My teaching philosophy evolves and adapts to each new situation and group of students I encounter, but the following three key philosophies guide my teaching. I approach my classrooms with an intersectional feminist lens, inspired by both my research and background as a writing center tutor, in that I seek to engage and listen to each student, accommodate their needs, and approach their position as diverse citizen-learners through a variety of pedagogical approaches that transfer across my classrooms. This intersectional approach mirrors my research about how people write in networked spaces and how technological discourse shapes and is shaped by people’s interactions with screened devices.
I believe students should be equipped with critical thinking skills that challenge them to investigate contexts surrounding them and think critically about social systems that shape these contexts. As I outline below, I approach critical thinking through curriculum grounded in visual rhetoric, literacy practices, and new media theories. Having taught students at a private urban university, a large STEM-focused population, and students within a specific major, I have found the following pedagogical approaches adaptable to a diverse set of students.
In both my first-year composition and professional writing courses, I encourage students to explore theories of the rhetorical situation, examine the different audiences they write toward, and consider how these situations and readers change based on mode, medium, and genre. In my Computer-Aided Publishing course, I prioritize the principles of design as a visual rhetorical toolkit and challenge students to apply these principles to each assignment, from document design projects to web interface remediation proposals. For example, using the principles of design, students critique a corporate logo, develop a new logo and brand concept, and draft a final report rationalizing their approach. One group of students assessed the logo of Oxford English Dictionaries, critiquing the ethos of the brand as compared to its competitors, taking care to consider the historical contexts of the Oxford brand as shaped by Western intellectual prestige. Their final brand re-design concept project won the Best Group Project award in the 2016 university-wide Professional Writing Showcase.
In my First-Year Composition course, I foreground literacy as a guiding principle that shapes each assignment and urge students to consider how the term takes on new rhetorical meanings from traditional argumentative essays, to primary and secondary research, to blogging projects. In my graduate mentoring experience through the Introductory Composition Program at Purdue (ICaP), I mentored incoming graduate teaching assistants in English studies on using technology in the composition classroom. I lead weekly tech mentoring workshops that were shaped by current scholarship about composition pedagogy and multimodal praxis, driving discussions about teaching traditional alphabetic texts alongside new media. In that role, I encouraged students to consider how their diverse cultural and institutional backgrounds can shape their approaches to first-year composition curriculum design, particularly when confronted with teaching composition in a networked computer classroom.
As a scholar interested in technoliteracy and writing in networked spaces, I encourage students to expand their definitions of writing, whether it is through using a screencasting tool to record a short digital story about their personal literacy narratives or applying the logo design process to create an original brand concept in Adobe Illustrator. Encouraging students to confront digital tools as adaptable for different stages of the writing or design process helps prepare them for workplace realities and expectations they will encounter beyond graduation. Yet, I realize that students approach courses with different competencies. Thus, in every class I teach, I begin the semester with a short survey asking students what sorts of writing they have done in the past and what sorts of software, tools, or programs they are most familiar with. I also ask them how they feel they can best learn new programs, such as through video tutorials, guided demonstrations, or hands-on studio time. These survey responses shape my approach to course planning each semester and I relish working with students one-on-one to guide them through semester-long projects. I also ask students to conduct brief demonstrations to their classmates about a digital tool or program of their choosing. I have found this approach is simultaneously focused and collaborative as it softens the often intimidating process of learning new programmatic skills.
Community Engagement & Collaboration
As a technical communication scholar, I value writing that encourages people to act and inspire change. I aim to help students realize that writing transfers to a multitude of situations and locations, and that writing can move readers to action. In my technical and business writing courses, I require my students to work collaboratively to assess a local communal need, analyze the specific community audience associated with their topic, research and write a networked engagement plan toward that need, and develop a presentation toward implementing their plan. For example, a group of technical writing students conducted a social media case study about the state of paid parental leave in the United States and Europe, composed a white paper report summarizing their findings, analyzed the state of paternal leave policies in the Greater Lafayette area. To cap off the project, they developed a pilot social media engagement plan to encourage the three largest employers in the area to adopt more inclusive parental leave policies. This assignment challenges students to analyze their audience and use technical writing principles to persuade that audience toward taking action.
As my three guiding principles illustrate, I approach the classroom as a dynamic space—it is a connector to students’ lived experience and an environment that models how writing moves beyond the classroom to shape the world around them. I encourage my students to leave my classroom with a toolkit of skills they’ve developed over the semester—putting its theories, principles, and collaborative experiences into practice with focused course projects—all skills that will assist them in their future endeavors. As I look ahead to future teaching opportunities, I seek to expand and adapt these pedagogical approaches to new contexts and student needs.