Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hustle

I had this disagreement the other day with a group of friends at dinner when I told them that I "hustle," and that maybe in this day and age or in this 'academic climate' or whatever, maybe I am going to have to "hustle" for a long time.

This apparently was funny because to them "hustle" meant something like "be a prostitute"
(which while we're at it is not terribly inaccurate when it comes to some academic teaching positions but that's not my point), but really what I meant was that for years now, I've had to "hustle" as in obtain by force  or sell (myself) aggressively for jobs. Small, insignificant jobs.

Not a year has gone by in the last ten years when I haven't applied for at least one job. Most years, I apply for three or four or five or ten.  I get some of them. Actually, I get a lot of them. But "getting a job" doesn't mean I won't have to hustle ever again. It just means I won't have to hustle for a few months, maybe.

I'm not necessarily complaining. Usually I like the jobs that I do. (Usually.) But I get so tired of hustling.

On that note, Fair Employment Week is coming up at UBC.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Studying Yourself

In the last few years, I have been involved in somewhere between one to three projects that involve some degree of "research about myself" (and, crucially, my interactions with other people). One has been published (Heng Hartse & Kubota 2014), two are in progress, and of these two, one is floundering at the moment.

For now, anyway, here are some notes on methodology references that may be useful to me and to others who find themselves studying themselves and what they are doing.

You'll need access to an academic library -- preferably UBC -- to follow most of the links.

The Wikipedia page on Autoethnography is as good a place as any to start:

Collaborative Autoethnography [UBC eLink]
"...Their book serves as a practical guide by providing you with a variety of data collection, analytic, and writing techniques to conduct collaborative projects. It also answers your questions about the bigger picture: What advantages does a collaborative approach offer to autoethnography? What are some of the methodological, ethical, and interpersonal challenges you’ll encounter along the way? Model collaborative autoethnographies and writing prompts are included in the appendixes. This exceptional, in-depth resource will help you explore this exciting new frontier in qualitative methods."

Spirituality in Higher Education: Autoethnographies [UBC eLink]

"Twenty chapter authors--from a variety of faith traditions--discuss the ways in which their own beliefs have affected their journeys through higher education. By using an autoethnographic, self-analytical lens, this collection shows how various spiritualities have influenced how higher education is understood, taught and performed. The book will stimulate debate and conversations on a topic traditionally ignored in academia."

"Identity Dialectics of the Intercultural Communication Instructor:  Insights from Collaborative Autoethnography" [Link]
ABSTRACT One way to deal with teaching challenges is to share personal stories with other teachers. In this article, four intercultural communication (IC) instructors consider how their teaching narratives provide insight into the dialectical tensions that exist with regard to teacher identity in the classroom, specifically in the context of their IC courses. Using a collaborative approach to autoethnography, we reveal four dialectics that highlight how our identity and intercultural experiences impact our teaching of IC: [1] Objectivity—Subjectivity; [2] Personal—Professional; [3] Learner—Teacher; and [4] Within—Beyond the Comfort Zone. These dialectics invite discussion regarding how IC teachers can navigate these contradictory tensions to be more effective instructors.
Lapadat, Judith C. (2009). Writing our way into shared understanding: Collaborative autobiographical writing in the qualitative methods class. Qualitative Inquiry, 15,955-979 [link]

ABSTRACT From her experience as an instructor, the author finds that it is valuable to engage graduate students in conducting a study within their qualitative methods course. In this article, the author discusses how she used a collaborative autobiographical research approach. Class members generate autobiographical writing to be shared with the group, and then the group collaboratively analyzes and interprets the set of autobiographical materials. The author goes on to describe two examples of collaborative autobiographical projects grounded, respectively, in memory-work and narrative inquiry frameworks. The complexity of autobiographical writing and the value of collaboration are discussed, along with ethical issues relating to role blurring, coresearcher relationships, anonymity, Research Ethics Board timelines, and cycles of consent.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

L2 Writing and Translingual Writing - what's going on?

The latest issue of the SLWIS newsletter (from the L2 writing interest group of TESOL) includes a short piece by a number of well-known L2 writing scholars indicating their intent to clarify the "difference" between L2 writing and translingual writing.

The is in response to the recent interest in translingual writing -- a term coined by a popular 2011 paper by Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur -- from what we in L2 writing have traditionally called "L1 composition" scholars. The concern that the L2 writing scholars have is this (my emphases):

...we are concerned about the tendency to conflate L2 writing and translingual writing, and with the even more disturbing trend to view translingual writing as a replacement for L2 writing. For example, we are concerned about the confusion and degrees of uncertainty resulting from a proliferation of such terms as: translingual writing, translingual writers, and code-meshing. There are also concerns about how this conflation may impact hiring practices for L2 writing specialists at postsecondary institutions and the comments of editorial boards for articles under review. We acknowledge that this trend has been largely confined within the discussion of U.S. college composition, so many who work in other contexts may be less familiar with the controversy.

This alarms me a little, since I am on the job market and have been looking into L1 rhet/comp jobs. I didn't know the situation was as serious as they suggest. They go on to quote their forthcoming piece in a top NCTE journal:

“...translingual writing is a particular orientation to how language is conceptualized and implicated in the study and teaching of writing. It emphasizes the fluidity, malleability and discriminatory potential of languages” but it “has not widely taken up the task of helping L2 writers increase their proficiency in what might still be emerging L2s and develop and use their multiple language resources to serve their own purposes."

I think I agree with this.

I talk about the emergence of translingual writing perspectives in my dissertation, and in general I am "in favor" of this perspective. The real benefit is that as a theoretical perspective, "translingual writing" does something very simple and elegant: it flattens out all variation in written language use into "language difference." This is a very sociolinguistic approach to writing; it encourages researchers and teachers alike to reconsider the question of "why anyone writes anything" (to quote myself recontextualizing a quote of Labov) with fresh eyes. Error, variation, dialect, register, slang, etc. -- they all come together, and I believe this is a useful and productive way to approach L2 writing. I advocate a "non-error based approach" to L2 writing in general -- not because I believe errors don't exist, but there is a long string of studies in both L1 and L2 composition that have proven over and over that judgments of error are subjective and complex, and when we look for errors, we find them.

However, where I see a need to be cautious is in simply referring to the actual process/product of writing as "translingual writing." Aside from my own belief that "translingual" is a misnomer for what is meant to be described (we really are still talking about English writing here, despite translingual scholars' arguments against "English Only" in US composition), I would say that there is no thing called translingual writing; the texts are still the same texts they would've been if they were written before we coined the term "translingual."  This is why I like to simply call this perspective the "translingual approach to writing" -- because it is a way of understanding written language and what to do with it.

There's more to be said here, but I'm just interested in seeing how this whole thing plays out over the long term. We may be entering a new era of engagement of L2 writing scholars in L1 composition, and this is certainly of interest to me as I put a tentative toe or two into the job market.