LIT 154: Literature and the Arts: Listening and Music
LIT 80: Literature and Musical Genre
LIT X: Sounds Like (American) SF
ENG 200: Introduction to Literature: Crime / Justice in American Literature
LIT 61W: Methods and Materials: Gloria Anzaldúa & W.E.B. Du Bois
RWS 200: Rhetoric of the Written Argument in Context: Human / Animal / Environment
RWS 100: Rhetoric of the Written Argument:Digital Literacy
Philosophy of Teaching
Learning is a process undertaken for personal, communal, professional, and / or intellectual transformation. What is learned transforms how learners express themselves, how they engage communities, how they satisfy their material needs, and / or how they approach their interests. Transformations big and small are meaningful to my pedagogy. The study of literature is an essential site for any and all of these transformations. Literary study cultivates an openness to the world. It requires inhabiting the perspective of others, accepting the possibility of multiple interpretations, and locating ourselves within these perspectives and possibilities. By encountering the language of others and worlds constructed by others, literary study prepares learners to read and respond responsibly to the world around them. Because literary study and methods have the potential to permeate and enrich the study of all topics, it is essential learning. Students of evolutionary biology, for example, need the requisite skills of literary study to understand key works, like The Origin of Species, and to contextualize it with current methods, research, and theories. The same premise is true for any discipline or area of study academic or otherwise.
As an instructor my role is to design, stage, and facilitate learning experiences, however I believe everyone in the classroom has the ability to contribute to teaching and learning. The ideal student in my classroom has a self-identified goal for being in the literature classroom. Though my goals for students might range from adding a critical approach to their toolkit or providing them an opportunity to study a historical period, I accept and validate student autonomy in setting course goals within the framework of each class. Success for one student might be to pass, while for another it might be to learn to write and argue more convincingly through literary study. Students in my classes are asked recognize their goals and engage the course design to achieve their goals. Typically, they realize their goals through major writing or communicating assignments. While major assignments generally build from highly structured prompts, I design open-ended capstone assignments that involve choice of subject, creative design, and / or collaborative work. In this way, I encourage students to bring their interests forward and follow them within the framework of the class.
Encouraging students to be self-aware and present with purpose is foundational to the successful working of my class. Being present with purpose means more than having a goal. It means being physically / virtually and mindfully present in learning spaces as scheduled to the best of their ability. In any course I teach, discussion sessions are key to learning. Discussion fosters peer-to-peer, and student-to-instructor learning. Though learning in literature courses relies on techniques and tools, such as close reading or critical vocabularies conveyed by the instructor, learning also arises from encountering the utterly unique and subjective interpretations of others. While my teaching style includes lecture portions, these are frequently designed in offered in manageable chunks and are followed up by a mix of individual, small, or large group understanding checks in the form of activities. These activities bring students back to key texts and concepts. In a virtual learning situation, balancing lecture and maintaining presence might mean asking students to find and seek an object in their space that helps them explain a concept or theme in a text and share and explain with a peer.
My activity designs range based on course design. My general education courses promote transferable skills in critical thinking, textual analysis, persuasive writing, communicating, interpreting arts and media, and accessing university resources, such as special collections archives or digital scholarship centers. I have also designed courses geared towards transfer students. One course, “Writing and Research Methods: Gloria Anzaldúa & W.E.B. Du Bois,” bridges the gap between community college courses and four-year institution courses. This course supports future upper-division work where students will likely encounter either author or bring knowledge of these authors to other courses. My upper division courses promote the development of transferable skills and build foundations for more nuanced, complicated understandings of critical approaches to literature. Many of my upper-division courses introduce students to a sound studies approach to literature. While my lower division courses generally will introduce sound as a method and object of analysis, my upper division courses engage sound studies much more explicitly. Upper division courses I have designed, “Listening and Music” and “Sounds Like (American) SF,” offer students a framework for understanding how sound makes meaning in literary texts and creative expression. The former, "Listening and Music," centers on listening as a fundamental sound practice for reading and an object of analysis. Once students gain a critical vocabulary for listening and locate its representation in literature, the course shifts to explore a key sound that we can listen to in literature—music. The latter course, "Sounds Like (American) SF" teaches keywords in sound—such as radio, voice, noise, transduction, echo, electronic, and acoustic sounds--through genre study. This course explores how the future has been imagined as sonically charged.
Assignments in my classroom involve daily free writing, scaffolded writing assignments, and a thesis-driven project. Argumentative writing is primary because it is the most clearly transferable skill, yet my courses recognize and make space for other means of communication and project impulses, such as object making, audio-essays, and unexpected forms of creative expression. I have struggled with the disposability of the bulk of student work in university courses, and I have been making efforts to design assignments that are useful to students beyond the classroom, including crafting an article that could be submitted to a favorite content site or producing a podcast or writing a book proposal. Many of my assignments attempt to make visible the work of the humanities in the world as well as specific jobs that require humanities skills.
When it comes to assessment, I am a firm believer in clear and accessible rubrics. Students should know exactly how they will be assessed, and they should understand each criteria. Rubric criteria always follow from lectures and classroom activities. I provide rubrics for all assignments in my classroom. Discussion sessions in my classroom always include some form of low-stakes documented participation activity with a micro-rubric made available before we meet. This practice both demystifies participation assessment and prepares students. In a literature class, meeting to meeting assignments can cover a lengthy chunk of a text, and students can feel at loss when preparing to discuss it. Knowing exactly what to focus on makes discussion richer and more efficient. Clear and accruing rubrics for major assignments also displays to me whether or not students have responded to feedback or may have struggled with it. This system allows me to assess growth efficiently.
I advise and mentor students primarily through written feedback on assignments and one-on-one interactions. Feedback is manageable, no more than two or three goals to carry into the next assignment, and it is personalized, identifying aspects of their work as models of achievement and zones of improvement. I encourage students to visit me during my "Open Hour," though I also make efforts to get to know them better in the classroom. I cultivate community by encouraging students to talk with each other informally and more formally within the framework of the class through discussions. An observer of my classroom would note that I am prepared and organized. I consistently make use of classrooms technology and visual / auditory aides. Observers would note that I am alert to subtle cues and body language and that I tend to use these observations to gently encourage discussion and make space for many voices.
I enjoy being an educator because it is a creative process. It is work that must be consistently updated, revised, and re-approached. The future of my course design is a continued and sustained commitment to developing inclusive, contemplative, collaborative, and creative learning opportunities. I look to the work of Asao B. Inoue, who shows how assessment and language practices can be redefined as a practice of social justice, as a model for my continued pedagogical revision. Drawing from practices of contemplative pedagogy and my own study of Pauline Oliveros's practice of "Deep Listening," I have been exploring ways to make my classroom a mindful and intentional space. I continue to learn from my students as a part of my commitment to pedagogical revision. I take student evaluations seriously and integrate feedback into future courses and iterations of courses. As part of this process I demystify student evaluations of teaching. I make sample evaluations accessible to students so they can see what these documents look like when turned over to instructors. I answer questions and invite open discussion about their experience of doing evaluations in tandem with my experience of receiving them. This process has taught me a lot about how students feel about the unfortunate timing of teaching evaluations and given me strategies for getting more responsive feedback. Working from sample evaluations, I show them examples of useful and less-useful feedback before asking them to evaluate. As they will hear me say about their course work, specific arguments based in reason and evidence are essential to effectively persuade me to make changes. In this way, they continue to see how some of the skills learned in my classes have practical applications.