A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

Review of Linguistically Diverse Immigrant and Resident Writers: Transitions from High School to College

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper and Todd Ruecker, eds. Linguistically Diverse Immigrant and Resident Writers: Transitions from High School to College (Routledge 2017).

Shuv Raj Rana Bhat, The University of Texas at El Paso

(December 18, 2017)

The beginning of the twenty-first century is marked by a proliferation of books on linguistic diversity, translingualism, multiculturalism, bilingualism, English as a second language, and international students. Keri-Anne Croce’s Navigating Assessment with Linguistically Diverse Learners, Suresh Canagarajah’s Translingual Practice: Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations, Eve Haque’s Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework: Language, Race, and Belonging in Canada, and Ken Hyland’s Second Language Writing are few of the examples. However, when it comes to addressing the issues pertaining to “linguistically diverse immigrant and resident student writers” as they transition into their postsecondary trajectories, we find a few or no books. “How do writing experiences influence the postsecondary pathways of resident multilingual students?” What are some of “the ways in which ML writers attempt to navigate their pathways into postsecondary institutions?” How do the policies, politics, sponsors and programs impact the “educational trajectories” of multilingual resident students in their transitions from high schools to community colleges and universities? How can “program instructors and administrators .  .  . undertake curricular and structural changes in order to create stronger opportunities and point of access for resident ML students?” Linguistically Diverse Immigrant and Resident Writers: Transitions from High School to College, co-edited by Christina Ortmeier-Hooper and Todd Ruecker, lucidly answers the aforementioned questions.

Linguistically Diverse is a trailblazing collection that chronicles “the ways that writing and literacy support, writing experiences, and writing instructions impact” resident bilingual students’ transitions and educational options (x). Consisting of sixteen chapters in three parts, this book illustrates how educational policies, programs, student support programs, and ideologies affect the progress of resident “multilingual youths’ transitions to postsecondary” schooling. The editors argue that an inquiry into “resident and immigrant bilingual student writers is critical for increased social justice and social change” (12) and Linguistically Diverse is a “call to action to those in the fields of L1 and L2 writing, applied linguistics, and teacher education” (12).

Excluded from the three-part division of this collection, the first chapter entitled “Introduction: Paying Attention to Resident Multilingual Students” by Todd Ruecker and Christina Ortmeier-Hooper announces the editors’ intentions and reasons for the study of resident and bilingual student writers transitioning from schools to colleges. Beginning with an inquiry question, “How do writing experiences influence the postsecondary pathways of resident multilingual students?” the editors call readers’ attention to resident multilingual student writers particularly from contemporary schooling systems. “One of the most marginalized populations in contemporary U.S. society,” (1) these students, instead of having a smooth transitioning, undergo “tenuous and disruptive” experiences as they navigate their trajectories into higher level of scholarship, and hence the rhetorical exigency for study and research. Likewise, the explicit intension of the editors to bring together the authors from a variety of institutional contexts in this volume is “to disrupt [the] “unequal power distribution” and lay open the factors and conditions that surround resident multilingual writers as they strive to “make it” to college and through college composition coursework” (3).

While the first part of this collection contains a too general thematic title “Multilingual Writers in High Schools,” it, in fact, deals with specific issues pertaining to “Common Core State Standards,” the role of social networks and social support in the writing of multilingual adolescents, secondary curriculum, English language learners in high schools, and opportunity gaps. In a nutshell, these chapters implicitly invoke the Marxist idea that our consciousness is always determined by the material conditions in which we live, work, and study. The editors argue that a stronger understanding of resident multilingual “students’ experiences as writers and literacy learners in secondary schools” is required to fully understand student writers’ navigation from school to university. As the very title “Opportunity Gaps: Curricular Discontinuities across ESL, Mainstream, and College English” in the second chapter suggests, Betsy Gilliland foregrounds “discontinuities of one high school’s English as a second language (ESL) and English language arts (ELA) writing curricula from the perspectives of multilingual adolescents transitioning from ESL to ELA and college composition” (21). Gilliland illustrates how a lack of curricular alignment induced by conflicting ideologies lead to differing concept of writing and limiting opportunities for the multilingual students to learn. The study implies a “need for coherence in writing curriculum across programs” (32) and considers the teachers’ roles to be “essential to developing and maintaining curricular coherence for multilingual learner” (33).

