Statement of Teaching Philosophy
I have learned from the experience of teaching literature and writing at three different research universities that students with a range of learning needs respond best to pedagogy that is multimodal, student-centered, and process-oriented. In all my courses, I aim to expand students’ knowledge and skills base so they can pursue their personal and disciplinary interests through self-guided projects. So that students may emerge from my classes able to consider assumptions that underlie everyday life, we study literature and writing to develop imaginative and ethical thinking that will transfer from course to course, and from the space of the classroom to the world outside. When encouraged to engage one another in conversation, and build on the resources they bring to the classroom, students become potential agents of social change, who are not only alert to inequities, but also equipped to respond.
Just as early modern playwrights, printers, and impresarios exploited the possibilities of new technologies, such as the moveable type printing press, I encourage students in my courses on early modern literature to compose in the revolutionary technologies of our own era. Asking students to create a miniature version of a scholarly edition of a play is just one way I prompt them to gain a better understanding of how early modern plays are a product of both human collaboration and technological advancement. Drawing on published versions of King Lear or Doctor Faustus as a model, students compose their own editions with introductions detailing textual, critical, and performance history, as well as a portion of the play set on a static web page and glossed through hyperlinks. Students publish their editions to the course site so that the rest of the class may refer to the unique versions of the play during the semester. I invite students to become editors to give them first-hand experience with the way that technology and judgment produce the texts we read.
Generating assessment criteria in collaboration with my students offers an example of how I create a student-centered learning environment in Shakespeare and British Literature courses of all sizes. In a course I recently taught called “Shakespeare’s Globe,” my students composed slideshare presentations on ecocritical topics they generated themselves such as resource scarcity in Titus Andronicus and King Lear as anatomy lesson. Before students drafted their slideshares, we generated a list of characteristics that make presentations successful. When my students performed their individual presentations, peers assessed one another according to criteria such as visual and verbal parity and engaging audiences through questions, which we generated as a class. Students appreciated reading and writing about early modern literature and ecocriticism in a student-centered environment. They rated the class within one point +/- of comparable courses, and many shared the same sentiment with one student, who noted, “The teacher did a fantastic job of making the skills I acquired from this course relevant to my daily and future life.” Embedded in the process of student-centered and collaborative activities is my desire for students to learn from each other, as well as gain the skills necessary to reflect on the values that guide their judgments.
To translate the collaborative skills we practice in peer assessment into their writing processes, I ask students to publish a series of scaffolded drafts to the blog feed hosted on the course website. As students use the comments sections on the blog page to give each other feedback, they see how final drafts are achieved through a process of revision in response to conversation. While I have used peer feedback in the classroom since I began teaching in 2004, the comments and trackback features in the digital environment provide a lasting record of peer commentary that we can refer to all semester. The metacognitive, reflective understanding of their writing processes, emblematized by the comments threads, reinforces the collaborative exchanges through which successful final drafts develop. Ultimately, I have found that requiring students to write in process and in digital modes enables them to recognize not just what they think, but also how they think it.