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Malvin

Melisa Malvin-Middleton
English 600B
Dr. Clark
15 December 2014
Teaching Rationale
My pedagogical approach to teaching Approaches to University Writing encompasses a
variety of educational techniques with an emphasis on the writing process and its recursive
nature. As a part of my teaching philosophy, in order to engage in thoughtful rhetorical analysis,
I apply a combination of student-centered writing and critical thinking activities. Furthermore,
my approach stems from an angle of empathy. First of all, I love teaching and helping others. I
am patient and genuinely care about the success of my students. I look at each student as an
individual with unique needs, who is sometimes overcoming academic and personal challenges.
In combination with reading diagnostic in-class student writing and my knowledge as an
educator, I tailor my courses according to the course requirements while also considering the
distinctive needs of each particular group of students. As I have witnessed in previous classes,
my students seem pleased with my instruction and let me know that they feel I helped them.
Chiefly, when I see student writing significantly improve over the course of a semester, I am
encouraged in the validity of my teaching methods.
I believe that developing the self-esteem of student writers is instrumental in building the
foundation of successful future academic, career, and personal writings that my students will
employ in their lifetimes. I find that often students believe they are poor writers. Thus, when
students have low expectations for themselves, I have observed that their academic achievements
suffer. Under my instruction, when students begin to understand that writing is a process for

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nearly all writers and a craft that is developed over time, they come to realize that writing is not
some mysterious ability that is only gifted to the few, and that they, too, with experience and
practice, can develop into competent writers. Irene Clark challenges notions that a good writer
is someone who can produce an excellent text as quickly, independently and effortlessly as a bird
learns to fly (4). Furthermore, Clark elaborates, This idea suggests that those of us who
struggle, for whom writing is a laborious, time-consuming, and often painful process (i.e., most,
if not all, of us), are not, by definition, good writers (4). As a student under Clarks
mentorship, participating in numerous discussions on this matter in her graduate level courses at
California, State University, Northridge I fully agree with her assessment. I believe that this
understanding of process is a vital element to stress to developing writers because the
demystification of the writing process can likely foster student confidence in writing, often
resulting in students breaking out of comfort zones and getting beyond self-defeating attitudes
(e.g., I cant or Im not good enough) that can prevent students from growing as writers.
Additionally, students are sometimes uncomfortable expressing their own perspectives in
their writings. Perhaps they are used to instructors who prefer mimicry and recitation of concepts
rather than teachers who encourage critical thinking. While there is legitimacy in the
memorization of concepts to foster the application of knowledge, I believe independent critical
analysis must be encouraged. Beth Neman points out, Because writing has two dimensions
craft and expression of selfwriting well requires both knowledge of the craft and the selfconfidence to exercise this knowledge (5). While writers should also learn to be technically
competent in order to effectively communicate their ideas to their readers, it is equally, if not
more, vital for students to have the confidence to express their points of view. One of my goals
as an instructor is to foster this student confidence as writers and creators of ideas, because I

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believe that without a trust in self, the students may never put their words on the page in the first
place. Besides being an integral part of effective writing, I believe this self-confidence can
transfer to other aspects of a students academic achievements, encouraging students to believe
in themselves and their abilities as they tackle the many challenges college students may face.
There are numerous aspects of my teaching techniques that I find are quite effective. First
of all, the scaffolding of larger scale progressions or projects help my students gradually build
upon their comprehension, research, and writing skills as they develop ideas and materials for
essays that complete each unit. For example, I recently had students read a novel. The exercises
then leading up to the culminating essay were: a summary and response of relevant themes of the
novel; a dialogue between a character and an author from one of the outside readings/sources;
and a prospectus that included an essay outline, annotated bibliography, and several invention
strategies. Since this persuasive essay also included research and was one of the more complex
assignments of the semester, all of these scaffolded building blocks fostered improved student
comprehension of the assignment and better-developed student writing.
Furthermore, I had private conferences with each student to discuss the prospectus, prior
to the first draft and peer review. After personally witnessing successes working as a Writing
Consultant and Tutor in the CSUN Learning Resource center with undergraduate and graduate
students in brief sessions, I began to apply aspects teacher-student conferencing in my classes.
John Bean explains, Conferences are most productive if you help students concentrate first on
the early concerns of ideas, organization, and overall logic and development (higher-order
concerns) (304). Like Bean, I focus my conferences on global concerns, e.g., thesis statements,
invention, and organization, paying specific attention to individual needs. From conferencing, I
am able to build the trust of my students. When they realize these sessions are helpful, the

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students tend to seek my assistance more frequently; furthermore, they will often experiment
with my suggestions, and, quite often, achieve successful results. One student reflected upon
how valuable it was that after she mentioned the difficulty she had getting started writing an
essay, I suggested in a conference she try writing the introduction last, a technique she plans to
continue to employ for future assignments.
While my students found this progression particularly difficult, many mentioned how
useful these exercises, especially pertaining to discovery, were in helping them respond to a
challenging essay prompt. Some of my favorite lessons to teach are on the writing process and
invention strategies. Since I recognize there are a variety learning styles (e.g., visual, auditory,
and kinesthetic learners), having lessons that encompass multiple ways of stimulating ideas and
learning seem to generate student engagement and retention of concepts. Additionally, I
frequently include freewriting in class, which seems to make the students comfortable with
writing. Cheryl Glenn and Melissa Goldthwaite contend, Freewriting forces [students] to
produce, without the conscious editorial mechanism making the writing process harder than it is
(183). Through in-class timed freewrites of 5-10 min, the volume and quality of useful writing
the students have amounted is incredible. I have read some heartfelt and thought-provoking
student writing that stemmed from these short freewrites that often were starting points for
expanded writings of the students.
Besides having my students write about topics individually, I also encourage
collaborative learning on a regular basis. I apply what Clark describes: a decentering of the
writing class, balancing of authority between students and teacher so that students can participate
in their own learning through peer editing and writing groups (17). I find that group activities
before and after class discussion tend to encourage more class participation in whole-class

