Thanks so much for sharing your interests in community literacy and mutual learning. In an informal spirit that we hope to maintain, this first edition of the CLNN will help us get to know one another through a series of pencil portraits. It's clear that we cover a wonderfully broad map; our interests range from "write to change" to students-as-mentors, from community-based discourse to service learning.
If you'll be attending this year's College Composition and Communication Conference in Washington, DC, please come to the get-acquainted "Special Interest Group Session" on Thursday, March 23, 1995, from 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm, in the Montreal Room of the Marriot (2nd floor). The session, SG 1.15, is entitled, "Community Literacy and Mentoring as Mutual Learning."
This informal meeting will give us a chance to meet one another, as well as to discuss how to structure the network to suit all of our needs and interests. Some things to discuss: 1) what you are doing / what you are interested in; 2) should we put our newsletter on the WEB? anybody know about that? 3) what shall we do in the next edition (a couple of ideas: swap bibliographies, gather more portraits)? 4) we might think about linking to other literacy-related networks. Know of any? (If you won't be at 4C's or can't attend the group session, PLEASE SEND YOUR IDEAS TO: Kathy Meinzer [email@example.com].)
Do you know of others who are interested in mutual learning and community literacy? PLEASE INVITE THEM TO THURSDAY'S SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP SESSION, AND ASK THEM TO JOIN THE NETWORK.
Again, let's look at this as a first draft of our first edition. To reach as many of you as possible before you leave for DC, we're sending this version out even as some portraits might continue to arrive. Between today and Tuesday, March 21, if more portraits do come in, we'll send them to you over e-mail. (You can then simply cut and paste them into your copy of the newsletter.)
Elenore Long and Linda Flower
Michelle Kelly is a doctoral candidate in Educational Studies, who works with John Ackerman (dissertation chair), and who has been a member and friend with the Calvary Baptist Church, one of the largest and oldest African American churches in the valley. A wonderful coincidence, her diss looks at how the kids negotiate and learn across discourses--home, school, church--and her project has been welcomed by the Calvary Baptist community.
The Writing Program will consider a number of other projects in the years to come, and we see community service as one of our most exciting instructional challenges. We look forward to shifting the locus of instruction away from the university and into a much more diverse community.
A topic: How to do service learning with undergraduates in 10 weeks....
A question: when you [at the Community Literacy Center] say mentoring, are you making a distinction between mentoring and tutoring? I assume so, but I'd like you to hear from what the differences are, as told through your experiences.
How do patterns of language use affect what counts as knowledge and perceptions of intelligence, competence, and hirability? How do these patterns affect equity, or inequity, in opportunity and accessibility to self-fulfillment, employment, and full participation in a rapidly growing informational and technological society for individuals across social boundaries of class, gender, and ethnicity? How do successful community-based job training programs promote employment-related communicative competencies without being perceived as domineering, intrusive, or condescending by its client participants? I ask these questions about language within the context of larger queries about ways African American English might be considered an untapped language resource and about ways that community-based organizations may serve as exemplary learning environments and as the vital catalyst for enabling some disadvantaged youth or young adults to use these resources in ways that will meet their needs in learning contexts. Most studies related to language and learning have taken place in classrooms, an environment in which culturally and linguistically diverse populations have not fared well. This investigation takes place in community-based organizations to see if youths and young adults at-risk for academic failure in traditional academic environments stand a better chance of success in these contexts.
Using ethnographic observations, surveys, interview data, audio taped and video taped recordings of on-going language interaction between program participants and group leaders, and linguistic analysis, I implement action oriented research that has both descriptive and implementation dimensions. In three parts, the research investigates 1) the oral and written literacy practices within a working-class or lower-class African American community, a community-based job training organization, and a community-based mentoring program; 2) the translation of these literacy practices in job-related situations; 3) instances of exemplary teaching in community-based organizations; and 4) how untapped literacy-related resources revealed in these environments could be useful in the design of alternative approaches for instructing urban students.
