Year Awarded: 2005
J. Blake Scott
College of Arts and Sciences
Teaching is what sustains me as an academic. It fuels and, in turn, is fueled by my research in rhetoric, which emphasizes civic action, and by my community service. Some of the hallmarks of service-learning—active learning, problem solving, critical reflection, and civic engagement—guide my overall teaching philosophy as well. Like John Dewey, I believe students learn best by a combination of active experimentation and critical reflection. My courses typically challenge students to negotiate the dynamics of complex, real-world writing situations, situations that often require collaborative deliberation and problem-solving.
Beyond wanting my students to be effective writers, I want them to embody Cicero’s ideal of the “good person speaking (or writing) well” about issues of civic importance. Accomplishing this goal involves more than teaching them writing skills or even reflecting on the ethics of their writing; it also involves challenging them to develop a stronger sense of civic responsibility and to view themselves as citizens rather than just consumers and corporate workers-in-training.
I see my primary role as a teacher as facilitating and modeling ethical rhetorical action. Rather than simply imparting knowledge to students, I aim to develop knowledge with them. This is why my classes generally operate in discussion or workshop mode. This is why I often perform assignments along with students and share (and critique) my work with them. This is why my technical writing students help develop service-learning projects out of their community interests.
Just as I push my students to be self-reflexive communicators, I try to be reflexive about my teaching. To this end, I continuously discuss my teaching with others, seek student feedback, and adapt my course designs. One of the keys to being a good teacher, in my view, is to always assume you are still a learner as well. Even when I present and publish on my pedagogical approaches and experiments, I do so with the goal of initiating or extending a discussion from which I will take away new ideas.