My aim in teaching is to create a socially just pedagogy, one that draws on multiple perspectives, voices, and rhetorics and focuses on inclusion in the broadest sense of the word. Students in my classes learn to respect the opinions of others, to listen, and to share their views. This approach necessarily means that challenging discussions ensue; however, because students learn how to support a motivated claim with concrete evidence, including first-hand experience and local ethnographic research, they move beyond unsubstantiated opinions into reasoned debate.
Formulating a claim and providing evidence for that position require readings and prior preparation. To this end, the class reads common texts for discussion of rhetorical strategies and a thematic basis. In all cases I allow students the opportunity to individualize their writing and to encourage primary source data, while still providing structure and concrete goals for each assignment. The freedom to create opens the doors for digital, multi-modal composing with layers of text, graphics, and video; I often include an ePortfolio assignment in which students can showcase their work. For the last several years I have been piloting different learning management platforms for ePortfolios in my classes, evaluating and assessing them and presenting the results on campus and beyond. At the upper-division, students create ePortfolios in their disciplines and draw on their expertise, while at the lower-division students explore issues close to their first-year experience. In every case, my goal is to provide a structure that empowers students to create original writing and reflect on their experience.
A socially just, anti-racist pedagogy means deconstructing power structures and the distance that naturally occurs in the classroom, especially between the instructor and the students. I try to mitigate that distance not only by allowing students the freedom to choose their own topics within the guidelines of an assignment, but also through processes such as pre-writing/brainstorming, peer review, reflection, and collaboration. I also use the approach, drawing on the work of Asao Inoue and Paolo Freire, to have students collaboratively participate in the assessment and evaluation processes. For their final paper, I provide the students with a rubric to grade each other’s papers. I calculate an averaged class grade and my own, separate grade. Most of the time the class grades and my grades are exactly the same (within a few decimal points), but when the grades differ, I average the class grade and my own grade. In this way the class sees and recognizes how the grading works, and notices that it is not arbitrary or biased. As one student commented last semester, when the rubric is clear and the grading transparent, a consensus can emerge.
In the pre-writing stage, I provide scaffolding exercises where students brainstorm how to defend a claim or thesis, first one I model, then one of their own creation, and finally one of their peers’. In these pre-writing exercises students can try out different approaches before doing copious research but think through what the research would entail. Students are willing therefore to take risks and avoid pre-judgments.
To be effective, peer review must be meaningful, valuable, and thoughtful, which is why in all my classes I spend time reviewing papers myself, modeling how helpful a reviewer can be. Just as writing for publication requires answering reviewers’ questions, I tell my students how important critical review of their peers’ work can be. In creating an inclusive classroom space, I strive to allow these partnerships to develop, through shorter jot/pair/share exercises from the beginning of the semester. I’ve recently published a refereed book chapter entitled, “Steps to collegiate success in second-language writing,” sharing these approaches.
Following each assignment, I ask students to reflect on their work, finding their strengths and weaknesses and allowing them to try new approaches in subsequent papers. At times the reflection is written to themselves and at other times to me, and these assignments are not graded, a low-stakes strategy.
Collaboration is an integral part of all of my classes. I partner with the CU Dialogues Program to initiate dialogues with custodial staff or international and local students in my classes to enhance student learning and develop a sense of community. After attending the University of Michigan’s Intergroup Dialogue Institute, I have begun coordinating dialogues with our international and local first-year writing students, with synchronized assignments.
With respect to my teaching, in April 2018 I received the Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Teaching and Pedagogy, given annually to no more than three or four individuals from across campus. In Fall 2019, I was promoted to Teaching Professor, and in Spring 2021 to Teaching Professor of Distinction. The numerous faculty class visits, supportive letters, and student letters that led to these honors were gratifying and humbling to me.
A team of my international students won the award for the best undergraduate diversity conference presentation: https://www.colorado.edu/pwr/about/diversity-student-service. One of my first-year students was also selected and presented at this conference her digital project entitled “Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Influx,” in which she interviewed family and community members who came from Mexico to Colorado.
I arranged funding and logistics for PWR’s sponsorship of several diversity-related performances: Do You Know Who I Am?, Sharing Our Stories, Salsa Lotería Monologues, and Normal Heights, each of which was attended by 150-200 students. These performances, all creative nonfiction pieces, motivated students to incorporate personal experience into their own writing.
