African American & African Studies
African American and African Studies enrolls a small core of 19 undergraduate majors, and non-majors from all over the campus take lower- and upper-division courses. Many faculty members share their departmental home with another program, thereby creating rich opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and learning of the social, political, economic, and cultural complexities of Africa, African America, and the African Diaspora.
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.
With that in mind, the AA&AS Writing Plan features a "toolkit" of low-stakes (ungraded) diagnostic assignments—designed for use in- or out-of-class—that help instructors assess the extent to which student performance is matching the department's articulated writing abilities. The toolbox also includes pedagogical strategies that can be used to address identified gaps. The department believes that communicating writing expectations to students more widely and explicitly—and, employing devices to infuse writing instruction in an intentional and student-centered manner—will create efficiencies based on the instructor's goals for the course. Such a class-by-class approach fits with the department's philosophy of meeting students at the point of need.
In implementing the department’s second edition-Writing Plan, Yuichiro Onishi (AA&AS Director of Undergraduate Studies) collaborated with unit faculty to devise a six-stage process guide for the capstone-level writing and research paper requirement. Senior-level majors and their capstone advisors use the process guide in conjunction with a capstone contract, which specifies interim deadlines and other writing-related goals.