Academic journal article College English

Unknown Knowns: The Past, Present, and Future of Graduate Preparation for Two-Year College English Faculty

Academic journal article College English

Unknown Knowns: The Past, Present, and Future of Graduate Preparation for Two-Year College English Faculty

Article excerpt

The 2016 Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College, assembled by a national Two-Year College English Association (TYCA) taskforce, present the organization's position on the types of preparation that best equip graduate students to be effective professionals in two-year college settings. Like predecessor statements, released in 1971 and 2004, the 2016 Guidelines affirm the distinctive missions and student populations served by open admissions two-year colleges, and they recognize the need to prepare future two-year college faculty across and beyond the multiple disciplines that make up English studies. Like the 2004 document, the new Guidelines promote the "teacher-scholar" professional identity advanced in other TYCA statements over the last decade, emphasizing the importance of career-long scholarly engagement and participation in disciplinary professional organizations ("Research and Scholarship"; Characteristics). In these ways, the 2016 Guidelines further TYCA's ongoing effort to articulate two-year college English teaching as a "distinct and significant profession" (Holladay-Hicks and Reynolds ix).

Each Guidelines statement has responded to the exigencies of its historical moment. The 1971 Guidelines for Junior College English Teacher Training Programs (Cowan) were an early effort by two-year college members of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) to convey the particular knowledge and experience needed by English teachers at a relatively new and rapidly growing institution type. The document's main audience was the many university English departments creating specialized graduate programming to meet the demand for qualified faculty during a period when new community colleges were being founded almost weekly. More than three decades later, the 2006 Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of English Faculty at Two-Year Colleges (TYCA) communicated a set of ideal academic and professional characteristics to multiple audiences: graduate students who aspired to teach in two-year colleges, university faculty preparing those students, adjunct faculty seeking two-year college teaching positions, and those charged with hiring two-year college English faculty. That statement advanced TYCA's efforts to establish the teacher-scholar professional identity as normative (Andelora, "Teacher/Scholar"; "Forging").

The 2016 Guidelines speak to our own moment, extending the previous documents in key ways. First, they take up the recent public turn among two-year college English faculty, who increasingly identify themselves as "teacher-scholaractivists" (Andelora, "Teacher/Scholar/Activist"; Sullivan). This emerging professional identity responds to the current educational policy climate, which has heightened the need for two-year-college professionals who are not only equipped to teach diverse student populations, but also prepared to advocate for their students, their disciplinary knowledge and values, and their professional authority in both institutional and public contexts (Hassel and Giordano; Toth, Griffiths, and Thirolf; Sullivan; Calhoon-Dillahunt; Hassel et al.; TYCA; Toth, Calhoon-Dillahunt, and Sullivan). In that activist spirit, the new Guidelines are addressed primarily to an audience of English studies graduate programs, which, with some notable exceptions, do not yet meet their responsibility to prepare students to be two-year-college professionals. More than 40 percent of the nation's postsecondary English instructors now teach at two-year colleges (Occupational), which in turn serve nearly half of all US undergraduates, including a disproportionate percentage of students from underrepresented socioeconomic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds (Cohen, Brawer, and Kisker). In solidarity with the 2016 Guidelines, we are motivated by the conviction that the near-invisibility of two-year colleges in our graduate programs is neither justifiable nor just.

While the previous Guidelines statements outlined specific competencies, characteristics, coursework, and experiences needed by two-year college English faculty, the 2016 Guidelines seek deeper changes in the underlying assumptions of graduate education in English studies. …

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