Jennifer Slinkard Abstracts

Jennifer Slinkard

Ph.D. Candidate

Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP

 

Symposium on Second Language Writing

Vancouver, BC, Canada

August 2-4, 2018

 

Summary: Presenters draw from a collection of student and teacher interviews, classroom observation, assignment

guidelines, rubrics, and policy documents gathered from First-Year Writing and general education settings to demonstrate the (often unnoticed) ways in which a monolingual ideology permeates the first-year student experience. Ways to challenge these discourses will be explored.

Abstract: Scholars across writing studies have emphasized the ways in which university policies and teaching practices perpetuate a monolingual, English-only approach to academic writing development (Horner and Trimbur 2002). Whether through placement practices that separate L2 learners from their peers, or pedagogies that ignore language diversity in the pursuit of “Standard Written English”, questions of language have too often been rendered invisible in early undergraduate education. Despite numerous calls for language, language difference, and multilingualism to be more prominently attended to in scholarship and classrooms (Matsuda, 2006; MacDonald, 2007; Tardy, 2011), dominant discourses of monolingualism still tend to prevail in most U.S. universities. In this presentation, we explore what such discourses--which assume, construct, and perpetuate a monolingual norm--look like and how they take hold in early undergraduate education in the U.S.

In a synthesis of four research projects, the presenters will draw from a rich collection of student and teacher interviews, classroom observation, assignment guidelines, rubrics, and official policy documents gathered from First- Year Writing and general education settings to demonstrate the (often unnoticed) ways in which a monolingual ideology permeates the first-year student experience. The presentation will begin with a very brief overview of the contexts in which this data were gathered and proceed with a discussion of the structural biases for monolingualism that have emerged in our research: assumptions about multilingual student identities and the undermining or erasure of linguistic diversity in official and de facto policies and procedures.

Across FYW and general education courses, we found that instructors tend to equate multilingual students with international students, ignoring the multilingualism of some U.S.-born students, and tend to either see L2 students’ needs as no different from L1 students or at times characterizing their linguistic differences as deficiencies. These attitudes are made visible through assignment design and assessment practices across undergraduate writing contexts in which instructors claim to “ignore the writing” (i.e. language choices) and focus on content, while their grading scales and feedback contradict this philosophy by evaluating and sometimes penalizing students for lexicogrammatical deviations from SWE. These attitudes perpetuate the myth that native users of a privileged variety of English are the “norm” against which all US college students should be measured. An exploration of official FYW language policies reveals some acknowledgement and even celebration of multilingual students, while de facto policies and procedures (of placement, curriculum development, teacher support, online writing accessibility and practices) ignore language diversity due to conflicting institutional, program, and instructor constraints and the privileging of other concerns or initiatives.

Addressing the call to make the invisible visible in order to affect change, we will close by discussing the challenges of countering these powerful institutional, instructor, and even student discourses, and offer a few of our own strategies for doing so. The presenters hope to engage in a discussion of the ways those of us in teaching and administrative positions can contribute to creating an undergraduate education that, in both theory and practice, embraces multilingualism and language diversity.

 

Abstract for Lay Audience

Scholars across writing studies have recognized the ways in which university policies and teaching practices perpetuate an English-only approach to academic writing development. In freshman writing class, often known as English 101, international students and others who speak English as a second language are often separated into special classes. Alternatively, teachers may ignore the language diversity of their students and expect them to automatically be proficient in “Standard Written English,” and then penalize them for language error when they haven’t addressed language use in their class instruction. In spite of the recognition that higher education is becoming more diverse and globalized, administrations and instructors still tend to assume that all of their students are monolingual English speakers.

In this synthesis of four research projects, presenters draw from a rich collection of student and teacher interviews, classroom observation, assignment guidelines, rubrics, and official policy documents gathered from First-Year Writing and general education settings to demonstrate the (often unnoticed) ways in which a belief that students are monolingual English speakers permeates the first-year student experience. The presentation begins with a very brief overview of the contexts in which the data were gathered and proceed with a discussion of the structural biases for monolingualism that have emerged in our research.

Across FYW and general education courses, we found that instructors tend to equate multilingual students with international students, ignoring the multilingualism of some U.S.-born students, and tend to either see students who speak English as a second language as being no different from first-language speakers or at times characterizing their linguistic differences as deficiencies. These attitudes are seen in how instructors design their assignments and how they assess student work. These attitudes perpetuate the myth that native users of a privileged variety of Enlish are the “norm” against which all U.S. college students should be measured. An exploration of official language policies reveals some acknowledgement and even celebration of multilingual students, while de facto policies and procedures (of placement, curriculum development, teacher support, online writing accessibility and practices) ignore language diversity due to conflicting institutional, program, and instructor constraints and the privileging of other concerns.

Addressing the call to make the invisible visible in order to affect change, we will close by discussing the challenges of countering these powerful institutional, instructor, and even student approaches, and offer a few of our own strategies for doing so. The presenters hope to engage in a discussion of the ways those of us in teaching and administrative positions can contribute to creating an undergraduate education that, in both theory and practice, embraces multilingualism a

Last updated 4 Jun 2019