I’ve shifted the focus of my Freshmen Composition courses to focus on key concepts and theories of writing. At the beginning and end of the semester students are asked to write Reflection essays developing their own theory of writing (they struggle with the idea of writing about their own writing, and using I – fun questions to respond to). To support this development we work through composition-based readings and themed readings (digital rhetoric related). After the initial reflection, while we focus on themed readings and develop an approach to reading and writing analysis at the college level, students are asked to revisit the key concepts as anchor terms for their learning. My approach is heavily based on Teaching for Transfer, Writing about Writing, Transfer research, and learning research. My goal with this curricular approach is to empower students through awareness of their own learning.
Yesterday I was reading an Inside Higher Ed article on the need for educators to also develop their own theory of teaching. Unlike the Teaching Philosophy which often approaches teaching from a more abstract philosophical and theoretical view of teaching, this theory of writing should be the more practical ideas that aid teacher excitement, which aids student learning. Their learning focus, similar to my learning focus in curriculum design, aims to support student learning as the ultimate end goal. If we approach teaching from cognitive and content bases – but focus our theory of teaching on cognitive skills and practices that support content learning and maintain our enthusiasm students should learn better.
I love this idea. And immediately began to consider how can I use this. Also, what groups would benefit from this discussion an exercise. During the summer I teach a Media Literacy Institute geared toward K-12 educators. This year I’m focusing specifically on Digital Citizenship for 6-12 educators (although K-6 are also welcome).
As I’m exploring contemporary ideas of digital citizenship, I’m seeing a significant amount of teaching ‘digital citizenship through positive reinforcement.’ This typically means the teacher should use ONE positive social media example per day in the classroom as course content is discussed and explored. For instance, to move into a discussion of remix, I’d mention “A friend from my doctoral program knows we’re focusing on remix as a key concept, so she forwarded me this video on Facebook. I’m sending it to you all on Twitter to support your reading and discussion about Article X for class”. In this way, I’ve mentioned positive uses of technology, i’ve related that use directly to classroom and content learning so students begin to reinforce positive social learning with their use of digital technologies to reinforce positive use of technology. Overt instruction on digital citizenship practices is also helpful – but this positive approach seems to be the key.
Here’s where I see the connection to a theory of teaching. As educators we often measure learning through tests and essays where points are deducted or earned to form a grade. Positive reinforcement of digital citizenship requires connections to learning, but no formal assessment, and few to no negative stories of misuses, dangers, epic failures. The goal is not to scare students into good citizenship, but to teach students positive approaches to using the spaces. This doesn’t always align with contemporary high standard testing practices – so how would educators develop a theory of teaching that included positive reinforcement of digital citizenship across the curriculum? How can cognition and learning better support positive approaches to teaching so incorporating digital citizenship as part of existing curriculum tied directly to individual theories of teaching seems more doable immediately?
As I continue to grapple with the feasibility of these ideas, I realize I need to write my own theory of writing before assigning this idea so I have a working example – so look forward to that future post 🙂