The Core Composition Sequence at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Equity Awareness in Composition Courses

Through its extensive reading in scholarship on equity and antiracism in composition, the 2019-2021 CRC discussed three primary facets of equity awareness that all teachers should develop and apply in their teaching practice. These facets name levels of work that teachers always do when designing learning environments for their students. Clearly, these three facets overlap and all work together. At the same time, it is important for teachers to consider their practices in each of these different levels when designing an approach to teaching composition in which successful learning is available to all students. In all three facets, we strive to: 

→ decenter/question dominant (White, upper/middle class, monolingual) language and rhetorical presumptions;

→ provide opportunities for students to find value and strength in their own language practices and experiences;

→ help students build rhetorical awareness and flexibility given the range of writing and reading language situations they have encountered and will encounter; and 

→ develop students’ critical consciousness regarding writing, reading, and language practices. 

The three facets of equity awareness in our teaching practice are: 

→ Course materials 

→ Pedagogy & Instructional Techniques

→ Assessment practices

Below we offer a brief heuristic process for each facet in which we ask teachers to engage as they design their composition I courses. Hopefully this process will help each of us to discover ways we might rethink commonplace assumptions we make in our teaching practices and redesign them to serve more students, better. 

Course materials refer to the themes, texts, and media teachers use in their courses. Examples of things in this category include: short written texts (print or digital), films/videos, books, websites, stories, memoirs, student-created texts, etc. Course materials are also resources teachers themselves produce for their courses, such as: assignments, instructions, videos, demonstrations, etc.

As teachers select and create course materials, we ask them to ask themselves the following questions: 

How will the chosen theme and course materials help produce a more equitable learning and writing environment for all students in the course? 

Are the course materials fully accessible for all students? 

How will the chosen theme and course materials support the course learning outcomes, which enhance equity and consistency across course sections? 

Pedagogy & instructional techniques refer to choices teachers make about how to organize and structure learning in their class environment, whether in person, hybrid, or online—synchronously and asynchronously. Examples of things in this category include: group work, peer review, collaborative annotation, individual reading, the number of major assignments to give, revising written work, negotiating aspects of the course with students—or not, instructional technologies used in the course, etc. 

As teachers choose how they will teach, we ask them to ask themselves the following questions: 

How are the differences in access and use of various technologies and modalities by different students in the course accounted and planned for?  

How might students’ gender, ability, race, ethnicity, age, social class, and other identity locations affect the way they interact with the instructional strategies? 

Where do the notions of “writing process” represented in the course come from, and what other, more inclusive, possibilities for the process/labor of writing might work for a broader demographic of students? 

Assessment practices refer to practices teachers implement to evaluate, and sometimes score/grade, student work and performances. Examples of this category include: peer and self-review, the number of revisions allowed for an assignment, grading or upgrading policies, due date firmness or flexibility, weight of certain types of assignments over others, grading/scoring based on quality vs. labor/work/effort, etc. 

As teachers choose assessment practices, we ask them to ask themselves the following questions: 

How do the assessment practices of the course account and allow for students’ variations in language use patterns—including racialized genres, rhetorics, and conventions?

Is the grading schema for this course designed in a way that allows students in the course the likelihood of achieving passing, or even high, grades in the course? 

Do the assessment practices of the course inadvertently reward or favor racialized language habits and/or inequitably distributed resources? If so, how might the practices be adjusted to create greater equity?

Are the assessment opportunities and practices of this course designed to target the course learning outcomes?

If you would like to use these questions to reflect on your own teaching or as you redesign your Composition course, you may want to use this grid, which repeats the questions above while providing space for teacher reflection