Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

The Ferry Serves Both Shores of the River: Expanding Access and Literacies in Higher Education

Margaret A. Mendoza.

As learners become more literate, so do teachers. As marginalized undergraduates gain more access to powerful disciplinary discourses, their acquisition impacts their professors as well as the discourse itself. This claim is supported by case studies of successful, although historically underserved, college undergraduates conducting research with faculty mentors.

The study was conducted at a US university which holds the Carnegie Research Intensive designation and is both a land-grant institution and an Hispanic Serving Institution. It is a place where conducting research and teaching underserved populations are priorities. I examined conversations and texts produced by undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors to gain a sense of what happens when they use specialized discourse to learn and to teach the discourse of the disciplines.

The study assumes a broad definition of discourse to include, as James Gee proposes, language in use plus actions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Key themes emerging from the study (thinking like a student, thinking like a scholar, behaving like a sponsor, and reaching into the future) suggest a reciprocal model of discourse acquisition for the student and for the professor.

While we often say we learn from our students, this study brings to light specific benefits to be gained from being engaged one-on-one with challenging students. On the other hand, students enter mentoring relationships expecting to learn but find themselves teaching as well. Thus, on both shores of the river, academic literacies and access are expanded.


Margaret A. Mendoza  (United States)
Graduate Student
Department of English
New Mexico State University

  • Academic discourse
  • Disciplinary discourse
  • US minorities
  • US higher education
  • Undergraduate research

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)