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- phase in-progress
African American and African Studies (AAAS) integrates the research and study of Africa with the global study of African peoples and their complex institutions, histories, and cultures. Of particular focus are questions of national sovereignty and cultural autonomy, economic advancement and political stability, ethnic identities, racial justice, immigration and transnational networks, civil rights, gender construction and performance, the role of indigenous knowledge systems and practices, and other topics of interdisciplinary and global relevance to African, African-American, and African diasporic life. AAAS enrolls a small core of undergraduate majors and non-majors from all over the campus.
Writing in African American and African Studies
The African American & African Studies faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”
Department faculty stipulate that writing in African American & African Studies is characterized by its emphasis on critical analysis of interpretive problems, such as the "matrix of domination" evidenced in connections between and among race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Students are expected to demonstrate agility in metadiscursive thinking by, for example, making use of "code switching to help reshape academic discourse." However, given that a typical AA&AS class may have seniors enrolled as well as freshmen, and will include advanced English speakers and writers, as well as those who require developmental attention (such as some multilingual writers) there exists a wide variance in students' communicative abilities.
Writing Abilities Expected of African American and African Studies Majors
The African American and African Studies faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major(s) graduate?”
Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Major:
- Apply principles of rhetoric and logic.
- Recognize the rules and responsibilities of different genres.
- Code switch: appropriately address multiple audiences at different levels of formality and in different discursive arenas.
- Use code switching to help reshape academic and other discourses.
- Take a position and support it with accurate information.
- Display a strong sense of agency by taking a personal position (e.g., can use “I”) instead of only reporting others’ positions.
- Demonstrate critical thinking: identify key assumptions and conceptual frameworks, make a reasoned argument, and defend that argument against the best opposing arguments.
- Demonstrate understanding of the matrix of domination and strategies for resistance to domination.
- Identify key concepts in the fields that contribute to African American and African Studies.
- Display consciousness of the ways of knowing in the discipline of African American and African Studies.
- Critique myths and stereotypes about African American and African peoples, histories, and cultures.
Highlights from the Writing Plan
With no systematic writing instruction conducted in the Department of African American & African Studies (AAAS), other than in the Senior Seminar, the faculty collaborated with a graduate teaching assistant to develop a "toolkit" of low-stakes (ungraded) diagnostic assignments—designed for use in- or out-of-class—to help instructors assess the extent to which student performance was matching the department's articulated writing abilities. The toolbox also included pedagogical strategies that could be used to address identified gaps. The department believed that communicating writing expectations to students more widely and explicitly—and, employing devices to infuse writing instruction in an intentional and student-centered manner—created efficiencies based on the instructor's goals for the course. Such a class-by-class approach fit with the department's philosophy of meeting students at the point of need.
In implementing the department’s second edition Writing Plan, faculty members devised a six-stage process guide for the capstone-level writing and research paper requirement. Senior-level majors and their capstone advisors used the process guide in conjunction with a capstone contract, which specifies interim deadlines and other writing-related goals.