My pedagogy is shaped by my experience as a community college student and my struggle to master the hidden curriculum. Like the autodidacts I study in my research, I was largely on my own in deciding what to study and how to navigate the college and university system. It is always my goal, therefore, to impart to my students who may not have family members or friends to help them negotiate higher education (and even those that do) the tools they need to succeed. In instruction, this manifests as transparency and flexibility and in reaching out to those who may not be aware of their options, as I outline in my teaching philosophy. I consider this an extension of universal design -- if we all know how to play the rules of the game, we can all play it better.
Even students from privileged backgrounds struggle to uncover what some refer to as the hidden curriculum -- the secret code to achieving success in college. The idea that the syllabus is a contract that binds not just the student, but the instructor; the possibility of attaining extensions on projects; the ability to read between the lines to decipher an instructor’s grading schema -- these are all parts of the hidden curriculum. But students shouldn’t have to have access to a secret code to be successful students. To that end, I’ve begun experimenting with grading contracts, which assign students grades based on their labor, not natural skills in writing or literature or their ability to read my mind. I have used grading contracts when teaching baseline syllabi and I am excited about the potential of using these in courses of my own design. You can see an example of this in a sample prospective course syllabus.
Transparency also means being honest with students about the workings of academia. To that end, I attempt to teach courses which demystify academic choices instructors make, such as my American Literature to 1880 course, in which I tasked students with interrogating the canon of nineteenth-century American Literature.
I emphasize the collaborative nature of my courses by giving the class the power to guide our time together and a say in the due dates of the assignments. Increasingly, in this student loan-laden and post-pandemic world, life gets in the way for students: their work schedules shift suddenly, they become responsible for the care of loved ones. Flexibility is necessary if we are to promote equity.
I also embrace a more flexible understanding of knowledge by valuing experiential learning which students bring with them into the classroom. This strategy is an extension of my research into legitimizing autodidactic knowledge and also an acknowledgement that the students’ success within the classroom often hinges upon their experiences without.
Finally, flexibility also plays a role in my assignment design. By incorporating multimodal work into my courses, I allow students to demonstrate skills other than alpha-numeric writing ability. You can see what this looks like in the examples below. The first is part of a First-Year Writing project in which I ask students to shift their rhetorical situation and adapt a previous research paper into a short podcast. The second is a professional writing for arts management project in which I ask students to analyze, then re-design, a guide for a museum.
For additional information, please see my teaching philosophy.
You can see some sample syllabi here:
You can find my C.V. here.