My aim as an instructor and mentor of graduate and undergraduate students is to help them hone their creative and intellectual voices, inviting them to collaborate with others in crafting work that can have implications and live outside the classroom while diversifying the conversations we have in our culture. Although my teaching methods are constantly evolving, the following concepts guide my pedagogy:
Representing Diverse Voices
As I am planning a course, my first question is how to diversify the materials students will engage with during the semester. Even when teaching topics like Film Studies, for which the canon almost exclusively features straight, white, male directors, I search for critically acclaimed films by and about women, people of color, and queer, working-class, and disabled people, making sure the majority of films we engage with are by directors who fit those descriptions. Diversity of authorship and topic in assigned texts allows us to turn our conversations toward how our personal experiences define our intellectual and emotional engagement with the world and, as a result, affect what we produce. Once we have substantially discussed that idea, class conversations explore what we lose by leaving out so many of the contributions made by diverse people from our cultural and intellectual production and the histories we tell about ourselves. Because I emphasize production of new texts in my classes, I invite students to not feel defeated by this exclusion, but to instead produce the kinds of work in and outside the classroom that helps diversify our culture.
Transforming Multimodal Production Through Feedback
As students increasingly consume information through multimodal texts, it is vital for them to understand the moves these texts make and to have an insider understanding of how they are produced. In response to that need, my courses include at least one multimodal assignment. From Powerpoint/Google Slides/Prezi presentations to documentaries to podcasts, I invite graduate and undergraduate students to produce texts that blend various modes of communication. As we discuss in class, there is a complexity of thought and creativity that unfolds as one produces texts beyond alphabetic writing, particularly if those texts express complex and nuanced ideas. To ensure students produce the best multimodal work possible, I ask them to use our class as their feedback community. We follow art-studio-style creative feedback in which students present their project plans and drafts to the whole class for constructive critique. After each presentation, the class answers questions, provides new directions to explore, and points out issues that should be addressed. The feedback provided through this approach has substantial resonance because it comes from a group of peers engaged in the same work, instead of solely from the instructor. Not only is the feedback better received, it is also much richer and more thorough than what I alone could provide. As we deliver feedback on multiple drafts, students experience what it’s like to rework their own projects and see how their classmates’ projects are transformed as they take the comments and ideas they receive into account. In other words, they experience the power of feedback from both sides of the aisle, a lesson that will serve them well as they spread their professional wings.
My courses feature group work assignments both in and outside class. There are few professions today that don’t require us to produce work in teams for at least part of our duties, and I see helping students learn to effectively share tasks with others as key in preparing them for their careers. Multimodal projects, which have a variety of pieces that require separate creative attention, are an excellent way to introduce students to the benefits of group work. In order to provide students with a more organized group work experience, my course materials describe in detail the roles each team member will play and ask students to select the roles that best identify with their skillset. For podcast assignments, for example, those who feel more comfortable speaking in front of a mic become the narrators, while those with editing experience or a desire to learn editing become the editors. Although those roles can be porous and some teams choose to share them evenly, I do provide them with a system that helps them complete the projects and hold each other accountable. Through the art-studio style critiques mentioned above, students also collaborate with the whole class as they help each other craft the best pieces they can.
Creating Beyond the Classroom
As I design my courses, I develop opportunities for students to produce something that can live outside our classroom experience. Whether I am providing undergraduate students with portfolio pieces or graduate students with assignments that, when reworked, can be submitted for publication, I aim for students to see the work they do for class as being tied to their professional identities. To help them create work that is aimed for audiences outside the classroom, I provide copious formative feedback, not only in our art-studio style critiques, but when assessing final drafts. My 2018 Enculturation Intermezzo edited collection, Pixelating the Self: Digital Feminist Memoirs, features eight final projects produced by graduate students in my “Academic Memoirs Across Media” graduate special topics course. The students presented about their projects throughout the semester and shared the final versions on the last day of class. They then revised extensively based on my feedback after class ended. The resulting pieces were moving and innovative and, through Pixelating the Self, we have multiplied the impact of the work produced in the course by sharing it with the academic community.
To learn about the courses I teach, you can visit the Courses and Advising Section.