Asao Inoue's Antiracist Writing Pedagogy: Working together to understand the whole
OVERVIEW: For our asynchronous meeting, I asked all of you to read the introduction to Asao Inoue's ground-breaking book Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future.
There are any number of words in the the title alone worth discussing because they are words that come up in wide-ranging discussions, both public and scholarly, that are intensely relevant to the world we live in. Assessment is a topic that we all, as teachers, know--and sometimes dread--though the depth and breadth of how we understand it can be limited and limiting. Social Justice is a phrase too casually thrown around these days without much interrogation of what social justice looks like in the constituent community affecting it and affected by it (BSU is certainly guilty of this). And, finally, antiracist is a term coming into vogue at this particular cultural and historical moment: to be antiracist implies not just not being racist, but being actively engaged in fighting the effects of systemic racism and white privilege.
Inoue brings these ideas all together, forces working in a classroom--thus, his term, ecologies.
POST: We started the semester exploring early contexts for the field of Writing Studies--where and how it started in the US university. This week we are jumping to now, to see where the field has ended up. There are many ways to do that, but I chose Inoue because a) his profound effect on my own teaching and thinking about assessment, and b) because I think he speaks to the best the field can contribute to the wider world. To do this work, I would like us to dissect this important piece of award-winning scholarship from the field as a class. For this week's post, please do the following in your Reading Response:
1. Include the briefest of summaries of the introduction to Antiracist. This is the text we all read, so don't feel like you need to explain the chapter so much as indicate what you, as a reader, writer, student, teacher, understand Inoue's argument to be here.
2. Using the list included in this week's update, provide a bit more complete summary of the chapter you were assigned to read for this week.
3. Try to identify what parts of the introduction your chapter makes feel more complete and realized, more understood.
See the Monday Update for what chapter you need to read. You'll be reading in small groups of 2 or 3 so you don't need to feel like if you get it wrong you'll be ruining Christmas or anything.
IN-CLASS on Wednesday: I will ask you to connect what you read about in your chapter to at least one other person in our class who read a DIFFERENT chapter. I tell you this here just to prepare you for that work.
9/21/2020 10:22:23 am
In Inoue's Antiracist Writing Pedagogy, he focuses on not only avoiding racism in a classroom, but promoting an antiracist classroom and discussing what that process actually looks like. He argues that teachers need to approach the construction of writing ecology in their classrooms theoretically and materially. He focuses on defining holistically what classroom writing assessments for any teacher should look like and theorizing writing assessments in ways that can help teachers cultivate antiracist agendas in their own writing and assessment practices. These, Inoue argues are two main focuses that should be brought to the forefront when it comes to creating an antiracist classroom and assessment practices.
9/21/2020 03:41:55 pm
Inoue establishes her purpose and argument in the introduction of her book Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. While writing to graduate students and writing teachers, she argues that teachers need to theorize writing assessment in order to foster antiracism in our practices. She explains that, “You don't have to actively try to be racist for your writing assessments to be racist”(19). The goal is to do more than do no harm. She challenges us to look at the writing assessment ecology and improve it so that the writing assessment is fair and just for everyone. In chapter 3 entitled “The Elements of an Antiracist Writing assessment Ecology” Inoue demonstrates how using these elements can help teachers understand their writing assessment ecology and develop and implement writing assessment that is antiracist and fair to everyone within the class. She prefaced the chapter by explaining that these elements are interlocking although she will discuss each element separately later in the chapter. An element affects one element and then that affected element affects the next element. The seven elements are power, parts, purposes, people, processes, products, and places. The element of power revolves around the questioning of power and judgment within the classroom. She writes, “Often then, if not consciously identified, reflected upon, and rethought, power can reproduce conventional looking hierarchies when grading student writing, hierarchies that are racist” (124).The element of parts in writing can be seen as rubrics, scores, grades, portfolios, and prompts. Each part can affect the attitude of the student. For example the pressure of the part (grade) can affect the students attitude towards the portfolio and the whole process. This element should be analyzed for biases within the parts. For example Inoue discusses one bias, “One important set of biases I’ve already discussed in detail is a dominant white racial habitus that informs writing rubrics and expectations for writing in classrooms, even ones that ask students to help develop expectations for their writing”(127). Purposes include the purposes of teachers giving writing assessments, students taking or not taking them, and administration for using the data.The next element is people which are the agents of the ecology system like the teachers and students. People are easily related to other elements, What is this person’s purpose, their power, etc? Processes include labor practices. It can involve the chronology of the process, how something was done and in what order. The process is dependent on the purpose, parts, and people. The sixth element is products which constitute learning, results, and decisions. Lastly, Inoue writes about the element of places. In an antiracist writing assessment ecology the assessment process, the parts,and the product are public. These elements offer ways in which teachers can analyze their current writing assessment ecology and help them create an antiracist writing class.
