Final ethnography elizabeth narváez cardona march 20th


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Final ethnography elizabeth narváez cardona march 20th

  1. 1. 1 Initiatives on educating writers in Colombian Higher Education: reading ethnographically their websites as a pre-fieldwork Elizabeth Narváez-CardonaAbstractWriting in higher education in Spanish-speaking countries is an emerging field of social sciences in Latin-America. An ongoing project aiming at mapping current initiatives in the region have revealed that in theColombian case, one of the less frequent initiatives undertaken seems to be the writing centers.Consequently, exploring what counts as "writing centers" in the Colombian case might provide insightsupon conceptions on educating writers from this specific institutional site as well as understandings of thesmall presence of this type of initiative. To this exploratory project the websites publicizing the writingcenters are “pieces” of a larger everyday phenomena related to such initiatives. Therefore, I have deemedthis project an effort in starting the pre-field work, particularly, in reading ethnographically two websitesof Colombian writing centers. Ethnography involves an ongoing inquiry process in which theethnographer slowly grasps meaning from the community while acknowledges what could be aninteresting focus of analysis. To pursue a dynamic view of the writing centers, this preliminary projectrequires gathering more information in the actual fields in which such initiatives have been undertaken inthe Colombian universities. Especially, what is not ordinary and problematic should be investigated giventhat the information provided by the websites is not enough to talk about these aspects of the everydaylife in writing centers.Introduction Writing in higher education in Spanish-speaking countries is an emerging field of social sciencesin Latin-America (Figure 1). The scholarship led by the Chairs of UNESCO for reading and writing in Latin-America (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico), has advocated since 90´s to educating writers forcitizenship (Ortiz-Casallas, 2011). This means educating readers and writers able for self-learning, and asthoughtful consumers of the abundant information provided by mass media, technologicalcommunication, and commercial discourses (Martínez, 2001 & 2004). Different tendencies have emerged from these initiatives. One movement has argued, until 2006approximately, that incoming university students bring shortcomings as writers; thus, writing has beentaught in freshman courses (Murillo, 2010). A recent movement, mostly influenced by the leadership of anargentine scholar, has advocated in the last 6 years that academic writing is a disciplinary practice learnedexclusively in higher education (Carlino, 2001; 2006; 2008). Consequently, it is expected that universitiesprovide diverse, intensive, and sustained specialized settings to encourage writing developments ofundergraduate and graduate students (Murillo, 2010). Regarding public policies, the Colombian government has mandated since 2010 a compulsoryundergraduate assessment in the last year of the programs. The assessment on writing abilities in Spanishis one of the components of this public policy.
  2. 2. 2Figure 1The benchmarks of the Colombian field on higher education writing The government mandated the large scale assessment (writing abilities in Spanish) Pruebas del Saber PRO 2010 1999 2006 2006 2012  UNESCO for reading and writing  Argentine influence (Paula movements in Latin-America for Carlino/Phycology ) educating writers for citizenship and  Scholar movements advocating “academic self-learning literacy” to educating faculty members and  Scholar movements advocating graduate students as disciplinary writers freshman courses to remediate student  Theoretical frameworks: sociocultural shortcomings psychology, new literacy studies (literature  Theoretical frameworks: textual in Spanish), and WAC and WID linguistics, discourse analysis, genre movements (literature in English) studies, psycholinguistic, and didactic of mother tongue (Spanish). 2009 Emerged the first generation of writing centers in the country An ongoing project called “Initiatives on reading and writing in higher education, ILEES, Latin- 1America” has collected information through an online survey applied to about 67 scholars in Argentina,Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Among other issues, these scholars have provided information about theinitiatives led by their universities or other universities, up to 10 institutions, in their countries. In the Colombian case, one of the less frequent initiatives seems to be the writing centers alongwith initiatives undertaken in foreign languages, and programs in charge of integrating the initiatives asfreshman courses, disciplinary writing after the first year, and writing across the curriculum, or graduatewriting courses (figure 2).1 This project started in summer 2012 as part of my doctorate experience, which has been developed along with aChilean colleague and by the guidance of Professor Bazerman of the Department of Education in University ofCalifornia, Santa Bárbara.
