Presenters: Kathleen Spada (University of Cincinnati), Katelyn Lusher (University of Cincinnati), Rachel Donegan (Middle Tennessee State University), and Kirstin Bone (University of Alabama)
Kathleen Spada, “Mutal(ity), Respect, and Conflict: Critical Tenets to the Rhetoric of Unschooling as Relational Praxis”
Kathleen focused on the question of can students be strategically unschooled? Unschooling was presented as a critical and caring pedagogy and through relational theory. Kathleen shared unschooling moves from her classes that shift the tone of the class and as a means of how she can embody presence. These moves included: beginning the course with her teaching philosophy for the class to get to know her, the class writing their own student expectations, and not using a rubric while also discussing why she is approaching the assignment this way. Such unschooling activities served to establish mutual respect as well as trust. Kathleen ended with stressing how controlling images and narratives can cause us to perform in those ways to conform.
Katelyn Lusher, “Community Spaces as Pedagogy: Affect and the Justice Seekers Writing Circle”
While Gere has argued that the “traditional” classroom is not the only space where writing happens, Katelyn presented, “However I also want to argue that the traditional classroom is not the only space where pedagogy happens.” Katelyn focused on a writing circle that she belongs to in the Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In this group they write together and affirm each other as women and writers; the group empathizes, encourages, and listens. Katelyn stressed that the focus is on the space and that the women in the group are almost all involved in activist pursuits. Connecting to affective spaces and third space, Katelyn argued that the neighborhood center is a place, but the circle is a space because it cannot be so readily defined. As they share writing, they are also writing the space. Katelyn ended by arguing the writing circle as a space that can be created. She asked how we can attune to our writing classroom, rethink affective attunement as a pedagogical tool to “teach” community, and see community space as a class/teaching space.
Rachel Donegan, “Accessible Futures: Using Heuristics to Promote Greater Writing Program Accessibility”
Rachel’s research stems from a mandated accessibility audit, which she argued was a reductionist approach to disability and excluded mental disabilities. Instead, approaching accessibility as a rhetorically flexible practice, Rachel presented three domains for accessibility along with her own classroom approaches: polices and/as pedagogy, technology policies, and participation policies. For polices and/as pedagogy, Rachel shared her access statement, which includes her own approaches to disability before and after the required legal policy. For the technology and participation, Rachel shared an activity of building technology guidelines with the class. As a means to quantify and clarify participation, Rachel does collaborative notes, having students serve as note takers for two days. The plan moving forward with this research is to test out these ideas in other higher education environments. Rachel ended by arguing that access is never finished and instead ebbs and flows, and, rather than seeing it as daunting, it is exciting and refreshing.
Kirstin Bone, “Implementing Accessibility: A Pilot Study in the First Year Writing Classroom”
Kirstin’s presentation began with a detailed overview and reflection on the work and scholarship that has been done with accessibility. Citing scholars such as Tara Wood, Jay Dolmage, Margaret Price, and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, Kirstin summarized that while we realize people have disabilities, have we made enough changes to our pedagogical practices to create a culture of access? Instead, Dolmage argues that we are retrofitting our accommodation. Kirstin presented Universal Design as a means of encouraging faculty to be more flexible and as a method to not force students to identify. Further citing Black, Weinberg, and Brodwin, the argument is to offer accessibility training early in an instructor’s career. Overall, while instructors may have willingness, the training and means are lacking. Kirstin’s ultimate goal with her research is to create a training a program. Such a program will be developed by first looking at the current pedagogical practices and design of materials from instructors.
The panel ended with an engaging Q&A. Panelists and attendees discussed the ways we make our classes accessible, such as through attendance, deadlines, breaking a large assignment into smaller assignments, and asking students how they learn best. It was stressed how accessibility is a growing and living practice and process. Each of the presenters presented not only approaches from their own classrooms and possibilities for future work, but also challenged those of us in the audience to rethink our writing classrooms. As instructors, we may not know access as we should, but in our moments of failure, we can and will do better.