My Teaching Philosophy
My teaching philosophy is why I conduct class in a moving elevator if necessary (it sometimes is). As a teacher-researcher of professional and technical writing, I work with learners across a variety of levels—from undergraduates and MA and PhD students, to elementary schoolers and senior citizens—to prepare them not just for success in their professions, but for success communicating and navigating writing technologies across their lives. For example, at the end of the semester in my ENGL 306 (Intro to Professional Writing) course, students practice their elevator pitches in actual elevators moving between the basement and 6th floor of Beering Hall—because it’s one thing to describe communication genres and contexts to students, but it’s another experience entirely to bring them into a fast-paced, high-stakes professional scenario. As a result of this real-world practice, students in my courses develop skills in argument, information design, giving and receiving feedback, professional presentations, and researching and writing across contexts and cultures.
I encourage students to think of the classroom as a digital studio, where they seek answers to their own technological questions using digital resources and their peers first, before turning to me for help with tech support. Across all courses that I teach, conversations about access to information and the implications of how we (re)present and share that information are key. Students learn how to use both industry-standard (Photoshop, InDesign) and free online design tools (Piktochart, Canva, Gravit) to format reports, pamphlets, websites, flyers, and infographics, so that they are prepared to create professionally designed, compelling documents no matter what tools they have available to them. Because visual communication is increasingly important online, I start students’ design education early by requiring a multi-media assignment when I teach Introductory Composition (ENGL 106); for their final project, students redesign their research papers as an advocacy infographic, to educate a new audience about their work.
Just as I ask my students to revise their work continually, I continually revise my teaching style according to their feedback on assignments and exercises. Because we create, learn, and problem-solve together, I must also engage empathetically with learners and recognize their humanity. When conferencing with students, I ask them how they are doing at the beginning of our meeting, and I also ask how they feel about their assignment after we have worked on it. I actively listen to their concerns, sharing in their joys and their tribulations, to show respect and solidarity—because learning does not happen in isolation. This system demonstrates my feminist pedagogy that values the humanity of students above all else, recognizing that learning, whether inside of the classroom or outside the walls of the academy, should not occur without respect and reciprocity.
During my time in graduate school I’ve also shared my expertise beyond the writing classroom: showing 7th graders how to write flash fiction through playing a card game, creating documentation for elders in a retirement community to help them differentiate between sponsored content and legitimate information online, and working with groups of undergraduates to help them develop professional portfolio websites. Facilitating workshops across university campuses and their greater communities has taught me the importance of engaging learners with both empathy and enthusiasm. Cultivating excitement around a topic makes tasks easier for learners. I model such passion in workshops by sharing personal experiences—both successes and failures!—to connect with audiences. This philosophy of teaching is embedded in the very words that I use to describe my pedagogical practice: I use the term “facilitate” instead of “deliver” or “lecture” because I believe that participants and I create knowledge together. This collaborative philosophy distributes agency and authority more equitably across the classroom, recognizing the expertise that both students and instructor bring to bear.