GradFUTURES Partners with Modern Language Association to Host Institute on Reading and Writing Pedagogy

Aug. 30, 2022

By: Jackie Campbell

What might it look like if we center Indigenous populations and anti-racist pedagogies at universities, and in particular in our classrooms? 

The GradFUTURES professional development team in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School recently hosted the 2022 Modern Language Association (MLA) Institute on Reading and Writing Pedagogy from July 11-15. The Institute, which was made possible by the generous support of MLA and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, offered an immersive pedagogical training program for faculty at local access-oriented institutions (AOIs) and doctoral students interested in teaching at community colleges and other institutions that emphasize access and equity over selectivity. The 2022 Institute devoted special attention to anti-racist pedagogies; instructor relationships to Indigenous lands, nations, and students; and understanding of the needs and circumstances of students at AOIs, who are primarily first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and students of color.

“We are delighted to partner with the MLA to host this program as part of Princeton’s shared commitment to professional development and increased access, diversity, and inclusion. Last year, President Eisgruber called upon the University community to take action to eradicate systemic racism and we are honored to support the national work of the MLA in promoting anti-racist pedagogies and greater understanding of Indigenous populations,” said Eva Kubu, Associate Dean for Professional Development & Director of GradFUTURES at Princeton’s Graduate School. Dean Kubu observed that “gaining exposure to innovative pedagogical approaches is critically important for all current and future faculty to meet the unique and evolving needs of an increasingly diverse student body," and noted that teaching and mentoring as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion are among the eight core competencies in the GradFUTURES professional development framework.

The Institute was facilitated by Howard Tinberg, Professor Emeritus and Professor of English at Bristol Community College located in Fall River, MA, and Lisa King, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Speakers at the Institute included Paula Krebs, MLA Executive Director, Eva Kubu, Associate Dean for Professional Development & Director of GradFUTURES at Princeton’s Graduate School, Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Professor of Medieval Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, and Ellen Carillo, Professor of English at University of Connecticut and Writing Center Coordinator at the U. Conn. Waterbury campus.

2022 marks Princeton’s first time hosting the Institute, bringing together 17 participants from institutions based in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. Between 2019 and 2022, MLA organized eight regional summer institutes for those who teach at AOIs and those who would like to make their teaching careers at them. Prior 2022 Institute locations include the University of Missouri, St. Louis (June 6-10) and California State University, Los Angeles (June 26-30).

Students and faculty taking part in the recent Institute represent the following institutions: 

  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
  • Drew University 
  • Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
  • Hostos Community College
  • Mercy College
  • Neumann University
  • Northampton Community College
  • Orange County Community College
  • Princeton University
  • Queensborough Community College
  • Rutgers University 
  • Stony Brook University 
  • St. John’s University
  • The CUNY Graduate Center
  • The University of Delaware 

Over the course of five days, participants met on Princeton’s campus and practiced utilizing the latest scholarship from the fields of Rhetoric, Composition, and Pedagogy Studies, with a strong focus on Indigenous rhetorics and anti-racist language and literacy education. Topics of discussion included dismantling white language supremacy; translingual approaches to teaching reading and writing; assessment and labor-based grading contracts; teaching with multimodal texts; peer reading and annotation; and bridging the gap between reading and writing in the college writing classroom. Ultimately, participants explored how to make reading and writing instruction accessible, effective, and meaningful for students at AOIs and community colleges. 

Isabela Muci Barradas, GS, ART, Community Teaching Fellow at Rowan College of South Jersey and GradFUTURES mentee, participated in this year’s Institute and hopes to incorporate Living Land Acknowledgements into her classroom in the future. 

“The reiteration of the land acknowledgement in a more embodied form and with a prolonged discussion is something I am interested in bringing into the classroom intentionally to move beyond a surface reading of written acknowledgments,” says Isabela. 

The first day of the Institute began with a broad overview of access and effective teaching practices at AOIs and community colleges. Co-facilitators Howard and Lisa opened the session with a presentation on community college facts and statistics, including average annual tuition and fees; percentages of federal aid received by community colleges; percentages of students receiving financial aid; the number of public community colleges with on-campus housing; the employment status of students enrolled in community colleges; and statistics regarding enrollment, tuition, accreditation at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Participants engaged in seminar-style discussion and compared experiences from their own institutions.

On the second day of the Institute, participants explored the practice of “deep reading,” an instructional method that integrates reading, writing, and thinking in order to promote the transfer of knowledge to other disciplines, careers, and aspects of students’ lives outside the composition classroom. Participants discussed best practices for teaching students to read rhetorically and identify the genre, intended audience, and authorial purpose in a given passage. 

The third day of the Institute centered on “deep writing” and explored what makes writing assignments meaningful for both students and faculty at AOIs and community colleges. Participants discussed the latest writing curricula and assessment research and shared practical strategies for creating effective assignment sequences, practicing equitable writing assessment, and designing syllabi that clearly map the narrative arc and learning goals of the course.

