A Conversation with Lesley Broder

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My current and upcoming blog posts will focus on the work being done by two-year college teacher-scholars who have contributed to Teaching Accelerated and Corequisite Composition, a collection I edited that will be published by Utah State University Press in November 2023. The posts will feature a brief description of the author’s chapter, with the professor describing what they most hope readers will take from their chapter. I’ll also be asking contributors how their thoughts on their chapter have changed in the two years between its composition and publication, as well as any goals they have for the current semester.

 

This month, I talked with Lesley Broder, who joined the English Department at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn in 2008, shortly before receiving her doctorate in English from Stony Brook University. Lesley began her career teaching middle and high school; she later taught at Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University, where she also served as assistant director of the writing center. At Kingsborough, she coordinated the accelerated learning program for nearly a decade. Lesley’s research focuses on gender and sexuality, popular theater trends in New York City, and writing placement and assessment.

 

Lesley’s chapter in Teaching Accelerated and Corequisite Composition, “Inching Toward Equity: Graduated Choice in the Corequisite Classroom,” outlines how to use choice boards to organize assignments in the small group section of a corequisite class. The chapter begins with a history of corequisite instruction at Kingsborough, which, not surprisingly, began with a visit from the Community College of Baltimore County’s Peter Adams. Though the Kingsborough program has been successful overall, recent disaggregated data indicates that while 65.6% of white students pass the corequisite, only 41.8% of Black students and 41.2% of Hispanic students are passing. As a result, Lesley began developing equity-forward course materials that offered students more flexibility in how they interacted with their instructor and completed their assignments. Lesley describes in detail the use of choice boards, which “present students with a grid with a number of tasks to complete within a designated period,” and shows why this option is especially effective in online classes.

 

However, the chapter’s larger point, Lesley notes, “is not to advocate for choice boards as the way to teach but rather to be open to differentiating instruction in the ALP section. In its various formats, the ALP group is typically small; this allows for flexibility in ways that aren’t feasible for larger student groupings. Providing even a few options for approaching the material might make a difference for some students.”

 

When I asked Lesley about any additional insights she might have gained over time about her chapter’s subject matter, she pointed out that the pandemic was waning as she composed her piece:

We were at that transition moment between operating fully remote and re-entering the campus with strict testing, social distancing, and mask protocols. Now that those pandemic restrictions are largely lifted, many professors I talk with notice that students have come to expect extreme flexibility. I hope we can find ways to help students succeed as well as adjust to responsibilities as members of a classroom community.

Not surprisingly, the need to balance flexibility with responsibility is a theme touched on by many of the contributors to Teaching Accelerated and Corequisite Composition.

 

Our conversation turned to the potentially overwhelming challenges our profession faces with the widespread use of generative artificial intelligence as a tool—and substitute—for student writing.  Lesley admitted she was “curious” to see how AI will alter writing instruction. She acknowledged that while “Students have long used resources to ‘help’ complete their work, whether it is a willing family member, information from Wikipedia, or an online essay writing service, ChatGPT works so quickly that it can promote a mindless approach to composing.”

 

Lesley conceded that she was of two minds when it comes to dealing with AI this term. She concludes, “For a low-tech approach, I hope to use more in-class, handwritten assignments for low stakes writing. I also want to evaluate ChatGPT’s responses when we are at the end of a unit to help students avoid an uncritical mindset. We are moving into a new time in writing instruction for sure!”