Responding to Students’ Socioeconomic Diversity

Pedagogical Resources for Instructors

Laila Ferreira and Katja Thieme

This project interrogates the assumption that students have basic material stability such as secure food and housing and convenient access to technology. Research shows that these assumptions and the hidden barriers they perpetuate have a negative impact on the integration of materially disadvantaged students. The collaborative nature of the first-year writing classroom (WRDS 150) makes it a productive site to study how socioeconomic status shapes teaching and student learning. Through focus groups, we gather the lived experiences of low SES students of WRDS 150 to develop pedagogical strategies that will have a direct impact on the inclusion of low SES students. Through focus group discussion, the project collects perspectives of students of low socio-economic status (SES) on the pedagogical practices of their writing studies teachers (WRDS 150). We examine which teaching practices, instructor comments, or class activities low SES students experience as particularly enabling or hindering their full participation in the research community of the university. In this way, we provide a thorough evaluation of the socioeconomic inclusivity of writing studies pedagogy as it is currently practiced in WRDS 150 classes in the Faculty of Arts and in Vantage College. We will use the results of this analysis to provide professional development that will heighten inclusivity in WRDS 150 and other courses.

Project Update: This project is now in phase-two and will provide pedagogical resources and a published paper by 2019. Focus groups were conducted and data gathered on student experiences of socioeconomic status. In interpreting the student responses, we will pay attention to the language of cause and effect (“I felt X because Y”) and key terms related to power such as “control,” “expectation,” “confirmation,” and “pressure.” This will allow us to trace both students’ sense of (which may be a feeling rather than an idea or reasoned argument), and opinions about, the entanglements of power, normative expectation and social capital that, we suggest, still undergird current approaches to undergraduate writing instruction. By analyzing students’ reflections on their own lived experience, we will propose strategies to increase instructor awareness of the impact of socioeconomic differences in the classroom, translating student experience into pedagogical advice. We also envision this project as fitting into an ongoing and dynamic investigation, in which our next set of goals will be to identify intersections between socioeconomic status and other factors such as race, culture, language and ability that can enrich initiatives around diversity at our home institution.

Conference presentation:

“Socioeconomic Status and the Academic Writing Classroom: Pedagogical Strategies for Inclusivity” Seventeenth Claflin University Conference on Contemporary English and Language Arts Pedagogy in Secondary Postsecondary Institutions. Claflin University, Orangeburg, October 30-31, 2018