As a writing instructor who began my career teaching English as a Second Language and then transitioned to the composition classroom, the following principles inform my pedagogy:
Writing is learned.
I write by example; my students know that I am a writer as well as a teacher. However, rather than having this be a gulf between us in terms of experience, I instead present myself as someone who sees herself as an active learner and practitioner of the craft as well as someone excited to help others develop their own writing. By showing them examples of my work, especially flawed papers that I wrote when I was a college freshman, I demonstrate that writing is a learned act, rather than a gift or special talent. In class and in assessment, I focus on the individual student and his/her individual writing and never the creation of the “ideal” text; I have found that the texts created by hardworking, critically-thinking students are much more dynamic and interesting.
Rhetoric is power.
I teach writing as a tool of agency and persuasion. I demonstrate for students that good writing can be an agent of change by using real-world examples of persuasive texts and analyzing the texts’ rhetorical strategies. I believe that teaching the potential of the individual voice and helping students develop their ideas are essential parts of my role as a writing instructor. I present structural elements in class, such as MLA format and organizational methods, as funnels for presenting ideas in an effective way, rather than rigid, unbending rules without context.
Access is essential.
I am aware of different learning styles and work to accommodate different student strengths in my classroom. While some students may benefit from the information presented in lecture form, I also utilize group activities that allow for discussion and movement in order to teach material. In addition to my classroom handouts and discussions, I also provide supplemental information in other forms, including multimedia presentations and assignment reminders via course management systems. My intention is that students who may find writing more challenging will have various avenues of access and will understand that I am willing to accommodate their needs in the classroom.
Learning is recursive.
Writing is not a skill that students acquire overnight, so I plan lessons that build throughout the semester and slowly grow into a greater complexity of writing skills. When I direct students to craft final projects, I use vocabulary that they have mastered throughout the semester, but then push them even further in their levels of analysis and critical thinking. I emphasize the value of conferences for discussing students’ individual questions and goals for writing. My most repeated phrase in class is that writing is a process, not a product; my goal is that my students will understand that rewriting and revisions are essential for successful, persuasive writing. When evaluating students, I grade portfolios holistically, looking at individual growth and mastery of effective revising strategies.