Engaging in Resistant Genres as Antiracist Teacher Response
by Shane Wood, University of Southern Mississippi
This article focuses on teacher response through contract grading and explains how rhetorical genre studies (RGS) offers opportunities to investigate teacher response in antiracist writing assessment ecologies. How do grading contracts change how teachers respond to student writing? How can we better understand teacher response as dynamic genres in antiracist writing assessment ecologies?
Keywords: teacher response, grading contracts, antiracist writing assessment, rhetorical genre studies
The practices of giving letter-grades to language performances and responding to student writing colonize our students just as they engage meaningfully with them. Letter-grades signal who has authority over classroom assessment, and teacher response has been a site for appropriating student writing. Antiracist writing assessment ecologies that use alternate assessment practices and genres (e.g., grading contracts) may democratize, and even attempt to decolonize, the writing classroom, but they too have limitations and constraints. Classroom writing assessment practices, including teacher response, are never neutral. Teacher response to student writing can perpetuate inequalities and inequities just as much as assigning letter-grades on language practices reinforce power and control. Genres of response (e.g., marginal comments, rubrics) help establish meaningful exchanges between teachers and students but can also be a source of harmful communication and interactions, such as privileging habits of White language over other linguistic variations (e.g., Black English). As rhetorical genre studies (RGS) helps us see, genres are “reproducers of culture—in short, ideological” (Bawarshi & Reiff, 2010, p. 27).
So far, we have good work on grading contracts through antiracist frameworks, such as how grading contracts can challenge White discourse (Inoue, 2019), but we don’t know how grading contracts change the way teachers respond to student writing and how response functions in antiracist writing assessment ecologies. How do grading contracts change how teachers respond to student writing, and how can we better understand teacher response as dynamic genres in antiracist writing assessment ecologies?
Grading contract research often focuses on contract construction (Danielewicz & Elbow, 2009; Inoue, 2019), how contracts are implemented in classes (Moreno-Lopez, 2005; Shor, 1996), how contracts are a part of a larger ecology (Inoue, 2015), or student perception and consequences for using grading contracts (Inman & Powell, 2018; Medina & Walker, 2018). Most of the literature makes an argument for grading contract use, but there is little written on what it is like to respond to student writing or how teacher response can complement grading contract ecologies. Grading contracts, of course, vary in design and implementation. In short, grading contracts are assessment genres that reflect pedagogical values (e.g., negotiation, compassion) and classroom initiatives (e.g., social justice, antiracism), shape identities (e.g., of student, teacher), and help carry out particular actions and consequences. It would seem likely, then, that grading contracts would change the nature of teacher response because the values, actions, and consequences of contract ecologies are different than traditional assessment practices; for example, traditional assessment ecologies often emphasize a “product” that is frequently connected to writing “quality” which is tied to Standard Edited American English (SEAE).
In this article, I focus on teacher response through contract grading by paying special attention to antiracist writing assessment ecological theory and RGS. Both can serve as frameworks for understanding response in the context of contract grading. Antiracist writing assessment theories have reconceived how we might approach assessment through grading contracts. RGS helps establish a more nuanced view of response as dynamic genres which allow us to see how power is situated within response practices/performances and how genre uptake affects communication between teachers and students: “Genres have the power to help or hurt human interaction, to ease communication or to deceive, to enable someone to speak or to discourage someone from saying something different” (Devitt, 2004, p. 1). I propose an analytical and pedagogical framework that can be used to critically examine genres of response. This framework investigates how habits of White language can be embodied in response genres that circulate in classroom ecologies. In short, the framework provides teachers and students an opportunity to study response and to resist White language supremacy.
Complementing Grading Contract Values with Teacher Response
In Alternatives to Grading Student Writing, Stephen Tchudi (1997) describes differences between responding to student writing and assigning grades and reflects on the tension between teacher instincts and institutional pressures. He shares how teachers have an inclination to move away from grades and move toward response practices. Tchudi (1997) writes that response offers the “greatest range of freedom because it is naturalistic, growing directly from readers' reaction to a text” (xii). He sees response as good and preferable because teachers have more agency in responding to student writing, which comes from a lower degree of institutional pressure. Antiracist writing assessment ecological theory explains why institutional pressure is bad: Institutional pressure is a pressure toward a system of White racial habits of language and judgement that tends to ignore the politics that create those very habits as preferable and simultaneously uses those White biases as a way to punish some students and privilege others. The standards for judging language are racist because they privilege a White, middle- to upper-class, monolingual English user.
The institutional pressure to judge language can be minimized by shifting the classroom assessment practice. Teachers can adopt contract grading, for example, which delays the production and distribution of grades, and thus decreases the pressure to judge language. So grading contracts offer different pedagogical affordances and assessment values than traditional assessment ecologies. The assessment values – the priorities and assumptions in an assessment ecology – influence the nature of teacher response. Labor-based grading contracts, for example, value negotiation and compassion (Inoue, 2019). Teachers can use labor-based grading contracts to invite students to participate in negotiating labor standards, tasks, and responsibilities. Teacher response to student writing, subsequently, ought to come alongside labor-based grading contracts to complement its assessment values (e.g., negotiation and compassion). This interconnected relationship between response and assessment values should help support the larger ecology. So far, we don’t have much research that talks about the relationship between teacher response and labor-based grading contracts or how an emphasis on labor, negotiation, and compassion informs how teachers construct responses and what effects it has on student writing. Marginal comments in a labor-based assessment ecology might contain a more negotiable tone that asks questions as opposed to directive statements because the ecology seeks to minimize teacher control over student writing. A teacher might ask a student in the margins, “Do you want to explore this idea more, or do you think it gets at your purposes?” This kind of marginal comment embodies a true sense of negotiation. Or maybe the teacher writes an end comment that praises the students’ creativity and perseverance in the revision process, thus embodying compassionate practices.
Knowing the assessment values can help restructure the purposes for responding to student writing in an ecology and can provide a way to examine whether response aligns with such values. Understanding teacher response as a genre that circulates in assessment ecologies, interacts with other genres, and impacts people within the ecology seems important. If response genres are reproducers of cultures, how can teachers use response to support contract ecologies that value antiracism? It would seem likely that teacher response in an antiracist writing assessment ecology would actively deconstruct monolingual English ideologies that circulate in traditional writing classrooms. Teachers might choose to use marginal comments to encourage students to use their regional dialects and language habits as a means for meeting or intentionally subverting genre expectations. Classroom assessment practices, including response, would need to align itself with antiracist aims in order to complement the antiracist grading contract ecology.
