My teaching foregrounds the following best practices, principles, and theories from the fields of composition, rhetoric, and writing studies, particularly those captured in the Council of Writing Program Administrator’s Statement for First-Year Composition and Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’s “’Multileracies’: New Literacies, New Learning”. These core elements shape all my classes and constitute my fundamental pedagogical goals.
- Development of a writing process. To encourage students to approach writing as an iterative, cumulative, and recursive process, I structure a series of assignments that help students generate, revise, and reflect on their writing. Our work also asks students to take up writing from different positions and for different purposes: academic, intellectual, persuasive, personal, creative. Through this, students develop a rich and rigorous understanding of what writing can achieve and the practices they can take up to work toward various ends. Students thus develop a metacognitive awareness of how writing works that can be applied across contexts and situations.
- Rhetorical knowledge and social action. Attending to concerns of rhetoric helps frame writing as a form of action and platform for change in the world. The rhetorical tradition focuses not just on what writing means and how it communicates but the effect it has on an audience, the way it moves and persuades us. From this perspective, writing inherently constitutes a form of social action, and we can use writing with intention to act in the world. Framing our work in terms of rhetoric and social action helps students see the connection between their own individual purposes and processes and the larger social situations to which their writing will contribute.
- Diversity. A multiliteracies pedagogy attends to the importance of diversity in our contemporary world, both in terms of identity and communication practices. My readings and assignments aim to confront students with a diversity of positions, perspectives, beliefs, genres, styles, media, etc. This emphasis assumes students’ own writing and perspectives will be enriched by exposure to diverse voices and that successful communication requires a responsiveness to diverse situations and audiences. Encountering and responding to diversity helps students develop into more thoughtful and effective writers and communicators. At the same time, I help students see diversity within themselves – in the subject positions and perspectives they hold and in their own capacities for expression – and to appreciate the contributions their writing makes to diverse and evolving communities and public spheres.
- Critical and Creative Assignments. My approach to assignment design goes in two directions: the critical and creative. Critical assignments emphasize critical thinking skills related to analysis and argumentation; they push students toward the rigorous application of critical methods and frame writing as an intellectual process, a mode of inquiry. Creative assignments emphasize experimentation, play, and tinkering – intuitive response and expression over rigorous critical method. These two approaches might overlap or inform one another in a given assignment, and ultimately the line between them is not hard and fast, but I frame them as different orientations toward the act of writing for students. Through this, I encourage students to see “critical thinking” itself as comprised of diverse practices and informed by the intuitive and creative. I hope to impart to students that effective writing involves the ability to navigate between diverse methods and also to see the limits of method and the value of experimentation. Writing is too diverse to be captured in a single approach, practice, or method.
- Digital Technologies. Multiliteracies emphasizes the multimodality of communication. Digital technologies (as one of the main players in our current multimodal landscape) fundamentally shape and transform what we mean by reading and writing. Digital literacy serves not as an extra skill but as something essential to students’ academic, professional, and civic lives. My classes draw upon digital technologies both as tools for writing and as objects of study. We use them to enhance and expand our writing practices and to understand the role they play in shaping the act of writing, reading, research, and publication; knowledge production and circulation; politics and civic discourse; and creative expression. My pedagogy thus challenges students to stretch their understanding of what writing can do and the forms it can take.
- Investment in students. Bonaventure prides itself in its investment in students; this proves particularly important in writing classes, a space where students must navigate their own anxieties alongside negative social messages about the quality and value of student writing. I demonstrate my investment in students primarily through time and attention to their writing: my students regularly submit writing assignments and receive regular feedback addressing the substance of their thought and possibilities for how they might develop their ideas further; we also meet several times throughout the semester for individual conferences to discuss their writing in greater detail. My feedback conveys to students the value of their writing as something to be carefully considered and engaged with rather than something to be merely corrected.