Inspired by students turning challenges into rhetorically and civically productive spaces for change

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Jones.pngL. Corinne Jones(recommended by Lissa Pompous Mansfield) is completing her PhD in Texts and Technology with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where she expects to finish in Spring 2021. She currently teaches Composition II (Writing about Writing and Research Writing); in Fall 2020, she anticipates teaching Business and Technical Communication. She also works as a legal writing adjunct at Barry University (Law School). Previously, she has taught Composition I (introductory writing) at UCF, as well as First-Year composition for conditionally admitted students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Additionally, she has worked extensively in writing centers. Her research interests include digital rhetoric; circulation studies; digital, qualitative, mixed methods and methodologies; and feminist and queer studies.


How does the next generation of students inspire you?

The next generation of students inspire me in so many ways. While I have only had the pleasure to teach this next generation of students for a few years now, I am particularly impressed with not only how resilient and determined my students are, but also how civic-minded and socially and politically active they are. My own students have faced incredible challenges both before and during the transition to online learning, and they have all overcome those challenges with both grace and tenacity. However, my own students and the next generation of students generally have consistently not let their challenges define them; instead they have turned these challenges into rhetorically and civically productive spaces for change. In my limited experience, this next generation of students is concerned with not only earning a passing grade, but with developing skills to use as they become agents of larger systemic changes. 


How do you hope higher education will change in the next ten years?

Relatedly, I hope that higher education responds to this next generation of students and their needs, both at their local institutions and more systemically. Though my students have proven that they can overcome challenges, I recognize that suggesting that success is achieved solely through individual will and hard work overlooks the neoliberal ideologies about individualism and the white supremacist systems that undergird higher education. So, I hope that higher education will respond to students’ stated needs, and I hope that higher education will work to actively change policies that negatively impact current students, prospective students, and the communities in which colleges and universities are embedded. This might include rethinking things like standardized tests, as we are already seeing some universities do. Ultimately, I hope that higher education both reflects and serves the larger community. 

For those who work in higher education, I would also like to see higher education shift to recognize and value different types of labor and to compensate non-tenure track faculty and graduate student workers fairly and according to this unrecognized labor. Part of this change might also include shifting to valuing interdisciplinary work that traverses traditional disciplinary boundaries and expectations. 


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

Being part of the Bedford New Scholars program was an enlightening experience; first, I had the opportunity to learn about other programs and approaches to teaching writing. I loved having the opportunity to learn about the other scholars’ creative and smart assignments that they created to address their particular institutional contexts and students. Just as importantly, I appreciated hearing their rationales and reasoning behind their design choices as their explanations sparked new ideas for me and my own classroom assignments and practices. They all challenged me to rethink and reevaluate my own practices to try to better meet the needs of my own students. 

Second, I appreciated learning about the publishing process. I found it helpful to learn about the layered decisions that publishers make when choosing a topic for a textbook, as well as when deciding on the content, chapters, and skills covered in those textbooks. It helps me to know more about the decisions, affordances, and constraints, which educational publishing companies face in developing new materials because now I have a better understanding of what to expect. 


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

The Bedford New Scholars Program has affected my professional development and classroom practices in a number of ways. First, and most obviously, it has given me a lot of new ideas and things to think about as I move forward on my own pedagogical path. As I noted above, I was very impressed with the fellow scholars’ assignments, as well as their thoughtful approaches to classroom practices more generally. Moving forward, I would like to adopt some of their practices in my own classrooms, and I hope to draw from some of their ideas presented in the institute and posted here on the Macmillan English Community (with credit, of course!). 

Second, while I have been interested in the challenges of online pedagogy and been an online student myself, participating in the Bedford New Scholars program online has made me think more critically about how to approach online pedagogy in the fall semester. I now know more about the work and the cognitive load (switching between screens, etc.) from a student perspective. The experience reinforced my belief that students will need grace and understanding from teachers in the upcoming semester.  


Corinne’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 Corinne's assignment. For the full activity, see Rhetorical Velocity: A Game of Strategy and Chance.

At my university, GTAs use Writing about Writing, which uses complex writing studies texts to get students thinking metacognitively about their rhetorical choices. Sometimes, students struggle with the readings, so I try to ground some of the dense readings in in-class games. For this assignment, students read about the concept of “rhetorical velocity,” which broadly refers to how online rhetors strategically compose texts for rapid Internet spread and re-appropriation (Ridolfo & DeVoss, 2009). Importantly, rhetorical velocity is beyond the control of the rhetor, thereby disturbing the concept of the singular author. After a scaffolded discussion defining terms, students put the concept to use in a game. In the game, students get onto teams and select attributes which can add to the rhetorical velocity of their online compositions in fictive scenarios. However, when selecting these attributes, students are unaware of consequences of their online compositions, some of which lose their team points. After the game, students discuss the rhetorical velocity of their texts and the extent to which they had control (and responsibility) over those texts and their consequences. Once students understand the concept of rhetorical velocity, they can use it in their own literacy narratives or profiles of other authors.

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