Links to Readings

I have compiled here a number of readings that I have found beneficial when constructing my own approach to teaching.

Pedagogy of Charity – Kevin J. Porter

“Because none of us can know with certainty which of the beliefs we hold are true, we must be willing to be persuaded by each other. Just as I examine what my students say and write, I must allow my own spoken and written words to be scrutinized. I must demonstrate why I believe what I believe even as I ask them to reconsider their own positions. And I must engage them in the kind of rational dialogue that I ask them to engage in with others. I (try to) treat my students’ ideas with respect but also with the acknowledgment that they may be constructively critiqued, just as my own ideas are (ideally) treated in journals, conferences, and graduate seminars—and in my classroom. The “try to” and “ideally” are important qualifications, for a pedagogy of charity requires continual work; it is easier to be severe than to be charitable. And it is a praxis always at risk of failure, not a static achievement” (599).

 

Rebecca Moore Howard – Plagiarism Pentimento

“Teaching the rules of plagiarism or source-attribution fails because it does not address the motivation for patchwriting. It does not respond to students’ need for a set of latch-keys that might unlock new discourse communities. The rules of plagiarism help mark and bound the academy, identifying its insiders and outsiders, disciplining its participants. But although the applicant does need to know what the boundaries are, that identification does not carry with it the knowledge of how to enter the hermetic circle. Summary-writing, in contrast, represents one of the latch-keys by means of which an outsider might traverse the boundaries and become a participant” (240).

David Gold – Will the Circle be Broken

“Instead of longing for a nonexistent past, perhaps we should simply admit that eighteen-year-olds frequently write poorly, and consider it our job to take it from there” (85-86)
“Whatever our reasons, by dismissing student writing we abdicate responsibility for our own failures as teachers, in particular our responsibility to teach all students, to take on anyone who wants to “take a whirl.” Michael Ryan, writing in the Houston Chronicle, laments that students “don’t know how to apply grammar and punctuation rules; to write strong summary sentences; to use direct quotations and dialogue; to organize essays effectively; to be creative; or to recognize the difference between good and bad research.” If this is indeed the case, then why not show them how? Grumpily insisting that educated people should write everything well, “even a grocery list,” or returning “without a response” student e-mails “that contain errors” will not cause students to spontaneously understand comma splices. Nor will insulting them. “The poor souls,” Ryan quips, “couldn’t write literate essays even if they knew failure meant they’d be shipped off to write reviews of Thomas Hardy novels.” Given his attitude, his students might be forgiven for not wanting to learn how to write or for believing that writing is nothing more than a checklist of arbitrary and obscure rules designed to expose their ignorance” (89).
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Teaching Philosophy Examples

I have compiled a list of example teaching philosophies that I found helpful and informative when creating my own teaching philosophy.

Shari Hodges Holt, Ph. D.

I like the succinct and clear approach that Dr. Holt takes in this Teaching Philosophy. She gets to the point quickly, and it is easy to skim through her statement and understand her approach.

Carolyn Forché

I enjoyed the anecdotal approach that Carolyn Forché took in this document. It is clear that she has put a lot of thought into her approach to teaching, and this statement is easy to read and very engaging.

Nicole Ann Williams

In this Teaching Philosophy, Nicole Ann Williams ties reading and writing together and shows the ways that they are each integral to the teaching of writing.

Dr. Rebecca M. Mills

Dr. Mills works to show her dedication to students in this statement, and although she is often vague and does not include many details, she does communicate her passion for teaching and willingness to work to engage with the students.

 

Blog Post Excerpts

I have gathered in this post some excerpts from my blog posts throughout this semester that I believe show my thinking about teaching and give insight into my pedagogy.

The Question of Authority and the Empowering of Students :

In Berlin’s ideal classroom, students are free to critique ideas presented by the instructor and they are encouraged to engage in a dialogue that includes the professor, rather than is directed by her. This requires an intentional step back on the part of the instructor. She must commit to letting go part of her authority in order to enable students to begin to think for themselves about these subjects. In forwarding this position, Berlin is aware of the problems that might arise. He recognizes that students might be uncomfortable with a professor who does not embrace his role as Prime Giver of Knowledge, and push the prof to give them the answers rather than happily engage in a Dialogic Classroom.

But what Berlin does not do is give us a solid sense of what this classroom looks like, what techniques will be successful, what strategies to avoid. His focus is on presenting the idea that students learn better in this sort of environment, and he leaves it to others to figure out the details. This is where Fleckenstein picks up the torch. While she doesn’t follow directly in Berlin’s footsteps, she presents one way to conduct peer-review that allows students an element of responsibility and authority that would mesh well with Berlin’s Dialogic Classroom. Fleckenstein’s process is guided enough to help students who might have no idea how to read a paper give helpful feedback, but also loose enough to work in practically any scenario, which places the power of editing in the hands of the students. Her strategy is simple, but effective. She mentions that a student was able to use it on her own paper even when her peer-reviewer did a sub-par job (86). At the end of the day, having been introduced to this particular strategy, these students will have it in their tool bag for future use: they will be better writers after this exercise.

