Teaching/Writing in Thirdspaces: The Studio Approach

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SIU Press, 2008 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 241 pages
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Teaching/Writing in Thirdspaces: The Studio Approach examines a dynamic approach to teaching composition that reimagines not only the physical space in which writing and learning occurs but also the place occupied by composition in the power structure of universities and colleges. 

In response to financial and programmatic cutbacks at the University of South Carolina in the 1990s, authors Rhonda C. Grego and Nancy S. Thompson used their academic backgrounds in composition and English education, along with their personal histories in working-class families, to look at compositional spaces and places with an eye to challenging the embedded issues of race, class, and gender within the university hierarchies.  The result was a supplemental writing program that they called the writing studio.

The studio model emphasizes individual participation in a small group that allows students to present work they are preparing for outside classes, discuss their challenges, and refine their ideas with other students and staff facilitators.  This “interactional inquiry” is replicated and reinforced by the facilitators, who meet in their own small groups to analyze larger patterns, possibilities, and needs as they arise in their studios.

Grego and Thompson argue that because the studio is physically and institutionally “outside but alongside” both students’ other coursework and the hierarchy of the institution, it represents a “thirdspace,” a unique position in which to effect institutional change.  The focus on interactional inquiry challenges traditional power hierarchies within classrooms and shifts the nature of discourse. As a bottom-up approach to the development of educational programs within institutions that have different needs, demographies, and histories, the studio model can address a multitude of different institutional needs with little disruption to the curriculum.

The studio model allows university administrators, teachers, student aides, and students to continually adapt to changing institutional environments with new teaching and learning strategies.  Teaching/Writing in Thirdspaces provides an alternative approach to traditional basic writing courses that can be adopted in educational institutions of all types and at all levels.

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About the author (2008)

Rhonda C. Grego is currently a full-time instructor at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC where she teaches first-year composition courses.  Previously she held positions as Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, and tenured Associate Professor of English at Benedict College, also in Columbia, SC.  Conference presentations, journal and book articles, and grant-work have explored the ways that organizational history and geography affect the shape of writing instruction and attendant programs in higher education institutions, with an interest in the ways that rhetorical and feminist theories of memory and alternative research methodologies help articulate the influence of place and space on writing and Composition’s work with college student writers.  Ongoing research interests are in Composition and higher education history in South Carolina; and the slave narratives, folklore, and fiction of the historically-Black communities in and around Congaree National Park in Columbia, SC. Special Honors include:  AAUP Konheim Award; Benedict College Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year 2001-2002; TWIN Leadership Award, YWCA, Spring 2001.  
 
Nancy S. Thompson is a professor Emerita in the English Department at the University of South Carolina. Through several years of her career in English at USC, she was in charge of the course on the Teaching of Writing required of secondary teachers in training.  Another scholarly project that occupied her for several years was recuperation of the fictional and pedagogical writings of the prominent New Zealand educator, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, research that has also resulted in several publications.  After retiring from the USC English Department, Thompson worked with another colleague to write an NSF proposal that funded the Research Communications Studio in Engineering.   Each of these projects has resulted in publications, conference/workshop presentations, and consultations with other universities.  Most notable professional achievements out of many include Media Editor, English Journal, 1975 – 1980; and Chair, NCTE International Assembly, 1987, 1988, 1994.  Upon retirement, the USC Composition/Rhetoric Association's “Nancy Thompson Achievement Award For Enduring Enthusiasm and Service To The Field” was established.

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