Asao B. Inoue (2015) identifies seven interconnected elements that help construct antiracist writing assessment practices. Inoue’s framework shows the relationships that exist within and beyond classroom writing assessment systems and the power and politics embedded in assessment practices. He invites teachers to think through the nuances of judging language and asks them to construct more “critical, sustainable, and fair” ecologies (Inoue, 2015, p. 119). The seven elements help inform and organize the assessment ecology and can be used to investigate the “fuller conditions under which [students’] writing is judged” (Inoue, 2015, p. 174):
- Power: the ways of disciplining and control, the instruments, techniques, procedures, and tactics that produce docility and control people
- Purposes: the explicit reasons for judging and assessing
- Places: where and when do things happen, the figurative and material locations that de(con)fine people and their learning, the locations of shock and change
- People: agents in the ecology (e.g., student and teacher)
- Processes: what and how things are done, labor practices
- Parts: codes, constructs, and artifacts (e.g., texts, rubrics, feedback)
- Products: learning, results, consequences, and decisions
One reason this ecological framework is important is because it shows how teacher response is one genre in a much broader system. RGS has used the terms “genre systems” (Bazerman, 1994) and “genre ecologies” (Spinuzzi & Zachry, 2000) to describe the nature of genres working within and beyond broader structures. In Inoue’s ecological framework, teacher response is considered a “part,” an artifact, text, document, or instrument. As RGS helps us see, response can be better understood as dynamic genres that help make visible values, biases, actions and interactions, and power within a genre system or ecology.
Inoue (2019) also focuses on how classroom assessment practices, such as labor-based grading contracts, can challenge power indifferences and standards that privilege Whiteness. His ecological framework (Inoue, 2015) does not account for the intricacies, complexities, and inner workings of teacher response. It does not indicate how response shifts in contract grading ecologies and how genres of response carry uptakes, “complex, often habitualized, socio-cognitive pathways that mediate our interactions with others and the world” (Bawarshi, 2010, p. 199). Together, antiracist writing assessment theory and RGS offer a more nuanced perspective on how to investigate teacher response to student writing in grading contract ecologies. It's possible we risk undermining grading contract ecologies, and contract values, if we don’t recognize how ecologies and genres ought to agree.
Jane Danielewicz and Peter Elbow’s 2009 article, one of the most cited in grading contract literature, creates an assumption that responding to student writing doesn’t change when teachers use grading contracts. Danielewicz and Elbow (2009) describe how they give evaluative feedback and respond to “strengths and weaknesses…just as [they] used to do and as most teachers do” (p. 247). They fail to acknowledge how response ought to shift to complement new assessment ecologies and values. This oversight is problematic because it can lead to a fractured classroom and fractured relationships between teachers and students. For example, if a teacher chooses to use contracts to resist monolingual English ideologies and to invite students to use linguistic varieties, then decides to write a marginal comment telling the student to use “formal” language, or consider their “academic” tone when the student chose to use their regional dialect, the teacher’s response undermines the assessment ecology and values (e.g., in an antiracist writing assessment ecology). The feedback, which might have been constructed in a traditional assessment ecology that values SEAE, compromises the antiracist grading contract ecology and sends mixed messages to students. This kind of comment counters antiracist beliefs about writing and language. It also positions the teacher in an authoritative role over linguistic patterns, much like traditional assessment ecologies that give power to teachers to judge language.
As teachers, we need to make sure our responses are complementing our assessment ecology and values. As we adopt new and alternative classroom assessment practices (e.g., grading contracts), and as the ecology shifts, genres of response used to carry out actions within those contexts need to evolve. RGS offers genre uptake which can be used to encourage teachers and students to consider the social-historical-material conditions that help construct genres of response in grading contract ecologies.
Genre Uptake: Positioning Teacher Response in Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies
RGS provides opportunities to know more about genres, what genres do, and how genres interact, thus offering the ability to examine how response practices/performances fit within antiracist writing assessment ecologies that can help complement contract grading. RGS frames genres as dynamic rhetorical forms (Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995), as social actions (Miller, 1984), and as organizing structures (Yates & Orlikowski, 2002). RGS has explained genre functions and interactions through genre sets (Devitt, 1991), genre systems (Bazerman, 1994), and genre ecologies (Spinuzzi, 2004; Spinuzzi & Zachry, 2000). Charles Bazerman (1997) describes genres as “ways of being...frames for social action” (p. 19). Genres help mediate actions and relationships; genres are social, typified, recognizable, and they organize and construct social realities. RGS helps us see how genres of response (e.g., marginal comments, end comments, rubrics) invite different social actions and consequences. This allows us to study how responses are relational and performative, and how genres of response can help or harm communication between us and our students.
These characteristics of genres, of course, are also characteristics of writing assessment ecologies (e.g., relational, fluid, interactive). Inserting genre terminology implicates other ecological elements, like how genres mediate relations of power (Schryer, 2002; Seawright, 2017). RGS can help explain what’s happening in assessment ecologies when teacher response occurs. For instance, after reading a teacher’s comment and being confused, a student might revisit the writing prompt to see if they misunderstood some aspect of the assignment. This interaction between the student’s paper, teacher’s response, and writing prompt shows how genres inform one another in a broader system or ecology and how genres can facilitate and coordinate action. The student takes up, reads, and interprets one genre (e.g., teacher response) and then consults another genre (e.g., writing prompt). Understanding teacher response as dynamic genre performances allows us to explore the multiplicity of factors that inform what happens when we respond to student writing. This nuanced view of response helps us investigate genre “uptake” (Freadman, 1994). Anis Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff’s (2010) comprehensive book on RGS provides a definition that can help us better understand how uptake is beneficial to analyzing response in grading contract ecologies: “Uptake helps us understand how systematic, normalized relations between genres coordinate complex forms of social action” (p. 86). Bawarshi (2016) adds how uptake “challenges us to consider history, materiality, embodiment, improvisations, emotion, and other agentive factors” (“Accounting for Genre Performances”).
RGS gives us something that hasn’t been offered in grading contract literature and antiracist writing assessment theory yet: A means to explore and identify the complex social-historical-material conditions of response and an opportunity to identify the uptakes that exist through response practices/performances. Danielewicz and Elbow’s (2009) understanding of response in grading contract ecologies, for example, doesn’t account for the history, materiality, emotion, and other agentive factors at play when teachers respond to student writing or when students take up, interpret, and use response. Teachers and students have complex histories and memories giving and receiving feedback which can affect and inform their attitudes on current response practices and performances.
For example, a first-year writing student gets their paper back and sees a marginal comment that tells them to provide more evidence for a claim. The student has experienced this comment before in a high school English class. So the situation produces a particular kind of uptake. When the student experiences this marginal comment, even in a new assessment ecology with different values, they do the same thing as before—they decide to provide more evidence to support their claim because the marginal comment is connected to the students’ history and the actions and consequences that came from their previous experience. Those experiences, often, come from traditional grading ecologies that contain different values and relations of power between teachers and students. These histories and memories have implications for how response is received and taken up in grading contract ecologies.
And these experiences with response have different consequences for different student identities based on the ways in which language was judged. Danielewicz and Elbow (2009) don’t consider how traditional writing assessment practices—judging language based on quality—are connected to standards that privilege a specific kind of languaging, and thus a specific student identity (e.g., White, monolingual English user). The A letter-grade, according to their grading contract, is reserved for students who demonstrate an ability to meet quality-based standards that are set or determined by them, as teachers. But really, that standard is centered on social-historical-material conditions that extend well-beyond Danielewicz and Elbow’s perception on writing quality. Quality is constructed on linguistic prejudice—implicit or explicit language standards (e.g., SEAE) and biases that privilege White bodies.
