Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Learning to Let Go: Building Hybrid Spaces to Challenge Pedagogical Certainties


Writing Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


In an educational context that calls increasingly for attending to the globalization of the workplace, opening classrooms to different communication practices is a common topic in professional writing pedagogy. Intercultural competence or global literacies (Deborah Andrews, Doreen Starke-Meyerring, Emily Thrush, Bruce Maylath) have become fashionable concepts and courses that specialize in international and cross-cultural communication are popular additions to writing curricula. Yet, the incursion of culturally diverse practices into professional writing programs calls into question the fields attitude toward differences and its willingness to let go of steady conventions and welcome communication dissonances in curricula and classrooms. Indeed, acknowledging the existence of different communication practices disrupts the very concepts of format and conventions used to describe and teach the different genres of professional writing. For a field that is still often characterized as the teaching of stable rules, making room for different ways of doing challenges not only the concept of correctness and a static approach to genre, but it also de facto puts teachers in a situation in which they need to engage with the potential gap existing between the classroom, a relative sheltered space where conventions are stable and reified by textbooks and pedagogical traditions, and the reality of the outside, a limitless space where new practices emerge, evolve, and contexts meet and, at times, collide. Recognizing the necessity to acknowledge different practices also raises questions about which curricular spaces are most appropriate for incorporating potential dissonant voices. One option is to make culturally diverse practices integral components of existing courses. The other option is to develop specific courses dedicated to writing in international and cross-cultural contexts. While anchored in the same premise, these two options have different meanings regarding the role afforded to dissonant voices within the dominant discourse. To explore the risks and benefits associated with making communication dissonances part of a writing pedagogy, this presentation takes a critical look at the ways in which writing curricula address multicultural and international contexts. By describing her work as an international scholar tasked with internationalizing courses in an independent writing program located in a Midwestern university, the presenter examines the significance but also tensions between adding multicultural perspectives to existing courses and using such perspectives as incentives to create separate curricular spaces solely dedicated to writing across linguistic and cultural borders. To begin her inquiry, the presenter reports on the design process of a new professional writing course, Writing in the global context and examines the impetus for its development and its curricular goals within both an independent writing program and a new liberal arts general education curriculum. Next, the presenter compares this special topic course with a concurrent program-wide movement that aims at incorporating multicultural and international practices within the larger curriculum. Through her analysis, the presenter connects her findings to specific data regarding the space dedicated to culturally diverse practices in U.S. professional writing curricula. Drawing from the concepts of hybridity and politics of difference (Jan Nederveen Pieterse) as well as her own experience growing up in a region that has been historically a contested space between two different cultures and linguistic traditions, the presenter examines critically the benefits of disrupting practices in established courses and the risks of relegating and even exiling communication dissonances to separate curricular spaces. By doing so, the presenter contends that confronting the political and ideological dimension of curricula is a key condition for opening pedagogies to culturally diverse practices and for examining the role we are ready to confer (or, not confer) to dissonant voices. Ultimately, this presentation asserts that curricular boundaries act as reflections but also instruments for gauging more objectively our own readiness as teachers to let go of certainties in order to engage with different ways of doing, even if it means evolving in less stable and less strictly delineated spaces.

Conference Name

2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication annual convention

Conference Location

Tampa, Florida

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