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Published by: Bonnie Lenore Kyburz on May 14, 2011
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teaching philosophy

bonnie lenore kyburz
associate professor, rhetoric and composition utah valley university

bonnie lenore kyburz • bonnie.kyburz@gmail.com • 801.602.6968

I was drawn into the field of Rhetoric and Composition when I read Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America’s Underprepared (Free Press, 1989). I myself had been radically underprepared for college when I began “studying” in the early eighties. For the most part, I studied punk rock, performed in several bands, rarely went to class, and was eventually placed on “permanent suspension.” Returning to college years later and far more ideally motivated, Rose’s stories activated a desire in me, and I began to wonder if I might do the kinds of good work he had done. I responded positively and soon became fairly enchanted. By now, you are registering my words as one of many “conversion narratives” we find so often within the field. I hope that you see also that my enchantment derives from my failures, from my “borderland” experience; it is my sense that working in the interstitial spaces of institutional life has been the difference. I am drawn to disorientation and disruption as states of being most conducive to change and emergence. I find pedagogical value in seeking to work within the liminal spaces we find moving ghostly within academic life, and it is from within these liminal spaces of possibility that I find my motivation to help students develop a disposition to textual ambiguity and inquiry that motivates critical habits of mind, practice, and being. If pressed to articulate my pedagogy briefly, I might say that I encourage an active, student-centered, inquiry-based pedagogy. In my classrooms, I help students intuit and develop problematic and engaging questions and concepts. Through sequential activities as well as immersion in the organic space of the classroom, a space that lives and breathes in both face-to-face and virtual communities, I guide students to develop their questions so that they become relevant both as “academic” subject matter and as potentially extra-institutional cultural texts that inspire both student authors and their readers. My pedagogical hope is that such work aids students in the development of their academic literacies even as it promotes rhetorical study and practice as venues for desirable change. My students work to articulate their emergent affects and dispositions as fully-developed arguments using multiple media and modes. The student writing (“designing” ... “composing”) that I promote may evolve as a traditional print text; it may also emerge in non-print form, although there is always a print component to the work I assign, given an academic context that continues to privilege print-based expression and argument. Because of my concern for examining language in the context of thinking about knowledge and power, my students do not, responding to the demands of academic culture, always adopt alternative forms or hybrid styles in shaping their projects. Nevertheless, by raising the promises and possibilities of alternative rhetorics, it seems likely that students may develop an appreciably critical disposition toward textuality. Our work together thus motivates rhetorical awareness that prepares students to encounter and engage in textual practices in a wide variety of contexts, to respond to existing texts with care and sophistication, and to produce their own engaging and effective arguments within a given cultural context. Finally, I want to emphasize that I abhor pedagogies that call upon students to become simply obedient. Instead, I encourage students to explore by thinking critically and with a sense of possibility as they work to problematize positions in multivalent exchanges that shape the classroom experience. Through such exchanges, I hope to promote pleasure and excitement as natural components of engaged, communal inquiry. I encourage students to see themselves as capable of guiding inquiry through dialogue, collaboration, peer mentoring, and (some) negotiation of course aims and texts. Over time, such practices seem to promote students’ emergent critical and analytical thinking practices, engendering writing, designing, and composing skills that evidence increasingly sound reasoning and rhetorical sophistication.

image credit: Louis Recorder & Sandra Gibson via Invisible Cinema

bonnie lenore kyburz • bonnie.kyburz@gmail.com • 801.602.6968

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