Teaching Statement

K. V. White
Assistant Professor of English
Northern Virginia Community College

Photo by Greg Grieco (2006)
Location: Penn State University
I believe that composition and literature courses can give students an opportunity to learn how to think critically and write effectively, regardless of their chosen career path.  I choose the readings in my syllabus carefully; I prefer pieces that are engaging, challenging, and at times controversial. These readings encourage students to raise questions and to reexamine their own thinking process and beliefs. I tell my students to read the texts with skepticism, and to never accept anyone’s argument without a careful examination of the issue in question. 
My classroom is a setting for open discussions in which my students can share their views and debate their often opposite opinions. My students are encouraged to discuss and dissect the readings, including each other’s essays, in order to understand how other writers approach writing.                

In order to enhance my teaching approach, I take advantage of an array of tools.  Sometimes, lectures are not the best way to convey information to students.  I am aware students have different learning styles, so I try to cater to their needs as much as possible.  Tools such as videos, slideshows, and Prezi presentations allow me to appeal to visual learners as well and auditive learners. Visits to the computer labs and interactions with websites and wikis help me reach those students who learn “by doing.”  

Writing Assignments

While lessons on grammar, sentences structure, and other writing practices are helpful and often needed, my focus is on the writing process as a tool to effectively reach and persuade a particular audience.  Writing assignments are designed to teach my students about audience and purpose, but I also emphasize the need to find one’s own voice when writing.  As my students get ready to write their first draft, I ask them to consider the following questions:

·         What is the purpose of your paper?

·         Why do you want to write this paper?

·         What argument or idea are you trying to convey?

·         Who will read your paper?

·         What does your audience believe about your topic?

·         What would you like your audience to feel/believe/do after reading your paper?

·         How will your present your argument? What tools will you employ to persuade your audience?

I believe that writing does not have to be an isolated process; this is why I encourage my students to work with each other.  In my composition courses, I provide time and guidance for writing and peer review sessions, and I sometimes assign group projects so that students can learn to work with team members. I find that students help and learn from each other, and that they hone their collaboration skills as they interact among themselves.   

The internet has become a vital tool as I teach my students about collaboration and group work.  Students can exchange ideas with me or each other via e-mails, discussion forums, or chat rooms in a matter of seconds. My class expands beyond the physical classroom and becomes an ongoing discussion that is accessible to students whenever they wish to participate. Web spaces such as ANGEL, Blackboard, and GoogleDocs allow me to share files with my students so they may access these documents at any time.

My goal is to provide my students with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. My hope is that these students become critical thinkers and effective writers, and that they carry on these skills to other classes and beyond graduation.