  3. 3. 3Figure 2Tendencies of the initiatives in the Colombian case Exploring what counts as "writing centers" in the Colombian case might provide insights uponconceptions on educating writers from this specific institutional site as well as understandings of the smallpresence of this type of initiative displayed by the outcomes of the online survey applied in the ILEESproject. Further, conducting micro-ethnographies upon such initiatives might be useful in understandingtheir local meaning-making processes. This paper is organized in four sections. The first one presents the theoretical framework assumedthus far; the following section deploys the process of data collection and analysis of the pre-field workthat I have conducted in reading ethnographically two websites of Colombian writing centers; and finally,the third section proposes further research efforts from an ethnographic perspective.
  4. 4. 4Theoretical framework The academic field on higher education writing has addressed different disciplinary and researchapproaches, which have been strongly configured by the features of the local university systems and thehome-based public policies in education. Consequently, researching on higher education writing hasaimed at exploring two sites. On the one hand, the expectations of the governments through their publicpolicies and of the university directives; and, on the other hand, the historical accounts about how andwhy writing in higher education has become either a pedagogic goal or a research focus. Identifying bothtypes of accounts are useful and necessary in guiding further research agendas regarding how and whypedagogies on writing might impact higher education. Theoretically speaking, this field has framed writing as an intertwined practice within universitycontexts and disciplinary epistemologies (Lea y Street, 1998; Carlino, 2008). As a result, writing isconceived as a historical and ideological practice and thus highly cognitively specialized (Bazerman, 2006;Kalman, 2008). Consequently, literacy practices of students and faculty are part of a specialized knowledgeassociated with epistemological and institutional contexts of higher education (Lea y Street, 1998). Accordingly, theoretical developments in the field have claimed that becoming a writer is a complexphenomenon highly configured by the conventions and expectations of their practitioners; however, sincesuch conventions and expectations are mostly a tacit knowledge, the access and practice of writing inhigher education are embedded in a struggle process for newcomers (Soliday, 2011; Thaiss & Myers,2006). Under this assumption, students´ shortcomings as writers are not interpreted as lacking ofgrammar knowledge. Rather, these difficulties are seen as evidence of a complex process ofacknowledging, using, and accessing to literacy practices affected by the own personal histories(Herrington y Curtis, 2000), and by institutional and disciplinary requirements and expectations,particularly, from academic and university cultures (Hall y López, 2011). To sum up, in this project the writing difficulties of students or faculty are not seen as deficits(Ganobcsik-Williams, 2004). Rather, writing is understood as a specialized learning and practice forparticipating within academic contexts (Carter, 2007); therefore, writing is an intellectual challenge and astruggling process whereby writers build their own identities as members of disciplinary and universitycommunities (Herrington y Curtis, 2000; Castelló, 2007). The figure 3 displays an attempt in summarizing and integrating visually some of the categoriesinvolved in the theoretical framework presented.
  5. 5. 5Figure 3Depiction of the theoretical categories
  6. 6. 6Methodological approach To this exploratory project the websites publicizing the writing centers are “pieces” of a largereveryday phenomena related to such initiatives. Despite the websites have been designed by otherprofessionals not necessarily involved directly with the initiatives, these websites’ designs have beenapproved by the leaders of the initiatives; thus, inferences might be drawn from such online information. Accordingly, I conducted an online search by Google under the key words in Spanish “Centro deescritura en Colombia” to identify writing centers´ websites. The figure 4 displays the geographic locationof the four writing centers identified by the online search. These writing centers belong to privateuniversities located in the capital of the country, Bogotá D.C. (# 1 # 3), Santiago de Cali (# 2), andBarranquilla (# 4). These three cities might be deemed as urban centers in economic terms. This firstapproximation enabled me to frame ethnographically the first question: What counts as writing centers inthe Colombian case?Figure 4The Colombian writing center websites appointed by the Google search
  7. 7. 7A first attempt in turning “reality” into texts The first attempt in exploring meanings of the community that can be seen as a writing center, Istarted making detailed written descriptions from the websites. This first attempt in turning what has beenstated by the websites into texts confirmed me that the huge challenge in analyzing ethnographically iscontrolling ethnocentrism (Emerson, Fretz, Shaw, 1995). Accordingly, I conducted carefully a grand tourobservation to describe a website as well as using emic terms and taxonomies of the cultural grammarpertain to the phenomenon analyzed (Green, Dixon, & Zaharlic, 2003). I started to analyze the website of the writing center # 1 given this initiative belongs to the most 2important private university in the country, Universidad de los Andes (Figure 1). To start my gran tourobservation, I decided to read the information available in the home page of the website, but aiming at 3describing process and practices that could be inferred from the information deployed by the website .Figure 1A snapshot of the home page of the website of the writing center #12 Universidad de los Andes has been deemed as the best private university based on a Colombian ranking, which tookin consideration the number of international publications produced by the faculty members and the number ofresearch groups. Additionally, the ranking place took in consideration the amount of master and doctorate programsoffered by the University and that have been approved by the Ministry of Education in the institution. This informationhas been retrieved from: The website is available at:
