Two recent assignments in East Asian Studies courses at a large public university suggest the benefits of introducing students to academic writing through alternative genres rather than essays. Particular to Western education, the essay form is often intimidating, and many multilingual students in this department find it difficult to develop critical ideas, use evidence effectively, and achieve an appropriate academic register. Experienced in collaborating with an ELL specialist and informed by principles of antiracist pedagogy (Matsuda, 2020; McKamey, 2020; Fernandez, 2018), two instructors created innovative assignments that encouraged students to experiment with a creative and personal relationship to the course material. In place of a traditional essay, students in one course composed a short story and an accompanying critical report that elucidated their intended goals and the themes of their work. Since the course examined fiction as a viable tool of analysis, the same tools were made available to students for their critical exploration. In another course, students were asked at term’s outset to reflect on their relationship to the course’s subject. For the final project, they were given the option of a critical self-reflection, utilizing their initial thoughts from this opening question to consider how their answers changed. The self-reflection was open to non-traditional and artistic approaches. Assignment outcomes suggested that students more effectively developed their authentic voices and academic writing identity through the innovative use of alternative genres, as described by Yoo (2017). Further, students demonstrated more effective engagement with course materials and stronger development of critical ideas.
Alexandra Jocic, University of Toronto, Canada
Brenton Buchanan, University of Toronto, Canada
Leora Freedman, University of Toronto, Canada
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