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How can writing pedagogies build critical thinking among students in higher education?

The proposed two-day symposium is organized by the Undergraduate Writing Programme at Ashoka University to explore writing pedagogies and how these can deepen the thinking of students in higher education.

It offers a space for the higher education community in India to converse about their teaching practices and challenges, consider questions about social justice and equity arising from their work, and understand the range of approaches and tools used in writing programmes, including those that have arisen within the context of liberal arts universities in South Asia. Works such as Debaditya Bhattacharya’s volume on The Idea of the University: Histories and Contexts, Aniket Jaaware’s The Silence of the Subaltern Student, and the Cafe Dissensus Issue 50 on Writing in Academia, edited by Anannya Dasgupta and Madhura Lohokare provide a helpful frame for this discussion. The hope is that each of us will leave the symposium with the enthusiasm to explore new pedagogies in our classrooms and, along with our students, to become part of an ever-expanding community of peers.

About the Undergraduate Writing Programme at Ashoka University

The Undergraduate Writing Programme at Ashoka University is one of the first writing and critical thinking programmes of its kind in the country. Our programme speaks to a wider understanding of a liberal arts education that relies on analytical thinking communicated through clear and persuasive writing across disciplines. Our flagship course, Introduction to Critical Thinking, aims to deepen these critical competencies in first-year students by using small, seminar-style classes, and adapting pedagogy practices from across the world to the Indian context. We continue our work outside the classroom by facilitating self-sustaining networks of peer mentorship, creating informal spaces for the exploration of reading, listening and writing practices, and supporting student ambitions in writing.

Conference Themes

The symposium will span four themes, and we invite contributions around or at the intersection of any of these themes. Some possible examples are provided under each theme (merely as suggestions).

Writing the Critical

This theme addresses the very rationale for an exploration of writing pedagogies which help deepen the thinking of students in higher education. Papers on this theme can reflect on the building blocks of critical thinking and writing pedagogy, the connections between the creative and the critical in writing and expression, the shift in pedagogies between the school and university classrooms, and the need to build critical and collaborative classrooms as micro- representations of the creative commons in society.

  • A Critical Thinking and Writing Syllabus
  • Critical Thinking as Habit-building
  • Translation as a Critical Thinking and Writing Pedagogy
  • Drawing on Creative Writing Devices to Inform the Critical
  • Inculcating Critical Thinking Practices within the Limitations of High-school Syllabi
  • State board/CBSE/IB Disparities in College Classrooms
  • Building Collaborative Classrooms as Critical Communities

Equity and Access

This theme invites reflections on issues of equity, access and power that arise in the context of critical thinking and writing programmes. Papers on this theme can reflect on asymmetries within the classroom, the wider context within which these classrooms and universities exist, and the hierarchies that form around the use of language.

  • Writing pedagogies for Bridge Programmes
  • English Language Learners in university environments
  • The language dominance of the Critical Thinking programmes
  • Negotiating Otherness and identity in a classroom
  • Forms of exclusion in writing pedagogy

Tools and Provocations

This theme invites reflections on the tools and technologies that educators use to provoke student thinking and writing in a classroom. Papers on this theme can reflect on the use of materials, technologies, even exercises, that have been used to scaffold, enable or challenge writing processes.

  • Pre-writing and study skills as useful preliminaries to Critical Writing
  • The use of AI in cultivating critical processes
  • Using multi-media pedagogy in classrooms
  • Online approaches to teaching writing in light of the pandemic
  • Approaches to teaching ‘close reading’

The Discomfort of the Educator

This theme invites reflections on the practical implications of working with students in higher education in the contemporary context. Papers on this theme can reflect on the challenges faced by educators who work in the field of writing and critical thinking.

  • The difficulties of assessing a ‘critical thinker’
  • Negotiating power dynamics in a collaborative classroom
  • Dilemmas or failures in a writing classroom
  • Negotiating students’ mental health in a university setting
  • The challenges of cultivating student voice in the context of ‘academic writing’

Please submit your abstract (between 350-500 words) by 30 November, 2023, and the full paper (2500-3000 words) by 31 March, 2024. You can submit your abstract as well as write to us for any further query at: uwp@ashoka.edu.in.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka