Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Here They Do This, There They Do That: Latinas/ Latinos Writing across Institutions

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Here They Do This, There They Do That: Latinas/ Latinos Writing across Institutions

Article excerpt

On this side of town, they focus more on the TAKS because, I don't know if it's because we're Mexican or we don't speak that much of English, but yeah, I don't think it's worth it."

-Andrea, on the focus of high-stakes testing at her high school1

Student populations and the institutions they pass through are unique. A writing classroom and the students within it are situated not only in a particular institution but also in particular geographic and sociopolitical contexts. Con- sequently, it is important for composition researchers and administrators to look both within and beyond individual classrooms, programs, and institutions to understand how writing instruction is shaped by location and the various forces at play within and outside various institutional locations. This article attempts to do just that. Drawing on a year and a half study of Andrea and seven other linguistic minority (LM) Mexican American students' transitioning from high school to a community college or university on the US-Mexico border,2 I construct institutional portraits that depict how internal and external forces shaped writing instruction at each institution. Like Elizabeth Wardle ("Cre- ative"), I find Pierre Bourdieu's analytical framework of habitus, capital, and field useful in exploring writing instruction across these institutions, the forces shaping this instruction, and the ultimate impact on students interested in pursuing a better life through attaining a college degree. This framework helps illustrate how instruction in individual writing classrooms is shaped locally, regionally, and nationally by teachers, administrators, students, politicians, and others. I conclude by articulating steps that composition researchers, teachers, and administrators can take to facilitate the transitions of diverse students through the multitude of fields they encounter on their educational journeys.

Researching Divides between High Schools and Colleges

Over the past several years, scholars such as Joanne Addison, Sharon James McGee, Brownyn T. Williams, Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, and Kerry Anne Enright have drawn attention to L1 and L2 composition's focus on postsecond- ary education, especially four-year institutions. For instance, much of the work on writing transfer has focused on students transferring rhetorical knowledge across university environments (e.g., Beaufort; Leki; Wardle, "Understanding"); however, more research needs to focus on transfer between high school and college, as our field has produced limited knowledge of the types of writing students experience before entering a first-year composition (FYC) classroom.

The Conference on College Composition and Communication has begun recognizing the need for more research on high school-college connections, with the first project funded through its research initiative focused on in- vestigating writing instruction in high school and college. In a 2010 article stemming from this project, Addison and McGee report that high school and college writing instructors generally had similar thoughts on "prewriting, clear expectations, and good instructor practices"; however, there were some significant differences such as college faculty being much less likely than high school teachers to "(1) provide opportunities for informal, exploratory writing or (2) have students read/respond to other students' work" (157). Addison and McGee also draw attention to Applebee and Langer's analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, noting that with 40% of students writing papers of only three pages or shorter, it is likely that many students in high school are not writing sufficiently to prepare them for college. Recent collections by composition scholars (e.g., Dixon; Hansen and Farris; Sullivan, Tinberg, and Blau) have also explored similarities and differences between writing instruc- tion in high school and college, with chapters noting differences in areas such as how high school and college teachers read students' writing (Thompson and Gallagher) while also recognizing areas for connection (Yancey). …

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