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, but my opening beliefs have been re-situated by growing need to account for global and new media forces. I loved collaborative approach because of my belief that learning is collaborative and that students learn more from interaction and conversation among themselves than from lecture. Therefore, I often encouraged small-group discussion, peer-review workshop, and collaborative writing assignments in and out of the class. In conjunction with collaborative pedagogy, I also preferred to use critical pedagogy in the classroom with the conviction that it is the teacher’s responsibility to create and maintain informed student body capable of critiquing and resisting, if need be, anything taught to or imposed on them. My choice was guided by my position that, as a teacher, I should alert students to possible manipulation and indoctrination by some set of dominant ideologies, and help them grow as critical readers and writers. That being a broader objective, in my class, students examined, debated, and contested the ideologies causing disparities and inequalities among the classes and groups in the society. I relied on critical, literary, linguistic and cultural theories, theories of logic, and critical thinking tools to inculcate critical and analytical perspectives in students, and 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 having gone through doctoral training and years of teaching in a variety of settings in the US, and abroad, my teaching philosophy has taken a slightly different mode. I still use collaborative and critical pedagogies, but do so in combination with other sets of pedagogies and practices; they now surface into my teaching as critical and collaborative literacies, along side other kinds of literacies, such as multimodal and intercultural. This shift in my teaching philosophy is emblematic of my altered perspective on the end of education, literacy or teaching itself. I now believe that our students need to learn a range of literacy skills—both traditional and new— in order to wrestle with the academic, communicative/composition and interactive challenges of the 21st century world. Therefore, our students need to be multiliterate now because “[G]lobalization provides a contextual necessity for us to become multiliterate” (Bull and Anstey). In alternative terms, everyone of them (and us) 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 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 designed a course around the idea of multiliteracies, and divided it into 4 units, each focused on different set of literacies: Unit 1—critical and visual literacies; unit 2—essayist and information literacies; unit 3— multimedia and intercultural literacies; and unit 4—multimodal and global literacies. The major assignments included literacy narratives, and rhetorical analysis of a digital artifact (unit 1); argument essay (unit 2); remediation of argument essay into web form (unit 3); and collaborative documentary film-making (unit 4). This unit and assignment sequence had some underlying principles, such as moving students from consumption of media and knowledge artifacts to their critical and reflective consumption and then to active production of such artifacts, and scaffolding students’ multiliteracy acquisition by leading them through “increasing ladder of abstraction” (James Moffett)—beginning with narration and getting to textual and multimedia arguments via visual analysis. In other words, my course units and assignments were integrally interconnected in terms of scaffolding students’ existing literacies and cultivating in them multiple old and new literacies. For example, in unit 2, I engaged essayist and information literacies by involving students in the process of critically evaluating, analyzing and synthesizing information from multiple sources as a groundwork for preparing them to make well-founded arguments about the topics of their choice. Capitalizing on the progress made in unit 2, I asked students in unit 3 to remediate their argument essays into web forms (such as wikispaces, Google sites, WordPress etc.) for two different audiences: General American public, and the community of the student’s peer, who the student worked closely with for the unit. This particular project put students to work with multiple media or modalities and made them cognizant of the rhetoricity of different media (e.g. website vs. print) and the dynamics of intercultural/interracial communication. It also encouraged students to engage simultaneously with traditional, and new media and literacies, which brought home to them the insight that traditional and new media or literacies have interactive and synergistic relations between them.
Thus, my current teaching philosophy reflects my belief that we cannot and should not divorce a writing class from its local institutional, disciplinary, and larger global contexts. As a space populated by diverse student bodies, a composition class should be guided by its internal richness (cultural, linguistic and literacy traditions of students), attuned to equally diverse genre and disciplinary conventions (academic writing, standard English/Englishes etc.), and larger global forces and challenges, including altered workplace dynamics and advancement in communication and composition technologies.