As an instructor of interdisciplinary writing-intensive courses in composition, public and professional writing, literature, and education, I am invested in collaborating with students in the development of course content so that they they learn writing practices and genres in the context of their own personal and intellectual interests. For many classes, I’ll provide contextual readings and an initial case example, and will then invite students to share with the course community relevant case examples from their own interests. These case examples often inform and inspire students’ writing projects. Through small group workshops and discussion, students are not only exposed to a wider variety of case examples than I’d be able to provide as central readings, but make use of their differing perspectives to offer insight and help their peers troubleshoot projects which dramatically inform project revisions. Final projects most often significant revisions, developments, combinations, or new iterations of projects previously experimented with in the course.
Below is a sampling of courses I’ve taught during my doctoral studies at the University of Pittsburgh.* Feel free to use these materials to inspire and inform your own courses, though if your courses turn out to be close approximations of these courses I always appreciate a nod/citation in your course materials (and feel free to let me know how it goes!)
Words & Images
Words and Images (ENGLIT 0354) is an interdisciplinary writing intensive course that according to the course catalog description “explores the relationships between language and the diverse kinds of images that often accompany it… The course goal is to study the parallels and differences between images and words (as systems of communication) and to understand how they can productively interrelate within creative works.”
This section of Words and Images (taught as a six-week summer course) attended to creative and critical modes and methods of information visualization and textual interpretation, informed in part by Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, which attends to the ways in which “[g]raphics make and construct knowledge” as “arguments made in graphical form” (Drucker). Student projects ranged from self-tracking experiments to computer-assisted/quantified reading strategies to erasure poetics.
Narrative and Technology
Narrative and Technology (ENGLIT 0512) is a writing-intensive course that “explores the ways in which new technologies impact how we engage with stories,” inviting students to engage with not only examples of narrative and technology with interesting and contingent relationships to each other (e.g. hypermedia, video games, etc.) but to experiment with making such media themselves in course projects.
This section of Narrative and Technology emphasized the longer history of technologies of writing, including advancements made possible through the printing press and typewriter and the ways in which technologies are appropriated and/or exploited for “creative” and literary aims. Student final projects ranged from computer-generated poetry to an essay by a non-traditional student about learning Minecraft from her kids to a rendition of Moby Dick created from gameplay capture from Ark: Survival Evolved and soundbites from the 1956 film.
Writing for the Public
Writing for the Public (ENGCMP 420) is a course that “explores the theory and practice of writing that serves the public interest.” It is both the introductory threshold course for the Public and Professional Writing major at Pitt as well as a choice students often make for their writing-intensive coursework requirement (thus the student roster is filled with writing students as well as students interested in public health, non-profit management, education, and beyond).
The two sections of Writing for the Public I taught were genre-based courses whereby students researched an issue of public interest that engaged them from their own personal and intellectual interests and wrote conventional public genres such as white papers and infographics as well as created web content through class and individual blogs. Students’ final projects ranged from a website detailing gentrification efforts and community response in Pittsburgh’s North Side to a history and information site about Pittsburgh’s robust Ultimate community to to the development of a lifestyle blog dedicated to lowering readers’ environmental impact.
- Writing for the Public Fall 2015 Syllabus
- Writing for the Public Fall 2015 Detailed Schedule
- Writing for the Public Spring 2016 Syllabus
- Writing for the Public Spring 2016 Detailed Schedule
- Writing for the Public Assignments (Note: Assignments are from Spring 2016, but remained similar to the Fall 2015 versions)
Written Professional Communication
Written Professional Communication (ENGCMP 400) “will examine the contexts for and rhetorical dimensions of a variety of professional documents,” and includes both the rehearsal of career-driven genres such as cover letters and resumes as well as engagement with issues such as workplace professionalism and professional discourse.
In this section of WPC students researched and contributed case examples from the careers they aspired to join after college and composed projects attending to the nuances in convention across professional genres according to that research. Collaboratively, students engaged in group projects dedicated to issues of business ethics (e.g. gender equality) and created reports and a memo series pitching company policies based on those issues.
- Written Professional Communication Syllabus
- Written Professional Communication Detailed Schedule
- Written Professional Communication Assignments
Seminar in Composition (ENGCMP 200) at the University of Pittsburgh has a long-standing tradition of attending to the transition to collegiate-level writing by attending to student writing as the primary text of the course, to offer students an opportunity to “improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world.”
This section of Seminar in Comp is an adaptation of the staff syllabus for that year, for which the chosen reading was Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love. My particular adaptation of this syllabus attended to critical inquiry as its central thematic and pragmatic focus as a lens for reading Wilson’s book and for students’ composition projects.
* Prior to teaching at the University of Pittsburgh as the Writing Center Assistant Director at Washington College I co-taught peer writing tutor theory and pedagogy with Writing Center Director Dr. John Boyd. During my MFA in creative writing at George Mason University I taught first-year writing and introductory literature. The courses above, I feel, best reflect my current pedagogical praxis, though if you’d like to learn about those previous courses please contact me.