In her attempt to “contextualize the development of the Common Core State Standards in the United States in the context of the standards movement and its implications for the teaching of writing to English language learners,” (36) Luciana C. de Oliveira in Chapter 3 “The Common Core State Standards and Implications for Writing Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners” critiques the very creation and implementation of the Common Core State Standards as it has failed to incorporate a large number of ELL students and “led to the reductive notion of writing” based on modes. Just like Betsy Gilliland, De Oliveira highlights the need for English teachers to have a “conceptual understanding of the full continuum of expectations for writing in order to understand the continuum of experiences their ELLs bring to the classroom” in addition to being reflexive to the needs of students.

Viewed from the language socialization framework, Sarah Henderson Lee’s chapter entitled “Resident Multilingual Writers across a Secondary Curriculum: Toward a Postmethod Approach” depicts the navigation of seven resident multilingual high school seniors into higher education. Through rigorous data analysis, she arrives at four “across-participant themes:” “(1) writing instruction, practices, and feedback inconsistencies; (2) forced representations of resident multilingual writers; (3) the EL classroom as both a safe space and a ghetto; and (4) an unequal trade between language acquisition and subtractive bilingualism” (52). What is so interesting about these three writers in the first part is that all of them place so much importance on the role of the teachers in teaching writing to the resident multilingual students across a secondary curriculum. Lee describes the essential role of teachers in the following way, “Here, all teachers must recognize writing development as biliterate thought to achieve resident multilingual student engagement in subject and thought through writing” (60). The last chapter in this section by one of the co-editors, Todd Ruecker “explores the increasing diversity of rural schools, identifies the challenges facing these schools in preparing increasingly diverse student populations for college, and calls for more research on language diversity in rural schools” (82).

More specific and alliterative than the first theme, the second part embodies the theme of transition and disruption induced by sponsors, programs, politics, and policies. Comprising five chapters like other two sections of this collection, this part zeroes in on “students in the process of making successful transitions to college, some aided by bridge programs like Upward Bound” (13). The emphasis is laid on the effective roles played by support networks—from individual teachers to state funded programs, policies, sponsors, and politics—in the development and achievements of resident multilingual student writers. For instance, drawing on the theoretical framework of L1 literacy scholar Deborah Brandt, Amanda Kibler in the chapter 7 “Promises and Limitations of Literacy Sponsors in Resident Multilingual Youths’ Transitions to Postsecondary Schooling” probes into the roles support networks play in fostering the writing skills of five Spanish and English speaking multilingual students from community college, cosmetology school, university, and a Catholic religious institute. While she demonstrates that literacy sponsors do help bring about substantive reforms in the multilingual student writing, “their relative impact largely depends on the match of writers and their sponsors’ goals” (100). Similarly, deploying Wegner’s communities of practice framework, Shauna Wight in the eighth chapter titled “Literacy Sponsorship in Upward Bound: The Impact of (De)segregation and Peer Dynamics” investigates “peer interactions in both Upward Bound and the participant’s high schools, illustrating how these communities shaped possibilities for sponsorship” (118). Her findings that “academic tracking” in American schools is responsible for generating problems for multilingual students when they come back from Upward Bound program is analogous to Gilliland’s results discussed earlier. Drawing readers’ attention to national education policies, Julia Kiernan in the eleventh chapter “Immigrant Mosaics: Advancing Multilingual Education in Canadian Postsecondary Settings” traverses the Canadian context in which she analyzes “sociopolitical ideologies” impacting postsecondary trajectories of resident multilingual youths. She finds that educational “policies and practices seem to be out of sync with the practices and expectations around multilingual youths who enroll in writing courses in Canadian colleges and universities” (157).

