My approach to composition pedagogy emphasizes enabling students to gain access to the academy through teaching them genres of power. I utilize a pedagogical structure based on the Sydney school of genre theory. This pedagogy is versatile and can be adapted to many different writing curricula–I have used it at the R1 and two community colleges where I have taught. In my composition classes, students first build background knowledge on a target genre, focusing on its purpose and audience, through discussion and lecture. Next, we analyze a sample text written in the target genre. This involves guided annotation activities focusing on the stages of the genre and the language used in each stage of the genre. Thirdly, we compose a text in the target genre as a class, with the students actively proposing phrases and sentences and another student serving as the class scribe. Finally, students write their own text in the target genre, with support through a writing workshop and individual conferencing. This sequence scaffolds student understanding and competency in genres that will empower them to achieve their goals in the academy. Students have reported that they find the approach to be practical and that it gives them confidence to write in new genres.
In providing what genre theorist Jim Martin calls “guidance through interaction in the context of shared experience,” my students are able to write in complex academic genres. The joint composition exercise, where the class writes a text in the target genre, has given my students confidence in their ability to tackle academic genres such as annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, and even full primary research articles. The “shared experience” that the students write about is often the college writing itself, drawing from Wardle and Downs’s Writing about Writing orientation. At other times, I have had students produce a literacy ethnography as a class by studying the college library as a site of literacy practices.
Because writing is facilitated through technology, I have always leveraged the most relevant and most recent technologies for achieving my student’s educational objectives. In my guided annotation activities which facilitate students’ learning of the staging and language expectations of a new genre, I have projected our common model texts onto a whiteboard and annotated the text, highlighting each stage of the genre. Then students work in groups to annotate specific language features of their own copies. Finally, I use their reported annotations, mark them on the common text projected on the whiteboard, and engage them in discussion about function of each of the language features.
I use digital technologies to mediate the writing process, often in innovative ways. On one occasion when I was away at a conference, I meet with students via BlackBoard instant messaging to discuss research papers they were writing. Because the time the class was scheduled coincided with my travel time to the conference, I managed the instant messaging discussions on my laptop via mobile hotspot on the highway while a colleague drove. This demonstrates my commitment to supporting students by leveraging the power of technology to meet them in any way possible.
My practice of teaching is grounded in respect for every student and their background; support through scaffolding, expert guidance, and building community; and engagement through common goals and experiences in the classroom so that all students can learn and achieve their potential.