If funding is secured, the next phase of the research will focus on helping youths and young adults to extend the high levels of literacy and language practices revealed in the first phase of the research. It will focus on building bridges between schools, homes, and communities through a University/community-based organization collaboration to facilitate the design and implementation of an innovative youth/young adult literacy program that builds on participants' speaking, listening, reasoning, and problem solving skills. Building upon heretofore untapped literacy-related resources that youths and young adults value and use in their everyday vernacular communities, participants will come to recognize these local literacies as resources and further transform their use into successful workplace and/or academic strategies. The teaching/learning model that will be developed will have great potential usefulness in the design of alternative approaches to learning critical literacies. The project seeks to implement a communications training program that uses the participants' own official and unofficial literacy practices and critical thinking skills to further develop oral communication skills and expository writing skills necessary for making successful transitions to classrooms and technical and service oriented workplaces.
At Ohio State, one way we approach this issue is through a state-funded program (EECAP-Early English Composition Assessment Program) designed to increase communication between high school and university writing instructors and students and to foster innovative writing instruction at both levels. We began the grant two years ago with two local Catholic high schools and have since expanded to include five Catholic high schools and two public schools. We run four day-long seminars each year for selected teachers and students and work throughout the year to visit each school and support them with their individual needs.
This program is invested in the three primary focuses you mention: mentoring as mutual learning, institutional change, and intercultural communications. For example, one idea that is reaching fruition for at least some of our high schools is the inclusion of a peer-run writing center (or similar facility) in the school. These centers have been met with some administrative resistance because of financial and staffing difficulties, but the ones that do exist have also proven invaluable in promoting a stronger, and in some cases new, idea of student mentoring and collaboration in the high schools. One research project currently underway involves an ethnographic study of the Writing Center at St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus.
We also see the promotion of writing centers and increased collaboration in high schools as a form of institutional change, but just as important to this change is the increased communication between high schools and universities this program promotes. We are learning a great deal about the politics and practices of high school English as the high school teachers become more familiar with college writing instruction. The students, meanwhile, get a chance to listen to pedagogical discussions between their teachers and university instructors and to critique and add to these discussions in ways they might otherwise not have a chance to. And while such learning may not be unique to our EECAP program, we believe such work will help break down the often confining walls separating universities from high schools and teachers from students.
Finally, this year in particular we feel like we have the chance for real intercultural communication. As I've noted, two of our schools are public schools and five are Catholic, and we are working with students from rural Ohio, students from the suburbs, and students from the inner city. They are white and black, feminists and Dittoheads, vegetarians and hunters. We are also working with teachers who have spent their careers dealing with issues of multi-culturalism because of the diversity of their student bodies and teachers who have taught predominantly white, middle-class, Catholic students. The ways these students and teachers have been able to meet and work together in a non-school setting has been enlightening in terms of the benefits and difficulties facing a true multi-cultural literacy movement.
This course, part of the First-Year Intensive Program in Writing, combines academic and journalistic writing. It meets the university composition requirement in its focus on critical thinking and writing skills needed in university courses that require writing. CJP also encourages and facilitates students' involvement with their communities at UCLA and beyond the campus. Students first write about and later write for the campus press, especially UCLA's alternative press, seven biquarterly newsmagazines: AL TALIB (Muslim), HA'AM (Jewish), LA GENTE (Latino/Chicano), NOMMO (African-American), PAC TIES (Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander), TEN PERCENT (gay, lesbian and bisexual) and TOGETHER (feminist). The class meets in a computer lab (our "newsroom"), and a mini-internship is part of the course activity. Many students go on to my intermediate exposition course, "Scholarly Discourse and the Popular Audience," where they analyze the ways a single topic of their choosing changes in style and content as it traverses the territory between discourse communities. Most write scholarly reports about their research, but some write feature articles for nonscholarly audiences. Some students then enroll in my advanced exposition course for media and communication studies, "Writing Esoteric Knowledge for the Leisure Reader." In this course, instead of focused researching about popularization, students do their own popularizing for magazines with specific target audiences. My own current research includes the making of a composition reader. The table of contents is clusters of readings, each devoted to a single topic but targeted toward different readers. (The dominant cluster trajectory is popularization, but additional arrangements appear as well.)
