English Composition has a fascinating and convoluted history. The initial creation of this university-level course stemmed from a need to educate students in the art and act of writing across their college career. Essentially, the overtly broad goal of English Composition was and is to teach students how to compose different texts in varying genres. This is a difficult task considering that most university students, and their instructors, only have one or two semesters to learn and teach this, and other, multifaceted skill(s). Subsequently, there are also numerous adversities within the field of writing and rhetoric. In fact, Doug Downs and Elizabeth Wardle (2007) argue that: "When we continue to pursue the goal of teaching students "how to write in college" in one or two semesters—despite the fact that our own scholarship extensively class this possibility into question—we silently support the misconceptions that writing is not a real subject, that writing courses do not require expert instructors, and that rhetoric and composition are not genuine research areas or legitimate intellectual pursuits." This argument is based on an adversity that many, if not all, English Composition instructors have encountered and still encounter often. However, despite these obstacles, English Composition instructors have worked, and are working, tirelessly to continue the pursuit of knowledge and education through writing and rhetoric, not only for students, but for fellow academics within varying fields as well.
As an English Composition instructor, my teaching philosophy aims to inform students about the complexities of writing and rhetoric while providing a groundwork for students to write within multiple genres and transfer knowledge from one genre to another while remaining mindful and transparent. As an educator in general, my goal is to spark a deeper understanding and appreciation of writing and rhetoric in students and to allow students the opportunity to understand themselves and the world around them better. I aim to broaden my own understanding of the field of writing studies through collaboration with students. As a result, I focus on the underlying reason why I and others write. The reasons behind why writers write, be it to express themselves, address a gap in existing literature with new knowledge, or to join an existing conversation within varying discourse communities, tends to ignite eagerness and passion in students. This technique also allows students to express themselves through writing and rhetoric as well as analyze and evaluate written texts and existing literature in order to gain a deeper understanding of context.
Consequentially, I have had the honor and privilege of applying my teaching philosophy and collaborating with students in primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. For two years, I was a mentor to students in the Visual Arts and Media Industries course at Full Sail University. As a mentor, I supervised group projects focused on the entertainment industry. Students were compelled to create and establish companies centering on either film, television, graphic novels, video games, or marketing. Within their companies, students conducted industry-related research, compiled presentations on the production processes, and pitched project concepts to potential investors. I guided students on the various components of their research projects and aided in concept creation. I also composed a study guide to lead students through the research process, to compile their presentations, and to prepare them to pitch their projects to potential investors.
I was also a middle and high school teacher at the Above Average Home-Schooling Institution in Johannesburg, South Africa. During that time, I taught English and Afrikaans to students with learning disabilities. Additionally, I was a teaching associate for the English Department and Journalism Department at the University of Johannesburg during my undergraduate career in South Africa. I taught students in Broadcast and New Media Journalism as well as in English Composition. In the Journalism classroom, I focused on enhancing the students' learning experience by leading open discussions about current events and by incorporating real-world journalistic experiences with academic content. In the English classroom, I aided in refining students' writing skills by focusing on research and how to integrate research findings with specific essay topics, such as xenophobia, HIV/AIDS, and poverty in Africa, in analytic essay form.
I am very excited to keep honing my teaching skills as an English Composition instructor and to bring a unique South African flare to the classroom.
Unveiling the Writer
ENGLISH COMPOSITION COURSE
The aim of this course is to build on the key concepts of writing and rhetoric emphasized in ENC 1101. ENC 1102 further strengthens students’ understanding of the work that writing and research do in the world. The primary and secondary research at the heart of ENC 1102’s semester-long inquiry projects invites students to identify, analyze, and contribute effectively to the complex, real-world rhetorical situations that animate their academic, professional, civic, and personal lives. Through a sequence of writing and research tasks, students learn to continually revisit earlier ideas, refine emergent findings and questions, and trace the development of ideas and arguments across multiple sources and genres. In addition to generating new knowledge, the research process also occasions opportunities for students to interrogate and revise their own conceptions of writing and research.
I outline the assignment sequence and assignment prompts, along with framing statements for each, that I have created for my fall 2020 ENC 1102 course below.
ASSIGNMENT SEQUENCE AND PROMPTS
ENC 1102: Composition II
Major Assignment 1: Initial Research Proposal
Throughout this course, students will be working on a semester-long research project. This project will eventually become a well-researched, expertly structured, and very well-written paper. Students will be conducting research in the same way that real-world researches do by joining a pre-existing conversation with an authentic question. Students' question must center on the field of writing studies and it must be an aspect that they are genuinely interested in. This is the most important part of the research project.
It can be challenging for students to find a real question that they are invested in. They will need to identify an area within the realm of their interests that they care about and that has been unaddressed (or not really all that well researched) in previous studies. This requires an awareness of oneself and the context of one's work. The reason behind coming up with this research question is to get students thinking about how to approach research and how to critically analyze an aspect within an area that students really care about.