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dialogues as well as reinforce the understanding and practice of writing concepts. Glenn and
Goldthwaite explain, Students need guidance for their collaborations to be successful (70). By
creating structure, which varies depending upon the task at hand, I help my students respond to
peer writing with constructive critiques. Furthermore, my guided peer review of student essay
drafts in combination with my circling the room to assess student questions tends to provide
improved results in subsequent revised drafts. I also apply the concept of review to my own
development as an instructor. Ultimately, from frequently encouraging and considering student
feedback on my assignments/activities, I have learned that my students find the understanding of
process and collaboration to be incredibly beneficial in their development as writers.
As I develop my curriculum for English 114B, which will center on Los Angeles
Literature, I plan to use the diverse demographics as a means to stimulate rhetorical analysis and
critical thinking. In line with the empathy I express as an instructor toward my students, I hope to
foster in my class an appreciation and acceptance of the diverse cultural and physical landscape
this locale contains. I am a strong believer in encouraging my students to think for themselves,
and therefore, I believe it is important to expose my students to a variety of views that may
possibly be outside of a traditional canon of literature. Vai Ramanathan and Dwight Atkinson
assert, By ruling cultural influence and knowledge out of the picture one becomes able to
assume that everyone is like me (184). I would add, however, that it is also important to include
a variety of multicultural materials for a diverse student body to recognize themselves in the
writers/writings, as a means to foster interest and self-esteem. Because I am aware of the cultural
and gender diversity of my students, as well as my belief in acceptance, I have made a solid
effort to include a variety of authors and topics in my teaching materials. I will be including
Anna Deavere Smiths Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, which is a docudrama about the L.A. Riots,

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and David Ulins Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which contains a variety of
perspectives about this multi-faced city. While it is impossible to be completely inclusive, I
believe by creating an environment that supports awareness, my students will recognize this is a
learning environment that celebrates diversity. Furthermore not recognizing the student class
make-up as well as promoting a one-sided cultural perspective is counter to developing critical
thinking, which should include the consideration of a variety of viewpoints.
Much of my teaching rationale connects to a transference of knowledge. Just as I cannot
be completely inclusive of every culture, it is also impossible to teach my students about every
rhetorical situation or writing genre they will encounter in their lifetimes. Therefore, I believe by
encompassing a global perspective where I touch upon major issues such as critical thinking and
rhetorical analysis, in which the students can apply to a multitude of writing situations. Douglas
Hesse argues, emphasizing rhetoric as the basis of the course is a means to consider,
without having to directly address all individually, the variety of writing situations students
may encounter (50). Likewise, Amy Devitt explains, Genre is too rich a subject to be mined
completely in just one volume (qtd. in Dean 26). Because there are so many nuisances and
variances of genre, I believe that by examining some common genres in my course and also
teaching my students to identify rhetorical situations such as context and audience, to learn
how to take a stance and support those claims with evidence, and develop these views in an
organized manner, my students will be more apt to apply these skills to various writing
scenarios.
While my rationale is informed by theoretical approaches to writing, I am also a
professor because I love the creativity of the profession. Since I am a creative writer, I tend
to have inventive approaches to covering lessons. Whichagain, considering the variety of

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learnersincludes PowerPoint presentations, short films, videos, music, and poetry. My


student writing activities, in addition to academic writing, have included new media
writing, flash nonfiction, fiction writing, and scripted dialogues. The creative topics I assign
for these exercises stimulate some lively discussion and enjoyable student writings that
demonstrate understanding and comprehension of the concepts at task. These types of
creative writing exercises effectively help students gain mastery of concepts while they
also have fun, which, while clearly not the sole purpose of a university course, I believe is a
key element in fostering student involvement in their coursework. Hopefully, by
discovering a personal connection to and grasp the exigence of their writing, students will
develop a lifelong interest in learning and growing as writers.

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Works Cited
Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking,
and Active Learning in the Classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Print.
Clark, Irene L. "Processes." Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of
Writing. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2012. 1-29. Print.
Dean, Deborah. "Chapter 2: Explaining Genre Theory." Genre Theory: Teaching, Writing, and
Being. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2008. 8-26. Print.
Glenn, Cheryl, and Melissa A. Goldthwaite. The St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing. 7th ed.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. Print.
Hesse, Douglas. "Occasions, Sources, and Strategies." First-Year Composition: From Theory to
Practice. Ed. Deborah Coxwell-Teague and Ronald F. Lunsford. Anderson: Parlor,
2014. 49-66. PDF.
Neman, Beth. "Chapter 1: Teaching the Student." Teaching Students to Write. 2nd ed. New
York: Oxford UP, 1995. 3-31. Print.
Ramanathan, Vai, and Dwight Atkinson. "Chapter 9: Individualism, Academic Writing, and ESL
Writers." Second-Language Writing in the Composition Classroom: A Critical
Sourcebook. Ed. Paul Kei. Matsuda, Michelle Cox, Jay Jordan, and Christina
Ortmeier-Hooper. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 165-91. Print.