Latest statistics attest to the fact that the US college classrooms are globalized by an unprecedented convergence of international students from across the world and a diverse body of domestic American students. According to Open Doors Report by Institute of International Education, “the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by five percent to 723,277 during the 2010/11 academic year…[and that] there are now 32 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than there were a decade ago.” These students hailed from different countries from around the world with distinctly different languages and cultures. Every year these international students further diversify already heterogeneous student population in the US composition classrooms now being termed “globalized space(s)” (Xiaoye You 4), contact zones, “rhetorical borderland(s)” (Luming Mao qtd in You 4), or “multilingual spaces” (Paul Kei Matsuda qtd in CCCC Reviews) featuring multiple races, ethnicities, languages, English varieties and cultures.
I firmly believe that we as composition teachers should recommit ourselves to the public work of literacy instruction by teaching this diverse body of students not just the traditional print-based literacy but an array of literacies necessary for them to navigate the challenges and complexities of the 21st century globalized world. My conviction is shared by many scholars from across the fields. For example, Geoff Bull and Michele Anstey argue, “Globalization provides a contextual necessity for us to become multiliterate” (175). We should understand that today’s students need to have ability to interact using multiple Englishes in English speaking contexts, multiple writing/communication styles across cultures and disciplines as well as the ability to communicate using an array of visual, audio, and textual resources in multiple new and old media including print, digital and cyber technologies. Similarly, they also should have the ability to critically evaluate information and resources and use them ethically across contexts. In short, they must have or learn multiple literacies or ‘multiliteracies’ such as visual, cyber, computer, academic, print, critical, information, digital, new media, and intercultural among other kinds of literacies (Cope and Kalantzis; New London Group (NLG); Bull and Anstey; Hawisher and Selfe; Selber).
But I am aware and in fact express solidarity with many scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition, who maintain that our current pedagogical practices are limited in a number of ways in terms of teaching multiple literacies and preparing students for the twenty-first century communication and composition challenges. Bruce Horner et al., for example, argue that “[T]raditional approaches to writing in the United States… take as the norm a linguistically homogeneous situation: one where writers, speakers, and readers are expected to use Standard English or Edited American English—imagined ideally as uniform—to the exclusion of other languages and language variations” (304). Matsuda, Horner and John Trimbur, and Suresh Canagarajah concur with Horner et al. and contend that by assuming a homogenous student body and Standard English as the norms in our classrooms, we composition teachers are adhering to the 20th century values about education (homogenous student body, print-based education etc.), on the one hand, and by not foregrounding and recognizing the evident diversity in the classrooms, we are discriminating against and doing disservice to the majority of our students on the other. By adhering to 20th century values, we are missing an important opportunity to learn from the diverse literate and academic practices that our students bring to the classrooms (Miller 261, Pew 255, Hawisher et al “Globalization and Agency” 627, Bazerman), and scaffold and teach multiple and vital set of set of literacies—print, digital, cyber, information, critical, visual, computer, academic among others—to them.
In this presentation, I, therefore, will argue that multiliterate composition framework that I theorize and experiment with in the class, is what we need to adopt in order to be able to respond to the existing gap between what we are doing and what we should be doing in a composition class. I will discuss how multiliterate composition framework provides composition teachers in particular and literacy teachers in general with tools and methods to assist them get a sense of their students’ existing literacy range/level and their (students’) expectations from a composition course, and frame syllabi/curricula and other course artifacts in such a way that the students learn new but desired communication and composition skills for the 21st century world. I will also explain that as an open-ended, flexible and dynamic entity capable of adaptation, appropriation, modification and expansion upon contingencies, it builds on the works about power and difference, language and culture, nationalism and globalism, and digital rhetoric/computer and composition being done in the field of rhetoric and composition, and extend the conversations by synthesizing and appropriating literatures from other allied fields such as globalization, World Englishes (WE), new media (including interactive web 2.0 technologies), multiliteracies, and intercultural communication.
In order to demonstrate how multiliterate composition framework can be actually enacted in a composition classroom to teach multiliteracies and put our own and our students’ research and composition works to public use, I will also discuss in details the research design and the findings of an experiment with multiliterate composition framework I did in my writing class at Syracuse University in the Spring of 2012. Because my Writing course—Multiliteracies in Motion—was designed around new media, multiliteracies, World Englishes, Intercultural Communication and globalization with assignments ranging from an alphabetic and digital literacy narrative, rhetorical analysis to academic argument essay, remediation projects and documentary film making project along side blogging and other in-class composition activities, my students could practice a wide range of their existing skills and also learn a whole set of new skills from making a documentary movie to designing a website to researching and evaluating sources for an academic essay to working with camera and interviewing people. And because their digital works were published online and their blogs and blog responses already posted on online forums, their research process and products were available for larger public use. In a similar fashion, because multiliterate composition framework provided spaces for both international and domestic American students to incorporate their local linguistic and cultural resources in their projects (both paper-based academic essay and digital like websites, blogs and documentary), it better catered to the needs, interests and the differences of a diverse student population in my class.