All posts by Jay Jordan

Supporting TAs in Multilingual Classrooms

L2WritingLogoFeb22The following post is by Norah Fahim, who is a Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University.

In light of the recently updated CCCC Statement on Preparing Teachers of College Writing, there is an ever pressing call for action to provide graduate teaching assistants (TAs) with multiple professional development opportunities to aid student learning and success, specifically when “working with diverse populations such as non-native speakers of English (L2 writers), students with special learning needs, non-traditional students, and at risk student populations.” While the increase in international and domestic multilingual student enrollment in US academic institutions is now familiar to many compositionists and Second Language Writing scholar-teachers, one question that unites our responsibilities is

How can First Year Composition programs, specifically those working with TAs specializing in various subfields in English Studies, provide more relevant professional development to help address the needs of an increasingly multilingual student population in mainstream composition courses?

Given recent changes in student demographics, this question is especially pertinent when FYC TAs (like many writing instructors) are encountering a considerable demand on their time, and a heightened sense of uncertainty regarding the extent of their professional responsibilities when giving written feedback and meeting with students during office hours.

As such, this post presents a programmatic initiative taken by the University of Washington‘s (UW) Expository Writing Program (EWP) as a response to these increasing sentiments of professional uncertainty expressed by TAs. Given the scope of this post, I will showcase some the recommended feedback strategies for students’ writing as presented in the “Statement on Supporting Multilingual Language Learners.” This statement aims to “help empower students—multilingual learners and native speakers alike—to become self-editors of their own work and to research their grammar errors as a means to learn through self-correction.” A link is provided for access to the complete policy statement for the interest of other institutions.


The UW, similar to numerous academic institutions across the USA, witnessed a noticeable increase in international student enrollment, amounting to 17.6% of the total number of newly enrolled undergraduates in 2014; Holistically, the total number of international student enrollments, including that of graduate students, had tripled since 2008 (a 245% increase). Other US academic institutions may relate to these changes in demographics and the accompanying concerns expressed by TAs regarding the recommended amount of written feedback: this can especially be the case when TAs have limited experience working with L2 writers.

The creation of the Statement on Supporting Multilingual Language Learners was a direct result of cross-disciplinary collaboration between graduate TAs, Faculty and WPAs with various specializations such as Language & Rhetoric, TESOL and Literature and Culture in the Department of English at the UW. All parties involved were united in their drive to clarify instructor responsibilities while fostering multilingual student success through normalizing students’ needs. A key element in these discussions was asking what kind of feedback best served the needs of not only international L2 students, but also the often less identifiable domestic multilingual L2 students. Thus a considerable number of suggested practices were based in SLW methodology: it is worth noting that all students, regardless of their language background, still require self-editing strategies that help with higher-order concerns of content, as well as lower-order concerns typically described as “grammar” issues.


Many instructors, whether novice or experienced, would likely agree that an academic quarter or even semester is not a sufficient amount of time for L2 writers to become their own “self editors,” as also indicated by L2 research. While we all wish we had more time to work with our students, it is more manageable to have a set of suggested strategies. Students can be encouraged to take ownership of “tools that help with using grammar strategically, intentionally, and persuasively in various situations,” while having the time to focus on higher-order concerns.” Similar to “Developing Strategies” in “Activating Learning,” instructors need to introduce students to the range of self-editing strategies and campus resources available to them, as well as offer a consistent form of error feedback to help students take charge of their learning progress.

The following sections offer strategies presented in the Statement on Supporting Multilingual Language Learners:


  • L2 writers can become their own self-editors by developing important writing and reading strategies and skills.
  • The support of feedback from composition instructors, writing centers and peers, and access to effective resources (such as handbooks) related to grammar, usage, and style can enhance students’ ability to take ownership of their final redrafting process, and can help with future classes.

On Self Editing

  • Studies have shown that students are able to self-edit their work when instructors circle or mark a check next to “grammar” errors, which has proven to be as effective as when instructors correct.
  • Cueing students to the presence of an error (without fixing the error or marking what type of error it is) and ensuring that they are aware of the available resources is sufficient for self-editing.
  • If errors prove overwhelming to reading comprehension, an instructor should invite the student to have a conversation with him or her or a Multilingual Learner consultant in addition to a range of other resources. While these resources vary across institutions, they are crucial in helping TAs feel supported in their desire to better serve the needs of their students.

