By combining Freirian principles and the New London Group’s stress on supplementary practices, as well genre-study theories, my teaching philosophy works with traditional texts and theories, while attempting to draw on artifacts that reflect other literacies that the students are already engaged in. I actively engage with my students on a personal level, occasionally incorporating my own interests, both scholarly and personal, into lessons, in order to foster a comfortable environment for collaborative knowledge-building. Through such an approach, students may view literary studies as having a more immediate bearing on their present experience. More over, they may engage in the scholarly conversations related to the field, rather than viewing themselves as passive outsiders observing scholars at work.
When approaching literary studies in particular, I share Robert Scholes’ opinion that our pedagogy should enable students to “recognize the power texts have over them and assist the same students in obtaining a measure of control over textual processes, a share of textual power for themselves” (26). I strive to facilitate an environment in which students are actively engaged in meaning-making through collaborative work. At the same time, I value the individuality of each student’s voice, using the collaborative moments within the classroom as training for the student’s individual interpretation of the text. The literary classroom should work on honing the “craft of reading,” developing a set of skills and patterns of thinking that can have a much larger application. At the same time, the instructor should provide a baseline for students, providing a model of the interpretative act as well as a point of departure. As such, students may test their own interpretation in a dialectic fashion.
Within the classroom, I typically incorporate the four approaches recommended by the New London Group: Situated Practice, Overt Instructional, Critical Framing, and Transformed Practice. The Situated Practice approach encourages students to discuss their pre-existing awareness of and engagement with texts, a period, or a genre, described by the New London Group as “available design.” I use several low stress writing assignments, such as blogs, group questions, or in-class prompts, as a way to allow students to formulate comments and responses. These assignments tend to make the students feel more comfortable speaking, thereby influencing the focus of the class discussion. As Overt Instruction is reflective of the traditional lecture course, it continues to play an important but less dominant role in my teaching practices. In particular, such instruction is used to introduce key terms and lead discussions of history, discourse, genre and critical theories. However, I strive to ask guiding questions, allowing students to reach their own conclusions, rather than imposing my opinion as sacrosanct. Critical Framing provides various lens to consider the nature of a text and the role it plays within culture. Finally, I create assignments intended to demonstrate Transformed Practice, in the form of multimodal presentations and creative writing projects, each of which encourages the student to join in the act of “designing,” as well as a more traditional analytical essay in which students become producers of knowledge.
I work to both challenge and support my students throughout the interpretative process, offering to them tools of analysis that may be used in contexts outside of the classroom. Through scaffolded assignments that build in complexity, and the emphasis on individual rhetoric within a collaborative environment, I strive to produce students that are able to glean insight into texts through effective reading methodologies and successfully communicate their analyses.