So we can’t respond in the same ways as we used to through grading contracts because the system, and thus the values, consequences, and power relationships between teacher and student, are different. We need to investigate how responses are constructed and conditioned by traditional assessment values and judgements of language—and how students experience and remember these genre performances in grading contract ecologies. People, places, and languages are interconnected, and systems and structures are racialized (Inoue, 2015). As writing teachers, we work in and through conditions that have established language hierarchies and standards that inform our responses.
The concept of uptake helps us better understand actions and consequences in antiracist writing assessment ecologies and ecological elements (e.g., power, place, people) by calling us to examine specific genres of response (e.g., marginal comments, end comments, rubrics) and how those genres serve as a connection between a person’s actions, memory, relationship with others, and within historical, social, cultural, and linguistic moments and contexts (Bawarshi, 2016). Teacher response is “situated, embedded, enmeshed, and imbricated in social and material contexts” (Dryer, 2016, “Disambiguating Uptake”).
Habits of White Language
I have argued so far that writing teachers need to change their response practices if they choose to use contract grading because the ecology is made differently, and the elements are different in nature and function. Some of the most common values in grading contract ecologies include emphases on agency, antiracism, intrinsic motivation, labor, effort, participation, compassion, equity, negotiation, and democratizing learning. Genres of response are bearers of meaning from cultural and social ecologies, sites inside and outside the classroom that are ultimately influenced by how systems and structures accept and value language use. It’s possible for response genres in antiracist grading contract ecologies to support the deployment of habits of White language even while the class works to resist dominant discourses.
One difficulty teachers encounter are the contexts and conditions in which they’ve been trained to respond to student writing. We are informed by our linguistic habits and dispositions, “which are not simply linguistic but embodied” (Inoue, 2019, p. 278). Many of us have been conditioned to identify and respond to “strengths and weaknesses,” which is how Danielewicz and Elbow (2009) describe their practices in grading contract ecologies. We have been encouraged to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in students’ writing, so they can further engage in the writing process. And these kinds of responses become habitual. Part of the problem exists in the conditions and the standards used to determine what is strong and weak. Strengths and weaknesses relative to what set of language habits? Teachers use these terms to rank, sort, and respond to students. Many of us have used traditional assessment practices at one time or another to teach and assess student writing. Many of us have been educated through traditional assessment ecologies where the teacher has had the power to decide what the strengths and weaknesses are. We have histories and memories that inform how we take up and respond to student writing. In short, universities—sites constructed historically for and from Whiteness—have influenced our concept of strengths and weaknesses in student writing and our perception on what language habits are strong and which ones are weak.
As teachers, we invite students to perform and play with language all the time. We often ask students to deploy certain habits of language that will help them take up, navigate, and perform writing tasks based on rhetorical situations (e.g., purpose, audience, context). After asking students to write, we respond to the linguistic habits they chose to use. What’s problematic is when teachers ask students to perform the same version of language while not acknowledging language differences, dialects, and linguistic varieties; what’s problematic is not talking about the historical, social, and political power emmeshed in language and what students are being asked to do; what’s problematic is an unseen standard or assumption that privileges one linguistic pattern (e.g., regional, social, cultural), which takes the form of SEAE. As Vershawn Ashanti Young (2010) says, “It’s ATTITUDES. It be the way folks with some power perceive other people’s language” (p. 110). We are always-already asking students to deploy habits of language. So the question becomes what habits of language are teachers promoting and what attitudes do they have toward language differences, dialects, and linguistic varieties. When teachers respond to strengths and weaknesses in student writing, attitudes and biases exist about how students are choosing to deploy language.
Identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses is important in Danielewicz and Elbow’s (2009) grading contract, specifically between the A and B grade, because it is attached to traditional ecologies that reward students who can produce or imitate one kind of languaging. Danielewicz and Elbow (2009), therefore, reserve the A letter-grade for students who can meet a specific linguistic standard by acknowledging they respond “just as [they] used to do and as most teachers do,” thus indicating a connection to their previous traditional assessment ecologies (p. 247). This is one example of how teachers can adopt grading contract ecologies and use responses (e.g., rubrics) that embody traditional assessment values (e.g., quality), reinforce power indifferences between teachers and students, and privilege the deployment of one version of language, and thus a specific identity. Rubrics, for example, might help teachers respond to student writing and be a marker for labor/participation in grading contract ecologies. Teachers can problem-pose rubrics by examining how many expectations are tied to unseen standards connected to White middle- to upper-class monolingual English users. Examining academic discourse and assessment genres often reveals manifestations of Whiteness which influence how we see and respond to student writing.
Inoue (2019) identifies six traits of Whiteness that can be used to analyze how power is embedded in judgments of language:
- an unseen, naturalized, orientation to the world;
- a stance of neutrality, objectivity, and apoliticality;
- an individualized, rational, controlled self;
- a focus on rule-governed, contractual relationships;
- a focus on clarity, order, and control. (p. 27)
Standards associated with quality which are closely connected to SEAE benefit middle- to upper-class White students:
The dominant discourse that informs those judgments are already constructed by racial structures, for instance, a white racial habitus, or a dominant white discourse, which we might for now understand as a set of linguistic codes and textual markers that are often not a part of the discourses of many students of color, working class students, and multilingual students, but is a part of many white, middle-class students’ discourses. (Inoue, 2015, p. 17).
The first habit, the unseen, naturalized orientation to the world is often married to others, like clarity, order, and control. This means that when Danielewicz and Elbow (2009) say they still respond to strengths and weaknesses, they are not acknowledging with students where their habits come from, especially when they award an A letter-grade based on “quality.” It's easy for students in that ecology to accept the teacher's ideas as universally right. And it's easy for students to be colonized by a discipline and classroom that only make present a dominant White discourse. Inoue (2015) asserts that racism is pervasive in writing classes because “most if not all writing courses…promote or value first a local SEAE and a dominant white discourse, even when they make moves to value and honor the discourses of all students” (p. 14). Like Inoue, Laura Greenfield (2011) connects SEAE with White bodies: “It is no coincidence that the languages spoken by racially oppressed people are considered to be inferior in every respect to the languages spoken predominantly by those who wield systemic power: namely, middle and upper-class white people” (p. 36).
Inoue (2015) and Greenfield (2011) see how academic institutions and writing classrooms demand students produce a dominate discourse linked to White bodies and then “judge them on their abilities to approximate it” (Inoue, 2015, p. 31). And they challenge writing teachers to consider the material conditions of the classroom and students’ lives. This reminds us, once again, to think about the habits of language we ask students to deploy through writing tasks and consider our attitudes and biases about language difference and linguistic varieties. Through RGS, genre uptake invites us to consider histories, memories, and material conditions, too. What has shaped our understandings and dispositions to language? How have we been conditioned to see and respond to student writing? Whose language or linguistic habits have been historically privileged in academic institutions?
