Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times and Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities: A Review Essay

Breaking Down Barriers

As with Transnational Literate Lives, Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities concluded with a reflective turn to current pedagogical practice. Jay Jordan (2012) provided useful commentary on the difficulties of incorporating language diversity in institutions that require writing that “translates quickly into US academic prose,” suggesting “intercultural communicative competence” as a guide for teaching and assessing writing (p. 118). Jordan also made suggestions for topics that students may write about, similar to the topics his students at Penn State wrote about regarding their experiences with language. His suggestions included misunderstandings that arose from language difference, culture, and ideas of correctness. Lastly, Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities illustrated the benefits of incorporating real-world examples of language difference into classroom content, effectively demonstrating how such an approach might be applied with a discussion of as one example of everyday literacies as effective teaching tools.

Map of the world with faded gray lines.

Jordan’s project served as his dissertation at Penn State, and there are some elements that are reminiscent of that format: He began with a literature review, discussed methodology, reviewed participant data, and provideed conclusions. However, given the strength and relevance of the chapter in which Jordan described the classroom activities he assigned that encouraged students to think about language diversity, he might have given more glimpses of this data in earlier chapters. Since the basis of the project is that “multilingualism is a daily reality for all students” (Jordan, 2012, p. 1), more discussion of students’ perceptions of multilingualism could have benefitted readers. Still, the practical steps and assignment activities give writing instructors a solid place to begin for incorporating language diversity in the curriculum.

Both books encourage us to learn about our students’ personal histories and literacy practices in order to avoid making generalizations about student histories and practices. Furthermore, the texts encourage teachers of writing to create approaches that allow students to bring those histories and practices into the classroom and to build on them, thus establishing our personal histories and literacy practices as a site for inquiry and exploration through assignments such as literacy narratives. In both texts, pedagogy is responsive and data-driven, with students’ histories as the data and students as co-authors, co-teachers, and co-learners of the class. Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times and Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities serve as powerful examples of the need for teacher research—to study our pedagogies and our classrooms, including who populates them and what it means for how, what, and why we teach.