9/21/2020 05:15:47 pm
Sorry the last few sentences did not post to my above response.
9/22/2020 10:47:03 am
Last week we read the introduction to Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. The introduction to this book, the author outlines the current problem of assessing diverse students based on standards of white middle-class students, outlines the way in which his book will address this problem, and lastly, he explains why he focuses on antiracist ecologies. This week, I read chapter 3 of the book which went through the elements that make up the writing classroom ecology: power, parts, purpose, people, process, products and place. He explains how each of these elements are connected, or as he phrases it how these elements “inter-are.” For example, the parts used in an ecology influence the process of assessment and a change in process may necesitate a change in the parts of an ecology. A change in process can also change the power dynamic between people. Or a change in the people of an ecology can change the power dynamic. This is Inoue’s point throughout the chapter: that these elements of an ecology are interrelated and inseparable. He also details how each of these elements can be used to promote an antiracist assessment ecology. One of the overarching points of this chapter was that giving students more power to control how they are being assessed and making them aware of the influence of race on these different elements of ecology empowers students to break away from the typical assessment ecology which normalizes white racial habitus. For example having students reflect on how they are being assessed can enable them to think existentially about their assessment ecologies. This benefits both the student who gains a better understanding of their place in the classroom ecology, but also an instructor who can see how different students respond to different forms and standards of assessment.
9/23/2020 04:09:12 am
In Chapter Two of Inoue’s Antiracist writing pedagogy, he strives to define ecology in the classroom and to answer the question: how can we use classroom ecology as a frame for antiracist writing assessment? Ultimately, Inoue examines how teachers should look at a classroom ecology from an antiracist perspective, and how this translates to creating antiracist writing assessments. Initially, Inoue begins by defining ecology as the study of relationships among people and their environments--including every aspect of their environments. This means that when there is a dominant racial habitus, which in America is often a white habitus, students will interact with this habitus and it will manifest itself in the work that they do. Inoue states that educators must work against this fact, and that one way to do this is by measuring labor rather than the dominant discourse in the room. Naturally, then, an antiracist ecology could not learn to value one definition of “good writing” because of this attention to labor. It also could not value only one agreed upon definition because ecology is ever changing. As the world and relationships around us change, so, too, will our classroom ecologies, and so must our system of producing complex and critical writing. Inoue notes that there is always a political undertone to an antiracist classroom writing assessment ecology, and though he notes that one definition will be complete, he defines an antiracist classroom writing assessment ecology as a complex system of people and their relationships, which “helps students problematize their existential writing assessment situations” (82). Students must be a part of acknowledging the dominant discourse in their classrooms and whether or not they identify with this dominant discourse in order to address racism as it exists in classrooms. This chapter connects to Inoue’s introduction in the ways that it examines students as individuals. To look at the labor of each individual student rather than the dominant discourse of the school or classroom is one step towards creating an antiracist writing assessment ecology, and this definition of ecology ties in to us and our students addressing that we do not live in a post racial society, and that race is ever present in the classroom and in our lives.
9/23/2020 06:00:41 am
One of the clearest arguments Inoue develops in the Introduction and Chapter One of “Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies…” is that to affect change in our assessment of student writing, we as educators cannot focus on the nuance of individually but must recognize the systemic and racist social structures that we are battling and trying to destroy within our classrooms. In his introduction, Inoue questions the measure or standard by which we are judging writing, employing researcher Patricia Lynne’s significance of assessment lens, asking “why is assessment productive”, “what do assessors want to know”, and “who is involved in the decision-making”. He implores writing instructors to consider the ways that they have been taught to evaluate or assess writing, which is almost always through a “white based” narrative or the dominant discourse. Unexplored bias, and lack of self-reflection, can invite racism into the classroom, creating a disparate impact on disadvantaged students. In Chapter One, “The Function of Race in Writing Assessments” Inoue extends his introductory argument about the systems of power and racism, by borrowing Bourdieu’s term habitus, to propose in three definitive ways that racial habitus is a social construct. He suggests that racial structures are present and appear discursively or linguistically through discourse and language, materially and bodily through people’s living conditions and their environment’s impact, and performatively through our behavior and action (42). Racial habitus is an essential ecology for educators and all anti-racists to adapt, because it keeps us thinking about the system. Inoue discusses Fresno University’s EPT at length, illustrating the ways that dominant discourse, through this exam and the judgement of nonwhite student writing marginalizes and undermines these students’ intelligence and skill sets. Inuoe reminds educators that all languages are legitimate, and that judging students on the dominant discourse, which embodies the white narrative, is racist since it is intrinsically tied to white middle to upper class formation. Writers assessing student work can only best succeed when they willingly adopt a global imaginary of sentimental education that rejects “a particular kind of English fluency” where we all speak and write the same English, question “the nature of our expertise in and methods for assessing multilingual and locally diverse students and their writing (62) and reenvision syllabi, curricula and student writing to meet the needs of all students.