The WPWPA's goal is to improve student writing in the schools, by increasing opportunities for young people to write in all subjects and in all genres. We do this not only because good writing enhances academic performance, but because writing develops powers of expression and communication that carry over to the workplace and to family and community life. Since many children now come to school with little prior experience in writing and print literacy, we support the schools' mission by creating opportunities for students to develop enthusiasm for literacy in their communities and homes. We have learned from our eight years of such work that writing, which has both a solitary and social dimension, builds both self-confidence and a sense of community and appreciation of diversity.
The WPWP works primarily with teachers, investing them deeply in their own writing -- including personal, literary, and professional writing -- in order to pass their uses and valuing of literacy on to their students. The graduate course that supports this work is an intensive six-credit, five week Summer Institute for Teachers, modeled on the National Writing Project, attended by invited teachers, K-college. WPWP also works directly with students in summer institutes and after-school writing workshops. The Young Writers Institute, based at the University of Pittsburgh, has created satellite sites of its three-week summer program in the city's predominantly working-class West End and East Liberty neighborhoods. Weekly after-school writing workshops are also held in those neighborhoods, as well as in Garfield and Homewood in the city, and in several suburban locations. These workshops are conducted by WPWP teachers and/or Pitt graduate students , often in collaboration with parent and community volunteers, who participate in a sequence of (voluntary, non-credit) curriculum-building workshops in the spring of each year.
For the future, the WPWP is developing partnerships with community-based organizations in distressed neighborhoods and mill-towns, in order to provide enjoyable writing experiences as part of their afterschool programming for children and youth. In these workshops, the students are immersed in the writing process, learning how to generate topics and ideas, how to draft, revise and edit their work, and how to give and receive constructive criticism from peers. They have opportunities to write fiction, poetry, scripts, and non-fiction about the world around them, and they learn to keep a writer's journal. Once or twice a year, the students' writings are collected into an anthology, the publication of which is celebrated with a public performance for parents, friends and community.
We are very interested in exchanging ideas and plans both for evaluative research into community literacy programming, and for professional development models for teachers, writers, students, and community volunteers engaged in such work.
I am interested in community literacy issues both past and present, especially as they involve women. I have edited and introduced a book, _Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write_, forthcoming this summer from the University Press of Virginia. In compiling this volume, I first became interested in broader issues of literacy because the institutional perspective of most composition histories did not fit women's patterns of learning to write. I also work in the history of rhetoric, and most definitions and uses of rhetoric until quite recently excluded women. I have noticed that crossing rhetoric and literacy allows for more interesting work both on women and on literacy, involving a variety of media and sites in the past and present. I am currently exploring these issues through teaching a graduate research seminar in literacy, a staple of our C/R/L graduate program. I would be happy to share the syllabus if anyone is interested.
I am currently the Project Director for the Literacy Corps Program here at the Penn State Allentown Campus. Carolyn DiGiacomo is the instructor for our course, Literacy: Focus on Volunteers which provides students with an opportunity to tutor at-risk students in our pre-college programs.
[In addition to editing several publication series, including "Teacher Empowerment and School Reform" with Henry A. Giroux, Peter McLaren is author of numerous works, including the award-winning _Life in Schools_ (second edition, 1994), Longman and the highly acclaimed ethnography, _Schooling as a Ritual Performance_ (second edition), Routledge and, most recently, _Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture: Oppositional Politics in the Postmodern Era_, Routledge, 1995. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce, Professor McLaren lectures worldwide, and his works have been published in Spanish, Catalan, Hebrew, Portuguese, French, German and Polish.]
Next year, I'll begin a tenure track job at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I have already contacted community literacy agencies in San Miguel County, one of the poorest in the nation. I'm especially interested in networking various agencies (especially adult literacy centers and children's programs such as Head Start) in order to create a county-wide family literacy program like the one I'm studying here in Tucson.