Practical Applications

  • First Pathway: Revision Throughout—Fewer Assignments, Multiple Drafts of Each. This pathway allows students the opportunity to work with revision throughout the quarter, producing multiple drafts of each shorter and/or major assignment, with grammar feedback on later drafts. In this approach, instructors focus on higher order concerns in early drafts before prioritizing and selectively marking errors on later drafts, which students then edit during the portfolio sequence. This can be a good option for instructors who have a high percentage of students struggling with sentence structure issues, as it provides students with a head start on revising for their portfolios.
  • Second Pathway: “Higher Order” Feedback-Focused, Defer Grammar Cueing for Portfolio. This pathway allows for reading through error until the portfolio sequence of the course. In this approach, instructors focus mainly on higher order concerns throughout the first two sequences before attending to grammar concerns during the portfolio sequence. As such, this option requires that instructors provide the full two weeks allotted for the portfolio sequence. Note that even if you choose this pathway, you may work on a few shared grammar patterns among your students throughout the quarter, and help individual students target their most pressing issues early on.

While FYC programs learn more about their student populations, listening to the needs of TAs, who are often the backbone of the teaching workforce in FYC courses, can be a promising start for incremental change in department policies. As a continuation of such communication with TAs, we learned that novice TAs who worked with the Statement were finding that feedback practices based in SLW research also offer productive outcomes for all students, regardless of their language and cultural backgrounds. Such genuine conversations between WPAs and TAs can allow for cross-disciplinary collaboration that results in sustainable teaching practices that benefit both our students and instructors.

We just need to remember to listen to each other first.

Activating Learning: Teaching for Metacognition

L2WritingLogo2The following post is by Jennifer Eidum Zinchuk, Assistant Professor of English specializing in Composition Studies at Elon University.

Much like global citizenship, “Metacognition” is a common buzzword in conversations about student success in higher education. It is one of the eight “Habits of Mind” outlined in the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. In Composition and Second Language Writing research, metacognition is often cited as a valuable tool to help students succeed as rhetorically and culturally adept global learners. What many researchers and practitioners take for granted, however, is what the concept fully means and how it might be fostered in our students’ learning lives.

In practice, metacognition, or thinking about thinking, is often conflated with reflection, or the conscious exploration of past experiences. Metacognition includes reflection, often called metacognitive awareness, as well as a series of self-directed practices, or metacognitive regulation. In this blog post, I will highlight a number of practical teaching interventions to support students’ metacognitive development.

Integrated reflection

Reflective writing activities are an essential part of college writing pedagogy: free writes, portfolio reflections, and writing diaries are all normal practice. These are more powerful if they become integrated regularly throughout the course. Instead of thinking of reflection as an isolated and individual task, try thinking about it as a social, active, and habitual classroom activity.

Some easy ways to integrate reflection into everyday classroom practice:

  • Use reflective writing and discussion as a pre-reading activity to activate prior knowledge.
  • After introducing a writing assignment, invite students to reflect back on a time when they had a similar writing assignment, how they attempted it, how successful they were, and what they might bring to this new writing event.
  • As an instructor, incorporate your own reflections into the class, modeling reflective practice and building trust: share stories of your literary, writing, or learning history.

Emotional Engagement

Writing is not only an academic activity; it is also an emotional one. Because many students have had a negative relationship with writing, helping students to recognize and overcome learning challenges is important to building a positive relationship with writing, especially in one’s second (or third, or fourth…) language. Celebrating learning successes and as well as analyzing learning failures is invaluable for students’ continued learning.

Some practical ways to encourage emotional engagement in everyday classroom practice:

  • Invite students to examine their emotional relationship with writing by assigning low-stakes writing, responding with encouraging feedback.
  • Open up discussions of “difficulty,” “failure,” and “resistance” by inviting students to remember moments of struggle, share them with a partner, and then create a list with the class. Then, do the same with “ease,” “success,” and “resilience.”
  • Encourage students to “fail forward” to build resilience: have students describe a moment of difficulty and then brainstorm ways they might solve similar problems in the future.
  • Foreground difficulty in course design: scaffold challenging learning activities early in the term so that students have ample opportunity to celebrate success, learn (and rebound) from failure, and continue to practice effective strategies.