The third day also focused on using Land Acknowledgements in the college writing classroom and featured guest speaker Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Professor of Medieval Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Conklin Akbari is the author and editor of several books, including Seeing Through the Veil (U. Toronto), Idols in the East (Cornell UP), and The Oxford Handbook of Chaucer (Oxford UP) as well as the Open Access collections How We Write and How We Read. She is especially interested in how living and working on Lenapehoking land inflects our academic research and the communities we form. Her work in the area of Indigenous Studies includes “The Gift of Shame,” published in postmedieval 11.2 (2020). 

Suzanne's lecture offered participants a look inside the process of creating the Lunaape/Delaware Living Land Acknowledgement displayed on the first day of the Institute, which appeared as follows:

“The MLA Princeton Institute is hosted on land that is the ancestral homeland of the Lunaapeewak who were displaced by violent colonial actions that forced their relocation to the north and west. These peoples include five federally recognized communities, two located in Canada and three in the USA: the Munsee Delaware Nation (Muncey, Ontario); the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown (Moraviantown, Ontario); the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians (Bowler, Wisconsin); the Delaware Tribe of Indians (Bartlesville, Oklahoma); and the Delaware Nation of Lenni Lenape (Anadarko, Oklahoma). State-recognized tribes in New Jersey include the Ramapough Munsee Lenape Nation, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, and the Powhatan Renape Nation. As we meet here on Lunaape land (Lunaapahkiing), we are grateful to be learning from this land with Lunaape partners, and hope this week will suggest ways to continue being good guests to the Indigenous nations of Turtle Island and in coalition with each other in a good way as we think through our teaching practices and philosophies this week.”

Suzanne also passed along recommended readings and resources, including "Beyond Land Acknowledgement in Settler Institutions", by Theresa Stewart-Ambo and K. Wayne Yang. Regarding Indigenous approaches to rhetoric, focusing especially on writing and oratory, Suzanne brought the group's attention to the work of Lee Maracle (Sto:lo). She recommends discussions about Maracle's scholarship and writing which can be found onThe Spouter-Inn podcast, especially Episode 23: "Memory Serves", Episode 29B: "Lee Maracle on Great Expectations", and Episode 51: "I am Woman."

Participants studied historical maps of local Indigenous lands and learned strategies for collaborating with and supporting Indigenous communities both within and outside the classroom. Suzanne’s visit concluded with a Living Land Acknowledgement walking tour: a brief walk through Princeton’s campus that allowed participants to connect the area’s Indigenous history with a first-hand encounter with the land. Participants walked from the Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building to the Lake Carnegie Public Boat Launch.

More information regarding the Lunaape/Delaware Living Land Acknowledgement can be found through the IAS resource page, which includes Lunaape/IAS events; Lunaape/Lunaapeew language resources; books, articles, and lectures on local Indigenous history; and podcasts, maps, and more.

The fourth day’s session opened with a guest lecture on reading instruction by Ellen Carillo, Professor of English at University of Connecticut and Writing Center Coordinator at the Waterbury campus. Carillo is the author of Securing a Place for Reading in Composition: The Importance of Teaching for Transfer (Utah State UP), the free textbook A Writer’s Guide to Mindful Reading (UP of Colorado), Teaching Readers in Post Truth America, and The MLA Guide to Digital Literacy. Ellen offered theoretical frameworks and practical strategies for teaching reading in the college writing classroom. Topics of discussion included peer reading; targeted annotation strategies; creating a reading journal assignment; overcoming difficulties students may face when they read; how to create meaningful reading assignments that connect reading and writing; reading assessment strategies; encouraging multiple readings of difficult or literary texts; and how to use transactional theory to teach reading.  

Throughout the final two days of the Institute, participants shared resources and strategies from their own classrooms, including course syllabi, lesson plans, and sample reading and writing assignments. Participants then worked together to structure and present research proposals aimed at exploring and potentially solving issues encountered in their classrooms and institutions. In small groups, participants collaborated to identify a pedagogical problem; motive or exigence for research; research methods and project timeline; materials and resources needed; genres or forms that might best suit their future research; community partners and possible collaborators; and ways to measure the impact of their research. 

During the final session, which was held virtually, participants presented research proposals, shared contact information, and made plans to continue collaborating in the future. 

“One of the most enriching parts of the Institute was getting to know and learn from colleagues,” said Isabela. “The conversations on labor-based grading and meaningful writing assignments as well as the workshops conducted to receive feedback from one another and share resources were all enriching and have changed the way I will approach the classroom from now on.”

Ultimately, the Institute provided current and future faculty at AOIs and community colleges an invaluable forum for pedagogical collaboration and innovation. By the end of the week, participants left Princeton with a new set of tools to best serve their students.

Coordinating logistical details for the event were Jacqueline Campbell, GS, ENG, an incoming MLA Social Impact Fellow who will work directly with Paula Krebs, and Peter Krause, Events and Program Coordinator in the GradFUTURES program and Ph.D. candidate in the English department at Fordham University.

For more information about the 2022 Institutes on Reading and Writing Pedagogy visit the MLA website. For more information about GradFUTURES, including upcoming events and programming, visit the GradFUTURES website

This is a retrospective story. To read the announcement story, please see GradFUTURES news stories.