To this end, I am directing a mentoring program whereby faculty who feel competent with word processing are being paired with a computer novice who would like to learn how to compose and revise on-line and to teach students how to do so effectively. I am carefully matching those whose personalities and interests mesh so that the beginner will feel competent and motivated to continue practicing with her partner. I will then form small mentoring groups to work together on more sophisticated uses -- such as teaching a networked class, research the library on-line, or browsing the Network. As the Director of the Writing Center at Long Island University in Brooklyn, I found mentoring groups to train tutors and adjuncts most productive in fostering a sense of shared responsibility for learning. Groups will share both theoretical and practical ideas for enhancing our students' opportunities as they become members of exciting new writing communities.
The Community Literacy Center is an intercultural community-university collaborative with an 80-year history as a settlement house in an urban neighborhood. Located on Pittsburgh's North Side, educational practice at the CLC is guided by four aims:
--The CLC is dedicated to social change and action.
--Community literacy supports intercultural conversation.
--Community literacy thrives in an atmosphere of problem solving and a culture of learning where strategies for planning, collaboration, argument, and reflection are explicitly discussed.
--As a community/university collaborative, the Community Literacy Center is committed to the goal of shared inquiry.
A laboratory for community development, over the past six years the CLC has offered successful mentoring programs that teach both teen writers and college mentors a set of rhetorical strategies for writing.
COMMUNITY LITERACY SEMINAR "Rhetoric and the Writing Process: Community Literacy" fulfills a core requirement for majors. In it CMU students combine academic work -- the study of rhetoric, literacy, and intercultural communication, weekly reflection writing, and a major observation-based inquiry -- with mentoring at the Community Literacy Center. It this central mentoring segment of the course, college students put theory to the test and into practice. They join a Community Literacy Center project as collaborative planning partners, working one-on-one with inner-city teenaged writers (who are often on the margins of school) to help these writers create a published document and a public community conversation on the urban issues that affect their lives. The visibility, media coverage, and support of major institutions give these inner-city youth a new voice in their community on issues of school reform and youth policy.
The CLC's educational agenda stipulates that the relationship between college mentor and teen writer is not based on the tutoring model but on collaborative planning, positioning the teen writer as the expert planner and the college student as the supportive mentor. Unlike mentoring that is associated with a resident-expert or coach, the job of a mentor-as-supporter is not to offer good advice (i.e., here's how I would do it), but to help the writer-as-planner to consider strategically the rhetorical issues of purpose, key points, text conventions, and topic information.
We also emphasizes intercultural learning. This means supporting inner-city youth and college mentors in negotiating cultural differences. While conventional models for campus outreach programs celebrate cultural diversity, the CLC attempts to raise the stakes for mentoring programs from multicultural awareness alone to intercultural problem-solving. We maintain that writing -- here defined as a collaborative process dedicated to social action -- has the potential to create intercultural working relationships in which students learn to work with and through cultural differences to accomplish shared ends. The CLC aims to support teen writers and college mentors in sustained and guided collaborative inquiry into genuine cultural differences, focusing on how intercultural partners interpret, negotiate, and work to transform their experiences together.
*CLC Literacy Leaders and Research Assistants: Julia Deems [firstname.lastname@example.org]; Lorraine Higgins (Director) [email@example.com]; Susan Lawrence [firstname.lastname@example.org]; Elenore Long [email@example.com]; Don Tucker: [firstname.lastname@example.org]; Amanda Young [email@example.com]. For bibliography of CLC materials, contact Kathy Meinzer [firstname.lastname@example.org] (Many of us are giving papers on community literacy at 4C's. Please look us up.)
At that time we are involved in two research projects related with writing in communities. The first one refers to writing at the school, considering this context as a community of practice. The main target of this research project is to analyze the planning strategies that children use while writing expository texts on interaction with a peer group and/or an the teacher in a classroom context. First of all we, intend to explore the differences among strategies children use to work out an advance outline of the text, and to do this in relation with the childrens' age, more specifically strategies used by children 10 and 14 years' old. In the second place we will try to specify classroom settings which foster planning in text writing tasks. The second project focus on children working in homework with parents. This one is been carried out in collaboration with Professor Jackie Baker-Sennet from the University of British Columbia. In this research we explore parents and children strategies during reading and writing. At this moment I teach at the University of Cordoba (Spain), Faculty of Education. I participate in two kinds of writing courses: a) Teaching writing for teachers, here our the starting point is the teachers' experience when they teach reading and writing at the school; b) Teaching writing in a doctoral program at the Spanish U.N.E.D., here we focus on the writing process from a theoretical perspective, specially we are examining the relationships between oral and written language.
