Possibilities, Pluralities, and Preparations: Pursuit of Pedagogies for Globalized Classrooms

Demographic shift in US composition classrooms challenges the traditional pedagogies and calls for innovative pedagogies that are open to diversity and difference in terms of cultures, languages, literacy traditions, and habits of thoughts (of diverse student bodies). An effective pedagogy for the globalized classroom should transcend  the traditional monolinguistic and monocultural assumptions (Horner & Trimbur, 2002; Matsuda, 2006; Canagarajah, 2006) and scaffold students’ plural literacies, while cultivating in them the composition and communication skills necessary to navigate the challenges of globalized world. This could involve remaining open to creative possibilities by expanding the boundaries of heuristics, writing style, composition media and technologies, and source use (Ulmer, 1994; New London Group,1996; Kachru, 2008).

In this context, this panel will explore and propose some potential pedagogies for the culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms in US higher education in order to make writing instruction and courses relevant to real-life situations and to cater to the needs and interests of diverse student body.

Speaker 1: Forging Interdisciplinary Alliance for Engaging Composition in its Expanded Sense

Speaker 1 calls for a new interdisciplinary alliance among some intersecting scholarly fields, such as media/new media, intercultural communication, World Englishes, literacy studies, globalization, and rhetoric and composition in order to engage composition in its broader sense. He attempts to delineate how each of these fields shares important insights with the other and how each one informs and contributes in important ways to the exploration of an effective pedagogy for the composition classrooms with diverse student body. Speaker 1 maintains that a pedagogy and curriculum built on germane insights and resources from these aligned fields can facilitate students’ learning of multiple literacies, their engagement with expanded notion of composition, and their interactions with real-life communication and composition challenges. For example, the notions of remediation (Grusin and Bolter), and media convergence (Jenkins) from media studies can speak to the changing face of media, communication, and literacy including composition or writing. Similarly, the theory of multiliteracy (New London Group) from literacy studies can help expand the boundary of composition by highlighting the availability of multiple modes and modalities of composition. Along similar lines, globalization, World Englishes, and intercultural communication can contribute to enlarge the boundary of composition both conceptually and pragmatically. Scholarship in World Englishes points toward plural writing styles and communication conventions (Yamuna Kachru) across cultures, which become pertinent to diverse composition classrooms in the US, the sites for intercultural communication requiring each of our students and us, what Chen and Starosta call, an intercultural competence that is necessary not only for transnational interactions but also for cross-cultural or cross-ethnic interactions. In addition to this theorizing venture, speaker 1 also discusses and analyzes the findings of a study he conducted in a sophomore level composition class at a research university in the Spring of 2012, where he implemented a course (“Multiliteracies in Motion”) and pedagogy (“Multiliterate Composition Pedagogy”) built around the resources drawn from the above mentioned fields of scholarship.  

Speaker 2:  Understanding Asian Writing Patterns in US First-Year Composition Classes  

Speaker 2 argues that multicultural students’ presence challenged the writing program’s exclusive focus on native-English speakers and called for a more global focus on pedagogy (Canagarajah, 2006; Horner & Trimbur, 2002; Matsuda, 2006). Recent statistics released by the Institute of International Education indicate a rise in the number of international students at American universities; however, very little attention has been given to this subject, and many universities also lack writing instruction resources. Based on his research and teaching experience in diverse cultures and diverse academic institutions, Speaker 2 will discuss how writing, rhetoric, and communication function in Asian cultures, and he will stress on how monolingual instructors should understand other writing patterns, writing rhetorical moves, and geopolitical-based rhetorical situations so that they can facilitate various writing strategies in the first-year composition classes.

Speaker 2 will discuss some Asian writing and communication patterns, such as collective vs individualistic, direct vs indirect culture, low power context vs high power context, and AB/BC vs. AB/CD syntactic strategies, etc. (Connor, 1996, 2008; Limbu, McCool, & Zeng, 2013; Sadri & Flammia, 2011; Thatcher, 2010). He will stress how these intercultural elements construct student’s writing processes, and how Asian students and (monolingual) US instructors confront challenges in US writing classes. Speaker 2 will further focus on how the use of digital technologies assist diverse student populations to network with other students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds to channel their writing and communication processes.  Finally, Speaker 2 will discuss why we should create new writing research methodologies and design newer representational writing instructions, why US universities should change their policies, why and how they should train/hire to meet the needs and expectations of diverse student body.

Speaker 3: The Creative of the Critical: Keeping Composition Open to Uncertainties

Speaker 3 will maintain that the current, arguably prescriptive writing pedagogy—with an emphasis on structure, organization, thesis statement, claim and warrants, and the like—underestimates the value of invention and creativity, at the level of both content and prose, that happens outside ordered and systematic, consciously structured paradigms. Combining Geoffrey Sirc’s theory of composition as happening with Gregory Ulmer’s idea of chora as a space for invention in new media, he will contend that current composition classrooms with multicultural/multilingual students, equipped with new media, call for a more open approach to exploit their creative possibilities.

The existing modes of invention, to begin with, put an excessive emphasis on structured methods that are based on traditional notion of topoi, which, Jeff Rice argues, “served print-based writing instruction by allowing students (and often instructors) the ability to work from a common repository of ideas” (p. 33). As a result, “writers often face obstacles regarding how they engage language innovatively, how they fashion new ways of expression, or even how they adjust to formats and structures that don’t accommodate topoi well” (Rice, 2007). This implicates that the traditional modes of invention like Burke’s pentad and Young, Becker and Pike’s tagmemics are at the least insufficient and too constraining. Similarly, an excessive emphasis on other formal structures like the placement of thesis statement and the so-called language of the university can become detrimental to creative possibilities by not allowing students to explore and experiment outside those rigid structures (Sirc, 2002; Mcrorie, 1970). It particularly concerns the classrooms that accommodate students with diverse cultures and different habits of mind. This speaker will make a case for remaining open to uncertainty in the composing process in a globalized classroom for a more creative practice of composition.