My approach to teaching is reflective of my research in intercultural communication and globalization. As such, I embed these themes throughout my teaching in ways that help foster discussions on larger issues such as identity, politics, and cultural difference. All classroom readings and assignments assume a post-global society: one in which sociopolitical movements in one part of the world can have lasting effects on the daily lives of these students.
The classroom is a space where students can unpack the idea of culture in a way that moves it from Othered knowledge. I push students to analyze “professional” culture as an introduction to those spaces they may occupy. As the semester goes on, students begin to find ways in which culture affects information and arrive at a place where they see that not only do documents make rhetorical arguments, but that those arguments are situated within specific cultural contexts.
Research practices are a key discussion point for the classroom: in my experience working with international students, I’ve encountered different cultural expectations of what constitutes “proper” research and we talk about this in the classroom. How different academic fields validate certain types of research over others and especially how we treat subject populations when gathering data becomes important when designing our methodology.
I believe in pushing students to take ownership of the classroom. I make the assignments and a draft of the class schedule available to them at the very beginning and offer them the opportunity to revise it to fit their needs. I’ve found that students become much more invested when they feel as if their input has influenced the design of the classroom: everything from absence policy to last minute changes can be amended if they, 1) provide convincing reasons for doing so, 2) can convey their reasons in a collaboratively designed and written letter, and 3) take full responsibility over the changes.
This carries over into the collaborative assignments: students vote for group project leaders who in turn create the groups. This allows them to take charge of building group identity, assigning roles and delegating tasks in a way that reflects the collaborative nature of their future professions.
In addition to allowing the class to make changes to the course, I also create short post-mortems that allow me to assess how assignments, projects and changes worked throughout the semester based on a combination of student feedback and my experience with each individual class. Since many of my courses such as Business Writing have included students from across many disciplines, this process is necessary in addressing the ever-changing student and programmatic needs.
Here at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, that need manifests itself in a hybrid technical/business writing course where students are introduced to common genres of business documentation in addition to technical descriptions, instructions, and grants. I currently serve as the faculty advisor to our student newspaper, The Exponent, where I work with students on developing story ideas, editing copy, and publishing each week’s paper.
As Assistant Director of the Professional Writing program at Purdue, I have helped in updating course schedules and assignments based on feedback from both my courses and those of other instructors. From a programmatic perspective, this has allowed faculty and graduate students to respond to changing student needs through the development of new courses such as our Medical Writing course (ENGL 422) and new assignment units in our Business Writing for Entrepreneurs (ENGL 420E). The result is a dynamic program that allows for changes within the classroom to filter throughout the program and cycle back into each individual course in new and exciting ways.