Posts Tagged ‘Pedagogy’

Anyone who teaches at a university knows the insanity that comes at the end of the semester. Students who have been putting things off all semester suddenly realize they have made mistakes, don’t have the time to finish, and think that somehow they deserve special exception.

This is everyone else’s fault but mine.

My pedagogical philosophy is that I can’t care more than the students. It’s also that my students are adults, and should be treated that way. I don’t do flexible deadlines. I don’t do special exceptions. I have a policy in my syllabus for that. If students want a special exception, they have to do an additional assignment. Not one that I give them; one that they propose to me. It needs to be of equivalent work to whatever they want an exception for, and it needs to require them to practice skills from the course. I don’t think it’s unreasonable. And yet, I still get these:

“I know the syllabus says I can only miss three classes, and I know I’ve missed nine. Does that mean I’m going to fail?” yes it does. “Can I do an extra assignment to make up for them?” You can do an extra assignment to make up for each of them. “Well, that’s too much work.”

“We haven’t done this section of the assignment. Is that okay?” No. Do you think a surgeon could get away with not stitching up a patient?

“We haven’t finished the assignment that’s due in an hour. Can we have more time?” No. I think the last five weeks have been plenty.

“I’m sorry I didn’t put as much effort into the last paper as expected.” You never handed anything in. “Does that mean I’m going to fail?” yep.

“I didn’t hand in my paper or any of the drafts. Am I going to fail?” yes.


Now, sometimes I get good students. Like the one who ‘didn’t put as much effort’ into a paper. I told him he was going to fail. He said “Can I write a second paper with the same requirements and hand them in with the final paper?” Yes. That you can do. Absolutely.

He didn’t complain. He didn’t make it all about him, or try to give me a sob story. He just followed the policy in the syllabus. And when I said yes, he said “Thank you.”

Because I’m not looking to fail them. I don’t WANT to fail anyone. I want them to do well. I’m a teacher; that’s my job. If they learn, I’ve done my job. If they don’t learn, then I haven’t.

But I can only care as much as they do. If they won’t do the work, I can’t give them the grade. That just wouldn’t be fair.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ve lately been saying that I live in a constant state of low grade panic. Once they stop laughing at me, they usually ask why. It’s because I’m looking for a job, and finishing my dissertation. And it’s really hard to do both at once. It’s not a question of difficult work. It’s psychologically difficult. I keep forgetting to work on my dissertation because I’m focusing so hard on writing cover letters for jobs across the country.

I bring this up because today I went and looked at my dissertation draft, currently clocking in at 120 pages, and found a note I had written there, a note that was an idea for a book. Actually, it was just an idea for a title. But the title is pretty self-suggesting. (more…)

I’ve been working pretty hard lately, and the pages are starting to add up. Sometime over the next week or so, I’ll hit a third digit. I’m in the home stretch, as they say. Which is terrifying in and of itself. But while I’m here, I thought I’d look around and write down the observations I have in the form of advice. So think of this as advice from me to someone who is just getting started with their dissertation.


Rules exist for a reason. They give us guidelines to follow, and they show us how to get from point A to point B with minimal fuss. They keep order and prevent society from falling into chaos. At least, most of them do.

Some of them don’t. Some rules restrict us, blind us to possibilities, and prevent creativity. I see this all the time when teaching students to write. They have had the five paragraph essay format drilled into them so deeply that they can’t comprehend any other ways to write; they can’t even conceive that there ARE other ways. They know the rules of writing, and they have to follow them, even though it makes them hate writing papers. They know they are constrained, they know they’re in a cage, but since they can’t see the bars, they can’t escape.


Both of the articles I’m looking at today were published in Computers and Composition. The first is “‘Always a Shadow of Hope’: Heteronormative binaries in an online discussion of sexuality and sexual orientation” by Heidi McKee. The othere is “Power, language, and identity: Voices from an online course” by L.E. Sujo de Montes, Sally M. Oran, and Elizabeth M. Willis.

Let’s start with McKee.


Today’s post is brought to you by “Breaking out of Binaries: Reconceptualizing Gender and its Relationship to Language in Computer-Mediated Communication” by Michelle Rodino and “Dis/Integrating the Gay/Queer Binary: ‘Reconstructed Identity Politics’ for a Performative Pedagogy” by Karen Kopelson.

In Rodino’s article, we look at actual gender identity. Kopelson will take us into sexuality. But let’s start with gender. (more…)

As I sit here reading Janice (Ginny) Redish’s book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works, I find myself over and over saying “well, yeah. Duh.” The things Redish is suggesting, like that a website needs to have a search bar at the top of the page, or that links need to be able to stand alone, are so obvious to me. They should be obvious to everyone.

And then it hits me: They are. They’re so obvious, in fact, that people can’t see them. These are so obviously important that we miss them, and don’t even realize when we fail to do simple things like keeping a page uncluttered. (more…)

Today I’m looking at Arthur Quinn’s great book Figures of Speech: 60 ways to turn a phrase. It’s a very short book about style, about the different ways to play with words and when to do them. More importantly, it’s a pretty comprehensive glossary of terms, so that I know that when I spell something wrong intentionally, what I’m doing is called ennallage (5), and when I repeat the same word in different grammatical schemes, it’s called isocolon (77) and if I repeat a word or phrase immediately, that’s epizeuxis (80).

Quinn writes his book with his tongue firmly pressed against his cheek, moving very cleverly through all 60 of these figures of speech by talking about them, around them, and providing copious examples of them, drawing from the Bible, Shakespeare, Euripides, Twain, Marlowe; he shows us these figures at work in language throughout our cultural history. (more…)

Stephanie Schnieder wrote Usable Pedagogies: Usability, Rhetoric, and Sociocultural Pedagogy in the Technical Writing Classroom, which seems in theme with the last couple entries. So I’ll start there.

The article  is essentially about how usability can support a sociocultural pedagogy. It presents ways in which usability can help with technical writing. Specifically, it suggests that “usability theory not only encourages us to look at the social and polical aspects of technical documentation and information design but also provides a pedagical frame ‘specific to the field'” (448). The more usable something is, the easier it is to teach. Students are users, after all. (more…)

Originally, the last entry was going to include all four sources (those two and these two). But it ended up taking so long to talk about those two that these got bumped. I have no idea why I’m telling you this.

The first article I’m looking at here is Jeff Rice’s Cyborgography: A pedagogy of the Home Page. The article is mostly about the establishment of identity online, specifically through the use of a home page. Rice quotes Jakob Nielsen (2002) when he says “if the homepage doesn’t communicate what users can do and why they should care about the website, you might as well not have a website at all” (62). And Nielsen here makes a good point: if someone comes to a page and has no idea what they can do, they’ll leave. Without knowledge of what a site is for, it may as well ot be there.