The UW English Department’s Writing Programs’ third annual Praxis Conference was well-attended. Held in UW's scenic Haggett Hall conference center and made possible through generous support from the A&S College Writing Program, the Kollar Gift for Literacy, and the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, Praxis 2017 focused on "Learning through Doing: Crafting Meaning through Making-Oriented Pedagogy." The Praxis Conference brings together UW teachers, UW-affiliated K-12 teachers, students, administrators, staff, and other organizations working in partnership with UW. As definitions of writing have broadened to include all sorts of multimodal and new media texts, this year's conference invited participants to share how understandings of multimodality, digital humanities, community-engaged writing, and critical pedagogy are put into practice, how that practice re-informs our theoretical understandings, and how we can imagine possible future directions for writing instruction.
Choosing between concurrent panel presentations was difficult, but English Matters decided that Professor John Webster, Julie Dykema, Sarah Faulkner and Chelsea Grimmer on “Making College Writing Ready” couldn’t be missed. This panel described the English department’s highly successful English 108 “Writing Ready: Preparing for College Writing” early fall start course designed for students who feel underprepared for college writing. Panelists described English 108’s core practices: metacognition and self-reflection, bonding and teamwork, linking the academy to students’ home lives and identities, meeting students where they are and helping them forward from there, teaching them the value of effective collaboration and multimodal writing pedagogy wherein the students are encouraged to create writing projects that include multiple media and speak to multiple publics.
UW Communication professor Ekin Yasin delivered PRAXIS 2017’s keynote address, “Actively Global and Globally Active: The Classroom as a Window We Open to the World.” Dr. Yasin underscored the idea that we teach to hope, not conformity, through affective teaching and learning, through changing habits of minds to establish new points of view, through teaching students to believe the work they produce matters, and to see the value of their participation. Hurdles can be high for teachers: we need to recognize structures that can limit our ability to teach in ways that help students see academic writing as freeing and empowering and to imagine strategies to overcome them.
At the end of the day, Praxis 2017 brought together members of the greater NW teaching community and emphasized positivity, creativity, engagement, ownership of work, and collaboration.