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Centre for Writing and Communication

The Centre for Writing and Communication (CWC) team, 2019-20. (L-R: Senjuti Chakraborti, Uday Kanungo, Kanika Singh, Ashwini Rajpoot, Souradeep Roy, Apoorva Saini, Aakshi Magazine, Poulomi Das, Deepti Sreeram, Neerav Dwivedi, Jyotirmoy Talukdar.)

 

The Centre for Writing and Communication (CWC) works closely with the academic community in Ashoka to develop critical thinking, writing and communication skills. CWC is the largest centre in Ashoka and works with all the diverse sections that make the Ashoka community: the entire student body (from the undergraduate students to research scholars), faculty, staff and other specialised centres in the university.

 

CWC works closely with the Introduction to Critical Thinking courses, which are taken by all undergraduates in their first year at the University, and forms the basis of Ashoka’s innovative curriculum and pedagogy. CWC’s interactions with the students are both in-class, through lectures, creative workshops and one-on-one sessions. Through the year, the CWC provides writing and pedagogical support to courses across disciplines at Ashoka.

 

Besides course-specific activities, the CWC organises a broad range of creative activities which address a variety of skills under the umbrella of writing and communication and are open to all members of the university. This is made possible by the diversity of the CWC team which is a vibrant group of professionals, scholars, writers and researchers whose individual and combined expertise actively contributes to the interdisciplinary engagement at Ashoka.

Activities
  • One-on-one sessions: CWC enables a twenty-four hours appointment booking system, MyWCO. Through this software, the students can book appointments which lasts 45 minutes minimum with the CWC Tutors on a date and time of their convenience. CWC can be approached at any of the following stages of writing:

    • Brainstorming
    • Rough Drafts/First Drafts
    • Final Paper
    • Techniques for better writing
  • ESL learning support: CWC designs and teaches learning modules specific to students who needs additional language learning support at Ashoka throughout the academic year. These consist of weekly sessions by the CWC tutors for students with English as Second Language (ESL) and students with hearing impairment. These address a range of skills including reading speed, vocabulary, body language and clarity in speech to facilitate both social interaction in English and conceptual understanding of the content. The engagement consists of bridge programmes, one-on-one sessions and full fledged courses on English communication.
     

  • Creative workshops: Open to all members of the university community, these creative sessions draw upon a diverse range of skills and their application in our intellectual and daily lives, such as, written work, everyday communication, music, computer programming, media, board games, law and photography. These are conducted by the team members of the CWC and external experts invited by the centre. Some of our most popular sessions from last academic year includes: Poetry Without Noise: A Workshop On Composing Imagist Poetry; a workshop on music called, More Than Meets The Ear: Active Listening In Practice; The Anatomy Of A Feghoot: Writing Pun Inspired Stories a.k.a. A Feghoot; ‘Breaking’ News: Fake News And The Media Business; Nurturing Nature’s Narratives: Photography And Writing On Conserving Indian Habitats; a workshop on evaluating arguments; Manifesto: A Workshop on Art Manifestos. 

    • The CWC series titled Writing Geographies (starting November 2018) hosts authors and artistes whose work is acutely informed by (their) geographies and ideas of belonging.

  • Course-specific workshops: The course-specific workshops designed and conducted by the CWC address the most fundamental aspects of critical thinking required for writing and communication. For Introduction to Critical Thinking courses, CWC’s workshops are built into the curriculum and are mandatory. For other courses, they are optional and need based. Some of the workshops conducted in the last academic year includes How to write using multiple sources?; How to read fiction critically?; Writing around numbers; Planning a historiographical essay; What is an argument?; How to write strong conclusions?; How to write an introduction?; Plagiarism and citation.
     

  • Research Forum: It is a platform for the academic staff of the university to share their research. The six panels organised last year  saw participation from scholars of anthropology, history, performance studies, creative writing, sociology, law and politics. Few of the panels organized last year were Mining Urban Delhi: Regendering Labor, Romance and Consumption; On the Permissible in Literature; Citizen Insurgencies: Fictions and Politics in North-East India; Sense of Place: Writing in Fiction and Memoir; and Of Circuses and Comedians: Public Cultures of Amusement in India.

Gallery
Reflections of Writing

As part of the Research Forum, The CWC organized a two day interdisciplinary National Conference titled ‘Reflections of Writing’ on 27th April - 28th April, 2018. The Conference sought to address the idea of the work of writing done in university spaces, keeping in mind that new concerns, new media, and new claims have transformed the tenor and terrain of the questions - why we write, what we write and how we write. Over its 2 days, the conference interrogated writing with respect to the functions it performs - namely the inculcation, production, and dissemination of knowledge.  There were 18 papers sorted into six participant panels – 'Inability, Reluctance, and Deferral', 'On Literary Fiction', 'On Reflexivity and Pedagogy', 'Academic and Research Writing', 'Sensorium, Sound and Concept', and 'Conceptual Blockages in Law, Life, and the Sciences'. These papers presented the thoughts of a diverse set of scholars, researchers, and professors from 11 different universities on different genres of writing, and the challenges of writing pedagogy and practice. Each of the 2 days of the conference was framed by a Keynote Panel Discussion that brought together eminent persons from different fields to deliberate on, and possibly build, a common ground for writing as a central concern of both academic and non-academic life.

