Dilara Avci (recommended by Dev Bose) is pursuing her MA in Teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Arizona. She has taught writing and literacy across diverse backgrounds and age levels, from elementary school to college. She is currently teaching First-Year Composition. Her research interests are the role of individual learner differences such as language aptitude and anxiety in writing and material design with a focus on digital literacies and critical pedagogy. She believes in the importance of sharing experiences and creating an inclusive learning environment and has been involved in a variety of Teaching-as-Research Projects, Faculty Learning Communities and conferences on writing and teaching practices.
How do you engage students in your course, whether f2f, online, or hybrid?
I am a writing instructor and act as a choreographer at the same time. I perform on stage every day when I am in front of my students by grabbing their attention and energizing them for learning. Like a choreographer composing the sequence of steps and moves for a performance of dance, I compose my lesson plan and activities step by step. While doing so, there are many factors I need to consider such as the learner profile, several identities, diversity in the classroom, my students’ needs, individual learner differences, student learning objectives, and teaching during pandemic. To embrace all these varieties and engage my students, I try to integrate a number of activities and differentiated instruction by conducting a station-rotation model of learning in class activities, giving students options as part of assignments and creating opportunities for informal and formal reflection on students’ learning. Similar to a choreographer, I ensure that all the movements and steps in a performance (lesson) are systematically related to each other so that the activities are not in isolation but in a sweet harmony. Therefore, I benefit a lot from workshopping, genre-based instruction, one-on-one conferences, and technology-enhanced learning by integrating discussions, group work, and interactive slides with Nearpod, Padlet and Kahoot activities.
What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?
I care mostly about teaching my students a growing mindset, the importance of practicing and building confidence in themselves and in their skills. If my students learned only one thing from my course, it would be the knowledge of how to set goals and work to reach them. In the beginning of my courses, what I usually realized is that my students were quite stressed about whether they would pass or fail the course and focused too much on the grades. Throughout my courses, however, they learned that there is always room for improvement in writing and in life. In my opinion, this is necessary and it aligns well with the notion of “All writers have more to learn” stated by Adler-Kassner and Wardle (2015) in Naming What We Know. In that way, students may perceive “failure” as an opportunity to improve more, and instead of “viewing feedback or revisions as a punishment,” they embrace “writing as an ongoing process” (Adler-Kassner & Wardle, 2015). As a consequence of this growing mindset and rhetorical awareness, they know how to analyze a sample work, draft, revise, and create a better version of their writing/assignment in a planned way without giving up after a messy first draft.
What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?
I have participated in several professional development opportunities but the Bedford New Scholars program has been distinct among those. In other professional development opportunities, we mostly talk about what amazing things we do in our classes and how we can even achieve better teaching and learning outcomes in future, which in a way pushes us to put ourselves “in the best shape.” However, the Bedford New Scholars program encouraged us to be who we are with our strengths and weaknesses, show our vulnerable sides in teaching and learning, and create sincere discussions on what we are challenged by and how we can work toward those issues. It is an inspiring learning community in which we have a great opportunity to meet other instructors in the writing program all over the United States, have conversations on teaching and learning without the fear of being judged or evaluated, and realize that we are not the only ones who sometimes struggle with planning, teaching, and giving feedback. We share similar concerns and face many challenges.
How will the Bedford New Scholars program affect your professional development or your classroom practice?
The Bedford New Scholars program helped me gain new perspectives in teaching writing, rhetoric, and argumentation. The summer Summit was especially helpful with mind-opening guest speakers, presentations by the Macmillan team and Assignments that Work sessions by other scholars. To illustrate how the program added new methods and perspectives into my teaching repertoire, I would like to share the following example: I was quite hesitant to bring sensitive issues into the classroom setting due to my learner background and the learning system I grew up in before attending the summer Summit. Dr. Wonderful Faison initiated a welcoming discussion on this topic and shared exhilarating readings that can be used as teaching materials. She was able to spark new ideas that we can experiment with regarding critical pedagogy with our students. I know that I will be using many things like this one I learned from being a part of this amazing learning community.
Dilara’s Assignment that Works
During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Dilara’s assignment. For the full activity, see Visual Literacy & Analysis.
The second major project that my students complete in the ENGL 101 course is to design a digital poster or infographic. The unit focuses on multimodal elements, visual literacy, and how meaning is created through images, text, audio, illustrations, and design in a digital poster or infographic. In this in-class interactive assignment, the students are asked to choose a visual/image of an advertisement to analyze and explain its purpose, the target audience, what makes it a powerful visual, how certain visual strategies or techniques are used, and their reason for choosing the image. While implementing the activity in class, I benefited from Padlet, a technological tool that allows note-taking and sharing in the form of a post-it. Padlet allows students to add a visual and text and to read, like, and comment on their peers’ posts in a convenient way. I find this tool quite useful in creating student engagement and interaction in the class setting.
Find Dilara on Instagram @dilaratunaliavci.
Adler-Kassner, L., & Wardle, E. (2015). Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. University Press of Colorado.