Kalyn Prince's students want to use rhetoric and writing "to engage in the world"

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Prince_cropped.jpgKalyn Prince (recommended by Roxanne Mountford) is pursuing her PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She serves as the Senior Assistant Director of First-Year Composition and teaches first-year writing. She has also co-taught a composition theory survey course for graduate students in the OU English Department. Her research interests include public argumentation, nostalgia as ethos, and rhetorical analysis.


How does the next generation of students inspire you?
I’m constantly impressed by my students’ inclination towards advocacy—both personal advocacy and advocacy for others. My students are not content to learn about rhetoric and writing in the abstract. They want to engage in the world and find solutions to the problems we discuss in the classroom. From Black Lives Matter to TikTok, this group of students actively takes a stand on injustice and is uniquely capable of doing so with their various social literacies. My job as their teacher is to help them think critically about the issues they care about, teaching them to thoughtfully analyze the arguments and stakeholders in the issue and consider their own unique abilities to intervene.

How do you hope higher education will change in the next ten years?
My hope is that higher education will follow the lead of this generation and find better ways to leave the classroom. In the time of COVID-19 and worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, it can come as no shock that composition studies cannot only reside in the university. So many of us enter into higher education—both as students and instructors—hoping to make meaningful change for the communities we care about, but instead our work gets trapped in the halls of the university, never to breathe the air outside. It is my hope that those of us in higher education will continue to intervene in public discourse from our place in the university and that we will increasingly find ways of becoming scholar activists, joining our students in understanding and crafting arguments that will have a real-world impact.

What is it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?
Being part of the Bedford New Scholars program has been such a rewarding experience. It’s been so encouraging to work with other graduate students with whom I share research and teaching interests, discovering that they have the same goals and frustrations that I do! The Scholars have shared insight from their home institutions’ writing programs, which provides a unique opportunity to get a sense of what is going on in composition classrooms across the nation. It’s uplifting to discover our mutual hopes and concerns for teaching composition in 2020 and exciting to think that these passionate, brilliant Scholars will be directing writing programs in the future. I’ve also loved getting to work with the editorial team at Bedford/St. Martin’s as they guide us through textbook, program, and catalog reviews. They consistently impress me with their thoughtfulness and intentionality, time and time again thinking of incredible solutions to challenges we face in the writing classroom and designing course materials that our students can find accessible and instructive. The entire experience has been a delight, and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

How will the Bedford New Scholars program affect your professional development or your classroom practice?
This program has inspired me to be more intentional in how I craft my classroom activities. During our Summit Week, Kendra N. Bryant ran a session on teaching philosophies and Shelley Reid ran a session on assignment design. What both of these sessions had in common was emphasizing the imperativeness of having classroom practices that match teaching philosophies and student learning goals. While this should seem obvious, it can be easy to lose sight of our ultimate goals when building small classroom activities or homework assignments. But just because our project or essay assignments are sound doesn’t mean the rest of the course is. The Bedford New Scholars program has reignited my concern for backwards design in lesson planning and inspired me to be even more intentional in crafting smaller activities to ensure that I’m giving students every opportunity to thoroughly develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to make change in the world.


Kalyn’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 Kalyn's assignment. For the full activity, see Synthesizing Primary Research.

I’ve found that when I ask students to engage with real-world social/political groups or organizations, they often have trouble synthesizing all of their primary research, secondary research, and analysis. Such synthesis is crucial for students to be able to develop in critical thinking, understand the nuances of a group’s political engagement, and consider their own stake in these issues. To help them practice synthesis, I run students through this scaffolding activity where they begin to consider how synthesis works in documentary-style television shows. Students watch a clip of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (any documentary-style clip could work) and then respond to a series of questions regarding the different research components being synthesized in the segment. For this activity, you can customize the questions and materials to better fit with your classroom language and the skills you’ve been developing with your students.

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