UMass Boston

2021 Engaging Practices Program

The 2021 Engaging Practices Conference was held on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the conference was held virtually.

Detailed Schedule

9:30am: Welcome Session

10:00—11:00am: Concurrent Sessions A

A-1. Considering Identity, Positionality, and Privilege in the First-Year Writing Class (Workshop)

Jessica Bozek, Carrie Bennett, and Gwen Kordonowy -- Boston University
Three lecturers from Boston University’s Writing Program share an introductory module on positionality, identity, and privilege from their first-year writing seminars during the Fall 2020 semester. In this workshop, we will introduce our assignments, lead participants in creating a positionality map, and consider how starting a topic-based seminar by focusing on what students bring into the classroom (rather than on course content) reaps benefits once we turn to course content and writing academic arguments.

A-2. Reimagining the Writing Classroom

Reimagining Academic Writing as Community Writing
Benny Berger -- UMass Boston
This presentation addresses the inequitable hierarchy evident in historical and contemporary characterizations of “academic writing” as elite and “community writing” as deficient. I discuss some of the material and functional consequences of this dichotomized approach before offering ways of thinking about community writing and academic writing that might facilitate more nuanced and generative approaches to teaching both “community” and “academic” writing.

The Role of STEM Writing Instructors in Reducing Disparities in Student Cultural Capital
Geoff Keston -- Temple University
STEM students see the specialized skills they’re gaining as a path toward economic progress. Yet they’ll also need nontechnical capabilities such as mastering an industry’s communication style. I extend the idea of “cultural capital” from the humanities to STEM writing, defining an instructor’s role in reducing disparities in student success related to nontechnical skills. I recommend that STEM writing instructors become action researchers to study the ways their students lack cultural capital.

Reclaiming the Political Commons
Chad Makaio Zichterman -- UMass Boston
In the wake of a historically weak and inadequate federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, white supremacist terror, and a crippled economy, the premises behind the legitimation of many major institutions are being called into question. In this historical moment, students and educators are uniquely positioned to re-examine their institutional relationship both to composition and to its application to building responses to these crises.

11:10am—12:10pm: Concurrent Sessions B

B-1. Engaging Slow Peer Review in the Writing Classroom (Workshop)

Timothy Oleksiak -- UMass Boston
In this interactive workshop, I take attendees through the process of integrating slow peer review in their writing classrooms. The workshop begins with a brief presentation of slow peer review theory before moving into the procedures for slow peer review and the necessary considerations writing teachers must engage prior to its deployment. Time will be devoted to questions and concerns. Instructors are encouraged to have a specific course in mind and are welcome to bring syllabi with them.

B-2. Three Approaches and a Conversation about ‘Doing the Work’

Teddy Chocos, Carol Chandler-Rourke, and Victoria Kingsley -- UMass Boston
Three UMB teachers consider what it means to do the work of social justice in the writing classroom as they share their vision and approaches to writing and ESL courses, and how student voices influence that vision. Speaker 1 will discuss how speeches, letters, and observations from early American history, as well as contemporary songs, videos, poetry and essays are used to explore diverse narratives in how history is recorded and interpreted. Speaker 2 will demonstrate how the genre of poetry and Amanda Gorman and other inaugural poets inspired ESL students to examine their own identities and place in society. Speaker 3 will share how a research project on discourse communities is designed to give students the space and enable them to explore and find their own voices as researchers and as community members.

B-3. Support Strategies for Anti-Racist Work

(De-)Coding and Establishing Anti-Racist Prefigurative Politics in the Writing Center
Dani English -- Writing Nook at UMass Boston
As there is no one set of guidelines to follow to become a totally anti-racist tutor, individual, or institution, we in the UMass Boston Writing Nook have sought to cultivate our own protocols. We present an account of our processes - from collecting and coding writing center statements to tutor reflections - and our findings thus far, an overview of the work we’re currently engaging in as a result of these findings, and considerations as we move forward.

