English Composition

Graduate Studies: My Area of Expertise

My primary area of study is creative nonfiction, specifically travel memoir and neo-confessionalism, which emphasizes the idea that grief memoir is the latest literary phenomenon of surrendering one’s private life in a “tell-all” writing style.

In my master’s thesis, “A Travel Memoir: My Outward Exploration and Discovery of Self” I cite an example of how Liz Gilbert, in her novel, Eat, Pray, Love, unapologetically collapses the boundary between the narrator’s staged presentation of “I” and the unconscious vested choice of what-to-reveal and what-to-exclude. This modern genre has recently become a movement without regard to society’s “mask your pain” and “keep it together” traditions. The sharing of loss, pain, and desperation is a shock art that I find healing, particularly when it involves travel to help alleviate the pain.

Pedagogical Research

Through my research and experience, I have come up with a list (just a rundown, not necessarily a comprehensive list) of works in the composition classroom:

  • Students must have ample opportunities to write, frequently and extensively, then the teacher should reward students’ serious effort
  • Instructor should carefully sequence students’ writing tasks; for example, progressively expanding on students’ existing abilities and experiences
  • Instructor should coach the writing process, offering strategies, advice, encouragement, critique, formative and summative assessments
  • Instructor should emphasize the students’ process of writing as more important than their final product
  • Instructor should provide varied instruction and practice: talk about creativity, invention, grammar, style, logic, audience needs
  • Instructor should assign readings not only as context and source materials but as models — which answer the “why” I’m writing/reading this
  • Instructor should draws a line from key concepts about writing to other disciplines
  • Students are the course’s focus; their writing and progress is the priority

Active Learning in the First-Year Writing Classroom

Active Learning, sometimes referred to as “student-centered learning,” is a pedagogy which seeks to overhaul the model in which students impassively receive knowledge from their instructors. Instead, students should be challenged to contribute and participate; therefore, responsibility to learn moves from the hands of the instructor to the students–and learning from other students.

Change is Hard, but Flipping is Worth the Effort


This can happen in a number of ways. Students can be asked to…

  • lead a discussion & invite students to co-facilitate (form inquiry, not a performance)
  • teach their peers a convention of writing (best way to master something is to teach it)
  • present on their writing (multimodal projects)
  • design their own writing assignment
  • help in assessment: to design a rubric for grading
  • grade an assignment with you, and let those grades have weight equal to yours (to effectively engages the audience) 
  • peer edit in groups to diagnose and respond to problems in their classmates’ papers (sharpens critical skills & lets them practice talking about writing)
  • participate in writing workshops (student papers are read and discussed in class)
  • adopt a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, attitude toward grammar and style

Collaborative Learning in the First-Year Writing Classroom

Peer Editing Groups

Once you’ve convinced students their high-school models for thinking and writing won’t work, you’ll need to give them plenty of time to find new models. This means that you’ll have to give them time to draft and redraft their papers, so that they can see where their work is coming up short and will have the time (and the desire) to revise it.

Conducting Writing Workshops

Not only does that make them take their writing seriously, but they’re involved in an ongoing conversation of scholarship.

Active Learning asks instructors to transfer to students some portion of the authority that has traditionally been theirs. Students, in turn, take increased responsibility for their writing educations. Transferring authority requires instructors to shift their focus from setting standards to diagnosing problems, from giving direction to facilitating learning, from focusing exclusively on product to supporting process. In the Active Learning classroom, instructors, like students, remain actively engaged.

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