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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.