Genres of response can circulate and reinforce White biases without teachers being aware of the impact or power indifferences being created through response practices/performances because of the histories, memories, and material conditions that have shaped our understanding of language and writing. For example, a writing teacher might not comment on students’ writing asking them to use SEAE, but those biases might be embodied through marginal comments telling them to “be clearer.” When a teacher chooses to respond this way, they are usually referring to meeting a standard of clarity that either conforms to White academic discourse or conforms to their own disposition of language which has been informed, more often than not, through trainings in academic contexts that embody Whiteness. The comment indicates a deficit—a students’ lack of knowledge and ability to perform to a certain standard (e.g., SEAE). This kind of teacher response privileges a specific type of languaging and thus student identity—middle- to upper-class White students. Inoue (2015) explains how writing teachers “cannot avoid this racializing of language when we judge writing” (p. 33).
So responses are never just about strengths and weaknesses because we know more about how dominant or hegemonic language practices make particular ways with words “strong” and others “weak,” and that these understandings are perceptions filtered through White biases inherent in how language must be judged. Genres of responses are racialized and have racialized consequences. Habits of White language can be investigated through uptake which materializes through genres of response interacting between and beyond grading contract ecologies as well as the conditions and communication by which those interactions occur and are remembered. Habits of White language can be traced through the exchanges between assessment genres within the ecology, as well as other genres, and the way those genres are acting and being acted upon by people. This kind of analysis is tied to genre uptake. Even though genre uptake is difficult to pin down and study because “uptake processes are largely non-visible,” the writing classroom can still be a site for uncovering histories and memories of genre performances and for asking students to intentionally reflect on their own uptakes (Bastian, 2015).
Writing teachers can start by considering how teacher response is already a product of a racialized structure. White bodies have always been invited to participate within U.S. universities, which means that White bodies have shaped the standards and the judgments of language. They have shaped the responses and patterns for responding to student writing. SEAE has historically been valued as the superior form of language in U.S. university contexts. This is no coincidence. SEAE is associated with habits of White language. SEAE is not better than Black English. SEAE is just tied to White bodies, and White bodies have historically had power in higher education. Thus, response practices can support the deployment of habits of White language which harm students of color even in grading contract ecologies. So we have to think about the patterns we use to respond to student writing and the consequences of those patterns.
Patterns of Response
Most teachers establish patterns for response. Danielewicz and Elbow (2009) write how they respond by identifying strengths and weaknesses in student writing. I want to consider Summer Smith’s (1997) good work on the genre of the end comment because her research helps provide a more nuanced understanding of the patterns teachers develop through response as well as the actions and consequences of those patterns. Even though Smith doesn’t use grading contracts, her research is valuable in its intersection of RGS and teacher response. I’m attempting to tie her work into more recent complex views on genre uptake. She writes,
The teacher could have written anything, but she chose to script a statement that closely resembles not only her previous end comments, but also the end comments of other composition teachers. Why? Part of the answer, at least, lies in genre. (Smith, 1997, p. 249)
Smith describes how routinized end comments help generate “expectations for both readers and writers” (p. 250).
Her data lead her to identify and analyze three groups of primary genres (informed by Mikhail Bakhtin’s speech genres): Judging genres, reader response genres, and coaching genres. These three groups help reveal the “relatively stable” content and structure of end comments, which helps establish what teachers do when they use end comments or how teachers choose to respond given the situation and socially defined context that results in producing end comments. Each primary genre has a list of descriptors that situates the nature of these responses and what knowledge and action is being communicated through the end comment (see Table 1 from Smith’s, 1997, study in Figure 1).
Smith’s Frequencies of Primary Genres in Sample Table.
Figure 1 shows how the majority of end comments teachers produce are judging genres (n = 1,008) compared to reader response genres (n = 110) and coaching genres (n = 208). Judging genres include evaluations of development, style, focus, organization, rhetorical effectiveness, and correctness. These data help us see how genres of response, such as end comments, become routinized by their nature and the actions they ask students to take up. The number of responses considered judging genres is particularly interesting because of the vast difference in quantity compared to the others (e.g., reader response, coaching) and because of how closely the comments feel connected to habits of White language. It feels as though evaluations of development, style, organization, rhetorical effectiveness, and correctness are asking students to conform to a kind of standard language practice, particularly one that privileges White discourse.
It’s possible teachers respond in the same ways from student paper to student paper even though the student, and subsequently their writing, is unique because there’s a recurring situation in the writing classroom. Teachers develop patterns of response, or routinized responses, because there’s an invitation for students to take up a writing prompt and engage in a line of inquiry, and then turn in their written performance to receive feedback. Because of their routinized nature, response genres can embody characteristics that harm interactions (e.g., habits of White language) with students. Writing teachers are being conditioned through the recurring situation and the genres that help form that situation, for instance, the writing prompt and the student’s essay.
These uptakes and response performances can be influenced by traditional classroom assessment practices and social ecologies, or spaces outside the classroom, that continue to support White discourse. Inoue (2019) writes that White language supremacy is “structured in assessment ecologies in such a way as to function simultaneously as an ideal and as the norm” (p. 28). The patterns we develop and the genres we use to judge language can act as mediators, carriers of knowledge, reproducers of history, artifacts in students’ memory, and circulators of biases that continue to oppress students of color. Genres of response can impact different students differently.
Writing teachers can explore genre memory and uptake by having students think about their previous experiences with end comments, for example. In my class, for instance, I would ask students to identify a specific moment receiving an end comment, how the comment made them feel as writers, and what they chose to do with that response or what action they decided to perform, and what benefits or consequences came from that action. For example, maybe a student has a memory of a teacher using an end comment to tell them to go to the writing center to get help with grammar. How was this experience perceived and taken up? How is it still affecting the way the student sees end comments? This kind of investigation of genre uptake and memory with teacher response can reveal a lot of nuances. Prompting students to think about memory can generate productive conversations in the writing classroom about how response genres influence actions in grading contract ecologies.
Did the student take up the call to go to the writing center? Did the student focus on grammar during their revision? Understanding the memory, emotion, action, and consequences of past experiences with response can help classroom ecologies, like my own, talk through uptakes and the dynamic performances of response. I would use this experience to talk about how that previous comment was working to contribute to White language supremacy by molding the students’ language to conform to habits of White language, and how that experience might impact how response is felt, perceived, and taken up in our grading contract ecology. It’s important for me to label and connect these comments to White language supremacy and habits of White language. In this example, we also see how teacher response is interconnected with other systems and ecologies, like writing centers. In class, we would also talk about how the end comment perpetuates the notion of writing centers as grammar shops or sites for skill-and-drill. The old comment had a very particular set of linguistic standards in mind—it was subtly entrenched with notions of standardized grammar and an expectation for the student to align with habits of White language.
It also indicates an attempt to remove student agency. This end comment isn’t seeking negotiation or reaffirming students’ rights to their writing, which are often values in antiracist writing assessment ecologies, but instead is working to reprimand the student’s language practices. My class would talk about how our grading contract ecology values negotiation, compassion, and students’ rights to their own languages. We would spend time acknowledging how our classroom ecology is different in nature than that previous experience, and how we need to investigate ecologies to see how genres are interacting and influencing actions. You see, a quick glance at that old end comment looks and maybe even feels negotiable. It feels like the student can take up different actions. It masks itself in empowerment. But what were the consequences, and what did the student learn through that experience that would affect them in my classroom? In the past, maybe the consequence was a bad grade. The student still draws on this memory and experience as they read, interpret, and use my end comments, which affects what they choose to do when they revise, including the risks they are willing to take. So even though my grading contract ecology values taking risks in writing, the student might choose not to take any given this past experience. That memory, and the actions and consequences tied to that experience, is very real, and very much felt by the student.
