The WAC Clearinghouse

Volume 35, Number 1 (2016)

Basic Writing and Disciplinary Maturation: How Chance Conversations Continue to Shape the Field, Edward M. White and William DeGenaro

Thirty years ago, Maxine Hairston observed that disciplinary shifts in writing studies occur not gradually but rather due to revolutionary “paradigm shifts.” Perhaps. But even as the discipline has grown, chance encounters, collaborations rooted in friendship, conversations and coffees, and the discovery of mutual acquaintances have continued to play roles. The subfield we call basic writing has maintained an ethos informed by these “small moments,” and even as the subfield has matured in the last fifteen years, we have collectively stayed small and ought to continue fostering an atmosphere that is paradoxically mature but also serendipitous, friendly, and even informal. This article is about BW’s burgeoning (sub-) disciplinary maturity. In equal part, though, we tell our own stories, and reflect on how serendipitous that engagement has been, ultimately arguing that the BW community continue to foster and expand serendipitous engagement.

From Falling Through the Cracks to Pulling Through: Moving from a Traditional Remediation Model Toward a Multi-Layered Support Model for Basic Writing, Lori Ostergaard and Elizabeth G. Allan

This article examines two course redesigns undertaken to improve student support, learning, and retention in the basic writing program at Oakland University, a doctoral research university in southeast Michigan, where support for developmental writers has fluctuated dramatically between nurture and neglect over the past fifty years. However, current conditions—including the creation of a new department of writing and rhetoric and a university-wide commitment to student support and retention—have set the stage for dramatic revisions to the way our basic writing and supervised study courses are administered. Over the last five years, the writing and rhetoric department at Oakland has revised both of these courses to better align them with our first-year writing program’s focus on rhetoric, research, revision, and reflection. These changes have formed the groundwork for a new curricular model that we believe will provide multiple layers of faculty and peer support for our most vulnerable students.

Storyboarding for Invention: Layering Modes for More Effective Transfer in a Multimodal Composition Classroom, Jon Balzotti

This article describes an innovative pedagogical technique for multimodal composition courses: the use of storyboarding as an invention tool across multiple composition platforms. Student response data and our textual analysis of their multimodal texts over a two-year period reveal some challenges when new media projects are taught alongside traditional essay writing. Our research also shows that basic writing students were more likely to see similarities between the two assignments when they were asked to use a similar process of invention. Utilizing composition concepts in tandem to compose two similar but different products (essay and video) that ostensibly reside in different spaces and times provides unique opportunities for teachers and students in the basic writing classroom to discuss conventional compositional moves—context, style, evidence, warrants—and to discuss argumentation more broadly. Reemphasizing the role of invention in multi-modal instruction as a critical component in the process of new media instruction may help students’ ability to transfer writing knowledge from one assignment to another.

Self/Portrait of a Basic Writer: Broadening the Scope of Research on College Remediation, Emily Schnee and Jamil Shakoor

This article explores one basic writer’s evolution as he moves from the lowest level of developmental English at a community college to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. Combining personal narrative, essay excerpts, and textual analysis, this piece aims to expand the borders of scholarship in composition studies to include basic writers as co-authors. In painting an intimate and detailed portrait of one student and his writing, we hope to broaden the scope of what counts as research on college remediation, add texture and complexity to the debate over what it means for basic writers to journey towards academic success, and contest the notion that developmental education is a detriment to students. We conclude with reflections on the lessons learned from paying close attention to the college experiences of one basic writer.