How can “program instructors and administrators .  .  . undertake curricular and structural changes in order to create stronger opportunities and point of access for resident ML students?” Constituted by last five chapters, the third section of this collection “Resident Multilinguals in First-Year Composition: Reimagining Faculty Development, Curriculum, and Administration” addresses the question posed above. This section is particularly concerned with how English as second language programs and university writing can support linguistic minority youths as they navigate their ways into higher studies. Chapter 12 “When the First Language You Use Is not English: Challenges of Language Minority College Composition Students” collaboratively written by Patti Wojahn, Beth Brunk-Chavez, Kate Mangelsdorf, Mais Al-Khateeb, Karen Tellez-Trujillo, Laurie Churchill, and Cathilia Flores inaugurates the theme of this section. Driven by two broader research questions: “As linguistically diverse students transition to higher education, what helps or hinders their progress? To what extent are the strengths and challenges of those for whom English is not a first language considered in higher education? the authors transport the readers to US-Mexico border in order to contextualize and problematize the very notion of multiculturalism as the “benefits of multilingualism” “are frequently erased due to educational, economic, and linguistic structures that disadvantage many multilingual school-aged students” (173). Through their comparison with the first language English peers, the authors discover that the language minority students confront more challenges pertaining to reading, using the English language, gaining access to textbooks and technology, and attendance. The authors recommend changes to be made at the institutional level in order to build on the strengths of multilingual students and address their needs. Likewise, Chapter 14 “Transitional Access and Integrated Complexity: Interconnecting People, Research, and Media for Transitional Writing Students” by Randall Monty, Karen Holt, and Colin Charlton concentrates on “three innovative pedagogical approaches that help multilingual students negotiate writing situations through interdisciplinary and interpersonal networks of collaboration” (202). Motivated by the inquiry question, “How can we foster productive experiences among invested people, research activities, and composing?” the authors come up with what they call three “initiatives:” “The Composition Conference Series for Writing, Inquiry, and Student Engagement (CompoCon),” “Embedded Librarians,” and “Socially Mediated Classroom” (203). Their contention is that these strategies enabled their students to “interact with, better understand, and even apply disciplinary, contextual, and technical expertise” in addition to making them able to “understand and interact with the everyday curriculum of composition and how it influences, and is influenced by, students’ lived writing experiences” (203-4). The final chapter on “Internationalization and the Place of Resident ML Students: Identifying Points of Leverage and Advocacy” by Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, Dona Ferris, Richard Lizotte, Patricia Portanova, and Margi Wald considers how the authors’ “institutions frame forays into internationalization.” Inspired by the specific question, “How do internationalization trends shape our programs, our interests, and the place of resident multilingual writers on campus?” the authors center their discussion on “institutional visions, resources, and programs that impact the visibility and success of resident multilingual students on our campuses” (230).

When taken together, the sixteen chapters in Linguistically Diverse effectively depict the strengths and challenges experienced by resident multilingual students in an ideologically charged world. The editors have been successful in bringing together writers from different contexts to call attention to the ways material conditions and social, educational, and political ideologies impact the educational pathways of minority students as they move from school to university. This collection is particularly useful for WPAs and policy makers as it directly addresses issues regarding writing instruction, college planning of multilingual students, transition of high school students into postsecondary level, programs, policies, sponsors, politics, faculty development, curriculum, and administration. However, inconsistencies prevail particularly in the introductory chapter in the use of terminologies such as international students, resident multilingual students, resident bilingual and immigrant students, and linguistically diverse immigrant and resident writers. As an international reader, I would have liked to see the clear definitions of these terminologies. Whereas the editors seem to specify and define “bilingual resident, immigrant, and refugee students” living in “towns and cities that often border our college campuses,” nowhere do they mention what specifically title words “immigrant and resident writers” mean. Notwithstanding this lack of specificity, this book is enriching to anyone interested in the challenges and strengths of linguistically diverse students moving from high school to higher level of scholarship.

Works Cited

Canagarajah, Suresh. Translingual Practice: Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations. Routledge, 2013.

Croce, Keri-Anne. Navigating Assessment with Linguistically Diverse Learners. IAP-Information Publishing, 2017.

Haque, Eve. Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework: Language, Race, and Belonging in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

Hyland, Ken. Second Language Writing. Cambridge, 2004.