The recurrence of teacher response, the fact that response happens by default in specific spaces on the page, like in the margins or at the end, across various institutional writing classrooms, and the reality that response is meant to produce another action (e.g., revision) reveals the complexity of responding to student writing. Uptake gives us the lens to explore these patterns more. It also shows how response should be investigated closely in antiracist classroom writing assessment ecologies because those classrooms don’t have the same values and initiatives as traditional ecologies. And as a result, alternative responses are needed to reflect these different values.
Teacher Response as Resistant Genres: An Analytical Framework for Resisting Habits of White Language
I have argued that writing teachers should think more closely about how their responses are complementing their assessment ecologies and values, and how habits of White language can be embodied in response genres that are routinized and circulate in grading contract ecologies. I have also shared how genre uptake can help classes talk about histories, memories, emotions, and attitudes about response, thus revealing how teacher response can affect students differently because comments can be attached to habits of White language that privilege some students over others. Teacher response is a product of racialized structures, that is, a product of institutions, classrooms, and traditional grading practices that have historically privileged Whiteness and habits of White language. Teacher response to student writing is also racialized; racism and habits of White language are reproduced through genre performances of response.
I offer resistant genres as a way to conceptualize how response can be understood and designed to complement antiracist writing assessment ecologies and grading contract values. What does it mean to see teacher response as resistant genres? It means teachers and students, together, can problematize how response practices are threatening agency for students of color and working to reinforce habits of White language. It means teachers and students can investigate internalized linguistic racism and can use response to complement new pedagogies and practices centered on linguistic justice (Baker-Bell, 2020). For decades, teacher-scholars have asked us to reconsider how we understand, evaluate, and talk about language and literacy (hooks, 1994; Kynard, 2013; Lippi-Green, 1997; Smitherman, 1977). I offer a framework that asks us to carefully analyze how response practices/performances have the potential to benefit the deployment of a specific kind of languaging while dismissing linguistic variations and other language performances. Centering teacher response as resistant genres would intervene (Bawarshi, 2008) and disrupt what genre performances of response typically and traditionally do: Privilege students who can produce habits of White language. Intersecting RGS and antiracism invites conversations on response as a dynamic genre working within antiracist writing assessment ecologies and can help us investigate different ecological elements that might be informing response practices/performances.
For example, teachers and students might investigate the place (e.g., the classroom), the physical and material location where teacher response happens, and how that impacts people (e.g., student and teacher) and their attitudes on response. This means examining genres and participants within their ecologies. Teachers and students might consider how the writing classroom (e.g., place) has historically threatened people of color through notions of standardized English that attempt to establish power over marginalized populations and disadvantage minoritized bodies. Teachers might examine how agency can be developed and circulated in a number of elements in an antiracist writing assessment ecology, like how it is primarily located in the power relations (the first element in the ecological framework) but embodied in the people, enacted in the processes, and understood and felt by everyone in the place. Inoue (2015) describes how seeing the “relationships between elements” can allow teachers and students an opportunity to “consider local consequences” within assessment ecologies (p. 11).
Teachers who use grading contracts don’t have the institutional pressure of judging language with a letter-grade, which is a significant barrier to overcome when attempting to challenge traditional cultural beliefs about writing and language and to respond in ways that are more compassionate and inclusive. Using grading contracts often requires more attention and a higher production of feedback because of assessment values on effort, labor, participation, and negotiation. Writing teachers can examine genres of response, and the patterns they use to respond to student writing, with hopes of uncovering White biases. In an antiracist writing assessment ecology that uses grading contracts to complement antiracist aims, I believe this work is necessary for taking a resistant approach to response. Grading contract ecologies afford opportunities to spend more time talking about the politics of language and how genres of response might privilege certain students over others. In a traditional assessment ecology, teacher response is often used to justify a grade on a final draft. In a grading contract ecology, where grades aren’t emphasized, classes can devote time and energy to analyzing the social-historical-material conditions of response, what response is doing, and how response brings up memories and emotions that can impact actions.
So how can teachers and students analyze genres of response for the purpose of resisting habits of White language? I offer a four-step heuristic that allows teachers and students the opportunity to engage in critical reading and to problematize response together. This framework can be used to help center discussions on resisting habits of White language and can be used to reflect on genre uptake of response:
Step 1: Identify the genre of response (e.g., marginal comments, end comments, rubrics) to analyze, and then select comment(s) to examine;
Step 2: Use Smith’s (1997) research to pinpoint different purposes for response (e.g., judging genres, reader response genres, or coaching genres) and the nature of the comment (e.g., evaluation of development, reading experience, suggestion for revision of current paper);
Step 3: Use Inoue’s (2019) six habits of White language to identify how White discourse is informing the response practice/performance that is circulating in the ecology; and
Step 4: Reflect on genre uptake, including embodiment, emotion, relationship between other genres, memory, and possible actions and consequences tied to the response that can be experienced and/or taken up.
This framework is designed to bring together teacher response with antiracist pedagogies and RGS. Some teachers might use this heuristic to talk with students about their own responses and bring attention to problems that might be embodied in those practices/performances. Some teachers might use this as an out-of-class activity for students to reflect on their histories with previous responses. I think this framework can be used to have conversations about the social and political nature of teacher response in grading contract ecologies. I also think this framework can be used in other spaces, such as in faculty workshops or WAC/WID contexts to help train teachers to examine their own responses.
I use this framework as an in-class activity after my class has had time to become familiar with antiracist writing assessment theories, informed by Inoue’s (2015, 2019, respectively) Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies and Labor-Based Grading Contracts, and RGS, informed by Bawarshi and Reiff’s (2010) Genre: An Introduction to History, Theory, Research, and Pedagogy. Having these foundations is necessary to centering teacher response as resistant genres. I draw on teacher responses in Twelve Readers Reading: Responding to Student Writing (Straub & Lunsford, 1995), a foundational text that theorizes feedback and offers 60 sets of comments from 12 well-recognized teacher-scholars, to engage in the four steps. The first thing I do in class is talk about how Twelve Readers Reading is full of response practices from White teacher-scholars which allows us to problematize the absence of diverse racial identities in the text, and thus investigate the material and social conditions in which these teacher-scholars are responding to student writing (e.g., R1s, predominately White institutions). I address this lack of diversity first.
I find it necessary to talk about the voices we hear in research and the sites in which those voices come from since they often inform what many teachers do in practice, especially in literature like teacher response. Acknowledging absences and needs for expansion (Green, 2016; Jackson et al., 2019) is critical to this antiracist framework for response. Twelve Readers Reading becomes an opportunity to talk about different institutional locations, and then it becomes a starting point for us to observe and investigate response as a dynamic genre in assessment ecologies. This allows us to turn our attention to resisting the promotion of habits of White language in response practices. Using feedback from Twelve Readers Reading (Straub & Lunsford, 1995) shows how teachers can do the normal good response practices, and doing so can still be a way to value habits of White language.
