My teaching philosophy is inspired by David Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University” (1986) and Luis C. Moll’s Funds of Knowledge (2005). Bartholomae’s central point is that college students need to learn how to “invent the university”—that is, trying on the disciplinary ways of reading, writing, researching unique to each program and field. Similarly, Moll advocates for instructors to celebrate, support, and extend the literacies that students bring into the classroom. Bartholomae and Moll’s scholarship has resonated with my own academic experiences: that students, whether first-year generation college students or more traditional student populations, need continual exposure to and practice with dynamic and diverse literacies across networks and communities.
Inventing the University: Helping Students Adapt to Diverse Networks and Communities
Teaching students how to invent the university while also remaining flexible for various communication situations is perhaps most important in the First-Year Composition classroom. First-year courses present the opportunity for students to learn how to transition from high school to college, and in my first-year classrooms, the emphasis is explicit.
To offer students real-life rhetorical situations they will find useful, I integrate multimodal writing assignments that build upon students’ pre-existing digital literacy skills. For example, in my first-semester first-year composition course the first major assignment in a sequence of assignments is a digital literacy map. This assignment unit asks students to identify and describe the literacies used and valued in their networks and discourse communities. I purposefully open the semester with this assignment because it both values the literacies students bring with them to college and teaches them about the intricacies of communication situations that arise in face-to-face or digital spaces—which is an awareness they’ll need to be successful academics, professionals, and citizens.
Transactional Writing: Building Relevance in Writing Courses
My teaching philosophy hinges on helping students learn how to investigate and assess their own literacies and learn how to adapt their knowledge to the literacies they will encounter on- and off-campus. This emphasis helps me instill in my students the importance of specifically meeting the discourse community expectations and making their rhetorical purposes clear.
In Business Writing, students generally enter the course with little disciplinary writing experience. Therefore, I aim to teach best practices that can be applied within a wide range of fields and professions. For example, I assign a career dossier assignment in which students research their academic fields and write a cover letter and résumé for a real job, scholarship, or internship they are qualified for. The students must imagine themselves as emerging professionals and academics and are required to interview an expert in their field (a professor, supervisor, etc.) to learn how to create effective job application materials. After this assignment, students learn to adapt their dossier content to their LinkedIn page. As students revise their dossier documents for a LinkedIn audience, they learn how to transfer knowledge and skills between audiences and rhetorical situations—an adaptability that is required of them in academia and the workplace.
For students to effectively invent the university (and workplace), they need to learn how to conscientiously craft their rhetorical choices. But just as important: encouraging students to invent the university and engage in discursive exchange bolsters their agency in ways that may have been previously unexplored or unimagined. The writing classroom, in this way, can be used to refine students’ literacies while also preparing them for their roles as academic, professionals, and global citizens.