Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2017

Faculty Award winner

Adele Richardson

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Writing and Rhetoric

Writing is everywhere in this 24/7 world we live in, but how and when it is produced is constantly changing. Students come into the university already doing a lot of writing and, for the most part, are keeping up with the evolving nature of creating texts outside the walls of academia. Yet, many of them view what they produce in a classroom as something completely different. For far too many students, and far too many reasons, college writing is perceived as formulaic and uncreative—restrictive. It is because of this that I believe what and how I teach has to change and evolve, too, or I become ineffective.

I continue to learn, just as I want my students to do. So, I expanded my skills for teaching courses in several modes of delivery through workshops and completing IDL 6543. My most useful resource for improving my craft, however, are the students. I have found that routinely asking students to anonymously reflect on where their understanding of a concept started happening provides very usable information for me to consider when I design coursework. Even more important, I also ask what would have helped the process. This has led to me often having students find examples of topics we’re studying, such as style guides or use of rhetorical appeals, in their own lives. I model asking the “how” and “why” questions with materials I created, and let them see what I do with the responses. It demonstrates how they can ask the same questions and interact with their own writing.

My teaching style has further evolved to include inviting students to help create an assignment or project at least once a semester. Whether the task is a major paper or a small stakes activity, allowing them to participate in creation lets me meet them where they are to facilitate knowledge building. Some students are resistant; sometimes they just want to be told what they need to do. The majority, though, appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with their instructor. Every semester, I gain more understanding of their needs in the classroom and students end up taking more ownership of their work and education.

I want students to see that the concepts they explore in my classes carry over to their other classes and lives outside of college. Therefore, the ultimate goal of my classes is to guide students into higher levels of critical thinking and successful engagement with the materials presented. So I emphasize the importance of learning and determining specific audiences and situations, as well as developing editing and prose styles that successfully communicate with those target audiences. Students learn that successful written communication includes not just the basics of considering word choice, length, flow, transitions between sentences and paragraphs, but most importantly, content and their own customized persuasiveness that really does rely on creativity.