Thinking about Engaging Difference and the Multicultural Requirement

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On 9/29 the English department’s own Emily Davis presented on UD’s revised multicultural requirement to a crowd of about twenty instructors, administrators, and graduate and undergraduate students. The presentation was a part of the Center for the Study of Diversity’s Brown Bag series and brought our attention to the work students can do engaging difference in the classroom.

Emily’s talk focused on the history of the requirement’s revision (who was involved, how it moved through university committees, the faculty senate, etc., and the work remaining). She indicated the complexity of this development and the importance of faculty specialists’ involvement moving forward. At first glance, this might not seem relevant to the work of E110, given that the course does not fulfill the multicultural requirement (although, if you do teach another course that does, be sure to submit your course for re-evaluation by Dec. 1). I argue, however, that the general university movement toward active and purposeful engagement of diversity – seen in the revised requirement as well as the inclusion of diversity study in First-Year Experience, not to mention being a general part of UD’s mission – signals that this is important work.

The new criteria for the requirement is published on the Faculty Senate’s webpage. The descriptions of the larger categories of “Diversity Self-Awareness and Perspective Taking,” “Cultural Difference,” “Personal and Social Responsibility,” and “Understanding Global Systems” indicate the stakes of the work at hand. They also indicate the complexity. Engaging diversity in the classroom is work done purposefully and often with training and guidance. The Center for Teaching and the Assessment of Learning often holds brown bags and events on “handling hot topics” and the Center for the Study of Diversity has developed a diversity competency rubric and also holds several events. All of these events are on the Writing Program Calendar. If teachers are interested in bringing this work to the reading, writing, and critical thinking work of E110, there are multiple important resources on-campus as we consider how this might fit into students’ study and the university’s larger goals.


Invitations for Contributions

We’re really getting into the swing of the semester now, and I’d love to direct your attention back to the program website-something we talked about at the faculty retreat.

There have been some changes/deletions/additions to the page. Just about all the information is now updated and accurate to-date, there are student resources listed, and the professional development page now connects to several other programs on campus (Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning, Center for the Study of Diversity, and more).

I have also incorporated the program twitter, @UDwrites, into the page. If you’re on twitter, consider following it – small updates and reminders about calendar events as well as links to interesting work will happen there frequently. I’ll also post announcements there when new posts are added here.

The biggest change is en-route. While there are already posts about the retreat material on the website, there haven’t yet been new posts. That’s about to change. This week, there are three great presentations I think we’d all benefit from. David Kim and Jesse Erickson will be presenting at EFGF on Wednesday, 9/28 and Emily Davis at a Center for the Study of Diversity Brown Bag on Thursday, 9/29. David and Jesse will each write a post for the website talking about their work; Emily’s work will also be represented on the blog.

We’re moving into a schedule of at least one substantive blog post per week. I’d love to showcase more work here. There’s a huge range of possibilities for what shape that work might take: a short reflective post on a teaching experience, thoughts on a resource you use, a video describing how you connect your practices to your philosophy, an analysis of an important teaching/reading/writing resource. Far too many that I could list here but would be great to host. Please get in touch with me through email,, or through the Comp program twitter, or in a comment on the blog with some thoughts you’d like to share.

Digital Writing Practices

The Course Goals and Practices of E110 tell us that students will compose print and digital texts:

The composition process is more than just putting words on the page or screen. In addition to writing print-based texts, you will also practice composing online, often making use of visual and audio forms.”

And this is exciting work! It represents an opportunity to thoughtfully and purposefully explore a range of textual production and consumption (and in between) with students. But, like all of our course goals and practices, it’s easier said than done.

I (Caitlin Larracey) spoke at the most recent faculty retreat to share tips, tricks, and frameworks behind digital writing. My slides are below.

There are a range of resources throughout the slides to direct your attention to scholarship about digital/multimodal writing, resources about assignments, and assistance with the technological side of it.