 

Annual Conference 2019-20

 

CALL FOR PAPERS

 

National Conference on Challenges/Strategies in Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Higher Education in India

The Centre for Writing and Communication (CWC) is delighted to call for papers for its April 2020 conference on teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in colleges and universities in India. We are interested in having a conversation with English Language Teaching (ELT) practitioners and experts who have used innovative and inclusive language teaching approaches in university classrooms. We are also inviting researchers and academics who have reflected on the absence of an inclusive English language pedagogy suitable for a multilingual university classroom, to share their inputs with us.

 

Background:

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses were introduced in the U.K. to support English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students in universities. The movement expanded to include academic writing instruction and pedagogy suitable to the context of higher education. These courses can be broadly categorized into two: linguistic support courses offered to English as Second Language (ESL) students and academic skill-based workshops or courses offered to all students regardless of their language levels. While the latter focuses heavily on developing academic literacy - critical thinking and writing skills specific to academics - the former focuses on supporting students who struggle with communicating in English. Designed to introduce students to pedagogic genres that are specific to academic writing and prepare them for a reading-based curriculum, EAP focuses on learners’ needs and language skills that are unique to the requirements of a university.

 

In India, several English for Specific Purposes (ESP) projects began when the Education Commission (1946-1966) acknowledged the role of English as a library language. A functional approach to the teaching of English was undertaken and ESP courses targeting graduate teachers, competitive examinations and professionals were initiated. However, ESP did not expand to include EAP in universities and colleges offering humanities and social sciences in India. While technical institutes and professional colleges offer courses to improve English communication skills, most public and private universities that are "non-technical" do not offer additional English language support to students. This could either be an outcome of the general disregard towards the discipline of humanities and social sciences in India or due to the misconceptions around the expected English language proficiency of a ‘college student’ -  where  ‘differences’ in levels end up being (deliberately?) ignored and sidelined. In specific cases where students struggle with English, remedial tuition classes or general English communication courses have been included in the university curriculum. However, these courses which are often structured upon practice-based grammar teaching models and outdated English textbooks - in many cases taught by insufficiently trained instructors – don’t end up doing much.

 

The Problem:

 Writing and literacy in academic contexts are dependent to no small extent on the ability to transfer and use the knowledge acquired in the classroom. In the process of this knowledge transfer, students are expected to produce ‘good’ research adhering to the rules of academic discourse, link multiple sources to their writing, use discipline-specific vocabulary and develop a ‘unique voice’, all the while writing grammatically correct sentences. While, the production of an academic paper involves a combination of advanced cognitive and language skills, in the Indian English as Second Language (ESL) context, achieving ‘academic excellence’ meets additional hurdles, when the medium of instruction is often inaccessible.

 

With the general focus resting upon schools, aiming to reduce the risk of dropouts, scant attention gets paid to the university student. The absence of standardized tests in the Indian context for adult language learners has exacerbated the problem as there is no data or studies on the English language proficiency level of an adult in India. While universities in the U.S. and U.K have recognized the importance of providing such support provision to first and second-language speakers of English, in Indian universities, many students must learn to read and write academic English on their own. This expectation from the student is ambitious when they come from economic and socio-linguistic minority community backgrounds and struggle with Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) in English.

 

It is important to also note that universities or colleges in India do not identify EAP as a category and often subsume it under overarching terms such as ‘English Communication’ or ‘General English’. This failure to identify EAP as an advanced course result in confusing teaching methods and an unplanned curriculum. To mitigate some of these concerns, while public universities like the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) established the Linguistic Empowerment Cell (LEC) and the Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) set up the Centre for English Language Education (CELE), private universities like Ashoka University, Krea University and O.P. Jindal Global University established writing centers. However, there is a lot that has to be done towards syllabi making, deciding on appropriate pedagogical practices, as well as building robust evaluative criteria, keeping in mind the varying levels of English proficiency in a diverse, multilingual student body. In the light of these developments, we believe that this conference would be helpful in weaving together theoretical and methodological studies on academic literacy, and reflecting on EAP teaching methods and practices in colleges and universities across India. 

 

Themes to consider:

Curriculum for EAP: In the designing of the curriculum, how do we think about/bridge the relation between the pragmatics of language teaching and the imparting of critical thinking and social awareness? How can ELT research inform the development of EAP courses in universities?

Assessment: How can we create valid and reliable assessment rubrics keeping in mind the plurality of the classroom: different socio-linguistic backgrounds and varying levels of English Proficiency?

Feedback: How can inputs from the classroom be productively used by both instructors and students in collaboratively designing an effective and sound curriculum? What role can standardized diagnostic language tests play in setting up the classroom? What steps can be taken to assist students who struggle with basic communication in English?  What teaching methods can be adopted for a heterogeneous classroom?

Addressing the EAP student: How should we imagine learner autonomy in an EAP classroom? What can a learner’s profile reveal? How do we ensure that students bring their own experiences of meaning-making and identity when they write?  How can the student’s home language be accommodated?

The Role of the Institution: How can public and private universities provide language support to students?  What is the role of writing centers and other departments in supporting EAP?

ELT and EAP: Are EAP/ELT contributing towards/challenging a monolingual academic market? Can ELT methods of other countries be effective in the Indian classroom? What can be included in building an archive for EAP? How can the classroom experience and pedagogy – what worked/didn’t work - inform research and policymaking?


 

Please send your abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short bio-note (300 words) to cwc@ashoka.edu.in . The email should bear the subject line ‘Conference abstract’. The last date for submission (extended) is 15 January 2020. 

 

Team
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The Centre for Writing and Communication (CWC)
Third Floor, Administrative Block
Ashoka University

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