M.A. English, University of Maine, 2012
M.A. TESOL, University of Findlay, 2008
B.A. English, Bluffton University, 2005
My approach to teaching writing in the university setting involves facilitating a classroom environment where students develop a sense of academic inquiry. Informed by the work of literacy and composition scholars such as James Paul Gee, Min-Zhan Lu, Bruce Horner, and the New London Group, my teaching practices entail encouraging students to think consciously about and analyze the conventions that influence the creation and reception of particular texts.
We often begin by acknowledging and discussing the fact that there is no static, permanent definition of good writing. That is, “good writing” is entirely context dependent. In order to be successful writers inside and outside of the academy, we must develop an ability to discern and adapt to the conventions that govern a particular discourse community and a particular writing event. If students are expected to leave my classroom prepared to write effectively for a diverse array of courses and professions, they will need to know how to orient themselves in each writing environment they encounter. Therefore, the questions I ask in class and on drafts serve to increase students’ reflective awareness of their own reading and writing habits and of the multiple literacies they have developed, as well as those literacies they will be required to develop throughout their academic and professional careers. We also examine a variety of essays from a diverse collection of writers (including those enrolled in the course) in order to consider how each author’s aims and context might have influenced the content and form of these texts. Additionally, we write in response to and discuss course assignments and assessment criteria as a way of consciously considering how these parameters might influence the composing of our own texts.
It has been my experience that students appreciate this approach, as it finally gives them license to stop chasing after a mirage of “correct” writing that might always seems to be beyond their grasp. Instead, my approach to teaching composition lends itself to an ongoing, semester-long conversation about reading and writing that is taken up in class discussions, writing assignments, peer review sessions, and instructor-student conferences. As part of my dedication to encouraging this extended conversation, I try to make myself readily available to address questions and read over drafts. I believe in being a presence on campus and hold office hours at a variety of set times and by appointment. I provide a discussion board within our course management system for students to interact with me and with their peers. Finally, I have found that significant discussions about student writing often take place during conferences. Therefore, I attempt to conference with each individual student at least three times per semester.
I believe students become reflective, adaptable, successful writers through intentional examination and discussion of the writing conventions they encounter. In my class, we seek to use the insights we gain from such examinations to improve our writing practices in all of their multiple forms.