I have evolved as a teacher over time, and so has my teaching philosophy. In my earlier years as a teacher, I was a fan of collaborative and critical pedagogies in the classroom in conjunction with other relevant activities. I loved collaborative approach because of my belief that learning is collaborative, that students learn more from interaction and conversation among themselves than from lecture, that students get broader knowledge, experience and insights while engaged in group work and research, that knowledge is negotiated “shared belief,” and that learning and knowledge thus obtained are enduring and meaningful. Therefore, I often encouraged small-group discussion, peer-review workshop, individual and collaborative writing assignments, group work, collaborative research projects and presentations in and out of the class. My assumption then was that such academic activities can act as springboards for discovery, revelation, reinforcement and feedback. I also firmly believed that collaborative approach could facilitate the conversation among multiple views, including the views of minoritized groups, making the range of knowledge broad and writing and research rich.
In conjunction with collaborative pedagogy, I also preferred to use critical pedagogy in the classroom with the belief that it is the teacher’s responsibility to create and maintain informed and thinking student body capable of critiquing, questioning and resisting, if need be, anything taught to or imposed on them. My choice was guided by my conviction that as a teacher I should alert students of possible manipulation, exploitation and indoctrination by some set of dominant ideologies and dogmas, and try to make them the informed and critical readers and writers. This being a broader objective, in my class, students examined, discussed, debated, contested, and scrutinized the ideologies causing disparities and inequalities among the classes and groups in the society. Thus, in an attempt to “empower citizens (students) to disrupt dominant ideology and to revitalize democratic practice”, I relied on critical, literary, linguistic and cultural theories, theories of logic, and critical thinking tools to inculcate critical and analytical perspectives in students. As part of the assignment and classroom activity, my students learned to analyze and critique a variety of texts, such as the commercial ads, newspaper articles, books, film clips, and so on.
But now getting through doctoral training and years of teaching in a variety of settings in the US, and abroad, my teaching philosophy has evolved and taken a slightly different turn. I still use collaborative and critical pedagogies but in combination with other sets of pedagogies and practices. As opposed to being the major pedagogical instruments in my earlier years, the critical and collaborative pedagogies now surface into my teaching as critical and collaborative literacies, along side other kinds of literacies such as multimodal and intercultural. No question, I still regard them as vital, but not as the only sets of skills students need to learn to successfully navigate the complexities of the globalized world. In that sense, in past few years of my growth as a teacher, critical and collaborative approaches have experienced positional shifts—from privileged ones to equitable to other approaches/literacies. This shift in my pedagogical and curricular design is emblematic of my altered perspective on the end of education, literacy or teaching itself. I now firmly believe that our students need to learn a lot more than just the critical and collaborative skills in order to wrestle with the communication, composition and interactive challenges of the 21st century world. They (as well as we) need to be multiliterate now because “[G]lobalization provides a contextual necessity for us to become multiliterate” (Bull and Anstey). In other words, everyone of us now should have the ability to interact using multiple Englishes in English speaking context, multiple writing/communication styles across cultures and disciplines as well as the ability to communicate using an array of visual, audio, and textual resources in multiple new and old media including print, digital and cyber technologies. In addition, we should have the ability to critically evaluate information and resources, and use them ethically across contexts. In short, we all should gain or have a rich repertoire of creative, critical, reflective and rhetorical skills in order to successfully navigate the complexities of this interwoven world.
In line with my current teaching philosophy, in the Spring of 2012, I framed a course around the idea of multiliteracies, and divided my course into 4 units, each focused on different set of literacies. The first unit in my course was dedicated to learning from students about their literacy traditions (literacy narrative assignment), and cultivating critical and visual literacies (rhetorical analysis of digital artifact project) whereas second unit was devoted to engaging essayistic literacy (argument essay assignment). The following unit (unit 3) was meant to introduce students to the notion of remediation with some hands-on training with “repurposing” media (remediation projects). In this particular unit, students were asked to remediate their unit 2 print-based argument essays into website forms. They actually produced two versions of the website in response to my assignment, which asked them to gear one version towards the general American public while the other one towards the community of the student’s peer. For this assignment, students worked for three weeks closely in a group of two, and I tried to pair students from somewhat different backgrounds into a group so that they could interact with one another and tailor their remediated websites to the expectations and the values of the community of his/her peer. Students were asked to design the general website first, share that with their peers and only then redesign the first version of website based on their peers’ feedback. This particular project was intended to put students to work with multiple media or modalities, introduce them to convergence culture and make them cognizant of the rhetoricity of different media (e.g. website vs. print) or the dynamics of intercultural/interracial communication. Unit four was dedicated to documentary production (collaborative documentary film-making project), where students in groups of three collaborated to produce a movie on controversial contemporary topics like Occupy Wall Street or the Trayvon Martin (shooting) case or the Democratic Movement in the Middle East. This unit encouraged students to work in collaboration with each other (Global literacy); work with multiple media (multimodal literacy); learn multiple digital skills such as camera work, editing, script writing (digital literacy) and presentation skills (they presented the projects to the class).
This sequence of assignments was done on the basis of some simple organizing principles. The first had to do with the transition of students from passive consumers of media and knowledge to critical and reflective consumers, and producers of those entities. The rhetorical analysis assignment, which asked students to critically and rhetorically analyze the chosen digital artifacts, aimed to make them the critical and reflective users of media or knowledge, while the argument essay assignment shifted the focus from consumption towards production of knowledge. The argument essay assignment was transitional in that it required both critical consumption (careful evaluation of sources for use in the essay) and production of knowledge (claim-making or argument/s). But remediation and documentary filmmaking were full-fledged media or knowledge production assignments also because both versions of remediation, and collaboratively produced documentaries were hosted publicly on different Web 2.0 interfaces. The other organizing motif was the idea of multiple literacies (a multiliterate composition pedagogy, in my formulation). Each unit was dedicated to some set of literacies that we in rhetoric and composition value such as critical, visual and media (unit 1), essayistic and information (unit 2), multimedia and intercultural (unit 3), and multimodal (unit 4). Thus, within the designated course objectives, I built in assignments and activities in the interest of scaffolding and cultivating multiple literacies in students, and preparing them for undertaking challenges of surviving in a complexly interconnected world.