Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2013

Faculty Award winner

Adele Richardson

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Writing and Rhetoric

On the first day I stepped into my own Composition classroom, I enthusiastically thought I was going to teach freshmen how to write. By the end of that same day, I came to realize how shortsighted my assumptions were. And so my own education as a teacher really began. Students don't need to be shown how to write; they've been doing it for over a decade by the time they get to me. Instead, they need to be shown the power words really have. My beliefs about teaching have expanded since then, as have my practices. Now my philosophy revolves around creating a safe classroom environment where students are encouraged to explore new ideas and writing practices. I address multiple learning styles through lectures, visuals, class discussions, and hands-on activities. Peer collaboration exercised through group activities is essential because it allows for participation of all students in a classroom, not just for the outspoken.

First-year students come from exceptionally varied backgrounds. I view this diversity as an asset because students are exposed to a wide range of beliefs and practices. In teaching composition issues, I emphasize the importance of learning to determine specific audiences and situations, as well as developing prose styles that successfully communicate with those target audiences. Students learn that successful communication includes not just the basics of considering word choice, length, flow, transitions between sentences and paragraphs, tone, but most importantly, content and their own customized persuasiveness.

Students learn best by actively engaging with the materials both inside and outside a classroom. I believe designing assignments that meet the students in their world adds to the enjoyment of a project and leads to a natural and more effective engagement with the course. Homework for my classes includes reading articles and essays and exploring how the authors approached their audiences. When students discover how to determine this type of information in other people's writings, their own writing tasks become easier because of both the practice and the exposure to different methods and strategies. This type of preparation orients students not only for the academic world, but also for their future professional lives.