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Stewart Teaching Philosophy

Stewart Teaching Philosophy

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Published by Jenn Stewart
Working on the philosophy...always.
Working on the philosophy...always.

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Published by: Jenn Stewart on Sep 30, 2011
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10/16/2013

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JENNIFER L STEWART

Department of English and Linguistics Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne 2101 E Coliseum Blvd Fort Wayne, IN 46805 stewartj@ipfw.edu  260.481.6073  @JennLStewart

Teac hi n g P hi l os o ph y S ta t em en t
My teaching philosophy is continually being shaped with each classroom I enter—whether I’m a student, an instructor, a faculty respondent, or an assessor. In the years that I’ve taught, no matter how my pedagogical focus shifts or grows, no matter what level class I teach, I find that three concepts remain constant: inquiry, collaboration, and reflection. One specific example of this philosophy in action is the research project students complete in my Intermediate Expository Writing course, the 200-level general education composition course at my institution. In this course, students construct multiple I-Search proposals, modified projects from Macrorie’s The I-Search Paper. Student interest and writing projects have been discussed by many rhetoric and composition scholars (see Boscolo, Del Favero & Borghetto; Fleckenstein; Nystrand &Gamoran; Reed, Burton & Kelly; Spaulding). In this course, students craft inquiry-driven projects to better engage them in the work of the course and to allow the project to have tangible value for the students. Most students become involved in their majors or hobbies—education issues, medical concerns, or, once, goat farming. This approach avoids sending the message that content is irrelevant. Instead it gives students the freedom to learn for themselves which topics fall into which genres and that to enter into that conversation, they must first understand the genre and second position themselves within it. This inquiry-driven project is rich in peer collaboration, another concept that is addressed by multiple scholars (see Adams, Anson, Beaven, Belcher, Fulwiler, George, Gonzalez, Grimm, Hicks, Straub, Vataralo). Students participate in small stakes response in the form of group work—sharing topic ideas, for example. Additionally, they’re tasked with more complex, professional collaboration as well in that they offer peers structured, systematic feedback on drafts. This stresses the importance of feedback in all aspects of the writing process. Because of this constant collaboration, students frequently discover new ideas or approaches to writing from their classmates—ideas and approaches that, sometimes, I could not offer them. Constant collaboration also allows students to learn about the public nature of writing—a concept that today’s student may be aware of, but may not reflect on critically. Most importantly, as students move through this project, I ask them to reflect on their work, their decisions, and their discoveries. Like inquiry and collaboration, reflection/metacognition has been shown to help students understand and process their ideas (see Bramberg, Bartholomae,

Stewart Teaching Philosophy Page |2 Emmons, Schön, Straub). Reflection occurs formally—in writer’s memos and journals—and informally—in class discussions or online discussion board postings. Another example of this philosophy can be seen in my digital literacies course. In this class, students contribute to a course blog that unpacks concepts we discuss in class. I ask students to offer at least two types of posts: one reading response and one supplemental post, in which students bring something from beyond our course reading to the blog and connect it to classroom issues. These posts also offer students choice in their contribution: they can bring to the blog what part of the reading spoke to them or their own interests. This blog project asks students to work with each other to tease out class concepts and to collaborate with students from other institutions. The course blog being public also offers the possibility of responses to their ideas from outside the classroom, and academia as a whole. The supplemental post portion of this project requires students reflect on their readings and offer an application of outside world materials to course concepts. Additionally, because the blog moves our discussion outside of the classroom, it allows students time to process and reflect on course discussion and continue it outside the classroom. My own pedagogical methods reflect these core concepts as well. While students are given some selection and choice in my classes, I choose and shape the course as well. My interests in technology and social media have resulted in projects and assignments that ask students to analyze infograpics, collaboration programs, and businesses’ use of Twitter. As I develop and shape my courses and their materials, I continually solicit feedback and guidance from my own peers. I share course materials on Scribd.com and frequently crowd source my course materials/assignment sheets on Facebook and Twitter. Specifically, I have asked peers teaching digital literacies courses at other institutions to join and collaborate on our course blog to offer different voices to our discussion. Assessment and reflection are the most important factors in my pedagogical practices. I often use student evaluations and informal course surveys to gauge the effectiveness of my pedagogical methods. I find this method not only enhances my pedagogy, but also models for the students that assessment and reflection are ongoing processes we use to keep our work and lives on track. For example, in 2011, I began recording weekly state of the union videos for my online courses. I have shaped and revised these videos in response to a series of surveys I conduced assessing the effectiveness and usefulness of these videos. One surprising finding from the results was the humor and honesty with which the students expressed themselves in their responses. It showed we were beginning to establish a rapport and community in the classroom. For me, ultimately teaching, like writing, is a recursive process that benefits most from inquiry, collaboration and reflection among students and peers alike.

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