  8. 8. 8 I used a rubric with three columns in which I arranged texts, descriptions of cultural process orpractices, and my interpretations or glosses (Table 1). I have called “texts” to those sections in the websitethat were clearly delimited graphically in the website design, because were envisioned as meaning units ormessages to interact with website´s readers. The figure 2 illustrates graphically the segmentations of thetexts in the case of the website of the writing center # 2.Table 1First analytic rubric designed # Text Inscribed cultural process/practice My interpretation or gloss1 University students could ask for the services of an university site called: a writing center to succeed in their programs In doing so, the student can set an What counts as writing ¿Qué es el Centro de Escritura? appointment with someone called assignments for the -------------------------------------- “tutor” to receive assistance in participants? El Centro de Escritura es un lugar al que los writing assignments estudiantes de todas las carreras pueden asistir para This tutor will be a graduate student recibir tutorías que los lleven a mejorar sus habilidades During the appointment the tutor What this mean? What is the de escritura para enfrentar exitosamente los retos will work with the student who set difference between working académicos de la vida universitaria. Los tutores del the appointment, not with his/her with the student rather than Centro trabajan con los estudiantes para mejorar sus texts working with his/her text? textos, no con los textos. Students could practice their What counts of those for the reading and writing skills according participants (tutor and to their needs student)? Especially, what would be a need? Student should bring to Why? appointments the instructors´ prompts and the textFigure 2Graphic depiction of the segmentation of the website pages by texts Text 1 Text 2
  9. 9. 9 After having detailed descriptions in the rubric, semantic relationships were identified to categorizethe cultural grammar emerging from the data translated from the website (Spradley, 1979). The table 2deploys an example of this analytic procedure.Table 2Rubric to analyzing semantic relationships Relationship Form Example Comments/glossSpatial X is a place in Y A writing center is a place (is part of) in the Universidad de los AndesCause-effect X is a result of Y Succeed in the programs is the Universidad de los Andes is a result of attending to the writing centerRationale X is a reason for doing Y Having writing assignments is a If it so, the entire student reason to setting appointments population should attend to in the writing center the writing center, because writing assignments are the most common means to evaluate studentsAttribution X is an attribution Being a graduate student is an (characteristic) of Y attribution of being a tutor Since I realized that I had not been consistently systematic in making visible the culturalknowledge (e.g., beliefs, views the world, rights, and obligations), the following analytic rubric (Table 3)
  10. 10. 10has been designed to pursue such aim (Green, Dixon., & Zaharlick, 2003). For this second analytic attempt,I explored the website of the writing center # 2 of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Santiago de Cali.Table 3An analytic rubric to make visible cultural knowledgeNo. Texts What is First Actors Routines Meanings Membership happening? impressions/questions for the actors1 This university Who could be these The writing Free The Members of Bienvenido al Centro unit is giving others? center writing university academic de Escritura Javeriano welcome to tutoring unit is for community La Pontificia others Members of members of (?) Universidad Javeriana the the se pone a la This university academic academic vanguardia de las unit deems community unit (?) universidades de itself as an Colombia lanzando el innovative nuevo Centro de initiative, Escritura Javeriano. because it is Este es el primer first writing centro de escritura en center in the Colombia, y uno de country and los primeros en one of the first América Latina, que in Latin ofrece servicios de American tutorías de escritura, region de manera gratuita, a los miembros de su The university comunidad unit offers free académica. writing tutoring to members of the academic community Finally, I re-read the translations I had been done thus far, and I decided to conduct moreconsistent efforts to describe ethnographically the website of the writing center # 2 of the PontificiaUniversidad Javeriana in Santiago de Cali. This website seems to be more complete in providinginformation in contrast to the website of the writing center # 1, of the Universidad de los Andes. In doingso, this final analytic attempt pursued to describe the information relied on the basic questions to startethnographies in education (Green, Skuskaikate & Baker, 2012). The table # 4 illustrates the rubric used indoing such analysis.