The goal of this assignment is not to invent the 'perfect' research question, but to determine which discourse community students will be involved in over the course of the semester. Students will be able to draft a more specific question as the research and analyze existing literature and find gaps that can be addressed. The Initial Research Proposal allows students to choose their direction (an area of inquiry to explore) and to initiate the research process.
Major Assignment 2: Annotated Bibliography
At this point, students have decided on an initial research question and will need to find out where this question is situated in the broader conversation of writing studies. In order to answer an authentic research question, it is crucial to know what has already been asked and stated in students' chosen discourse community. The goal of the semester-long research project is for students to generate new knowledge and to gain an understanding of the existing literature surrounding their area of interest.
Before joining an existing conversation, students first have to 'listen' and find out what the discussion is all about. The same concept applies to the Annotated Bibliography. This is the 'listening phase' of students' research project, where they gain an understanding of the context of their chosen area of interest before they add to the conversation through their research paper.
Organizing sources in this assignment will allow students to make connections between their research question and their chosen discourse community and will allow students to identify certain gaps in the existing literature centered on their area of interest. This assignment corresponds to and scaffolds the one that comes after it, the Revised Research Proposal/First Draft, where students will be elaborating on their research question and addressing where and how their research fits in within the context of the broader academic conversation.
Major Assignment 3: Revised Research Proposal/First Draft
In the Initial Research Proposal, students set out to draft a research question based on an area of interest within a specific discourse community that they care about. Thereafter, students conducted some more thorough research and created an Annotated Bibliography to familiarize themselves more with the broader conversation surrounding their research niche. Now that students have spent some time immersing themselves in that conversation, they will most likely have to evolve in response to this new information.
The Revised Research Proposal/First Draft will give students a chance to frame their research project overall. Here, students will outline what their Final Research Paper will look like and how they plan on conducting primary research. Whether students are conducting an interview, a textual analysis, a survey, a case study, or anything of the sort, they will be able to address their plan of action for their project.
The research niche students describe in this first draft of their paper will, ultimately, become the focus of their Final Research Paper. In essence, this is where students will be joining the conversation within their chosen discourse community.
Major Assignment 4: Final Research Paper
The overarching goal of these major assignments is to provide a groundwork for students to write within multiple genres and for them to transfer knowledge from one genre to another throughout their college career. The devices students will use to structure their Final Research Paper (synthesizing information, finding gaps in an existing conversation, writing from a place of authentic inquiry, and fulfilling the expectations of a specific genre) will be used and applied in other courses as well. In other words, students will be able to use the skills that they have learned here to successfully complete almost any other writing task that they encounter in their daily lives and in their chosen career field.
The Final Research Paper will analyze and contextualize students' research findings for future scholars as well as pave a way forward for others to continue the conversation.
In most cases, the research that students will be conducting and the writing that they will be doing are predetermined by what has already been studied and said on any given topic, the audience their writing is intended for, and the expectations that accompany their chosen genre. The process of creating the Final Research Paper provides students with skills that can transfer to other writing tasks. It also immerses students within the field of writing studies and makes them more aware of certain skills they already have when it comes to crafting a specific genre for a specific audience.
At this point, the students and I have worked together to make sure that the content of their research paper centers on an authentic point of inquiry. Students have crafted an authentic research question and discovered a gap in the existing literature that does not yet have a satisfactory explanation. Students' work is, in essence, creating new knowledge to address this gap.
Major Assignment 5: Presentation
A key component to research involves presenting one's work. Even though approximately 238 million people feel nervous about talking in front of and to others, rest assured that we are not alone in this. Every time I conduct an in-person class session, I have to address students in a professional, informative, and inclusive manner. I have to prepare class notes, in-class activities, and even a visual presentation to help guide students through the course. I do not expect students to do all of that for this presentation, but I would like to think that I have provided an example of how students can present their research to the class.
The goal of this assignment is for students to learn how to address an audience while discussing the research that they have conducted. When students enter the workforce, and even apply to graduate school, they will most likely be asked to participate in an interview of sorts. This means that students will need to articulate specific skills that they have learned during their undergraduate career and during their various experiences in other fields. Although students are not quite at the point where they need to be thinking about this aspect, I am a firm believer in thinking and planning ahead.
To this extent, students will be preparing a presentation based on their research findings and presenting it to their classmates. This is an effective way for students to receive feedback (from me and their classmates) on their Final Research Paper before they dive into their final major assignment. This will also allow students to make any necessary changes to their curated and researched content as they plan their final major assignment.
Final Major Assignment: ePortfolio
At this point in the semester, students have reached the end of this course. Throughout the semester, students have completed the Final Research Paper and accomplished all of their writing tasks. Now, there is only one thing left for students to do: collect the work they have composed for this course and reflect on how their understanding of writing has evolved.
In the ePortfolio, students can view the work that they have done in this course through the lens of the objectives listed in the course syllabus and course outcomes. Students will be able to see how they have met these requirements and which assignments have fulfilled which aspects of these objectives. This is how students will come to an understanding of what skills they now have as a result of this course.
This assignment allows students to reflect on the work they have completed in order to pave the way forward not only for themselves but for other scholars as well.