Teaching Philosophy

Student-led Teaching

Learning today is no longer a matter of individualized cognitive process, but a social and collective activity that students generate on their own. It is such changing attitude towards writing that has helped us see writing as a social practice that is shaped by various social, historical, environmental, and digital contexts that students become accustomed to as they grow culturally and academically.  That some students are more invested in reading and writing activities than others is dependent on the way they follow their interests in the process of their learning.

My teaching philosophy originates from my learning experiences as an international scholar and writer. Thinking through ideas in one language and translating those thoughts into a different language has offered me an insight into multilingual and cross-cultural writing situations. I believe that the translation from one language to another is not just linguistic, but cultural, and that engaging students in translation thus helps them better think through cultural and language issues as well as better address different audiences through their writing. Academic writing has its inextricable association with writers’ lived experiences. In my teaching of writing, therefore, I always underscore the role of cultural and language resources that students grow up with. My teaching of writing has been an outgrowth of such a practice of knowledge making that I engage in both as a teacher and a researcher trained in cross-cultural and multilingual academic contexts. Whether in teaching first year composition, business writing, or globalization and literature courses, my goal thus is to inculcate in students the scholarly habits and critical thinking skills to help them explore how writing woks in the world.

I encourage students to develop an investigative approach through the process of fieldworking to help them become better researchers, readers, and writers. My guiding principle for student learning is that as they read, write, research, and reflect on their encounters with other subcultures, students learn to observe, listen, interpret, and analyze the behaviors and languages of those around them and then include others’ perspectives in their own writing. In this way writing becomes empowering to them because the students realize that writing emerges out of their own lived experiences. I believe that a way into critical cultural analysis develops through writing that is both personal and social, leading us to better understand the powerful social processes that shape literacy cross-culturally in a globalized and digitized context.

Influenced by the theories of writing scholars like Trimbur, Bruffee, Fox, and Pratt, I see my classroom as a contact zone for writers from various language and cultural backgrounds. Such a classroom model creates opportunities for students to talk about and share their writing with others as a community of writers, helping them negotiate tensions arising from their differences in terms of language and cultural backgrounds. With such a theoretical understanding, I design classroom activities by engaging students as collaborative learners, not simply to engage in knowledge making on the theory that more heads are better than one, but to help students engage in working across differences. The planning of my class sessions usually involves discussion of a reading assignment as well as small-group activities that help students collaborate on their writing processes. I particularly want students to think about how writing employs different rhetorical appeals based on students’ lived experiences, helping them in turn to make differences visible. For example, when reading excerpts from Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, I ask students to analyze the differences in language patterns and cultural meanings embedded in the text and explore in writing how those concerns contribute to their knowledge making. Paying attention to the rhetorical designs inflected by various language and cultural practices may be useful for students to recognize and work through any writing assignment. I have found that such teaching efforts contribute to a better learning experience for the students.

Another way I help students is by offering them opportunities to create projects based on their individual interests as they visit some subcultures on campus and beyond the university. Such assignments encourage students to explore the areas of their interest and do extensive research to present to the class. In my previous classes, students have created projects by being fully invested in the writing process, ranging from identifying a particular subculture of their interests, interviewing the people from these subcultures, collecting data, and utilizing their research skills in interpreting the data and offering rhetorical analyses. Using ethnographic and fieldworking approaches, the students got engaged in co-construction of meaning with local communities. Students thus become members of a larger community and develop in them a habit of recognizing and acknowledging differences by directly observing and understanding the cross-cultural and multilingual contexts of the research community. Some of these projects the students in my first year writing classes have created in the past include, among others, racial tensions in a local church, working conditions at the local coffee shops, language practices of a local immigrant community, and homeless people’s daily living conditions.

I also believe that students’ learning process is not restricted to working with texts only in print. Use of new media technologies has offered students an opportunity to see how meanings are created through differences in media. I have used YouTube videos, images from the Internet, Google Docs, and Wiki blogs for students to see how construction of meaning varies across digital spaces, and how production of meaning through new media becomes different from that in printed forms. My participation in the Digital Media and Composition Workshop at The Ohio State University has consolidated my new media skills, such as using social networking sites for exchange of ideas and language diversity, and use of computer technologies, such as GarageBand, iMovie maker, and writing software for producing audio-visual essays, remixing and editing them. With insights from new media and digital technology workshops and seminars, I encourage students to fully utilize their new media and digital skills in order to create and participate in projects that invoke alternative social, and language networks in day-to-day practices. Informed by and trained in digital and new media composition practices, I also challenge my students to explore in their writing the complex process of translating their ideas from one medium to another. My students in the past have created such multimodal projects by engaging sights, sounds, images, and videos when doing ethnographic studies and presenting them at the Symposium on Student Writing, annually organized by Composition Program at the University of Louisville.

My goal in teaching writing in first year and advanced writing classes thus is for students to engage in meaningful communication of their ideas through printed texts as well as through other new media forums. Exposing students to different genres, language varieties, cultures, and modalities encourages them to engage in critical explorations of the heterogeneity of those genres, discourses, and media in their writing. Translating their ideas from one mode of thinking into another offers students opportunities to explore new dimensions of writing and realize differences in terms of language use, rhetorical patterns, and cultural inflections.

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