9/23/2020 01:16:20 pm
In the Introduction to Asao Inoue’s Antiracist Writing Assessment, he establishes how racism is pervasive in institutions and that writing assessment in the classroom is no exception. He introduces the concept of considering how writing assessment acts as an ecology in the classroom, affecting all aspects of perceived student performance. By incorporating antiracist ideas into writing assessment practice, this can make for a more equal, equitable ground for student success. Chapter 4 of his book deals with how he put this into practice. Inoue bases this chapter on his English 160W course, an upper division writing intensive course that is meant to fulfill a requirement. Inoue discusses how the class began with setting students up with a grading contract, which they worked on together, on how the class would be assessed and graded for the course. Much of this was designed to have the class consider/focus on labor instead of the product for their assessment. By focusing on labor, this provided a fairer playing field, so that those who came from or adopted the principles of a white racial habitus would not have an advantage to those who did not because the focus was not on whether they could replicate the standard ideals of said white racial habitus or of Standardized Edited American English. The class used rubrics, which they also worked on creating and negotiating together, for each assignment. They were also put into writing groups which they worked in together to help assess each other’s writing labor. The class also used labor journaling, reflecting on the work that they have done or are doing. Inoue reflected on his students’ labor, their writing, and their reflections to form an idea of what was effective or at times not effective or effective enough in the classroom. This chapter illuminated how the process of this antiracist writing assessment ecology works in a practical sense in the classroom.
9/23/2020 01:16:46 pm
The introduction to Asoe Inoue’s Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future establishes his overarching argument: that theory and good intentions are not good enough to change the tides of a racist education system. It is only when assessment is viewed holistically that educators can begin to create a healthier teaching environment.
Erin Patrice Slayton
9/23/2020 01:23:07 pm
My reading for this week, in light of Inoue’s Introduction, was brought full circle, in that the initial ideas he set up for consideration were later expounded on in helpful ways, moving us from theory to practice. Last week’s introduction comprehensively laid the discussion’s foundation – how we must work to conceptualize the writing we teach in classrooms as antiracist projects, if we aim, as many well-intentioned do, for a larger social context of fairness and justice. Inoue makes plain his desired audience includes those students, teachers, and administrative personnel who seek out ways to address racism in the classroom, and particularly so in our writing practices, which he theorizes here as ecologies.
9/23/2020 01:26:10 pm
After reading Inoue’s “Introduction” to his book, I understood that his argument is centralized around, not just race, but the ways in which assessments within writing classes are inherently racist. He advocates for the switch within the classroom by adopting the antiracist sentiment. Being a writing center tutor and mentor for undergraduate students, I’ve thought a lot about this before. Not only does traditional SEAE standards and curriculum teach white habitus, they promote it. It teaches students that if they are anything less than the dominant majority standards, which are white, that their thoughts, writing, and voices are not as valued in the classroom. He writes, “Race is a construct. It’s not real. But there are structures in our society and educational institutions that are racial” (Inoue 4). He argues that teachers must adopt antiracist writing assessment ecologies [because] at their core, [they] (re)create places for sustainable learning and living” (Inoue 14).
9/23/2020 01:43:35 pm
Asao Inoue uses his introduction to inform his reader that he intends to, as he puts it, “...illustrate an antiracist writing assessment theory for the college writing classroom by theorizing writing assessment as an ecology” (9). He credits his experience as a non-white student, characterized by his systematic disadvantage brought on by his race, for his motivation in doing so. Inoue proposes that racism in schools is “still pervasive” because of the fact that academic expectations are grounded in “SEAE and dominant white discourse” (14). He offers us his book in order to begin a more robust scholarly conversation that incorporates Marxian and Postcolonial theory. He ends by pointing out that ¨[w]aiting is complicity in disguise” (24).
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