My primary goal as a teacher is to enable students to become creative problem solvers. Because they will face a wide range of rhetorical situations in the academy and as members of their larger communities, I focus on teaching students to interrogate the particulars of various learning scenarios, and to collaborate with various resources—including each other, the texts and content of the course, and me—in developing strategies for addressing and solving the questions contained in such situations.
In helping students develop the sophisticated thinking that enables them to solve problems in writing situations, I actively emphasize the ways in which students will deal with language, with knowledge, and with each other in the learning process. I ask them to read difficult texts carefully, and I hold them accountable for the content and structure of those texts so they can develop sound strategies for reading. I ask them to read across groups of texts to sketch the outlines of rhetorical patterns and to gain perspectives on language use inherent in such textual groups. I ask them to write thoughtful, reasoned responses to those texts, requiring them to engage those language and rhetorical features that constitute the discourse itself. I ask them to respond to one another’s reading, thinking, and writing so they can understand something about each other as makers and interpreters of knowledge. In each of these activities, I work to make them aware of the ways in which language works to constitute both the knowledge they glean, and the contextual meaning of that knowledge. With the end goal of making them effective and savvy rhetoricians of the process of intellectual inquiry, I help students develop the critical consciousness they need to read and write their way into the range of academic and civic discourse they will encounter throughout their lives.
Key to helping students begin to inhabit a discourse in ways that allow them to make meaningful use of knowledge and conventions within that discourse is the process of helping them see the ways in which strategies for knowledge making in one discourse may be translated to other discourses. I believe that these basic approaches, including reading closely, writing to learn, and collaborating with peers and instructors, serve as starting places for learning in any field. Specifically, I create writing assignments and sequences which promote inquiry and collaboration. I encourage an ongoing dialogue between students and their writing.
Finally, I foster classroom atmospheres which recognize diversity as an opportunity to examine the complexity of opinions and experience. I privilege diversity in the classroom, and in reading and writing assignments, so as to highlight the ways in which individual students, in their cultural and socioeconomic multiplicity, create learning opportunities. While guiding student inquiry by way of syllabus design and text selections, for example, I emphasize the ways in which students, instructors, and others work together to constitute learning in every classroom. By privileging their diversity and their status as knowledge makers, I invite students to join me in the process of life-long learning.