Inflection Points: ELL Tutoring in the Pandemic Era
Joshua Heerter -- Bunker Hill Community College
During the pandemic era, English language learners are experiencing roadblocks to academic success at highly disproportionate rates. Targeted, skilled ELL tutoring has the capacity to begin to bridge some of these gaps, but academic support professionals who specialize in ELL tutoring are not always well trained, compensated, and retained. This presentation analyzes the professional, academic and personal challenges of the past year through the lens of vital support strategies, developed from the recent literature in Composition and Writing Center Studies, to support ELL students.

Exploring Equity/Inequity as Systems
Ann Dean and Caitlyn Brown -- UMass Lowell
To be equitable, institutions need to ask themselves whether they are providing employees, clients, and participants with the resources they need. In writing programs, asking these questions involves wondering about placement, teaching practice, and grading. We, a writing program director and an undergraduate researcher, have begun this inquiry by framing our own program with Asao Inoue’s concepts of “antiracist writing assessment ecologies.” Creating visual representations of our program ecology as a system, we have charted the role of assessment, both in placement and in grading, in the outcomes for underrepresented groups, particularly African-American male undergraduates. Within this framework, we are analyzing final grades for a cohort of first-year students, comparing outcomes for African-American male students to those for White female students. Our presentation will present this work in progress, including visual representations of our framework and initial data analysis. 

12:20—1:20pm: Concurrent Sessions C

C-1. Our (not so) Subtle Social Justice Praxis: How to Navigate Constraints to Make Actionable Change (Workshop)

Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Caroline Beimford, and Laura S. McKee -- MIT
Writing instructors face complex challenges as they confront tensions between institutional constraints and urgent need for social justice praxis. Facilitators share how they navigate a range of institutional constraints to implement their (not-so) subtle social justice praxis in an engineering research course; they will then guide participants in an analysis of their own constraints and spaces of advocacy, to develop a plan of action.

C-2. Practices for Accountability: Not a Piecemeal Approach

Beth Godbee -- Heart-Head-Hands; Rasha Diab -- University of Texas at Austin
Drawing on generations of feminists and womanists of color and using Audre Lorde's explanation of the mythic norm, we identify 4 accountability practices key to “disrupting professional practices that trade in the marginalization of oppressed communities in higher education.” These include: (1) resisting denial of ongoing harms; (2) recognizing normalized violence & wide-reaching consequences; (3) divesting from whiteness; & (4) investing in a consistent, relational, and justice-oriented approach.

1:25—2:25pm: Concurrent Sessions D

D-1. “The Pandemic is a Portal”: Contract Grading as a Practice of Justice

Jessica Kent, Marie Satya McDonough, Christina Michaud, Swati Rani, and Kimberly Shuckra -- Boston University
This roundtable focuses on the relational acts of anti-racist pedagogy through the experimentation of contract grading as one form of flipping the script on traditional structures of assessment in higher education. We are specifically engaged in the teaching of writing to a diverse undergraduate population at Boston University. The roundtable presenters’ approaches to contract grading represent a diverse and divergent approach.

D-2. What Do We Do When We Don’t Know What to Do? Tutoring Anecdotes and What They Reveal About Our Approach to Racial Difference

Daniel Messier, Dani English, Emily Allen, Allie Grady, Jack Leatherman, Maddison Lessard, Vincent Livant, and Jared Martin -- UMass Boston
How do issues of identity manifest in one-on-one tutoring sessions? What heuristics should tutors use in encountering these issues? In this roundtable session, tutors from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Writing Nook will share specific tutoring interactions complicated by issues of identity. From those experiences, we’ll attempt to isolate some heuristics that we use to navigate thorny issues of race and identity in education. Then, we’ll invite participants to a broader discussion in order to mutually benefit from a direct look at the often unconscious heuristics that we all bring to interactions that require us to negotiate issues of identity.

2:30—4:00pm: Keynote Presentation

Working Toward Justice Through Ecological Program Design

Mya Poe -- Northeastern University
Nationally, writing programs are reckoning with what anti-racism and justice mean in the teaching of writing. Is anti-racist classroom pedagogy sufficient? Is contract grading enough? What does linguistic justice look like in outcomes assessment? In this interactive presentation, we will work together to identify where and how writing programs might work toward justice. In our discussions, we think about fixed as well as emergent dimensions in program design.

Engaging Practices

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125-3393