Volume 33, Number 1 (2014)

A Special Issue on Storytelling and Academic Discourse
Guest Editor: Andrea Parmegiani, Bronx Community College, CUNY

Storytelling and Academic Discourse: Including More Voices in the Conversation, Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk

In this article, Mlynarczyk traces her career-long exploration of the relationship between personal, narrative writing and so-called academic discourse. Believing that both are important for college students, particularly students placed in basic writing or ESL composition, she has come to believe that rather than viewing the two as separate modes of discourse, students need to use a "translingual" approach, cultivating "rhetorical dexterity" while they develop as college writers. As concerned teachers and scholars, the challenge is to help students learn to use storytelling appropriately as a way to strengthen their thinking and their writing inside—and outside—the academy. Far from viewing, narrative as somehow inferior or subservient to academic discourse, which is often seen as more complex, the author invokes recent scholarship in evolutionary biology, which suggests that the predilection to tell stories lies at the heart of what distinguishes us as human beings. As the university becomes more diverse, it is essential to welcome more voices—and more stories—into the academic conversation.

Bridging Literacy Practices through Storytelling, Translanguaging, and an EthnographicPartnership: A Case Study of Dominican Students at Bronx Community College, Andrea Parmegiani

This article reports on my attempt to use storytelling as an entry point into academic discourse in a learning community designed to meet the learning needs of ESL students who recently emigrated from the Dominican Republic. Based on research suggesting a correlation between academic success in a second language and first language literacy skills, this learning community linked an ESL course to a Spanish composition course for native speakers. Storytelling constituted the cornerstone of an ethnographic partnership established in order to create a "place for students' self" within Academic Discourse and to inform the translingual pedagogical alliance formed with the Spanish instructor. I will discuss the impact this approach has had on students' success indicators and ways in which it can be implemented in other teaching contexts.

Storytelling as Academic Discourse: Bridging the Cultural-Linguistic Divide in the Era of the Common Core, Ching Ching Lin

Bakhtin's dialogism provides a sociocultural approach that views language as a social practice informed by the complex interaction between discourse and meaning. Drawing on this theoretical framework, I argue that a dialogized version of storytelling can be helpful in creating a reflective form of academic discourse that bridges the gap between the demands of the Standards-based classroom and the needs of English Language Learners. While storytelling has widely been used as an effective ESL strategy, the current paradigm of education theorizing often characterizes narrative narrowly as personal and decontextualized, thereby dismissing storytelling as an inferior form of academic knowledge. Building on Bakhtin's theory of meaning as dialogic interplay, I propose a notion of storytelling as a generic template for academic discourse that has the potential to integrate multiplicity of genres and hence allows learners to negotiate between personal and public voices.

Staging an Essay: Play and Playwriting for Redirecting Habits of Mind, David Ellis and Megan Murtha

Many first-year students struggle with the transition from high school writing to college writing as higher-order demands are made and new discipline-specific genres are added. Previous writing training can provide a "mental set effect," old habits of mind, which inhibits growth. Additionally, students receive writing training in courses other than the composition class that may further interfere with development and the acquisition of the critical thinking needed for college writing. In this article, we argue that playwriting exercises, informed by Vygotsky's theory of play, offer a mode to foster critical thinking common to writing practice across the academy and actuate Burke's "parlor" of academic discourse. Writing-About-Writing (WAW) after playwriting exercises strengthens writer identity and facilitates the transfer of knowledge to other genres.

Designing a Digital Story Assignment for Basic Writers Using the TPCK Framework, Shoba Bandi-Rao and Mary Sepp

The process of digital storytelling allows basic writers to take a personal narrative and translate it into a multimodal and multidimensional experience, motivating a diverse group of writers with different learning styles to engage more creatively and meaningfully in the writing process. Digital storytelling has the capacity to contextualize learning and provide opportunities for self-directed learning. Although digital storytelling—as a tool to practice basic writing skills—is relatively new, the outcomes are encouraging for writing instructors to incorporate a digital storytelling activity as part of the curriculum. In this article, we share how we applied Mishra and Koeler's Technology Pedagogy Concept Knowledge (TPCK) theoretical and conceptual framework to facilitate the process of integrating technology to content and pedagogy as we designed and implemented a digital storytelling assignment in our writing classes with 20-25 students. Digital storytelling is the art of expressing a compelling story through the use of digital tools such as images, recorded narrative, text, music, and video.


Copyright © 1992 by the Journal of Basic Writing.