Of this week’s readings, I chose to focus on Valerie Clifford’s “Does the use of Journals as a Form of Assessment put into Practice Principles of Feminist Pedagogy?” and Nadia Behizadeh’s “Mitigating the Dangers of a Single Story: Creating Large-Scale Writing Assessments Aligned With Sociocultural Theory.” Both of these articles spoke out to me because they connected with my experience as a first-time freshman composition instructor.
In some ways, being an X tutor or facilitator of learning designates my “true origins” in teaching. I found some of the self-imposed reflection and criticisms quoted by Clifford in her assessment of journals in facilitating feminist analysis to be reminiscent of my experiences in leading group workshop classes as well as serving as a student assistant for both literature and composition courses, during my undergraduate and graduate careers. As a scholar, I am fascinated with metacognition. To me, being able to reflect on one’s thoughts and actions is one of the key practices necessary to improve in just about any skill or practice. Being able to understand what didn’t work well and what did makes it easier for us to tackle similar situations later, or to be able to take on unprecedented challenges by assessing how they relate to previous experiences and then by our memory we can attempt several kinds of remedy. In my years of instruction, this has led me to redesign workshop strategies and layouts, and has sharpened my intuition in which I guide my student-writers to focus on certain aspects of their assignments and writing that are of vital importance. While I did not keep a regular teaching journal (as I should do), I oftentimes kept observation notes of other instructors and their practices, consulted my peers and colleagues on said observations, and made memos of my own teaching practices. I do not recall sharing any of these reflections directly with anyone, save for an observation assignment last term for my ENGL 220A: “Teaching College Composition” course.
The readings this week also made me consider how assessment could be oriented more towards feminist agendas. One of my close peers and friends – a “school spouse” of mine – gears her research towards students’ sentiments towards assessment, and how assessment practices may better reflect them. As such, the intersection of assessment with feminism isn’t really something I haven’t considered before, but it certainly does feel like one hell of a mental puzzle. In Behizadeh’s piece, I especially liked her challenge to include a large-panel, portfolio assessment mythology in K-12 education in order to stop perpetuating the “single story” of DWA that severely misrepresents a large portion of the student population. In my own teaching practice, I am incorporating a portfolio assessment for my freshmen that is also multimodal. For their final portfolio, they are tasked to revise their first two assignments and then post them in conjunction with their third assignment onto a web platform of their choice: WordPress, Blogger, or Weebly. Throughout the semester, they have worked with multimodality in different forms: in print, through analyzing and demonstrating the graphic novel genre, and through collaboration in a group research assignment of plagiarism and honesty, both within and outside the academy. Throughout the semester, I encourage my students to participate in self-reflective writing by way of free-writing in journals, quick-writes, holistic letters, and in composing essays with some elements of personal narrative mixed in.
In the conclusion to her study, Clifford states that journal writing does not have a direct correlation with fostering feminist analysis and/or agenda. And I agree – I don’t think that just my affinity and practice of metacognition reinforces or promotes a feminist agenda. There are other things to consider, like teaching new genre styles and conventions as well as encouraging students to reconsider what we mean by writing and composition. There are also the few but very enriching discussions of culture and politics that suggest sociocultural awareness as also having a crucial impact in fostering feminist praxis, and not just metacognition. My question to my peers this week, then, is what kinds of forces do they believe drive their praxis towards feminist means or feminist ends. In other words, just as Clifford concludes that journal refection solely cannot promote a feminist agenda, I want to know what are other ways or means that we can include with journal-writing that can promote feminist awareness.