  11. 11. 11 Table 4 Describing the website from ethnography in education questions Texts What is What is By whom? With What What What What What What What What Comment happenin being whom? counts as roles are relationshi norms are expectatio rights are obligation counts as s g? accomplis disciplinar constructe ps are constructe ns are constructe s are HE hed? y d by and constructe d by and constructe d by and constructe writing? knowledg afforded d by and afforded d by and afforded d by and e in this members? afforded members? afforded members? afforded particular members? members? members? group?Screensh The WC Offering the WC ? Knowing WC, WC is a WC WC has Students WC Somethiot 1 offers resource how to students, kind of offers the and should ng that resource s write and help to resource answers universit answer WC s for universit universit s y students knows students y y teachers and and and teachers teachers can ask teachers universit universit and question y y students s teachers teachers and students do not know The analysis conducted thus far enabled me to pose provisional answers upon what is ordinary and predictable in the daily life of a writing center (Green & Zaharlic, 1991). For instance, a writing center counts as a university site in which the students could ask for free writing tutoring to succeed in their programs. In doing so, the student can set an appointment with someone called “tutor” to receive assistance in accomplishing their writing assignments. This tutor will be a graduate student. During the appointment the tutor interacts with the students and not with their texts. The students should bring to the appointments, the instructors´ prompts and the actual texts written as part of their writing assignments. Furthermore, regarding the conceptions on educating writers, the preliminary analysis might reveal that writing in writing centers is conceived mostly to support writing assignments to fulfill faculty expectations; thus, students are provided by guidelines offered by the websites to support, among other issues: a) citation strategies; b) strategies to understand and decipher the instructors’ expectations with the writing assignments; and, c) strategies to incorporate language instructor patterns and specific discourse style into writing assignments. The table 4 summarizes the semantic relationships identified as part of a preliminary domain analysis conducted in which I relied to create the prior descriptions (Spradley, 1979).
  12. 12. 12Table 4Semantic relationships Relationship FormSpatial WC is a place within universitiesCause-effect To succeed in higher education, writing assignments might be accomplished with the support of WCRationale Having writing assignments is a reason to set appointments in WC Since WC provides resources to understand and decipher writing assignments, obtaining appointments in WC is useful. Students has the right to not knowing how to start, develop, and finish their writing as well as not knowing different types of documentsLocation for action The WC is place offering strategies upon how to start writing assignmentsFunction Writing prompts are used to understand and decipher assignmentsSequence Understand and decipher faculty expectations is the first step in fulfill the assignments Getting the prompt for the assignment is the prior step to set an appointment in the WCMeans-end Underlining specific demands in the prompts is a way to decipher the assignments. Writing paragraphs and sections following the specific topics, questions or points written by faculty in the prompts is a way to accomplish the assignments Identify specific language patters and faculty discourse style is a way to accomplish faculty expectationsAttribution Being a graduate student is an attribution of being a tutorFurther research efforts from an ethnographic perspective Ethnography involves an ongoing inquiry process in which the ethnographer slowly graspsmeaning from the community while acknowledges what could be an interesting focus of analysis (Green,Dixon, Zaharlick, 2012). To pursue a dynamic view of the writing centers, this preliminary project requiresgathering more information in the actual fields in which such initiatives have been undertaken in theColombian universities. Especially, what is not ordinary and problematic should be investigated given thatthe information provided by the websites is not enough to talk about these aspects of the everyday life inwriting centers (Green & Zaharlic, 1991). Ethnography in education is a field enabling to doubt upon common senses regarding learning,knowledge, success, and effectiveness in formal educational settings (Green & Bloom, 1997). Accordingly,further fieldwork from a diachronic approach is useful in pursuing to explore the actual literate practicesconfigured by a daily life of the Colombian writing centers (Heath, 1982). Any attempt in understandingthe tensions of the competing values between specific institutional sites, as the writing centers, and thelarger university missions allows boosting the Colombian debate of the scope of educating writers inhigher education.
