Theory of Practicum
Interrogation of practice — not only practices required by our program, but also our own developing pedagogical practices
Observation as teachers of each other’s approaches and processes in order to learn and grow as both teachers and writers, and to gain empathy through observation. If inconsistencies are observed, repeat component one, interrogation of programmatic requirements and our own practices. Always remember that empathic observation means that this interrogation of practice must be repeated almost daily.
- Read everything and write always, but under no circumstances should the reading be narrowed to Writing Studies, or to the emergent field of Basic Writing Studies. Writing Studies and Basic Writing Studies, in their attempts to professionalize, systemize, and codify our discipline, often reify the systemic hierarchies that allow Basic Writing to exist in the first place. Here is a four-part explanation:
- Focus Widely: My research and teaching rely on interdisciplinary insights from philosophy, history, music, and literary studies, as well as from Basic Writing Studies, Writing Studies, and Rhetoric and Composition. Focusing on only one disciplinary approach allows few opportunities for ourselves as teachers to learn and grow outside the box. This presents the potential to miss vital tools to interrogate how the system works, or to develop empathy for how students learn and grow.
- Cultivate Empathy: For graduate students new to teaching courses institutionally categorized as basic writing, reading literary, philosophical, and historical texts can cultivate empathy for the life circumstances and positionality of students whose approaches to learning may appear quite opposed to our own practices and beliefs.
- Read Deeply: Also assign reading and writing in many genres. Pay close attention to our students’ questions and concerns. Remember that poetry and fiction can be read rhetorically, and that our students grow their abilities to read and think empathically and rhetorically outside the box through encounters with literary texts.
- Keep Writing Make sure that keep up with your own writing practice, and consider making pedagogical/scholarly/creative contributions yourself. These contributions can take forms that you have practiced, and perhaps forms that are new to you, such as contributions to journals Journal of Basic Writing and Basic Writing E-Journal, edited collections, blogs. If your budget allows for it, presenting at conferences can offer additional opportunities. Venues for presentation in the field include (but are not limited to) the Standing Group for the Council on Basic Writing at the CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication), AERA (the American Educational Research Association), NADE (the National Association for Developmental Education), and TESOL International.
- Break any rules that seem to have calcified — including the rules listed above, or those that appear to foster a self-satisfaction that our approach is the best approach for all times and in all situations. In a sub-discipline that historically and in our current historical moment must justify its existence to people inside and outside of Writing Studies, this fourth component holds particular relevance. Interdisciplinarity and openness to teacher/scholarship from the arts and humanities, the social sciences, education, and STEM can offer us insights for developing our work, leading to pedagogies and policies for creating equity for all of our students.