Event Date: 17th August, 2021


English language teachers assume that their job is to teach the native speaker norms to multilingual students, and that there is no room for diversification of the norms, if students are to become proficient in the language. However, norms don’t have to be imposed on students or treated as universal. Multilingual students may bring different norms to academic contexts, but they have the capacity to renegotiate academic expectations, learn from each other, and develop shared norms. The strategies students adopt to construct these commonplaces for particular genres or classroom activities can help them to renegotiate dominant norms in other high stakes academic contexts. Such a pedagogical orientation is particularly relevant when norms are changing and are diversifying under the pressures of mobility, technology, and globalization. I will illustrate from a semester-long teacher research of a course on teaching second language writing, where the writing of a literacy narrative was the main requirement. As the multilingual and native-speaker students serially drafted, peer reviewed, and revised their articles, they learned certain strategies for introducing their preferred codes and making spaces for their voices. The presentation will show how students learn textual strategies from each other, adopt them for their own writing, and treat them as shared norms for interpreting each other. As a teacher, I expanded my own understanding of language norms by learning from the communicative practices of the students.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Suresh Canagarajah is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Applied Linguistics, and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He teaches courses in rhetoric/composition for English Department, and in sociolinguistics for the Applied Linguistics Department. Suresh comes from the Tamil-speaking northern region of Sri Lanka. He taught earlier in the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His recent book Transnational Literacy Autobiographies as Translingual Writing (Routledge, 2020) combines the narrative writing of students in his courses and his own narrative on developing his teaching and writing through these classroom interactions. His edited book Routledge Handbook on Language and Migration (Routledge 2017) won the 2020 best book award from the American Association of Applied Linguistics. Suresh also serves in the Pennsylvania Governor’s State Law Enforcement Advisory Commission. He was formerly the editor of the TESOL Quarterly and President of the American Association of Applied Linguistics.