Composition Studies | Technical and Professional Writing | Cultural Rhetorics
I am a writing and rhetoric educator who teaches from the pedagogical intersection of composition and writing center studies, technical and professional writing, and cultural rhetorics. My primary goal as an educator is to develop students as rhetors and composers who can deftly use their rhetorical and writerly abilities to succeed in their professional and civic lives. I work from the following values:
I believe that culture is rhetorical and vice versa, and I operationalize this value within my curriculum so students can hone their cultural, disciplinary, and rhetorical awareness.
I believe that education happens best in community, and my pedagogy includes opportunities for community-building (e.g., groupwork and instructor-student meetings) throughout the semester.
I believe writing pedagogy should be attuned to students’ professional and personal interests, literacies, and goals.
I believe students should think ethically about the documents they produce—even the seemingly mundane and innocuous—as well as the social and political implications of their work.
In the early groundwork of my courses, I make apparent these values and explain what my course is not (i.e., a primer on grammar, syntax, and essay writing) and what it is (i.e., refining research skills, multimodal making, rhetorical development, and improving genre awareness). I work with students to help them outline what academic practices work best for them, which often takes the form of: 1) a labor-based grading contract informed by anti-racist pedagogy, which emphasizes development and not grades; 2) class-created assessment rubrics so students get the developmental assistance they specifically request; and 3) on going reflection through writing and group discussions so students further develop their own learning and goals. My writing center training also informs the developmental feedback I give to students on their projects, activities, and other writings, and I focus more on training students to think as rhetors and writers as opposed to solely offering correctives to their work.
At the practical level, my pedagogy follows a weekly, scaffolded model of interrelated activities that allows students to practice composing for various rhetorical situations and their assigned projects. These activities, often done in groups to foster collaboration and community, operate with students engaging in popular culture media important to them (i.e., music, television, movies) so they can work through concepts of audience, genre, and rhetoric in fun and applicable ways. This attunement to my students’ cultural affinities also underpins the research-intensive project sequence I use to structure my courses, with each assignment being capacious enough for students’ interests, majors, and careers.
In my first-year writing class, for example, students examine the rhetorical and composing practices of professionals in their disciplines or careers, preparing a rhetorical toolkit (i.e., skills in memo writing, genre adaptability, and ethos building exercises) for their other courses and future workplaces. This and other projects are informed by my technical and professional writing pedagogy, with which I foreground a close attention to ethics, accessibility, and design. These concerns factor into the remix project I also assign, through which students recreate a prior project through different media with close attention paid to disability and audience, copyright, and accessible design (i.e., captions, text size, color). Students have produced incredibly creative and smart short films, board games, podcasts, and flower arrangements, showcasing their rhetorical savvy in various ways.
Finally, I work from a maxim shared by Dr. Trixie Smith, director of the Writing Center at Michigan State University: “We’re all humans working with other humans.” I take these words to heart and often share them with students, telling them we’re all learning together—indeed, I have learned much from my students—and that we’re likely doing our best to understand the complex and continuous process that is writing.