How Courtney Mauck works to give her students confidence as writers

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Courtney A. MauckCourtney A. MauckCourtney A. Mauck(recommended by Rachael Ryerson) is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at Ohio University. She expects to finish her degree in Spring 2022. At OU, she serves as Assistant Director of Composition and primarily teaches first-year writing courses. She also teaches junior composition courses themed around feminist game studies and has co-taught two graduate courses, “Teaching College English” and “Learning Transfer.” Additionally, she has received her certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies. Her research interests include digital rhetorics, multimodal composition, social media, game studies, learning transfer, and first-year writing pedagogy.


How do you ensure your course is inclusive, equitable, and culturally responsive?

For me, I think the most important aspect of this is always being flexible and willing to learn or try new things. Of course, there are some common “best practices” when it comes to making the classroom a more inclusive and equitable space; however, there are certain issues or ideas that may be unique to a specific class or a specific group of students. For this reason, I always start my courses with a Welcome Survey where I try to gauge things like students’ prior knowledge coming into the course and students’ feelings about writing. Within this, I always ask: “Is there anything I can do, as an instructor, to make this class more welcoming or accessible for you?” In doing this, I am often able to learn both students’ accommodation needs and students’ expectations, fears, and/or concerns about the class and then can quickly adjust based on those responses. It is important to me that my students see the classroom as a collaborative space where they also have a voice.    

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

I think the most important skill I aim to provide my students is confidence in their abilities as writers. Often students enter the writing classroom assuming that writing is an innate skill that they simply do not possess. So many students have told me “I’m just not a good writer” or that “Writing is just not my thing” and many other variations of the same. For many students, writing ability is viewed much like an achievement in a video game—once you unlock it, that’s it, you’re a writer now! Because of this, one of my main goals in the classroom is to help students see writing as a rhetorical tool that they can practice using for different purposes and within different contexts. They all already do writing in their everyday lives, they just need some help making those connections to rhetorical concepts and building their confidence in themselves. 

What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?

Being a part of the Bedford New Scholars program is an amazing opportunity. I think one of the most important experiences for junior scholars is having opportunities to connect with other junior scholars. The Bedford New Scholars Virtual Summit this year provided so many opportunities for me to connect with and learn from other scholars. Most importantly, the summit (and the program in general) brings together scholars with diverse research interests and academic backgrounds. The “Assignments that Work” presentations gave me the experience to learn directly from other teachers about new and exciting things I could be doing in my classroom. This is incredibly important to me. On top of that, the Bedford New Scholars program has allowed me to work on projects that align with my research interests, such as giving feedback on a textbook manuscript in order to ensure it aligns with the goals and values set forth by scholarship in antiracist pedagogy. 

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

During the virtual summit this summer, not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the other scholars, but I also had the opportunity to learn from the great team at Bedford/St. Martin’s. The summit itself was a great professional development opportunity. Learning about higher ed publishing and getting to see some of the textbooks and other resources that Bedford/St. Martin’s is producing (such as Achieve) has really impacted the way I think about the relationship between classroom practice and classroom resources. As a graduate student, things like textbooks and LMS are often decided for you. However, the Bedford New Scholars program has given me practical experience with designing activities and courses that fully integrate the textbook and additional materials that Bedford/St. Martin’s provides.   


Courtney’s Assignment That Works: “Bad” Design Activity

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 Courtney's assignment. For the full activity, see "Bad" Design Activity

In all my first-year writing classes, students are expected to compose multimodal projects. However, students can often be hesitant to engage in this kind of work in academic spaces, even when they have experience composing multimodally outside the classroom. For this reason, I have students first practice multimodal composing by purposefully designing a poster or infographic that is “bad” based on the design principles they’ve been learning in Writer/Designer (such as emphasis, alignment, or contrast). In groups or together as a class, we work together to discuss what makes the poster design “bad” and how we could make it more effective. 

In practicing “bad” design, students are able to learn a bit about good design in a space where failure is a safe option. Because the activity is low-stakes, students are given an opportunity to practice using multimodal tools and producing multimodal texts without any expectations or fear over their grade. Usually the texts that students produce are quite comical and easily get the whole class engaged in a discussion about multimodal rhetoric and design. My hope is that this activity gives them the confidence boost they need to move forward with more complex multimodal projects. 

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