“I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.” ― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile; or On Education
Since students have different goals, learning styles, and abilities in the composition classroom, I want to open a space where they can grapple with individual concept formation and learning objectives, encouraging them to take ownership of their writing tasks, situations, goals, and voices. However, while beginning with student goals and assumptions, I also want to challenge them with an expanded view of author, authoring, and text. Thus, I see myself building from student experience, but co-creating new knowledge through conversation.
For class activity, I stress variety and participation, so students have different resources to work with, depending on goals and learning styles. I use different presentation styles, like PowerPoints, videos, online images, videogames, and materials around campus, like fliers or buildings. This variety not only tries to engage students with varied texts, but also tries to expand their understanding of author, authoring, and text more generally. I also mix class activities and often incorporate free writes, idea mapping, and group discussion. The mix of collaborative and individual approaches represents two sides of the authoring process for me: first, as something that involves an ecology of forces—assignment guidelines, instructors, peers, writing environment, etc.—but also the socially ascribed responsibility the author has to direct these forces and intervene as “author.”
For assignments, I want to gear my pedagogy toward open-ended, multimodal, and process-focused work that again tries to challenge the authoring process and what a text can entail. Here, I think assignments should take an expanded view of process and incorporate these elements into the wording and expectations of the assignments. Since process often involves more than writing—for example, research, collaboration with other writers, curation, and circulation—I encourage students to see “process” as a contextual and flexible set of tools and not just a series of universal habits. Assignments should be constructed with this in mind, so I integrate research, collaborative requirements, etc., into the assignment sheet and encourage expansive portfolio and reflective components. Assignments are designed to further class discussion on writing with hands-on work, but at the same time, they should reflect how the student approaches the work from their given situation.
As noted, such work combines reflection. I want to present multiple windows for students to reflect on their work: using marginal comments to describe moves in a document, responding to feedback, engaging with conferences and workshops that are geared around reflection and class questions. Such reflection connects to class discussion and assignment goals, yet remains low-stakes and informal. In sum, these reflections are designed to get the student more familiar with different heuristics and terms and provide a space for students to explain how they apply them to differing situations, hopefully encouraging more deliberate writing.
I often see assessment as a co-authoring exchange helping to drive the writing process, in addition to its primary goal in keeping track of student work, growth, and any academic issues. With that in mind, I prefer mixed approaches to intervention and make assessment as low-stakes as possible. I use workshops and peer edits as tools in this process, but as tools, they should be directed according to designed ends, like engaging with project goals. Also, assessment should also be transparent and consistent, with goals clearly articulated at all stages of the process, from introducing the assignment to returning feedback. Assessment should be mindful of class conversations and the previous and future work of the writer, again being more process-focused and looking beyond what a student hands in on any given day. I also think students should have a place in the assessment process, with the opportunity to respond to instructor and peer comments. By diffusing authority, I see myself as a collaborator, albeit a collaborator with a certain skill set, knowledge base, and authority. I have used grading contracts in the past to facilitate this work, but think it can be done in a variety of ways.
I believe one should expose students to different tactics and challenges, but ultimately see how that exposure affects them on their own terms. And one hopes that in time, beyond the confines of class, the student becomes a more deliberate writer and thinker.