Inquiry: The Journal of the Virginia Community Colleges

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Yuemin He is a return author of Inquiry. Her research focuses on composition pedagogy, Asian American literature, Buddhist American literature, East Asian literature and visual art, and poetry translation. Her writings appear in Teaching Asian North American Texts (MLA, 2022), The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature, Oxford Anthology of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (2nd ed.), Religion and Arts, Metamorphoses, Ezra, The Cincinnati Review, Exchanges, 91st Meridian, Rattle, Chinese Literature and Thought Today, Renditions, etc. She is an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College and currently she is also a faculty lead for the college’s AANAPISI grant program. Catherine M. Gaiser, MFA, is a Professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught College Composition I and II, literature, and creative writing since 2010. She has been published in The Northern Virginia Review and is one of six authors of the open online textbook Supporting English Language Learners in First-Year College Composition. In 2020, she was awarded NOVA’s Loser-Savkar Fellowship, which supported her research into students’ acquisition of self-authoring practices. Currently, she is an Annandale Campus Lead for NOVA’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which supports equity-based practices, including culturally responsive pedagogy.


The five-paragraph essay is highly controversial, and yet it has also been a useful format for composition. In this essay we explain why, despite its limits, students need to go along with the format to make what use and get what advantage of it. We then demonstrate that valuing the philosophical, historical, cultural, and educational backgrounds of our students can help navigate away from the restrictive nature of the format and lead to equitable learning for all students. Finally, we introduce a few curriculum designs and instructional practices to expand the epistemological and pedagogical frontiers of the format. In short, we conduct a culturally responsive discussion of issues students with non-Western backgrounds--Asian American students in particular--may encounter when writing the five-paragraph essay. By sharing student learning-focused approaches, we aim to improve Asian American students’ learning experiences.



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