Using Writing to Develop Perspectives on Immigration Reform

Professor Janet Calvo

In Spring 2008, Professor Janet Calvo incorporated Writing Across the Curriculum principles in her Immigration and Citizenship class by adopting a scaffolding approach to her mid-term writing assignment and incorporating support from CUNY Writing Fellows. The writing assignment, a five-page essay on an immigration reform issue of her students' choosing, called for students to write in a traditional essay format.

Professor Calvo scaffolded the assignment, i.e., broke down the process into manageable pieces and provided feedback and guidance throughout the entire writing process. For example, students submitted only their thesis statements in the initial stage of the assignment. In providing feedback on these thesis statements, Professor Calvo sought input from Writing Fellow Tracy Chu, who provided comments to each student's thesis statement from the perspective of a non-legally trained reader. Ms. Chu also read drafts students handed in throughout the semester and provided general feedback on recurrent writing issues to Professor Calvo. While students received feedback from Ms. Chu on the communication of ideas and information, Professor Calvo provided feedback on their analysis and integration of immigration law concepts.

Additionally, Professor Calvo encouraged her students to visit the Writing Center individually; as a result, nearly half the class came to the Writing Center, some at multiple points throughout the semester, to work on drafts of this assignment with the Writing Fellows.

To showcase the successful end results of this scaffolded process, Professor Calvo and Ms. Chu have selected some essays for posting on the Writer's Forum of this web site.