Developing Strategies

Most writing courses encourage students to utilize a variety of writing strategies; however, encouraging students to explicitly describe when and why particular strategies are effective, as well as introducing students to new strategies, broadens students’ support network.

Some classroom activities that help students develop strategies for future learning:

  • Introduce students to campus resources through an academically-oriented scavenger hunt.
  • Encourage students to seek help on their writing through visits to writing centers, utilizing office hours, and group conferences, later reflecting on how the visits were useful.
  • Have students write a Revision Plan essay, analyzing “what worked,” strategizing their revision, and planning for future writing.
  • If you use writing portfolios, invite students to assess what they learned about writing and look forward to their next writing-intensive class, articulating specific strategies they plan to use in the future.

Active Learning

Active learning stimulates students’ awareness of their own role in learning. Using classroom practices such as self-assessment and collaborative learning helps students see the tacit learning expectations that surround them. Self-assessment practices help students know how to deploy their writing strategies and when to seek help. Collaborative learning practices encourage students and instructors to recognize, name, and justify their learning choices, often by negotiating those choices across difference.

Some ideas for building self-assessment and collaborative learning practices into a writing curriculum:

  • Early in the term, have students do a “read-around” of peers’ writing: placing two copies of their essay in a stack in front of the class, each student reads their peers’ writing at their own pace, giving positive feedback. This low-stakes self-paced activity allows students to see how others have handled the writing assignment and get positive early feedback on their paper.
  • Introduce writing prompts along with the evaluation rubric. Have students rate and discuss a sample paper according to the rubric before writing their own papers.
  • Use the paper evaluation rubric during peer review in order to create a vocabulary for both formative and evaluative feedback.
  • When students turn in papers, ask them to note two areas that work well and two that require improvement. Read these comments before reviewing their papers, responding directly to their self-evaluations.

Students who have well-developed metacognitive practices are able assess their own writing abilities, confidently gauge their ability to produce what is necessary for the task, and seek help when necessary. For multilingual students, the ability to engage with and reflect upon one’s past writing experiences helps them negotiate the linguistic practices of new contexts, imbuing their learning with confidence and supporting their future language learning. Most importantly, facilitating students’ metacognitive practices positions students as self-sufficient learners, giving them the tools to shape their own academic futures.

Promoting Global Citizenship in Daily Teaching

L2WritingLogoThis post is the first in a series on “Action in Second Language Writing,” which will run up to the 2016 CCCC Annual Convention in Houston, April 6-9. Given Program Chair Linda Adler-Kassner’s call focusing compositionists’ attention on “Writing Strategies for Action,” the CCCC Committee on Second Language Writing wanted to highlight concrete ways the work of scholar-teachers are building on careful, decades-long, research-based teaching practices. As the field of rhetoric and composition pays increasing attention to multilingual writers and to linguistic complexity (both great signs, we think!), we want to feature colleagues whose scholarship and teaching impacts academic institutions and other communities. We hope this series will prompt productive interactions and prompt conference attendees to look for workshops, panels, and meetings about L2 writing.   

Written by: Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly, and Zuzana Tomaš

In recent years, global citizenship has become a “buzzword” in higher education. We have heard a lot of talk about global citizenship at our institutions, but would like to see more in terms of concrete action that goes beyond administrative efforts, such as increasing international recruitment and expanding study abroad opportunities. The question rarely asked is:

How are the day-to-day actions we take in the classroom linked to the goals of global citizenship?

In this blog post, we discuss how we have begun to answer this question, presenting a 3-pronged pedagogical framework that synthesizes key concepts in linguistics and literacy research. We share a brief synopsis of the framework, which we developed originally for our book, Fostering International Student Success, and discuss some of the ways it can be exemplified in teaching practice in the writing classroom and beyond.  While some of the teaching practices we discuss here are likely familiar to many instructors, we hope the framework itself can offer insights into how these practices contribute to institutional goals in relation to internationalization and global awareness.

The three components of the framework are as follows: Scaffolding, Interaction, and Noticing. (Yes, that’s right folks- SIN! We welcome all forms of word play on this in your comments to this blog post!)

