Kim Brian Lovejoy
Affirming Linguistic Diversity in the Writing Classroom
As an associate professor in the English Department, I am principally responsible for teaching courses in the writing and literacy concentration of the English Studies major, but I regularly teach introductory writing courses (W130-131) as well. In these courses I work with mainstream and non-mainstream student writers, the latter defined as those students whose racial, ethnic, or social backgrounds include varieties of English different from the variety targeted in schools and universities—“Standard” English. The widespread use of English resulting from colonization, slavery, and immigration, as well as the social dialects that have appeared in classrooms since the era of open admissions, has resulted in writing classrooms in which multiple varieties of English, or “Englishes,” are spoken by increasing numbers of students (e.g., speakers of African American Vernacular English, Latino/a English, Indian English, Asian English, White Vernacular English). My research interests are in the area of linguistic and cultural diversity as it relates to the teaching of writing. Consequently, the overlap of research and teaching in my work is significant. My research investigates the relationship between home/community language varieties and their role in learning edited American English. As a teacher of introductory writing, I use pedagogies and practices that value the competencies that students bring to the classroom and that invite home and community varieties of English as a means of teaching edited written English. This approach to teaching writing, which is grounded in sociolinguistic research, discourse theories, and process pedagogies, recognizes the legitimacy of non-mainstream varieties of English. Specifically, I provide introductory writing students with learning experiences that reflect a broader view of language and literacy, one that aims at mastery of edited American English but not at the expense of other varieties that are equally powerful in communicating rich, complex meanings. These varieties have traditionally been barred from the classroom, varieties that reflect our students’ textual worlds, and in my approach, they form the basis for instruction in academic writing. In forming a community of learners, I believe all students, regardless of their previous exposure to “Standard” English, whether mainstream or non-mainstream students, should gain an understanding of language differences in their educational experiences, and the writing classroom is the ideal place for such learning. They learn about language as a dynamic, cultural entity, and they practice its uses in writing to discover their voices as well as to extend their abilities.