  13. 13. 13 Given that members of groups and communities do not hold roles and points of views evenly,further efforts includes creating data from the perspective of the different members of the community inwriting centers, namely, chairs of these initiatives, tutors, students, faculty members, and universitydirectives. Conducting interviews and collecting maps and representations provided by the participantsupon how they represent the daily-life of the events involved in the writing center practices might beuseful (Green, Dixon, Zaharlick, 2012).References Bazerman, C. (2006). The writing of social organization and the literate situation cognition:Extending Goody’s social implications of writing. In D. Olson & M. Cole (Eds.), Technology literacy and theevolution in society: Implications of the work of Jack Goody (pp. 279-294). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrance ErlbaumAssociates. Carlino, P. (2001). Hacerse cargo de la lectura y la escritura en la enseñanza universitaria de lasciencias sociales y humanas. Trabajo presentado como ponencia en las Jornadas de Intercambio deExperiencias sobre la Lectura y la Escritura como prácticas Académicas Universitarias, Luján, Argentina.Retrieved from htm#confi10 Carlino, P. (2006). Procesos y prácticas de escritura en la educación superior . Revista Signo y Seña,16, 9-15. Recuperado de Carlino, P. (2008). Leer y escribir en la universidad, una nueva cultura: ¿Por qué es necesaria laalfabetización académica? En E. Narváez & S. Cadena (comps.), Los desafíos de la lectura y la escritura enla educacion superior: caminos posibles. (pp. 159-194). Cali: Universidad Autónoma de Occidente. Carter, M. (2007). Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines. National Council ofteachers of English, 58 (3), 385-418. Retrieved from Castelló, M. (2007). Los efectos de los afectos en la comunidad académica. En Castelló, M., Mirás,M., Solé, I., Teberosky, A., Iñesca, A., y Zanotto, N. (Eds.), Escribir y comunicarse en contextos científicos yacadémicos Pp. 135-162. Barcelona: Graó. Emerson, R., Fretz, R. & Shaw, L.L. (1995). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1995.Green, J. & Zaharlich, A., (1991). Ethnographic research. In J. Flood, J. S. Jensen, D.Lapp & J. Squire (Eds.), Handbook on teaching the English language arts New York: MacMillan, pp. 205-226.
  14. 14. 14 Green, J. & Bloome, D. (1997). Ethnography and ethnographers of and in education: A situatedperspective. In Flood, J., Heath, S. B., & Lapp, D. (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching literacy throughthe communicative and visual arts. New York: Macmillan Publishers, pp. 181-202 Green, J., Dixon, C., & Zaharlick, A., (2003). Ethnography as a Logic of Inquiry. In J. Flood, D. Lapp& J. Squire (Eds.) The Handbook for Research in the Teaching of the English Language Arts. New Jersey:Erlbaum. Green, Skuskaikate, & Baker, (2012). Ethnography as epistemology. In: Arthur, J., Waring, M. J.,Coe, R. & Hedges, L. V. (Eds.). Research methods and methodologies in education. London: Sage. Pp. 309-321. Hall, B. y López, M. (2011). Discurso académico: manuales universitarios y prácticas pedagógicas.Lit. lingüistica, 23, 167-192. Retrieved from Heath, S. B. (1982). Ethnography in Education: defining the essentials. In: GILLMORE, P;GLATTHORN, A. (Ed..) Children in and out of school: Ethnography and education. Washington, DC: Centerfor Applied Linguistics, p. 35-55. Herrington, A. & Curtis, M. (2000). Persons in Process. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers ofEnglish. Retrieved from Kalman, J. (2008). Discusiones conceptuales en el campo de la cultura escrita. RevistaIberoamericana, 46, 107-134. Retrieved from Lea, M y Street, B. (1998). Student writing in higher education: an academic. Literacies approach.Studies in Higher Education, 23 (2), 157-173. Retrieved from Martínez, M. (2001). Análisis del discurso y práctica pedagógica. Una propuesta para leer, escribiry aprender mejor. Argentina, ed. Homo Sapiens. Martínez, M. (2004). Discurso y Aprendizaje. Colombia, ed. Universidad del Valle Cátedra UNESCOpara la Lectura y la Escritura. Murillo, M. (2010). La actividad discursiva en la construcción del conocimiento en una situación deescritura en las disciplinas: los géneros académicos en la universidad. El estado de la investigación en laenseñanza de la lectura y la escritura en el ámbito universitario en Colombia y Latinoamérica. 11-46.Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. España. Retrieved from
  15. 15. 15 Ortiz-Casallas, E.M. (2011). La escritura académica universitaria: estado del arte. Íkala, Revista delenguaje y cultura, 16, 17-41. Recuperado de Soliday, M. (2011). Everyday Genres: Writing Assignments across the Disciplines. Carbondale:Southern Illinois UP. Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. For Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Thaiss, C, & Myers, T. (2006). Engaged Writers and Dynamic Disciplines: Research on theAcademic Writing Life. Boynton/Cook Heinemann Press. The Royal Literary fund. (2004). A report of the teaching of the academic writing in UK highereducation. London: Ganobcsik-Williams, L. Retrieved from