On the other side of the spectrum, David Batholomae seems to argue that students have no power and that they do not have authority to speak on any subject in a specialized field of discourse. While I can understand Batholomae’s point (that first year students don’t know as much on a given topic as someone who has spent years of their life studying the same topic) he seems to imply that any act of writing by first year students is “appropriation” and that they have nothing to offer any reader. As I read his comments, I could only imagine that they would work to silence students and others learning how to engage in academic discourse. As he says, “to speak with authority [students] have to speak not only in another’s voice but through another’s code; and they not only have to do this, they have to speak in the voice and through the codes of those of us with power and wisdom” (610). It is likely that Bartholomae intends these arguments to help teachers understand the uphill battle facing their students. They must work extremely hard to enter a field of discourse that is entirely alien to them. However, when read in light of Berlin, I found Batholomae’s points to be restricting rather than empowering. While both want to help their students to become better writers, I find myself gravitating towards the dialogic classroom of Berlin over the approach of Bartholomae that is obsessed with an “academic” voice and level of polish to the thoughts rather than the quality of the thoughts themselves.

Students & Teachers & Developing Voices :

Scott Stevens’ “Serious Work: Students Learning From Students,” although perhaps misleading in it’s title, was at least useful for me in that Stevens was able to articulate what I could not when reading Bartholomae. Stevens points out the paradoxical requirement that Bartholomae seems to uphold in “Inventing the University.” Bartholomae states that “writers take their place in a community through discourse before they are ever extended membership” (Stevens 319), but Stevens appropriately shows that this is a problematic statement, as it “offers an unreassuring logic of inevitability: successful writers become successful by making the moves successful writers make” (319). Combine this with the fact that the assertive behavior that is required to make these sorts of bold moves is typically viewed as only acceptable when coming from a man, Bartholomae’s argument begins to lose force.

I was unable to state this while reading Bartholomae, but something in his article did not sit well for me. I’m all for the “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality that is often required, but when it is stated in a way that might put students off from even attempting to write at all (as I stated in my previous post), this becomes a problem. We must all be free to write, knowing that with writing also comes failure. We must also be free to discover the sort of writer that we want to become, whether this takes a similar path to other writers or not. I think that is what is at the heart of Stevens’ article, as it discusses the ways that Iris and Sharon differed from the rest of the class (and all other problems I might have with this article aside), and the way that they were able to turn to each other and find a willing reader and collaborator. Even though their path to writing was different from that of their (mostly male) peers, they found their voice and their readership eventually.

Teachers Who Hate Teaching: The Myth of Transience Today :

Another problem with simply condemning students for not being of a high enough caliber to satisfy our personal standards is that it might simply be that their passions do not mirror those of the instructor. Gold cites Mark Edmundson, who was extremely bitter about the fact that his students, “alas, usually lack the confidence to acknowledge what would be their most precious asset for learning: their ignorance” (qtd. 86). However, a response from one of these students complicates the picture: “Edmundson, with his obvious contempt for undergraduates, wasted my time and my money, and then used his experiences in front of the classroom as fodder for a sardonic critique of my generation’s intellectual incompetence” (qtd. 86). If students believe that the professor has no genuine desire to help them learn, if they feel marginalized and looked down on, they will respond by refusing to engage with the class. Why should they do any work to engage when they expect their responses to be shot down and mocked? This is not a fruitful learning environment. This is not how teachers should behave.

I believe that Gold hits the nail on the head when he says “instead of longing for a nonexistent past, perhaps we should simply admit that eighteen-year-olds frequently write poorly, and consider it our job to take it from there” (85-86). It does no good to lament or find out who is to blame for the “problems” that we see in our classrooms (that might not even be real problems, just evidence of a changing society), and instead we should work on finding ways to get these students to engage with the class concepts, to learn how to communicate clearly, and to adopt a “pedagogy of charity” (91) that understands that students are people with value and as such works to view them complexly as more than just a body in our classroom.

Adapt or Die: The Challenge Facing the Academy :

If we are to actually uphold the CCCC’s resolution on the “Student’s Right to Their Own Language,” then we ought to value these various forms of communication and language. Instead of stigmatizing and labeling and dismissing as “other” and “less than,” we ought, as Vershawn Ashanti Young points out in “Should Writer’s Use They Own English,” to try to “know everybody’s dialect, at least as many as we can, and be open to the mix of them in oral and written communication” (111).