I wanted to add here though the insightful points added to our discussion by Alice Boone and David Kim. Alice talked about “playbor,” asking us to consider the platforms students use to write on in the classroom and the monetization of that work (that we often characterize as play). David noted that, though there may be “simple” or “easy” ways to consider digital writing in the classroom, it’s also important to have an understanding of the technologies that you are asking students to use – their interfaces and mechanisms, underlying assumptions and business models.

We welcome more discussion of digital writing in composition and hope these conversations can happen on the blog, in our classrooms, and at future professional development events.

Helping Students Engage with Complex Texts and Ideas

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Délice Williams led us in a wonderfully thought-provoking discussion about engaging with complexity in the classroom. Specifically, we considered how we (and how we might) help students to do this work with us. The full retreat notes – a list of texts and a list of practices – are below.

Teaching Complexity Retreat Notes

There were some patterns among the texts and practices, however, that might be useful to articulate as we work to build and revise our courses.

Patterns among texts:

  • Texts that engage identity, diversity, and difference (about race, gender, history, war, class, and intricate combinations)
  • Texts that discuss writing (about genre/mutt genre, digital writing, writing ability)
  • Texts that highlight students (about students, chosen by students, written by students)

Patterns among practices:

  • Articulating assumptions
  • Class debate and large-group discussion
  • Textual analysis (their own texts, peer texts, visually-based texts, verbal texts)
  • Writing (summarizing, responding, analyzing, reflecting)

The practices seem like those common and key to the classroom. These categories of texts (as well as those specific ones listed in the notes) may be useful launching points for engaging students in these practices.


Information Literacy and Threshold Concepts

Lauren Wallis, Meg Grotti, and Hannah Lee (superstars of the library) spoke with us during the fall 2016 faculty retreat about information literacy and threshold concepts, those “troublesome, transformative, irreversible, integrative, and bounded” ideas that signify long-term learning of integral ideas and practices in a particular field.

Lauren, Meg, and Hannah introduced us to information literacy’s current threshold concepts and asked us to consider how our goals in E110 aligned with these concepts. They also showed us how many of these concepts worked alongside the Writing Program Administrators’ framework. Below are the slides from their presentation and discussion.

This discussion also led to the introduction of the E110 fall 2016 library pilot project. The pilot

“aims to increase the impact of library instruction by introducing foundational skills and concepts prior to the class session, which can then be dedicated to hands-on learning related that helps students engage with your research assignment.”

The site also has a wealth of resources available to instructors (for students) in considering productive and purposeful information literacy. There’s also some sample lesson plans that consider how the concepts inform library instruction and research practices.

Lauren Wallis is the person to contact if you’re considering the pilot project or further support in information literacy; Hannah Lee can especially help you in your and your students’ multimodal and/or digital work at the Student Multimedia and Design Center.

Thanks to Meg, Hannah, and Lauren for sharing their expertise and advice with us at the retreat!

Brown Bag Multimedia Resources

Our first Brown Bag of the semester on teaching multimedia was a roundtable discussion of different ways that instructors currently teach multimodal assignments in English 110, and we addressed concerns about structuring and grading multimodal assignments. The Student Multimedia Design Center’s representative, Hannah Lee, was present to give access to resources and help with practical concerns. We had a lot of materials present in the Brown Bag that we wanted to make accessible as models for all English 110 instructors.
Caitlin Larracey allowed us to look at her materials, which range from prompts such as the Remediation on YouTube, Social (Re)Media, and Proposal Vlog assignments, as well as supporting materials such as how to work with Storify in the Affordances Discussion Activity. Her materials are included below:
I also shared some of my own materials, particularly the prompts and rubrics I’ve used in my classes to teach multimedia assignments. The Website Prompt and Rubric are an assignment I’ve taught several times now, and I think work particularly well for my goals in a remediation assignment. The Multimedia Prompt and Rubric are for a project I ran once and liked but then changed, and I’m trying the blog assignment in the Daily Work and Participation Prompt for the first time this semester. My materials are included as well:
Finally, Hannah Lee sent over links that may be of use to anyone designing a multimedia assignment, which can be found in the Multimedia Literacy Research guide, in the Faculty Resources section.
She highlights specifically:
  • This video journaling template, from the University of Illinois’ ART 250: Writing with Video course, serves as a useful outline for process-based writing about the video production process.
  • This common rubric from Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program can be used to assess multimodal compositions.
  • The RISE model (Reflect, Inquire, Suggest, Elevate) may be helpful for peer-to-peer critiques and instructor-to-student feedback.

