Rochelle (Shelley) Rodrigo

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Joyce Neff and I facilitating a workshop.

Statement on Teaching
Pre-Tenure Portfolio (February 2014)

Whereas teaching philosophies generally develop from experiences as a teacher, my teaching philosophy has emerged from both my experiences in the higher education classroom as well as my experiences facilitating various professional development activities and working one-on-one with faculty designing, developing, and/or revising their courses. In working with other faculty, I found myself needing a way to get folks to think about how and why they were designing research and writing assignments as well as using technologies in their courses. In short, my teaching philosophy is now:

Courses need to be organized in modules that provide a variety of content delivery activities, content learning activities, and learning assessment activities; these activities all need to be aligned in terms of their learning outcome as well as in the complexity of skill and thinking.

This teaching philosophy accounts for a variety of learning styles; instructors need to make their materials accessible for different learning styles as they deliver content, facilitate learning activities, and assess learning. Similarly, faculty should also try to follow guidelines suggested by brain research, things like engaging multiple senses and needing to repeat. However, my favorite part of this teaching philosophy is the explicit category of “learning activities.” Whereas the math and science instructors are generally pretty good about making sure students have low stakes activities to practice new concepts and skills, sometimes those of us in the humanities and social sciences forget to provide these learning activities.

This shift to an emphasis on “learning activities” is where and why many of my students get frustrated with my classes. I’ve had graduate students comment that they were doing “grade school work” while in my class; however, the assignments were designed in such a way to get students playing with and engaged with the course material in a variety of ways for longer periods of time. For example, I assign “robust digital reading notes” to many of my upper division undergraduate students as well as most of my graduate students. Sometimes they get frustrated with the requirement to include pictures and/or videos as well as link out to related resources; yet, the first set of PhD students who took their comprehensive exams after taking my class with this note taking requirements said that the notes were tremendously helpful.

The shift to emphasizing, “learning activities” has also helped me as I design, develop, deliver, and revise various digital production classes. Obviously it would be easier to just teach everyone how to change backdrops of an image in Photoshop; however, that would not take into consideration the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and access to different hardware and software that my students bring to class. Instead, I’m designing assignments that allow the individual students to incorporate their learning objectives with the assignment’s objectives and then identify their own path to meeting the objectives. The major projects in my most recent ENGL307: Digital Writing course included the following scaffolded, sub-assignments: Proposal,Tech & Reflect x2 (learn the technology activities), Plan (outlines, storyboards, and/or wireframes), Peer Review Plan x2, Work Update, Draft, Peer Review Draft x2, and Final Submission and Reflection.All of the process work was weighted the same amount as the final project; the students had to focus on both process and product to do well in the class.

This short and dense philosophy has also served me well in working one-on-one with students in undergraduate advising each semester as well as in independent studies or side-projects with graduate students. I repeatedly find myself asking students to start with identifying their learning and/or professional objectives. We cannot collaboratively develop learning objectives and outline a path of study or research project without first knowing the goals so that everything else lines up.