I have taught a range of writing courses, including professional writing, first-year composition, a practicum for new composition instructors, and basic writing. My approach to all these courses reflects three main priorities: Students compose rhetorically situated documents, prepare to transfer their writing knowledge and skills across varied domains, and learn to design accessible and user-centered documents.
Learning to write is about developing communication skills that will serve students at college and in their careers as well as about adopting an ethical orientation toward others and the world. In order to enable rhetorical awareness and decision making in any course, I develop assignments with realistic rhetorical situations that remain flexible enough for students to tailor them to individual topics. My students and I then find example texts to analyze for how they respond to audiences and exigences. This combination of top-down principles from an assignment and bottom-up analysis from examples helps students find their rhetorical footing. I then emphasize rhetorical situatedness throughout the writing process and teach my students to research their audiences, rather than assuming they understand their needs. For example, my technical writing students develop research-based user profiles that include information about disabilities and access needs. This approach allows students to develop nuanced concepts of their audiences that surpass traditional assumptions.
I teach on the premise that learning is only meaningful if it has an impact on how students write, think, or make decisions in the future. For that reason, I prioritize transfer of learning by having my professional writing students connect course material to their career plans and work experience in class discussion and reflective memos throughout the semester. Many students are most engaged when my assignments allow them to try on a professional voice, imagine relationships with other professionals, and practice relevant problem solving skills. For example, I designed a referral letter assignment that has my healthcare writing students develop a fictionalized, research-based scenario and refer a patient to another healthcare provider. Consulting with academic advisors and healthcare professionals has helped me ensure this and other assignments faithfully represent real writing in these professions. This outreach to outside stakeholders is vital to how I design curricula and encourage transfer.
In all my courses, I employ a disability studies pedagogy, which means assuming my students arrive to class with a variety of learning needs. Toward that end, I discuss my accessibility policy in class, solicit anonymous feedback through mid-semester surveys, and plan for diverse needs from the start. I provide instruction in multiple modes (e.g., written, oral, and multiple digital formats) and balance time in class between open discussion, structured activities, lectures, and workshop time. Just as I enact accessibility in my pedagogy, I teach accessibility as ethical rhetorical practice. That means introducing captioning and visual description with audiovisual assignments as well as presenting disability as a source of insight, rather than a deficit. For example, researching how autistic children benefit from interactivity gave one healthcare writing student the idea to create an interactive activity book about living with diabetes that is engaging for a wider audience of children. This project was successful because it drew on the needs of a subset of her audience to improve the document for all users.