Welcome to the CLA Collective!

an online resource hub and gathering space for teachers committed to promoting Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in our writing, literacy, and language classrooms and curricula.   This site also serves as a companion website for the book Cultivating Critical Language Awareness in the Writing Classroom. 

Critical Language Awareness (CLA)
 is a mindset and skillset for writing/literacy education with an emphasis on language, identity, privilege, and power. 

We use CLA pedagogy to cultivate students’ self-reflection and rhetorical agency, and to promote social justice in our schools and in society more broadly. 

Six Principles for CLA Pedagogy

Includes students from all language backgrounds

CLA pedagogy is not a "special" approach for a particular group of students. It can be adapted for use with students from a range of backgrounds, including both L1 ("native speakers") and L2/multilingual writers of any language. CLA pedagogy also works well with students who are multi-dialectal and have less familiarity with "standardized" English.

Uses language as a bridge into social justice learning

"Language" isn't just a set of knowledge and skills students are learning in our classes. It is also a starting point for engaging critical conversations and explorations of privilege, prejudice, discrimination, and justice. CLA pedagogy thus allows us to engage in the important work of anti-racism and inclusive pedagogy, centered on topics related to language and language use.

Engages minds, hearts, and bodies

In keeping with best practices for inclusive and anti-racist education, CLA pedagogy invites us to engage the "whole student," by attending not only to students' intellectual and rhetorical growth, but also to their emotional, social, and even spiritual learning.

Links awareness to action

CLA pedagogy isn't just about awareness-building. Students need opportunities to channel their critical understandings into action. This includes rhetorical action--i.e., communicating and applying what they have learned in writing (and speaking!) for a variety of audiences.

Works with tensions around linguistics norms/standards

CLA Pedagogy encourages us to be both pragmatic and progressive when it comes to working with standardized language and other norms. This means that we offer explicit instruction in the "rules" for writing in a variety of genres and contexts, while also engaging in critical explorations about where those rules come from and how they are often leveraged harmfully against people from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

Builds on best practices for writing/literacy instruction

CLA pedagogy does not ask that we leave behind other research-based best practices. Rather, we infuse CLA into our curriculum and instruction, building on what we already know and do. In the context of writing instruction, this includes offering opportunities for students to communicate for a variety of purposes and audiences, scaffolding the writing and revision process, and offering timely feedback, along with opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and growth.

For more on these principles, see Chapter 3 of Shapiro’s (2022) book,
Cultivating Critical Language Awareness in the Writing Classroom