I select a writing prompt and final draft with comments from different teacher-scholars in Twelve Readers Reading before using the framework in class. For example, I choose the same prompt and same draft with responses from Edward White and Donald Stewart. Choosing the same prompt and draft allows us to have conversations about how writing is interpreted differently and how responses can invite different actions and ideas even on the same text (e.g., student writing). Using the same text helps generate conversations about the subjectivity and biases of reading and responding to writing. It’s easy for us to see, for example, how teachers, like Edward White and Donald Stewart, can look at the same piece of student writing and have different judgments and comments. We read the prompt and draft as a class, and then focus on the responses. Teacher response is always working within and between other genres (e.g., writing prompt, draft) in an ecology, so this becomes one way to think more intentionally about the different genres and ecological elements (e.g., power) interconnected with response.
Step 1 is to identify the genre of response to analyze and select the comment(s) we are going to examine more closely as a class. I use this first step to complement my grading contract ecological values: Negotiation, compassion, decentering my position of power and authority as the teacher. I ask students what end comments they want to focus on and analyze more closely to further emphasize that students have agency in making decisions in class and in their writing. They select two to three sentences from each end comment:
White writes, “Parts of this paper are very fine, rich with detail and emotion. But sometimes your language gets very general, as if from a greeting card…look closely at the top paragraph on p. 2 for an example of ways to revise, to make your language more clear and detailed” (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995, p. 51).
Stewart writes, “There’s not much to say about the organization of the paper…I’ve already commented on aspects of style of this paper. The good details tell us that you are capable of fresh insights, but, for the most part you do not provide them or cloth them in language which is distinctive. I wish you would consistently work up to your potential” (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995, p. 56).
Most students have experienced these types of comments before—responses about their writing development, style, and organization. It takes critical reading and analysis to understand how comments like the ones above can be problematic because honestly, to many of us, they seem fine and can probably lead to some good revisions. The notion “good revisions,” itself, is problematic, though. Good determined by who? Based on what standards? We talk more about how we label and associate words with linguistic habits in class. I explain how one of the difficulties we face as teachers and students are the histories and memories that influence what we consider or define as good revisions. So as a class we share our experiences with what has made revisions “good” and where that measurement or its attachment to language comes from: A society that perpetuates White language supremacy. We attempt to replace those older associations and reconstruct newer conceptions of good revisions that align with our resistant practice and our grading contract ecology.
I also make it a point to tell students I’ve produced comments like the ones above on development, style, and organization, and they might see similar comments from me because how I’ve been trained to read and respond to student writing, and the patterns I’ve developed through those experiences. Those comments aren’t inherently bad. It’s the unseen standard, or what’s assumed, or the attitude about language differences or linguistic varieties, and the consequences that standard, driven by response, has on specific student identities that makes them problematic. It’s that these responses are often pushing students to a White discourse that reasserts one language practice is more valuable. This problem-posing allows us to analyze how the structure and system for response is always-already problematic, or how power is unevenly distributed through response, or how good intentions might lead to negative uptakes and memories. It’s important, too, for the class to talk about how comments similar in nature – on development, style, and organization – can be used for good and can come from good values and beliefs in antiracist writing assessment ecologies. I stress the importance of seeing response as dynamic and complicated.
After students select two to three sentences from each end comment, we move to Step 2 and turn attention to Smith’s (1997) article that establishes different groups of response (e.g., judging genres, reader response genres, or coaching genres) and the nature of those comments (e.g., evaluation of development, reading experience, suggestion for revision of current paper). We reread White and Stewarts’ end comments (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) and determine their purposes and natures based on Smith’s work. The conversation is lively because it brings attention to how responses are layered and how students perceive and experience comments differently. There’s not a unilateral consensus or feeling, which again, allows us to complicate teacher response and the dispositions teachers bring to writing and the histories and experiences students have when reading, interpreting, and producing action after receiving response. Some students, for example, think White’s “from a greeting card” comment is funny while others interpret it as sarcastic and downgrading.
Almost organically, these reactions bring up the complicated nature of response. I use this moment to facilitate conversation on how teacher response, much like the end comments from White and Stewart (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995), and the ones we produce as teachers, have multiple purposes and interpretations. Reading response and doing something with it (e.g., revising) can be really hard. It takes some nimbleness to listen, make sense of comments, and produce a plan for action, both for first-year students and teacher-scholars. So we talk about how end comments contain more than one idea or thought or action to be taken up and how students can navigate these different courses of action.
This helps us to see that even two to three sentences in an end comment can draw on all three primary genres: Judging, reader response, and coaching. We try to do the best we can to come to some sort of consensus to classify the end comments we’re analyzing. In this instance, the class decides Whites’ comments (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) are judging genres and coaching genres. Students feel like White offers encouragement in his first sentence (e.g., “very fine, rich with detail and emotion”) and then suggestions for revision in his second sentence that align with coaching genres. Students also think White offers an evaluation of development and style in his second sentence by telling the writer that their “language gets very general” and “…to make your language more clear and detailed.” These comments fit under judging genres, they say.
Next, we analyze Stewart’s response (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995). Students feel like his comments fall under judging genres and reader response genres because he references “organization” and “style” in his first sentence, and then talks about the students’ inability to produce “language” that is “distinctive.” Students collectively agree that the purposes of the first two sentences are tied to judging genres, but they aren’t necessarily sure how to identify the nature of them. I decide to write all three observations on the board: Evaluation on development, evaluation on style, evaluation on rhetorical effectiveness. The last sentence, according to students, is linked to reader response genres because Stewart is offering his thoughts and/or feelings based on his experience as a reader. He wants the student to do more, to “work up to [their] potential.”
Step 3 draws on Inoue’s (2019) six habits of White language in Labor-Based Grading Contracts. Like Step 2, this step invites critical reading and often creates energetic conversations that help us understand the politics of language and how response can privilege some identities over others. Even though my class is familiar with conversations on antiracist writing assessment practices, this step takes a lot of prompting because this kind of problem-posing activity is often new to them. Most students don’t have experiences in writing classes that center antiracism and teacher response. So, analyzing the nature of teacher response and how comments might contribute to White language supremacy can be difficult. Using Inoue’s six habits, I ask questions to help generate conversation: “Let’s take a closer look at White’s comments. Does he take a position that assumes the student can see the truthfulness of his observation as if they share the same perspective? Does White focus on clarity, order, and control in the students’ writing? When we read his comment out loud, does it sound like he positions himself as knowledgeable, rational, and reasonable? How so? Is it because he says what is ‘wrong,’ and then offers what is ‘right’?” Questions like this have been more productive than asking students to look at the six habits and provide an analysis based on those characteristics alone.
