STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
In my classes, I aim to expose students to the world of critical reading and writing and demonstrate how both are vehicles for deep intellectual engagement and knowledge production. Furthermore, my teaching style encourages students to become proficient in evidence-based thinking by the use of textual evidence to support distinct and arguable claims. As a proponent of Paulo Freire’s “co-intentional education” and bell hooks’ “engaged pedagogy,” I strive for a learner-centered classroom environment where students enlist as knowledge producers and generate engaged critical conversations through experiential and cooperative learning. This strategy allows for students to become active agents in the classroom where they produce knowledge. As a facilitator in the classroom, my primary pedagogical responsibility is to guide my students through an inquiry-based process in order for them to craft their own readings and interpretations of the topics presented in composition and literature. In order to achieve these goals, I create a learning environment that invites students to become co-inquirers with me as the instructor.
To promote this process, I design experiential learning activities that enable students to become proficient in self-assessment, metacognition, evidence evaluation, collaboration with peers, and learning how to independently scrutinize new information. This ‘flipped classroom’ methodology enables students’ own ideas to emerge organically as opposed to conveying information to them in the form of a lecture. For instance, when I teach claim development and argumentation, I begin with having students write about their prior knowledge through a free-writing activity. Students write briefly (5-7 minutes) before discussing in small groups what they wrote. The ‘think-pair-share’ model allows for them to begin with their own assumptions about a given topic, question, or idea. By beginning this way, I initiate an authentic learning process by having students begin with the knowledge they have already accumulated over their lives before moving on to the acquisition of new knowledge presented in my classroom.
My pedagogy is indebted to the field of composition; therefore, I bring components of composition pedagogy into my literature classroom. For instance, I approach the teaching of literature through a process-based approach that privileges the process of inquiry over finished products. Moreover, my process-based approach positions critical reading and writing as mutually constitutive for critical thinking. This begins with teaching students how to close-read and critically engage with texts. With the aid of open-ended guided questions, I instruct them to rely on one another in order to navigate the complexities of course materials. As Bransford and Schwartz (1999) argue, open-ended questions (such as problem-posing questions) allow students to begin with what they already know about a given subject. By beginning with students’ experiences of writing and reading literature, they are able to see how learning and writing are dynamic processes. Because students have been largely conditioned by a culture of schooling that privileges high stakes standardized testing, my primary pedagogical responsibility in the classroom is to re-shape students affective relationship to both reading and writing practices. This means that in addition to critical reading practices, I focus on the writing process as it pertains to the selected course texts. Thus, I find it imperative to not only teach students how to critically read, but also, how to write about literature through process-based inquiries.
Each 100 and 200-level course I have taught demands a different set of pedagogical skills and strategies for engaging undergraduate students in the classroom. For instance, English 242 requires the use of fiction as a catalyst for student writing and intellectual creativity. Similarly, English 200 requires the use of a variety of literary genres for students to engage with in their writing assignments. English 111 and English 131, however, demand that composition and critical writing receive priority over course content. Despite these differences, my primary pedagogical responsibility is to equip students with a knowledge of and language for critical reading and writing skills that transfer beyond the composition and literature classroom. I am one who endorses participatory learning/ “dialogic” learning, social understanding and activism, critical thinking/open-mindedness to diverse perspectives, and the use of students’ personal experiences as a resource for academic inquiries. My scholarship is situated within the field of critical and feminist pedagogies and cognitive literary studies. Therefore, I envision the composition and literature classroom as a space for experimentation, learning, critical reflection, and collaboration between my students and myself.
Regardless of the type of course, the learning goals for my classes emphasize that students are expected to become comfortable and confident in discussing and writing about literature and composition. Indeed, I am committed to re-shaping students’ affective relationships to both reading and writing as it impinges on critical writing and the study of literary texts. I strive to re-educate students about the purpose and benefits of studying literature and writing about literature. Another goal for each course calls upon students to contribute to the burgeoning field of knowledge production about comedy, race and ethnic studies, transnational literature, and feminist studies through the inquiries that they produce in the classroom and in writing assignments. This course goal enlists students as knowledge producers and active agents in the classroom as “insider experts.” Because of the charged natures of race, immigration, and the word ‘feminist,’ my aim in each course is to expose students to the conflicts within race and ethnic studies, transnational literature, and feminism, what Gerald Graff calls “teaching the conflicts.” With a focus on “conflicts” rather than consensus, students are able to come to their own conclusions about topics and ideas presented in my classroom.
I measure the effectiveness of my teaching based on students’ critical reflections, anonymous student feedback, and official course evaluations. I view learning as a two-way street, which simply means that I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. An effective way that I assess my teaching practices is through soliciting students for feedback. Students’ critical reflections composed at the end of each quarter are a valuable resource archive because it is a sustained and honest critique of my teaching practices and the activities I have implemented throughout the quarter. My goal in the classroom is to be transparent with my students; therefore, I invite students’ critical engaged feedback as an opportunity to strengthen my pedagogical skills and revise the course based upon student feedback and experience.
My responsibility to my students is to equip them with critical reading and writing skills necessary to navigate an ever-changing global landscape. If we wish to affect the kinds of change we hope to see in students’ perception and understanding of post-secondary education, we must consider the choices we make for the contents of our curricula and how we teach students to critically read and write in our classrooms. As teachers, we have a responsibility to enable students with a critical took kit that enables them with the practical skills and intellectual insight needed to navigate post-secondary education and their professional lives. Through the texts and topics I teach in literature and composition, I strive to educate students about the value of critical reading and writing practices and how these skills transfer to their future professional endeavors. The synergy created between my teaching and research in critical pedagogy powers my passion for teaching first and second-year students how to be critically engaged and socially responsible citizens who strive for a more socially just world.