How Antonio Hamilton encourages students to “realize that engagement is a two-way street”

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Antonio Hamilton_BNS_Headshot.jpegAntonio Hamilton (recommended by Kristi McDuffie) is pursuing his PhD in Writing Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He teaches first-year composition courses and is a member of the Rhetoric Advisory Committee. His research interest focuses on how writing is remediated and potentially restricted in online writing environments, such as Automated Writing Evaluation software and Language Models. He is specifically interested in writer agency when writing with these programs, and what forms or styles of writing are prioritized. His research draws on intercultural rhetoric, algorithmic knowledge, and rhetorical genre studies perspectives to assess how writing is digitally transformed.

How do you engage students in your course, whether f2f, online, or hybrid?

I think engaging students in my course is probably one of the most difficult things, especially post COVID-19. But it is definitely one of the most important things to establish at the beginning of the semester. For me, engagement is not just teaching relevant material or having exciting in-class activities but also doing my best to ensure that every student feels comfortable in the class. I try to do this by using the first few weeks of class to establish trust with my students individually and as a group. For the most part, the first few weeks of my course allow a decent amount of in-class brainstorming time. I use this time to go around and talk to each of my students and help them work through or develop their ideas for whatever the first major assignment is. I believe this encourages them to feel that my classroom is a safe and collaborative environment where the instructor regularly engages with everyone. Basically, if they see I am engaging with them, then hopefully they engage in the course and realize that engagement is a two-way-street.

What is the most important skill you aim to provide your students?

The most important skill that I aim to provide my students is independence and ownership of the work they produce. I believe that oftentimes, students are accustomed to producing work that is either strictly a regurgitation of their instructor’s thoughts or having the feeling that they are producing work for the instructor and not work from themselves. I try to make sure that students know that I care about their ideas, and I will always do my best to help them to achieve their goals. Doing this helps them build that independence and ownership of their work because it is intrinsically their individualized ideas. I try to avoid questions such as “What do you think I should do” or “Do you like this idea?” I always center it back to the student by responding “Is this an idea that you produce?” If it is, then I encourage them to stick with it!

What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?

Having the opportunity to meet, discuss and work with other Bedford New Scholars was an enlightening experience. Because of Covid, I think that we often think about what is going on outside of individual departments. For me, hearing what other graduate students are doing in their composition/rhetoric/writing related courses was reaffirming and motivating. It was assuring to hear that other scholars have the same classroom concerns, teaching goals, theory applications, etc. It showed me that what I am doing in my classroom is not so different than what others are doing around the country at their own institutions. I also was able to learn about new in-class activities and assignments, one of which I implemented in one of my courses this semester! Essentially, interacting with the other scholars allowed me to grow as an instructor myself.

How will the Bedford New Scholars program affect your professional development or your classroom practice?

Professionally, this was my first time participating in something that gave me the opportunity to interact with other graduate students, as well as getting a peek at what goes on behind the scenes with a major publisher. It was all quite enlightening and informative. In regard to the other graduate students, it reaffirmed the collaborative nature of our field and showed me that the sharing of ideas can potentially lead to connections down the line. This may sound simple, but I think that in the past, I would just listen. If I did not perceive what was being said as immediately relevant, I would hold on to those ideas. But something does not immediately need to be relevant for it to be important. In regard to my classroom, listening to and having conversations with speaker Dr. Wonderful helped me consider how to maneuver through potential difficult classroom conversations. I have worked on having a more self-aware classroom environment that tries to prioritize each student’s opinions and thoughts equally. This has always been something I try to do, but through hearing the other scholars and Dr. Wonderful speak about this, I feel that my approach is becoming more refined.

Antonio’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 Antonio’s assignment. For the full activity, see Remediation Remix.

For the Remediation Remix assignment, students are asked to remediate their research paper into a new genre. The assignment applies Bolter & Grusin’s (2000) concept of remediation. The goal is for students to think about the varied ways information can be communicated and asks them to consider accessibility. Additionally, they must think about how certain information may be more effectively communicated in certain genres. The students are asked to write a proposal that I provide feedback on, and then they go on to create the remediation. Accompanying the remediation is a rationale statement where they detail their choices and reasons to explain why they successfully remediated their research paper. I enjoy this assignment a lot because it shows students that writing and communication is not just bound to the traditional academic essay.

About the Author
This is the shared account for the Bedford New Scholars TA Advisory Board.