Kairos 20.1

Transnational Writing Programs:

Emergent Models of Learning, Teaching, and Administration

David S. Martins with Patrick Reed
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An Internationalist Perspective

"The task, as we see it, is to develop an internationalist perspective capable of understanding the study and teaching of written English in relation to other languages and to the dynamics of globalization."

Bruce Horner and John Trimbur (2002), "English Only and U.S. College Composition" (p. 624)

In her article, "The Foreigner: WAC Directors as Agents of Change," Susan McLeod (1995) identified a number of roles WAC directors might play as they conduct their work. After presenting the weaknesses of numerous roles—the conqueror, the diplomat, the Peace Corps volunteer, the missionary—McLeod settles on the "change agent." McLeod wrote:

  • WAC directors are change agents largely by virtue of their difference, their other-ness ... Their unfamiliarity with and respect for the local culture combined with a willingness to listen [to] and learn from that culture makes them appealing visitors, makes their knowledge about teaching writing not something to be imposed but something to be discussed, perhaps broadened through dialogue with disciplinary experts. (p. 112)

This ideal of the WPA as foreigner/change agent highlights those elements of participation in transnational writing programs that, much like the work McLeod describes for writing across the curriculum directors, present opportunities to see differently the work commonly done in first-year writing programs. The familiar becomes unfamiliar. Opportunities to listen and learn are numerous.

As it is revealed in the sustained critique of the monolinguistic ideology in U.S. college composition, and the related attempts to initiate an international perspective, writing teachers and administrators in transnational contexts don't ever get too comfortable:

  • Mary N. Muchiri, Nshindi G. Mulamba, Greg Myers, and Deoscorous B. Ndoloi, "Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America" (1995, the same year McLeod published the article referenced above)

    Transnational writing programs counter assumptions of the universality of writing instruction by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to see the local-ness of their work. The authors describe experiences of students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zaire as they enter the university and journey from their homes to the major city centers where the universities are located. And they present the experiences of faculty who may themselves have extremely limited access to academic resources for research and teaching.

  • Bruce Horner and John Trimbur, "English Only and U.S. College Composition" (2002)

    Transnational writing programs challenge notions of language neutrality by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to foreground language in instruction. Raising provocative questions for writing teachers and administrators about the sequence of courses commonly designed in first-year writing programs, Horner and Trimbur encouraged instructors and administrators to develop what they call "an internationalist perspective capable of understanding the study and teaching of written English in relation to other languages and to the dynamics of globalization" (p. 623-4).

  • Wendy Hesford, "Global Turns and Cautions in Rhetoric and Composition Studies" (2006)

    Transnational writing programs exemplify a global turn in rhetoric and composition studies by enabling writing teachers and administrators to call into being new geographies and actualize new visions of teaching and learning. Highlighting emerging trends in rhetoric and composition studies, Hesford cautioned writing teachers and administrators to "be apprehensive about idealistic notions of global civil society, skeptical of globalization's bells and whistles, and attentive to its inquiries and risks" (p. 797), and offers key requirements for a global turn: for example, "a comparative-historical frame and a broader understanding of culture, text, context, and the public sphere" (p. 791).

  • Paul Kei Matsuda, Maria Fruit, Tamara Lee, and Burton Lamm, "Second Language Writers and Writing Program Administrators" (2006)

    Transnational writing programs highlight the need to integrate second language issues into writing instruction and administration by bringing native and non-native English speakers together. In their special issue of WPA: Writing Program Administration, the editors present articles that articulate key second language writing issues and explore those issues from different disciplinary perspectives.

  • Gail Shuck, "Combating Monolingualism: A Novice Administrator's Challenge" (2006, in the WPA special issue mentioned above)

    Transnational writing programs counter masked complicity by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to be deliberate about the ideology embodied by curricula and institutional practices. As coordinator of the English language support programs at Boise State University, Shuck describes her efforts to counter a monolingual ideology while at the same time acknowledging her complicity in that ideology because of its pervasive structuration of institutional positions, curricular structures, and placement and assessment practices.

  • Chris Anson, "WPA Taskforce on Internationalization" (2008)

    Transnational writing programs foster new connections and broader opportunities for learning by creating new partnerships and expanding the conversation about ways of teaching and administering writing. Demonstrating disciplinary support, the WPA Taskforce on Internationalization offered multiple recommendations for the Council of Writing Program Administrators with examples of activities the organization could engage in and highlight.

  • Christiane Donahue, "'Internationalization' and Composition Studies: Reorienting the Discourse" (2010)

    Transnational writing programs challenge shallow understanding of writing and teaching by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to create depth in their understanding. Through her exploration of the "discourses of internationalization" related to scholarly work and the teaching of writing Donahue calls for deep intercultural awareness, familiarity with other relevant research trends and methods, other contexts for education and research, and continued vigilance for the impact of economic factors on writing research and teaching.

  • Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur, "Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach" (2011)

    Transnational writing programs expand meaning-making activities by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to develop new approaches to language difference in the writing classroom. The authors countered what they termed as "traditional" and "accomodationist" approaches to language difference with a "translingual approach" to language difference that "sees difference in language not as a barrier to overcome or as a problem to manage, but as a resource for producing meaning in writing, speaking, reading, and listening" (p. 303).

  • Bruce Horner, Samantha NeCamp, and Christiane Donahue, "Toward a Multilingual Composition Scholarship: From English Only to a Translingual Norm" (2011)

    Transnational writing programs encourage multilingual scholarship by begging the question about research on writing in partnership contexts and by creating robust sites for new, collaborative, multilingual and online research. Horner, NeCamp, and Donahue advocated for a "translingual composition scholarship" that will "involve changes in the conduct of current scholarship, the venues for scholarly distribution, and the preparation of scholars" (p. 288).