Pedagogy

Summary of Teaching

I teach students processes of critical thinking and rhetorical awareness, algorithms that help them become better writers and communicators.  I pair these concerns with a class structure that allows students to learn from and reflect upon error.

Processes of Critical Thinking and Rhetorical Awareness

Communication is a rhetorical practice. We succeed in communication more consistently through an understanding of

  • purpose (why are we communicating?)
  • audience (to whom do we communicate?)
  • situation (in what context and genre do we communicate?)

When designing assignments like a research article or a board game, I give students greater flexibility to explore at least one of these parts: they may define their own research question, select a specific person or group as audience, or do research into their genre. I leave at least one of these elements open-ended to give students practice thinking critically about how and why they communicate.

Algorithms That Help Students Become Better Writers and Communicators

Successful writing and communication requires core skills that come from attentive practice. At the same time learning is promoted through a metacognitive process of reflection. In a tutoring session I model this process, asking students what they are doing, to whom they are writing, and so on, using questions to examine a student’s thought process.

In class I ask students to think about their processes of composition and learning. They may complete reflections after a project stage, keep a portfolio of learning moments, or map out when they get the most work done. In addition, I like to teach visual analysis and close reading as multi-step processes, so that students think of these as accessible tools and not opaque tasks.

A Class Structure That Allows Students to Learn from and Reflect upon Error

I once tutored a student who was so afraid of negative comments from her professor that she wrote an essay that made absolutely no claims. She had learned that her professor objected to her claims, but having no guidance for how to improve her claims, she avoided making any controversial claim at all. It took some work to convince her that avoiding error will not help her write a better essay, and more work to help her make better claims than she had before.

Error is necessary to learning. To err is to wander, to explore avenues, to see if they work. Through a  failed attempt, we can adapt our strategies and learn how to succeed. My most memorable paper as a first-year student was one where I earned a C. I had adopted a strategy of writing that worked in high school, it failed, and I learned from that to write a better paper next time. I had good study habits, clear comments from my professor, and a support network I could tap into. I want to make sure all students have those opportunities.

As a teacher and a tutor, my goal is to create productive failures by letting students err and then giving them the support necessary to learn from it and succeed in the future.

Teaching Contexts I Am Especially Interested In

  • Composition
  • Poetry
  • Medieval/early modern/ancient world literature
  • Technical communication
  • Upper/high school English

Classes Taught

I have mostly taught first year writing and communication courses in a variety of topics. These include:

  • Medievalist Games
  • History and Use of English
  • Arthurian Tradition
  • Paradise Lost
  • Medieval Fantastic
  • Analog Games