Teaching Statement

Kaitlin M. Clinnin
clinnin.1@osu.edu

“Writing is boring.” “I don’t need to write in my future job.” “I hate writing.” These are the common
beliefs students share at the beginning of my writing classes. As a writing scholar and instructor, I
approach writing courses from a rhetorical perspective. Through a rhetorical approach, I introduce
writing as a powerful, flexible means of communicating with diverse audiences to achieve particular
purposes. I emphasize that effective writing accomplishes a writer’s goal, whether this goal is to
demonstrate mastery of a disciplinary concept in a term paper, create change in a public issue, or
express one’s identity in a creative genre. I help students become effective writers and agents of
social change by creating a collaborative, diverse classroom environment where students develop
rhetorical knowledge and composition skills through diversity, collaboration, and research.
Teaching Writing and Rhetoric Through Diversity
I employ a diversity approach to teaching writing. I expect students to encounter diverse perspectives,
evaluate and integrate new perspectives into their knowledge, and then act as agents for social
change in their own communities. I facilitate diversity-based education through my course structure
and daily activities. I develop course content that is representative of diverse perspectives, not just
canonical, Western perspectives. For example, in a rhetoric survey course, I redesigned the standard
curriculum to balance classical Western and cultural rhetorical theory. While reading rhetorical theory
about gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and technology, I encouraged students to consider
how cultural rhetorics expands the histories, locations, methods, and applications of rhetoric. In their
projects, students combined classical and cultural rhetorical theory and methodologies to analyze
contemporary productions. For example, one student analyzed Black Twitter, a social media
community of black Twitter users, by combining Neo-Aristotelian and African-American rhetorical
theory to study the use of humor as a resistance strategy. I also practice a diversity-based pedagogy
to prepare students to communicate in diverse contexts. In a technical writing course, I structured
activities for students to practice ethical intercultural communication. I facilitated discussions about
Western expectations for workplaces and technical documentation to denaturalize students’
assumptions about professional writing. I incorporate class activities that require students to revise
their documentation for diverse audiences, using their cultural and rhetorical knowledge to adopt new
communicative strategies in their products. By including diverse course content and offering
opportunities to practice writing in diverse contexts, students are better prepared to act as social
change agents in diverse settings.
Teaching Writing and Rhetoric Through Collaboration
Collaboration is a critical component of my pedagogy because it increases student engagement and
prepares students to write in collaborative, diverse environments after college. I incorporate lowstakes opportunities for collaboration into most class periods so that students practice working
together. For example, in a rhetoric survey course, I created an extended collaborative activity that
required students to produce a viral video using their rhetorical knowledge. The class examined
popular videos like the “Gangnam Style” music video by Psy to analyze rhetorical strategies and
generic conventions of successful viral videos across cultures. In small groups, students used their
cultural, rhetorical, and generic knowledge to design and produce their own viral videos. One group
produced a fake quiz show that asked random bystanders to define British words. The viral video
activity lasted for several class meetings, and in every class students worked together as they
brainstormed ideas for videos and distribution methods, recorded and acted in their videos, and
published their work online. In their feedback, students shared that the viral video activity was one of
the most memorable parts of the class because they got to know their classmates while also applying
course content in their own work.

www.kaitlinclinnin.org

Teaching Statement

Kaitlin M. Clinnin
clinnin.1@osu.edu

Teaching Writing and Rhetoric Through Research
One of my teaching goals is to show students how writing is a dynamic process that has many
applications in their college, professional, and personal lives. Depending on their major and year in
college, students will write for different purposes in a variety of contexts, so I offer hands-on research
opportunities that will be most appropriate for each course. I want non-English majors to understand
how they would use writing and digital technologies in their current majors and future careers. For
example, in a Digital Media Composition course, which enrolled mostly non-English majors in their
first and second years, I developed a multimodal production assignment that asked students to apply
their digital media skills to their current major, intended career, or a personal interest. One student, an
Aerospace Engineering major who was also an aspiring electronic music producer, composed a song
that imagined what it would be like to land on the Rosetta comet. Using rhetorical and technological
skills developed throughout the course, he produced an innovative project that combined his scientific
understanding with his personal interest in music to inform a public audience about a noteworthy
scientific event. Other student projects included a professional website for a sports photography
business, a video advertisement for a local band, and a social media campaign for a campus student
organization. Many students expressed that the personal relevance of their projects helped them
develop their composition skills and that they would continue these projects after the end of the
course. In her project reflection, one student wrote, “This project allowed me to create something that
I can actually consider to be helpful in the future and even has helped a bit already. … I know that this
is not a final look of what my website can one day be, but I hope to learn more and grow it into a very
successful tool for my future business.” For students who will write for a variety of purposes in their
future, my class provides a space to learn about rhetorical foundations and apply them to their own
interests.
I guide English majors, who will become writing practitioners in industry or education, through the
transition from consumers to producers of disciplinary knowledge by having them conduct original
research. For example, I co-taught an upper-level Rhetoric of Social Movements course, which
enrolled fifteen English majors. I developed a collaborative archival project on civil rights protests at
Ohio State University in the 1970s that utilized primary source materials from the university archives.
Based on their own archival research, students generated arguments about historical social
movements through blog posts, which were featured on the university library website. One group
focused on the rhetorical strategies employed by the campus civil rights movement in newspapers
and leaflets. In their presentations, students evaluated the success of the movement based on the
rhetorical theories covered in class, offered new rhetorical theories based on the strategies of the
social movement, and connected the historical social movement to contemporary social movements
related to issues of race. In course evaluations, students consistently remarked that the archival
project “encouraged independent thinking and critical analysis” beyond their typical courses. Students
gained valuable experience with disciplinary research methods and presenting their findings to public
and academic audiences.
Students arrive in my classes with often negative preconceptions about writing and rhetoric and who
they are as writers. I emphasize that writing and rhetoric are tools that can help students achieve their
academic, professional, or personal goals. My courses are diverse educational experiences that
incorporate collaborative research enabled by technology to develop rhetorical and technical skills.
Ultimately, I teach writing as a hands-on laboratory where students don’t simply learn about writing
but learn through writing.

www.kaitlinclinnin.org