Student-Perceived Inclusivity in the FYC Classroom: Embracing Multilingualism
by Melinda Grant, December 2, 2021
My story began in the fall of 2019; the excitement of returning to higher education to earn a Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW) degree coupled with notification of acceptance into the graduate teaching assistant program at Kennesaw State University would take a tumultuous turn in the early spring. In other words, the nervousness of standing in front of a collegiate classroom teaching English Composition paled in comparison to the challenges that March 2020 would bequeath: teaching in a global pandemic.
The uniqueness of being a student during this unprecedented time, in addition to preparing my English 1101 curriculum for the upcoming semester – yes, fall 2020 would be my first semester ever teaching – is unparalleled to date. However, I must admit that these previous twenty-eight months have taught me more about writing, teaching, and learning processes than I ever thought possible. During this time of significant personal growth and reflection, I gained a newfound understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the English language, its complexities, and, therefore, extensions to its many uses. Furthermore, my students have taught me more about the term inclusivity than I could ever teach them; after a year’s worth of academic field research, I am convinced now more than ever that there is a significant need to re-evaluate the fundamental elements of language acquisition and usage to understand better how to facilitate an inclusive first-year English Composition classroom.
For my graduate capstone/thesis project, I decided to do just that. My ah-ha moment was sitting in a World Englishes course, trying to understand the premise behind Kachru’s three circles of English model, utterly perplexed as to how there was discussion of more than one version of English. I contemplated dropping the course because I felt as though I was horrifically behind the other students – and this was the first week of classes. However, my professor was engaging, and curiosity inspired me to continue. One of the primary takeaways from the course was how globalization continuously fuels the diversification of the English language as descriptive uses of said language seem to have become the standard outside of academia in situations such as when English is primarily used as a lingua franca.
Additionally, I took a course on understanding writing as a process, where multimodal mediums were integrated into writing assignments and curriculum design. Consider the extraordinary realization that said use of technology increases societal connectivity, fostering a translingual paradox. The rest is history, which is best captured in the below-attached capstone project. Although, I would be remiss not to mention my most significant takeaway from this project, which happens to be a cliché that my mother used to tell me growing up: People may forget your words or actions, but they will never forget how you make them feel.
The purpose of this study was to compare student perspectives on inclusivity in the first-year English composition classroom viewed explicitly through two distinct lenses: 1. a pre-post survey design that measures students’ perceptions of classroom inclusivity and 2. instructor-perceived observations that reflect upon methods of pedagogical delivery within a multimodal framework. The results provide a further understanding of how curriculum is being received in a diverse academic environment utilizing blended instructional modalities. While all students did not embrace purposeful means of translanguaging via code-meshing in classroom formative and summative writing opportunities, 100% of students surveyed indicated experiencing inclusivity in the current classroom/curriculum. Study limitations and the need for further research are discussed as well.
Student-Perceived Inclusivity in the FYC Classroom: Embracing Multilingualism may be accessed via the Kennesaw State University Digital Commons. A PDF-version is also provided below.Melinda-Grant-MAPW-Capstone-12-6-21
In conclusion, we – all of humanity – live in a globalized and multimodal world, one that is significantly enhanced and shaped through the sharing of language, culture, and ideas. Therefore, the evolution of written and spoken language continues to take on descriptive roles that facilitate communication between speakers of varying languages. For this reason alone, as an educator, I owe it to my students to aid them in successfully maneuvering in a multilingual/multimodal capacity in their academic and professional careers. While there are many questions to be answered when it comes to the best practices of acknowledging and integrating multilingualism in a collegiate English Composition classroom, as witnessed in the results of this study, translanguaging (the merging and/or mixing of lexical and syntactic components of multiple languages/dialects in spoken and written language) is a concept that represents today’s communicative realities.
Furthermore, as an educator, it is imperative that I continuously re-evaluate my teaching materials. By integrating both implicit and explicit reading, writing, and speaking opportunities that introduce cultural and linguistic diversity, I hope to facilitate a more inclusive student-perceived FYC classroom while encouraging students to capitalize on their socio-cultural and socio-literate experiences through elements of voice and tone, enhancing authenticity and diversity in English composition deliverables.