pete rorabaugh

father | atlantan | cyclist | educator | scholar | union member

Teaching Philosophy

As part of Wide World Ed’s Open Education MOOC, here is my teaching philosophy. This document is an (only slightly) edited version of the one that I used when I went on the job market last year.

My priorities as an educator originated from my Master’s work in critical pedagogy and its application to composition. Writing involves a number of connected cognitive processes: reading, interpretation, argument, research, organization, and vocabulary. The best composition instruction concentrates on these processes as a methods of engaging  and ways of knowing rather than as “actions that result in an essay.” Organic writing develops in non-linear clusters, the way organisms develop. Throughout my teaching, I have stressed process-oriented composition and organic development. In my classes, we consider more than what a piece of writing should look like when it comes to the reader; instead, we think about how research, collaboration, and revision profoundly alter how we know something.  In doing so, must also attend to  digital literacies  that enhance how individuals learn and communities engage in revision.

Early in my teaching, I abandoned default composition texts to build classes that were more focused on the academic and experiential interests of my students.  At Georgia State University, I used The Autobiography of Malcolm X (by Alex Haley and Malcolm X) as a textbook to study rhetoric because it raises questions about subjectivity, power, and language, and serves as a superb primer on persuasion for college writers. It’s especially well suited to students in an urban environment who are beginning to understand diversity at a new level. Currently I use Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (by Howard Rheingold) as the central text in my Composition 1 class. I want to connect students to the world outside the classroom by engaging their own social and philosophical questions and harnessing that material for their writing

In 2008 I began experimenting with different Learning Management Systems to develop a digital dimension to my pedagogy. While a Brittain Fellow in Georgia Tech’s Literature, Media, and Communication Department, my exposure to multimodal composition and the un-conference model of THATCamp I became excited about how the Web can augment the composition classroom .  As a result, my students use Twitter and WordPress to share their academic work in multiple stages of development. Teaching with digital media allows me to discuss writing in its earliest stages and to challenge students’ tacit assumptions about structure and revision.

My work in founding and editing  Hybrid Pedagogy was an experiment in viewing pedagogy and publishing as symbiotic activities. The academic community that orbits Hybrid Pedagogy has had a profound influence on my approach to teaching students who regularly produce and consume digital and traditional texts. The articles I wrote, solicited, and edited there affected my teaching because they forced me to reflect more deeply on the “why’s” of pedagogical and publishing practices.

The most important priority in my classroom is making learning relevant beyond the campus. Whether engaging debates in the contemporary media or utilizing the digital landscape for communication and research, I hope the work I do with my students positions writing and research as critical learning tools across disciplines. It is important to me that students learn to value curious hunches, that they gain confidence in writing and revising, and and that they become familiar researching and composing with electronic media and within community. Fluency in the use of argument, as both a critical reader and a writer, is a central academic and civic skill, and I remind students of the public and professional value of effective argument in the world beyond the institution.

My teaching style is dialogic and interactive.  Learning is hybrid and communal, and students do not benefit from memorizing rigid conventions and rule quoting. Their thinking matures when they are able to experiment with composing processes and learn a variety of techniques for composing efficient and meaningful arguments.  I enjoy the opportunity that connectivist practices offer the composition classroom, especially in how they force us to consider “audience” in new ways.  When students  edit their peers and themselves in a less formal but more public way using interactive and social media, they make richer connections regarding their own use of text and images.

I am a digital and critical pedagogue and humanist, deeply committed to  composition and research as forms of inquiry. Digital environments maximize the potential for organic writing by exposing the organic layers of a composition, and enabling new forms of peer review. Technology and digital media have become part of my classroom practice because of the avenues they open for thinking and expression. However, beyond my use of technology, I want my students to see academic behaviors as compatible with experiential learning and to see composition as a vibrant expression of their experience as scholars.

3 responses to “Teaching Philosophy”

  1. Bon Avatar

    Love this. “I want my students to see academic behaviors as compatible with experiential learning” – you manage here to address what I see as the biggest adaptive gap for institutional education at all levels. Those of us pedagogically committed to experiential learning and open thinking and creative exploration, for ourselves and the people we teach, have to teach our colleagues, our admin, and often our students to un-learn the bounded assumptions about “what counts” as educational practice.

    1. Avatar

      That unlearning is a difficult process for all of us, and sometimes I am uncomfortable with the seemingly “righteous” or polemic way it can come across. That said, institutional learning, as many of us have seen, “schools” passion and exploration out of the learning process too often. It comes down to intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for learning, and the former are so much more productive and meaningful. My favorite metaphor for this is riding a bike — a process that is incredibly hard for a 4-6 year old to imagine, and yet she will commit herself to so much trial and error to complete it. I call that “research”. Thanks for being the first comment-er in my new space!

  2. Vanessa Vaile Avatar

    Yes. Now to make writing and other classroom discoveries as exciting and liberating an adventure as riding a bicycle. Imagine the same with ponies, an even more complex process, upping the communication ante with another mind and will in the mix ~ and with it, the motivation.

    Yet I’ve seen academic instructors mock and dismiss the experiential. Based on observation, I suspect experiencing such intrinsically motivated processes arms learners against the conditioning that will call for unlearning…unfettering.

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