In education, scaffolding refers to the various ways in which teachers adapt their instruction to support learners in reaching higher levels of achievement. Linguists first used the term to refer to ways that adults adapt their speech to facilitate children’s language acquisition. However, today, scaffolding encompasses a variety of pedagogical strategies that help students to achieve higher levels in their writing, as well as in other academic work. Scaffolding can include heuristics (“thinking tools”), such as set of guidelines for peer review and revision. Scaffolding can also include graphic organizers (e.g. charts, tables, flow charts) that organize ideas, or samples of student writing, which can be analyzed in class.

There are other, less obvious forms of scaffolding that can be useful in supporting the goals of global citizenship. In a blog post for Inside Higher Education, Kris Olds outlines some of the skills required of global citizens, including

  • Linking local and global issues
  • Practicing empathy
  • Making informed, ethical decisions
  • Participating in the social and political life of one’s community

Scaffolding toward global citizenship, therefore, involves creating and modeling opportunities for students to develop these skills, through writing assignments that cultivate deep thought, global awareness, and civic participation. As an example, teachers can model approaches for a critical reading of sources, using a “Think-Aloud” exploring questions such as: Does the argument offer a balanced perspective on the topic? Are these perspectives relatable across geographic and cultural contexts? What other perspectives might I like to gather in future research? For students who have been educated largely outside the United States, this sort of scaffolding is particularly beneficial, as it makes explicit the sorts of inquiry expected in the academy. Moreover, scaffolding often increases student engagement in class, which in turn broadens the range of perspectives to which all students are exposed.

Research indicates that interaction with individuals from a variety of backgrounds is central to language/literacy development. Interaction is also closely linked to students’ confidence and sense of belonging in college. Effective interaction involves more than class discussion, however. Writing instructors can create opportunities for students to interact in a variety of groupings (e.g., pairs, followed by small groups, followed by large group), as well as using multiple modalities (in-person, online, handwritten, audio-visual).

To develop global citizenship, students must confront ideas that may be difficult or uncomfortable, and become active listeners in intellectual conversations. One way this can happen is through structured discussion activities in which each student has an assigned role. For example, in an activity known as Triad Listening, students form groups of three to discuss a controversial topic or challenging text. Student A articulates his or her position. Student B listens closely and then paraphrases student A. Student C plays the role of referee, ensuring that student B is paraphrasing accurately. Later, they switch roles, and student B begins by articulating his or her perspective.

As instructors, we also can assume a variety of roles in discussion, by bringing up possible counterarguments (i.e. “Devil’s Advocate”), by encouraging voices that are not often heard (“Facilitator”), and/or by giving students the opportunity to facilitate the discussion themselves. Through rich interaction, our students become better prepared to write thoughtfully about course content. Some students may need guidance in how to engage fully in these interactions, and this can be provided either explicitly through scaffolding—e.g., providing them with useful phrases for making a point or responding to a classmate—or through guided observation of how interaction takes place—i.e., noticing.

In linguistics research, “noticing” has been used to reference the way that students direct attention to language choices made around them, and make conscious decisions about their own language use. In Writing Studies (or Composition/Rhetoric), we often frame this skill as rhetorical or metalinguistic awareness. In our writing classes, we use activities such as textual analysis and written role play to help students consider the impact of audience, genre, and register/voice, on their writing.

In relation to global citizenship, students can be taught how to notice implicit beliefs and assumptions, including how their own perspective is shaped by lived experience. This form of noticing can be cultivated not only in discussions of ‘controversial’ issues and texts (as discussed above), but also in the way we help all students understand the culture of higher education—i.e., the values of the academy, as reflected in everything from academic honesty policies, to citation formats, to grading practices. Talking about the academy as a “culture” helps students to position themselves in relation to those cultural norms—and to consider whether and how they might question or even resist those norms.

We have found that this framework of Scaffolding, Interaction, and Noticing provides an entryway for talking about a variety of teaching practices that promote engagement and integration of international students, as well as global citizenship for all of our students. We hope blog posts from other members will continue this line of discussion, offering additional suggestions for how to link our pedagogical work to our wider institutional goals.