On Helping Students Develop Writerly Identities

In these courses on pedagogical theory and practice that many (or most) of us have been taking here at SFSU, one of the SLOs that is certainly implied, if not directly stated, is the need for students to develop their own authorial identities.  I would argue that this is a very complex process, and therefore it is rather hard to explain how we might help students work toward becoming more confident, expressive, and effective writers.  Nevertheless, everything we do seems to be aimed at helping this become a reality.  I would add that this is hardly a finite goal, and that one’s writerly identity continues to evolve with experience and practice.  What got me thinking about this objective was David Buckingham’s article, “Introducing Identity.”  I have some critiques, thoughts, and questions from my annotations, but, in the interest of concision and relevance, I thought it would be more useful to simply offer my meta-response to the article. Here goes…

It would seem that, as long as we are mindful of the quality of work being generated in our students’ digital platforms, and that proper decorum is being practiced with respect to differences in opinion or abilities, socially-constructed meaning-making and the development of confident writerly identities might notably benefit from the digital work space in ways that traditional spaces and methods have, in some ways, been too limited to offer.  Pointedly, if students have found it challenging in the past to develop a sense of authority in their writing because they approach writing as an obligatory task to be assessed by an audience of one (the instructor) for a grade (often interpreted as a gate-keeping mechanism), it would seem that they might have more freedom to “stretch out,” write from a more honest perspective, and discover their voices as writers (albeit a gradual process) in the digital work space.  The one caveat I would suggest here is that the digital work space should not replace  or displace meaningful classroom interaction and activity — rather, the benefits and products of one space might effectively enhance and affirm those of the other space.  We might then think of the digital space as a dynamically different extension of the interpersonal, transactional learning that takes place in the classroom.  From this premise, it would appear that both instructors and students are poised to take advantage of technology, new media, and new literacies as positive and innovative tools and avenues for promoting literacy acquisition and a more sophisticated development of writerly identities for students.

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One comment on “On Helping Students Develop Writerly Identities

  1. I really appreciate this post! I agree with you that since Identity is something that can change over time, then it stands to reason that we cannot “teach” identity; we can only guide and encourage students to tap into their own “identities” at the time. Identity can be fluid. All this stuff is good for teachers to know, but it should also be transparent, as I think it’s equally important for students to know as well.

    You point out that the digital space can be an aid or tool in enhancing the physical space (the classroom itself), but the digital space should NOT replace the other. I think that technology can make it easy for people to replace the physical space with the digital, and this is a real danger. At this point, I see the digital space in my classroom as all the paper we are saving and we can all look at and interact with together! We still need readings and class discussions and peer review — all this should not be replaced. But with the help of tech, we can certainly replace Paper (or precious limited natural resources).

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