I have received several additioinal awards for teaching: my first-year ESL course was chosen for the Spotlight Course (WRTG 1150-802) award by the Chancellor's Committee on Race and Ethnicity. As a result of this award, four of my first-year ESL students presented their papers at the Diversity and Inclusion Summit. In addition, I received the statewide Milestones Project Award, in which my ESL students’ work was displayed for Colorado Conflict Resolution Month at the State Capitol and Civic Center in Denver.
Beyond teaching formal courses, I have served on over 30 honors thesis committees and many of my students have won awards or have appeared in publications. I regularly mentor one or more new instructors every year. I also lead workshops each year at the Fall training sessions for faculty. My teaching publications have been central to the intellectual life of the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and have gained a national audience.
Key courses taught: Lower-division
WRTG 1150 (ESL)
In first-year writing ESL courses, students gain the skills and knowledge necessary to enhance their ability to become academically successful and civically engaged during their first year at CU-Boulder. The first-year writing course also helps students transition into university life and participate in their community. In addition, WRTG 1150 challenges students to read critically and respond in writing in rhetorically appropriate contexts; asks students to revise and peer- review; and introduces digital and multi-modal literacies. I’ve strived to have the students meet all the goals of 1150 while addressing ESL issues as needed. This course is the cornerstone of our efforts to meet the needs of the growing population of international students. One highlight of this course are the intergroup dialogues connecting our international and domestic students, allowing students to incorporate multiple perspectives in their writing.
Taught as a rigorous writing workshop using advanced readings and materials, the advanced first-year course emphasizes critical reading, analytical and argumentative writing, and writing for multiple contexts. We read essays on academic culture drawn from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, with the goal of providing students with intellectual tools for investigating their own ways across the university experience. The course includes an extended digital and written project of the students’ own design that incorporates ethnographic fieldwork on one facet of academic culture. The course is taught as an intensive writing workshop emphasizing the effective application of key rhetorical concepts; critical thinking, analysis and argument; the use of technologies and revision strategies in the writing process; and rhetorical approaches to working with various audiences to advance particular purposes. The course includes a service-learning component, with civic engagement at its core. Students spend the semester engaged with a volunteer organization or community partner such as Intercambio de Communidades or the Student Workers Alliance Program (SWAP), and produce a real-world document for that organization. Several of my students have won first-year writing awards based on these projects.
Key Courses Taught: Upper-division
WRTG 3020 Multicultural Rhetorics
One of the aims of this course is to appreciate and reflect on the trans-lingual experience by exposing students to multiple literacies and asking them to include their own voice in this global conversation. I encourage students to write from their own experiences or ask them to discover different perspectives on current issues that allow students to cross borders and develop open, creative, flexible habits of mind. By writing in liminal spaces, or in-between cultures, students can discover a translingual approach, incorporating their voices and diverse experiences. This course includes dialogues with international visitors such as custodial staff, students, or community members.
WRTG 3020/3030/3040 (Thinking and Writing Transnationally, Sustainable Cultures, Professional Writing Courses)
These professional writing courses, whether taught to non-native or native speakers of English, are conducted as rigorous academic workshops using advanced readings and materials, emphasizing critical thinking, analysis, and argumentative writing. Course readings focus on cross-cultural communication in the arts, business, and scientific fields. The coursework includes a formal oral presentation, using appropriate digital materials. Assignments are tailored to meet the needs and interests of individual students. The final project for this course is to create a document related to the student's field that can stand on its own in the real world.
HONR 3220 (Advanced Honors Thesis Writing)
This course introduces honors students to analysis and argumentation as they are rendered in longer prose forms, such as an honors thesis. The course addresses the intellectual and rhetorical challenges of producing a major piece of scholarship. We begin by reading Bitzer’s “Rhetorical Situation,” and Vatz’s “Myth of the Rhetorical Situation” so that students understand the debate and develop strategies for writing in their own disciplines. Students explore the intellectual challenges of defining and refining the thesis topic and formulating a specific research question, as well as the rhetorical challenges of preparing a thesis prospectus. With the collaboration and thoughtful feedback of their colleagues in class, students have the opportunity to engage in independent scholarship in their area of expertise.