I would be interested in how to set up connections to area high school teachers and would like to see discussions of collaboration between secondary schools and college.
One of the most important goals of Clemson's Writing in the Schools Project is to engage students at all educational levels in community-based action research, public service, and writing for the public. Students and teachers (and others) develop multi-disciplinary projects with various community groups (local hospitals, chambers of commerce, city councils, etc.) to develop and communicate knowledge about vital local issues. Such projects invite students to become better writers, planners, and thinkers through original research and writing activities that address real needs in their communities. By addressing issues that are of concern to people beyond the classroom (PCB pollution, teenage pregnancy, bicycle paths, etc.) and by writing to audiences beyond the classroom (hospital patients, local teenagers, planning commissions, etc.) with information that is new and important to them, students experience how writing and knowledge can make a difference in their lives and in the life of their community. Thus, students "write to change" their world by their active participation in the knowledge-creating and decision-making processes of a democratic society.
The building is just starting to be built now, and we are applying for grants to support some programs at the center. At Clemson University we have a project called Clemson Writing in the Schools, which supports broadening the literacy of children in public schools through using non-traditional, common-sense approaches to learning. This project offers very modest grants and curriculum materials for teachers and students who are interested in cross-age mentoring, using drama in the classroom, and writing for the community. We hope to take what we've learned in the last four years in the schools and share it with the Littlejohn Community Center in Clemson.
In writing exercises, my students reflect on how Appalachia is characterized by outsiders and how they can change those stereotypes, how they handle being made fun of by outsiders, and how they view people from New York City. As a class, we share our observations and have lively discussions. Since I don't want self-pity, I deal with their stereotypes of New York to show that they themselves frequently do what they detest being done to themselves. I also talk about multiculturalism and how they fit into it.
I do other activities with language and dialect, but my message is one of pride in culture while living up to the potential within them. In other words, I hope that they won't be so afraid of how their families will feel that they don't get their degrees and make the most of their talents. Because of their educations, they will be able not only to preserve what makes this area special, but also to solve some of the problems that have kept this area lagging behind.
When I begin to work on my doctorate in rhetoric and linguistics ('97), I hope to study more about dialect and language development so that I can help my students whose major problem in learning to write is not lack of intelligence but lack of confidence.
Other work I've done is off-campus. For the past year, as part of a local settlement house's education program, a colleague and I have been teaching a 37-year-old man how to read. There is no organized literacy program in place; there were simply two adults who wanted to learn to read and several of us who wanted to work with them. Our plans, though, are to expand this project and possibly set up a training program to recruit more teachers/volunteers. Each week, we meet with Tim and work on projects we select together, projects that have use and meaning in his life. We may read a book, write part of his autobiography, write a letter to the local power company, or look at a map of his neighborhood and identify key place she visits. He has quite a collection of Avon bottles; for a time, we were focused on making a list of the bottles as well as their market value.
Another project I'm involved with is a community service program in its first year in Columbus, City Year. One of the ways I've contributed there is by working with corps members (young people age 17-23 who perform community service for one year in exchange for a tuition waiver or its equivalent) to write newsletter pieces about their service projects.
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY LITERACY NETWORK NEWSLETTER: Across colleges and universities, many of us are developing university courses and lines of inquiry to address issues of community literacy. And it seems that we are asking many of the same questions: how might literacy, social institutions, and education work together to define and support social action? Our university courses that address community literacy typically share a commitment to innovative, hands-on learning through socially relevant experiences. Yet each of us teaching such a course must shape these commitments according to specific constraints and opportunities. Because of this shared dynamic, we, as educators, have much to learn from one another; conversely, we stand to lose if working in isolation. The aim of the Community Literacy Network Newsletter is to put educators interested in issues of community literacy in touch with one another. The network is sponsored by the Community Literacy Center, a collaborative between the Community House and Carnegie Mellon University, both in Pittsburgh, PA. For information, please contact Kathy Meinzer [email@example.com].