“...writing surrounds us: it's not something we do just in school or on the job but
something that is as familiar and everyday as a pair of worn sneakers or the air we
-- Andrea Lunsford.
"If you are here to learn how to write, then you are out of luck. I can't teach you how to write, because YOU are already a writer. You write every day of your lives; texts, blog posts, tweets, photographs, and videos are all evidence of your writing. In our community, I will guide you to find your voice specifically in the genre of academic writing. You and I will work with each other to facilitate your growth as writers and scholars." -- Jeanne Bohannon.
I earned my Ph.D in rhetoric and composition from Georgia State University, specializing
in post-process composition theory and rhetorical praxis. My research finds further
loci in diverse sub-fields of language study, including digital literacies, descriptive
grammar, 19th century women's and African American rhetorics, performativity theory,
archival recoveries, and socio-linguistics. I also conduct empirical research with
undergraduate student-scholars, interrogating the intersections of theory and practice
as they evidence themselves
in first-year writing programs. At Georgia State University, I was the 2010-2011 Marguerite Pettes Murphy Teaching Fellow and the 2009-2010 New Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year. I have published work in Studies in the Literary Imagination, the Journal of Learning Communities Research, Women in Judaism, and Composition Studies. I have presented my diverse work at regional and national conferences on panels and in workshops, including Computers & Writing, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), the Texas Rhetoric Symposium, and the Conference on African Diasporas. My teaching praxis centers on disrupting binaries that separate teachers and students as well as engendering opportunities for student-scholars to enter into academic conservations with informed voices.
My foundational pedagogical philosophy can be defined with answers to a question upon which I reflect countless times through each semester and each course I teach:
“How can I engender student-scholars’ rhetorical growth in a democratized, community space, using new media tools and dialogic methods to inspire students to further develop their writing prowess using themes relevant to them and their everyday lives?”
What follows is an amalgam of answers that I have developed over the past several years…
In his treatise Critical Teaching and Everyday Life, Ira Shor argues that transcendent methods of teaching should be egalitarian and binary-breaking. He calls for instructors in the Humanities to “structure each class as an interaction of teacher and students, as a humanizing reconstruction of social life” (96). Identifying with Shor’s critical literacy and drawing on New Media works of rhetoricians like Ann Wysocki and Cindy Selfe, I perform digital pedagogy methodologies within a New Media framework to meet students in their writing spaces. I believe that if we develop and nurture an environment of shared ethos and purpose, then students’ growth as scholars and rhetors will follow. My praxis is concerned most with the democratization of composition courses – this means shared authority in terms of course management and assignments, high expectations for community-based learning and scholarship, and negotiated temporal and spatial elements – all leading to authentic student engagement with their own organic learning and emerging scholarship status.
I work in consort with students in each course community to develop, pace, and assess multi-modal writing projects that encourage students’ rhetorical abilities and challenge them as emerging scholars to think critically about their writing and speaking, not just in academic discourse but also in their multiple discourse communities.
My theory-based teaching praxis centers around beyond-post process theory. My praxis demonstrates that a recursive model of composition, one that begins with negotiated assignment selection, thrives on a multiplicity of media, and culminates in a product representing a community of learning, not only nurtures students to develop informed rhetorical voices but also creates greater student engagement and professional scholarship within their own disciplines.
My informing sources also find their loci in feminist frameworks and New Media Theory. In a 2009 CCC article, Laurie Grobman asserts that undergraduate research is “a potentially democratic learning site in which students write themselves into disciplinary conversations and challenge faculty/scholar-constructed representations of them” (177). I believe that we too often set up a faculty-student binary, in which student writers are viewed as the opposite of authors and instead are considered error-makers and academic outsiders. This binary can also be viewed as one in which the teacher represents authority and the student represents a novice. I believe that as instructors we can and should disrupt this binary, facilitating authentic writing development for and with students within communities of shared meaning-making.
We can accomplish such a disruption through a feminist pedagogy that connects Susan Jarratt’s feminist composition theory to reflective pedagogical practices. I find specific inspiration in Jarratt’s, A Guide to Composition Pedagogies when she writes,
the basic practices of feminist pedagogy are ones it shares with the pedagogical innovations of the process revolution in writing instruction: the de-centering or sharing of authority [and] the recognition of students as sources of knowledge (115).
I would further define my perspective on the efficacy of feminist pedagogy as a rhetorical situation in which teachers and students question traditional, androcentric rhetorics and knowledge claims, while conversely developing alternative interpretations based on social constructivist principles. In such a space, even the physical presence of chairs and desks works in concert with teaching methods to teach “with,” not “at” students. In my feminist classroom, questions of how student-scholars and instructors identify themselves take precedence in how a course is negotiated, from due dates to topics for projects, from low-stakes to high stakes writing opportunities.
In my teaching praxis, feminist methodology blends with collaborative and critical pedagogies to nurture a shared intellectual space in which my subjectivities combine with those of my students to create a unique bi-directional transfer of knowledge. I offer first year writing courses in which student-scholars and I apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate multimodal texts and produce new media writing using digital tools in electronic spaces.
In designing opportunities for first year writers that narrate their life experiences in multiple discourse communities, I offer opportunities to not only take a seat at the table of academic conversations, but to speak up and make their voices heard. I want my future work in rhetoric and composition to be a continued commitment to making what bell hooks calls “the liberated voice” and for recovering, appreciating, and teasing out voices long silenced. While my chosen theories inform my pedagogy and numerous research quests, students remain the primary reason for what I do. Through shared meaning-making and reification of students’ authority, I encourage students’ rhetorical abilities and challenge them as emerging scholars to think critically about their writing and speaking, not just in their academic discourse but also in their multiple discourse communities -- their communities of praxis.
My synthesis of Byron Hawk and Raul Sanchez also point me towards seeing my student-scholars’ work differently: that their writing is ideology and makes ideology. My teaching finds a basis in my overarching pedagogical argument that students are producers of meaning, not merely consumers of it. As such, they have the potential to write their voices into multi-disciplinary academic conversations. For me, that means student-scholars can move in and out of specific discourse communities and develop understandings of each through negotiated comparisons to their identified “home” discourse communities. One my influencing mentors, Shannon Carter, reminds me that while “academic literacies carry more social currency than vernacular ones,” I must also know all literacies are resisted or contested. The nature of literacies, as opposed to “L”iteracy means that they are situated and rooted in communal points of view.
Finally, I take inspiration for my teaching praxis from Cindy Selfe. She suggests that composition “praxis-ioners” like me pay attention to the:
whole range of literacies that students bring to the classroom: literacies practiced in the home, the community, the church, and online; literacies dependent on oral, visual, and aural performances; literacies based on multiple languages, cultures, and contexts (Writing New Media, 57).
This idea of situated discourses not only informs my teaching, it governs it.
Overall, I want my students to know from day one: they are already writers; they are scholars; they are stakeholders and arbiters of their own rhetorical growth; and they and I are part of a community of learners that is driven by their needs and direction, whether students are digital natives or digital immigrants.