the 86-character syllabary within three years. Sequoyah's invention provided an immediate and lasting decolonial alternative to the imperialist imperative of alphabetic writing — the more Cherokee writing traveled across distances, the more value it accrued, and the more it secured a lasting legacy of Cherokee story, history, and language.
Traveling, translanguaging, migrating, organically growing and restoring— these longstanding and ongoing movements of language and literacy and the circulations of value that accrue (or do not accrue) from these movements reveal the global forces still shaping languages and literacies in people’s lives and communities. The outstanding articles in this, the inaugural issue of Mary Juzwik's and my editorship of Research in the Teaching of English, collectively testify to readers’ and writers’ ongoing struggles to achieve, make meaning, rewrite histories, and realize hope in everyday acts of linguistic perseverance.
Click here to read more from the introduction to this issue.
Click here to receive a complimentary copy of Vicki Purcell Gates's article.
Many thanks to the tremendous authors, reviewers, the RTE team, and the NCTE team for all you've done to make this first issue possible.
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.