It also helps students see how habits of White language can manifest in different ways through an end comment, much like the purposes and natures of response show how genres of response are complicated. Students, for example, will talk about how White (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) describes the students’ language as “very general” and how he suggests the student be “more clear and detailed.” This observation is multi-layered because it connects with Inoue’s (2019) first habit – “unseen, naturalized, orientation to the world—an orientation (or starting point) of one’s body in time and space that makes certain things reachable” – and Inoue’s sixth habit – “clarity, order, and control—a focus on reason, order, and control; thinking (versus feeling)” (pp. 278-279). It’s possible White assumes the student understands what he’s talking about and has the knowledge to obtain this goal, or ultimate good—the ultimate good here is specificity. As a responder, he positions himself as logical and reasonable. He values rigor and clarity. Students talk about these ideas and start seeing how they are connected to a particular kind of languaging. We problematize and ask more questions: “How does White determine what is ‘general’? Why is ‘clarity’ and ‘detail’ so important? Clarity to what standard? Who determines that standard?”
Students share how it sounds like White (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) is saying the students’ language is not good enough when he says their writing is “general.” They even describe how it feels like White is saying the students’ language is “weak,” and therefore, it needs to be made “stronger.” Again, we talk about whether White is possibly drawing on unseen standards that privilege White discourse. We analyze how White seems to be referring to a very specific standard that values depth and clarity—that feels closely connected to what students say they’ve experienced in other classes that emphasize “academic” or “formal” language use in writing. This leads to more detailed conversations about SEAE and White language supremacy and allows us to talk more about traditional assessment ecologies versus grading contract ecologies. We problematize how quality, which is often connected to SEAE and habits of White language, is being prioritized. Some students use the word “conform” to describe what White is asking the writer to do. So, we problem-pose, “Conform to what? What standard? What language? And whose body is attached to that standard and language habit, or who is being privileged?”
This probing leads to critical reflection of how genres of response can embody habits of White language, even in grading contract ecologies. For instance, we talk about how the same external norms and pressures from society can reproduce the same kind of comments that can circulate in a grading contract ecology. It should be noted that White (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) doesn’t attach a letter-grade to the students’ final draft; instead, he asks them to revise. He’s not using grading contracts but probably a portfolio system which offers some similar ecological values (e.g., attention to process, deemphasis on grade). After spending time analyzing White’s end comment, the class gains more confidence talking about how habits of White language can manifest in teacher response. So whenever we turn our attention to Stewart’s end comment (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995), students are more familiar with the questions we ask, what to look for, and how they can talk about habits of White language.
Students explain how Stewart’s end comment focuses on organization, style, and language choice, much like White’s. They revisit what we wrote down when describing the purposes and nature of Stewart’s response based on Step 2. They talk about how his last sentence focuses on his experience as a reader. I ask, “What do you think that means in relationship to the characteristics of White discourse? When we read it out loud, do you feel like that last sentence feels individualistic? Does it come across as a matter of fact—as ‘truth’—as something that needs to be said?” When I ask these questions, students point to Inoue’s (2019) second habit of White language (hyperindividualism). Students explain how the sentence “I wish you would consistently work up to your potential” feels self-focused in that it doesn’t provide much in terms of the students’ writing and/or ways to revise their writing. It sounds more like a critical judgement of the student and their ability to write or perform. The class feels like Stewart (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) holds his own perspective to a higher level and that his interpretation of the students’ writing and labor (and potential) is ultimately “right.” I try to weave in understandings of uptake to this conversation because it helps us transition to Step 4.
For example, I ask students to talk about what sentences come before this last comment. Students mention that he responds to the students’ organization and style and language. As a class, we connect that to the first habit (unseen, naturalized, orientation to the world) and the sixth habit (clarity, order, and control), and we discuss how these comments might inform or tell us something important about Stewart’s (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) last sentence, which feels more hyperindividualist in nature. Doing this invites us to talk about how uptake exists while teachers respond to student writing. Stewart’s last sentence, for example, might symbolize how he and the student have already established a partnership. For instance, this might be the second or third writing assignment. They’ve had in-class conversations, perhaps one-on-one teacher conferences where they have developed a kind of rapport. That means Stewart has experienced other pieces of writing from that student. He has observed their writing and labor. He has probably seen the student produce work that exceeds what he is currently reading and responding to. I ask students, “Do you think Stewart is drawing on previous experiences and memories with the students’ writing that might inform his last comment on the students’ ‘potential’?”
This question is about uptake, which leads us to Step 4. Step 4 invites us to explore emotion, attitude, memory, action, consequence, and the relationship responses have with other genres with/in and beyond writing assessment ecologies. I have three overarching purposes in this last step: (a) to encourage students to reflect on what other genres are working in an assessment ecology that are interconnected with response that interact and inform actions and consequences; (b) to challenge students to reflect on their histories, memories, and experiences with response; and (c) to invite an honest reflection on how we, as a class, can resist the production and circulation of habits of White language in our responses (both mine and when students respond to their peers). I want us to be actively antiracist. I want us to be aware of how White language supremacy creeps into seemingly mundane practices and experiences like teacher response to student writing.
We talk about the long-term social consequences of genre performances of response; we focus on social-historical-material conditions of response and how we can better pay attention to how power and agency are connected to response. Step 4 is about critical reflection. I want us to think about the “interlocking systems and forces at play in performances of genres” (Bawarshi, 2016, p. 52). I want students to think about our grading contract, my responses, our assessment values, their memories with response in other classroom ecologies, and emotions they’ve experienced receiving feedback from others. I want students to reflect on actions they’ve produced based on previous experiences with teacher response.
My hope is these reflections lead us toward intervention and resistance. As a teacher, I want to construct responses that resist White language supremacy. I also want us to come together as a class to talk about why this kind of intervention is important. I challenge students to reflect on how power is positioned in response and how teacher response can privilege some identities over others. I ask students to write down a memory or experience they have had with teacher response that embodied some of these habits of White language. I ask them to reread White and Stewart’s (as cited in Straub & Lunsford, 1995) end comments and reflect on similar experiences they’ve had receiving this kind of feedback, and I ask them to jot down what actions they produced based on those responses. I share an example of how this happens: “Have any of you read an end comment that asks you to go to the Writing Center for help? Or has a teacher asked you to come to office hours so you can talk more about your ideas? Or has a teacher ever made a comment about your grammar or spelling? What did you do? Did you listen and take up their advice? How did that comment make you feel? How have you taken that memory and experience with you to this class?” These questions prompt students to think about uptake and the actions and consequences that can come from genres of response.
Some of these reflections are personal for students, so I don’t ask them to disclose or share them with the class or turn them in. My only goal here is to have students think about these experiences with response and how responding to writing can be harmful. How response has made them feel. How response has resulted in action and consequences. I want us to consider uptake, so we can really start pushing against and resisting response that reproduces and circulates habits of White language in our grading contract ecology. I want students to be able to identify it as soon as they see it—and I want them to feel comfortable holding me accountable for my own response practices.
The goal of this analytical framework is for teachers and students to intervene, problematize, and resist habits of White language embodied in genre performances/practices of response. The framework helps illuminate how responses, such as end comments, can support habits of White language, thus creating an unfair, unjust classroom that counters grading contract assessment values in antiracist writing assessment ecologies.
