The primary goal of my course is to create an environment that accommodates students on every level through the use of accessible documents, explicit information and instructions, and giving students room to fail while learning an unfamiliar discipline.
As most first-year writing students have several years of experience learning to write in non-transferrable, genre-specific ways, this pedagogy aims to accommodate students’ lack of prior knowledge by scaffolding rhetorical understanding using the theories of activity systems and genre. Because I’ve achieved the most success with students when I have found ways to ground curriculum material in their lived experiences, this course establishes footing in students’ zone of proximal development by exemplifying that they are already established writers, thereby connecting what they already know to a greater understanding of writing as a tool used to accomplish communicative goals. Early on, students participate in a genre analysis to investigate how writing works. This assignment gives students an accessible understanding of the ways people use writing in activity systems unfamiliar to them as well as offers them a road map of how to enter into these genres.
Teaching composition through a genre frame, prioritizing accommodation and accessibility, layering conferencing and feedback with classroom activities and lectures, favoring content over form, and grounding writing in students' lived experience.
In a further effort to accommodate a lack of prior knowledge in rhetoric, I create room in the course calendar for failure. It is my belief that new writers thrive on feedback and conference talk, so I am explicit in my expectation that students’ first attempt at each assignment will have room to fail; my evaluation criteria is mainly based on students’ ability to apply feedback and react to redirection. Classroom lecture, activities, and discussion create a foundation upon which students can build their rhetorical knowledge through feedback and conferencing.
The feedback students receive from me prioritizes content over form. While this primarily means that they will learn that good writing does not necessarily mean error-free writing, it also means that they will learn to focus on rhetorical situation and context when writing. By redirecting their focus from sentence-level issues to content-level issues, students will begin to learn to assess and review their own work according to high order concepts such as focus, organization, support, and audience expectations.
My expectations of students are communicated explicitly in the syllabus and assignment prompts. These course documents are built according to accommodation principles that prioritize accessibility for all students up-front, rather than retrofits access for students with disabilities. My assignment prompts reduce the amount of information usually seen in traditional prompt documents, which distracts students with redundant requirement lists and muddles different kinds of information, for enhanced readability for easier digestion of information and reduces disruption within chunks of text.
Overall, I aim to make my course accessible with and accommodated learning environment. Ultimately students will leave my class with a knowledge of writing that will transfer across disciplines and contexts.