I’m not saying this will be easy. Breaking down stigma never is. But it is so necessary and so worthwhile. As Adam Banks stressed in his CCCC Chair’s Address “Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby, Funk, Flight, Freedom,” composition’s “best work happened when we dedicated ourselves to the students the rest of the academy didn’t want” (271). He stresses the way that the discipline needs to grow and adapt and stop clinging exclusively to one mode of communication (the essay) and branch out into more diverse and multimodal ways of expression (embrace technology and all that it has to offer). He wants composition to “free ourselves from . . the set of handcuffs the same old theory and the same old theorists and the same old scholarship put upon us” (276). He understands that technology is changing the world, and that composition must change along with it in order to remain relevant. I would argue that this should include our perception of “other” as well. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, our standards must change so as to include as many individuals as possible in the conversation. We have so much to gain from inviting previously silenced voices into the conversation, and continuing to exclude minority voices will only make the academy even more out of touch with reality than it already is. Technology has changed the world, and no longer is academic publication the only way to “have a voice.” We must find ways to adapt and include these voices and individuals and technologies, or we find ourselves left behind.

Thoughts on Revision

Revision is an important step when creating a piece of writing. In order to emphasize this to my students, I will not only have them review each other’s work, but I will also require them to submit early drafts for my feedback. In order to encourage them to take this process seriously, the drafts will be worth a large percentage of their grade for each assignment. I believe that by doing this I can help them to see how important each step of the writing process is.

Thoughts on Peer Review

I believe that peer review is an important part of the writing process, as it not only lets students get feedback from their peers, but it also allows them to see the various approaches that their classmates are taking for the same assignment. This will expose them to a variety of writing styles, dialects, and voices, which will help them to see that there are many ways to approach writing.

I also firmly believe in mixing up the format for peer review. Not only is peer review not a “one size fits all” procedure, I also believe that once students become used to a format it is very easy for them to disengage and simply go through the motions. For this reason, I will have them do oral peer review, traditional peer review, speed dating peer review, as well as any others that I come across and can adapt to be used in our specific context and for the specific assignments they are working on. I believe that by switching it up and keeping the students on their toes I can keep these peer review sessions focused and productive.

Thoughts on Grading

I believe that rubrics are an excellent way to keep the grading process as fair and evenly balanced as possible, especially when first beginning to grade student writing. With a well developed rubric that has clear evaluation criteria I will be able to communicate to my students what it is that I am looking for in their writing, which will help them while writing, but will also help me when I am reading their assignments.

I think it is very important to judge a paper by its whole, rather than breaking it down into individual pieces. For this reason, my rubric will be primarily holistic measurements; there will be some items where I am simply checking off boxes (does the essay have a clear thesis statement? Are the sources cited properly?), but I will mainly be judging the paper as finished product rather than as the sum of its parts.

I have included below an example of a rubric that I might use in my classroom:

5 – a 5 paper commands attention because of its insightful development and mature style. It presents a cogent analysis of or response to the text, elaborating that response with well-chosen examples and persuasive reasoning. The 5 paper shows that its writer can usually choose words aptly, use sophisticated sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written academic English, as well as construct a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument.

4 – a 4 paper is satisfactory. It presents a thoughtful analysis of or response to the text, elaborating that response with appropriate examples and sensible reasoning. A 4 paper typically has a less fluent and complex style than a 5, but does show that its writer can usually choose words accurately, vary sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written academic English while presenting a logical argument.

3 – a 3 paper is unsatisfactory in one or more of the following ways: it may analyze or respond to the text illogically, it may lack coherent structure or elaboration with examples; it may reflect an incomplete understanding of the text or the topic. Its prose is usually characterized by at least one of the following: frequently imprecise word choice; little sentence variety; occasional major errors in grammar and usage, or frequent minor errors. The argument of a 3 paper is generally weak, whether due to lack of examples, inattention to counter-arguments, or logical fallacies.

2 – a 2 paper shows serious weaknesses, ordinarily of several kinds. It frequently presents a simplistic, inappropriate, or incoherent analysis of or response to the text, one that may suggest some significant misunderstanding of the text or the topic. Its prose is usually characterized by at least one of the following: simplistic or inaccurate word choice; monotonous or fragmented sentence structure; many repeated errors in grammar and usage. The argument of a 2 paper is unsound, either due to a lack of concrete examples, or the presence of logical fallacies.

1 – a 1 paper may disregard the topic’s demands, or it may lack any appropriate pattern of structure or development. It may be inappropriately short. It often has a pervasive pattern of errors in word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and usage. A 1 paper might be entirely off-topic, lacking a coherent argument, or impossible to follow.

This rubric has been adapted from this source: rubric_examples