The four-step analytical and pedagogical framework I suggest provides one way to investigate genre performances of response in grading contract ecologies. RGS offers us a way to problematize teachers’ responses and students’ readings of those responses in order to cultivate antiracist agendas or antiracist writing assessment ecologies. Teachers can do the normal good response practices, and doing so can easily be a way to reproduce White language supremacy. Good intentions can still have violent consequences. Using antiracist writing assessment theories with RGS opens new conversations in teacher response. This kind of critical reading and attention to response takes a lot of time, on top of the time and energy it already takes to respond to student writing, so we might need to rethink curricula and simplify the amount of labor and assignments we assign students, so we can truly center our classes on teacher response as resistant genres. One primary aim of teacher response should be antiracism. We should always work towards being antiracist responders to student writing. In my class, I frame teacher response as an antiracist practice and attempt to resist monolingual English biases and habits of White language. Critically investigating response, and addressing inequalities and inequities, and changing how we give feedback is just one more way to uproot White language supremacy.
Shane A. Wood is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi. His research interests include writing assessment, teacher response, and multimodal pedagogy. His work has appeared in journals such as The Journal of Writing Assessment, WPA: Writing Program Administration, and Computers and Composition. His most recent project is Pedagogue, a podcast about teachers talking writing.
I offer special thanks to Asao B. Inoue and JWA editors Diane Kelly-Riley, Carl Withaus, and Ti Macklin for providing support and feedback throughout the writing process. Thanks to Mary Jo Reiff for comments on an earlier draft, and many thanks to two anonymous reviewers who provided insightful feedback and direction.
Baker-Bell, A. (2020). Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. Routledge.
Bastian, H. (2015). Capturing individual uptake: Toward a disruptive research methodology. Composition Forum, 31. http://compositionforum.com/issue/31/individual-uptake.php
Bawarshi, A. (2008). Genres as forms of in(ter)vention. In M. Vicinus & C. Eisner (Eds.), Originality, imitation, and plagiarism (pp. 79-89). University of Michigan Press.
Bawarshi, A. (2010). Taking up multiple discursive resources in U.S. college composition. In B. Horner, Lu, M.-Z., & Matsuda, P. K. (Eds.), Cross-language relations in composition (pp. 196-203). Southern Illinois University Press.
Bawarshi, A. (2016). Accounting for genre performances: Why uptake matters. In N. Artemeva & A. Freedman (Eds.), Genre studies around the globe: Beyond the three traditions (pp.186-206). Trafford Publishing.
Bawarshi, A., & Reiff, M. J. (2010). Genre: An introduction to history, theory, research, and pedagogy. Parlor Press; The WAC Clearinghouse.
Bazerman, C. (1994). Systems of genres and the enactment of social institutions. In A. Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and new rhetoric (pp. 79-101). Taylor.
Bazerman, C. (1997). The life of genre, the life in the classroom. In W. Bishop & H. Ostrom (Eds.), Genre and writing: Issues, arguments, and alternatives (pp. 19-26). Boynton/Cook-Heinemann.
Berkenkotter, C., & Huckin, T. (1995). Genre knowledge in disciplinary communication.Erlbaum.
Danielewicz, J., & Elbow, P. (2009). A unilateral grading contract to improve learning and teaching. College Composition and Communication, 61(2), 244-68.
Devitt, A. J. (1991). Intertextuality in tax accounting: Generic, referential, and functional. In C. Bazerman & J. Paradis (Eds.), Textual dynamics of the professions: Historical and contemporary studies of writing in professional (pp. 336-357). University of Wisconsin Press.
Devitt, A. J. (2004). Writing genres. Southern Illinois University Press.
Dryer, D. (2016). Disambiguating uptake: Toward a tactical research agenda on citizens’ writing. In M. J. Reiff & A. Bawarshi (Eds.), Genre and the performance of publics (pp. 60-79). Utah State University Press.
Freadman, A. (1994). Anyone for tennis? In A. Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric (pp. 43-66). Taylor & Francis.
Green, Jr., D. F. (2016). Expanding the dialogue on writing assessment at HBCUs: Foundational assessment concepts and legacies of historically Black colleges and universities. College English, 79(2), 152-173.
Greenfield, L. (2011). The “standard English” fairy tale: A rhetorical analysis of racist pedagogies and commonplace assumptions about language diversity. In L. Greenfield & K. Rowan (Eds.), Writing centers and the new racism: A call for sustainable dialogue and change (pp. 33-60). Utah State University Press.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.
Inman, J. O., & Powell, R. A. (2018). In the absence of grades: Dissonance and desire in course contract classrooms. College Composition and Communication, 70(1), 30-56.
Inoue, A. B. (2015). Antiracist writing assessment ecologies: Teaching and assessing for a socially just future. The WAC Clearinghouse; Parlor Press.
Inoue, A. B. (2019). Labor-based grading contracts: Building equity and inclusion in the compassionate writing classroom. The WAC Clearinghouse; Parlor Press.
Jackson, K. K., Jackson, H., & D. N. Hicks Tafari. (2019). We belong in the discussion: Including HBCUs in conversations about race and writing. College Composition and Communication, 71(2), 184-214.
Kynard, C. (2013). Vernacular insurrections: Race, black protest, and the new century in composition-literacies studies. State University of New York Press.
Lippi-Green, R. (1997). English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. Routledge
Medina, C., & Walker, K. (2018). Validating the consequences of a social justice pedagogy: Explicit values in course-based grading contracts. In A. M. Hass & M. F. Eble (Eds.), Key theoretical frameworks: Teaching technical communication in the twenty-first century (pp. 46-67). University Press of Colorado.
Miller, C. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151-167.
Moreno-Lopez, I. (2005). Sharing power with students: The critical language classroom. Radical Pedagogy, 7(2).
Schryer, C. (2002). Genre and power: A chronotopic analysis. In R. Coe, L. Lingard, & T. Teslenko (Eds.), The rhetoric and ideology of genre: Strategies for stability and change (pp. 73-102). Hampton.
Seawright, L. (2017). Genre of power: Police report writers and readers in the justice system. Conference on College Composition and Communication Studies in Writing and Rhetoric.
Shor, I. (1996). When students have power: Negotiating authority in a critical pedagogy. University of Chicago Press.
Smith, S. (1997). The genre of the end comment: Conventions in teacher responses to student writing. College of Composition and Communication, 48(2), 249-268.
Smitherman, G. (1977). Talkin and testifyin: The language of Black America. Houghton-Mifflin.
Spinuzzi, C. (2004). Describing assemblages: Genre sets, systems, repertoires, and ecology. Digital Writing & Research Lab. http://www.dwrl.utexas.edu/old/content/describing assemblages
Spinuzzi, C., & Zachry, M. (2000). Genre ecologies: An open-system approach to understanding and constructing documentation. ACM Journal of Computer Documentation, 24(3), 169-181.
Straub, R., & Lunsford, R. F. (1995). Twelve readers reading: Responding to college student writing. Hampton Press.
Tchudi, S. (Ed.). (1997). Alternatives to grading student writing. National Council of Teachers of English.
Yates, J., & Orlikowski, W. (2002). Genre systems: Structuring interaction throughcommunicative norms. International Journal of Business Communication, 39(1), 13-35.
Young, V. A. (2010). Should writers use they own English? Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 12(1), 110-118.