She also points out resources that might be helpful when thinking about multimodal assessment:

  • Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation contains a collection of chapters on assessing digital compositions. Published by Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. The full text of the book is available for free online. 
  • Computers and Composition devotes an entire issue (Volume 31, March 2014) to multimodal assessment.

Feel free to make use of these materials, and continue to share how E110 instructors are using multimodal projects in our classroom!

Amy Vidali talk and workshop on 9/21 and 9/22: inclusive pedagogy and disability

Amy Vidali, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, will be visiting UD September 21 and 22. During her time here, she will pick up on conversations begun last year with Jay Dolmage’s visit, including conversations about inclusive pedagogy and disability as an important form of diversity among our students and colleagues.

Vidali’s talk will be Monday, September 21 from 5-6:15 p.m. in 127 Memorial.

Access and Absence: Writing Disability for Higher Education

In this talk, the speaker argues that we must pay more attention to the texts that provide or deny access to higher education, and how these textual access points function for disabled people. The speaker adapts the experience and metaphor of physical accessibility on campus to consider the textual terrain structured by policies and documents, in order to shift the discussion from including disability on campus to recognizing those who never make it to campus. The talk centers on a single textual access point, the college admissions essay, where difference and disability often feature in complex and contradictory ways. The speaker considers the admissions essay of a graduate student with repetitive stress injury which falsely positions disability as only-in-the-past and negates both disability and future accommodations requests. She compares this approach to an undergraduate essay where a student with cerebral palsy displays fierce disability pride and is rejected, then admitted on appeal with a more staid, predictable appeal essay. Placing these two essays in conversation, the speaker identifies how adopting stereotypical tropes of disability helps disabled applicants “get in” and perpetuates damaging understandings of disability in higher education. She argues that this same tension is at play in disclosure decisions when applying for faculty positions and tenure, seeking jobs outside higher education, and making simple textual disclosures between friends and family.

Vidali’s workshop will be Tuesday, September 22 from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in the Rollins Room of Jastak-Burgess Hall.

Teaching Styles and Strategies for Disability Inclusion

This workshop offers tangible teaching styles and strategies to create and revitalize inclusive learning environments for disabled college students and all college students. Whether you’re new to universal design or looking for fresh approaches, this workshop provides strategies to put to work right away, from rethinking your disability/access statement on your syllabus and revising writing assignments to encouraging interdependence and questioning the ways your own learning preferences shape and bias the learning environments you create. This workshop is for all faculty and is not focused on disability studies curricula, and participants will leave with a packet they can revisit. The facilitator is a faculty member and disability activist who is both invested and critical of current strategies for including disabled students in college classrooms, and faculty will be invited to share their ideas and experiences. The facilitator asks that you refrain from wearing strong scents to the workshop.

BIO: Amy Vidali is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research focuses on the rhetorical politics of disability in university texts, as well as theories of metaphor, gastrointestinal rhetorics, and stuttering. She teaches classes on rhetorical theory, multimedia writing, disability studies, and the teaching of composition. Her work has appeared in College English, Rhetoric Review, The Journal of Medical Humanities, The Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), the Bedford St. Martin’s Guide to Disability and the Teaching of Writing, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Writing for Access: Disability and Textual Terrain of Higher Education.

CCCC Proposal Workshop

Thursday, April 9, 3:30–5:00, 126 Memorial

Please come to our workshop to share ideas and ask questions about presenting at next year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication (Houston, April 6–9, 2016).

To help you start thinking:

  • Introduction to CCCC 2016: Linda Adler-Kassner
  • Call for Program Proposals: Writing Strategies for Action
  • Program: CCCC 2015

Deadline for Proposals: May 5, 11:59 pm