Currently I am a second year graduate student in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies M.A. program at the University of Central Florida, but it is my hope to continue my education as a PhD student in American literature or American Studies. As a PhD student, I will have the opportunity to put into practice the course design, learning theories, learning styles, classroom management, and classroom assessment techniques (CATs) that I learned during the twelve week Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Central Florida. One of the assignments entailed the creation of a course from scratch of our own design, and the result is LIT3383: Women in Literature: Cross-dressing, Captivity & Coquettes, Oh My! The syllabus for this proposed course is available here.*
If given the chance, I would start each Women in Literature class with a brief recap of the previous class and a quick overall plan for today, followed by a check of progress on the student’s semester long research portfolio project. If students are presenting on their assigned topic, we observe five minute presentations followed by question/answer from their classmates. Otherwise, my mini-lecture on the assigned readings provides the students with material for further development and discussion.
Activities would be tailored to the learning outcomes for each class or unit of learning, as evidenced in my sample lesson plan for Women in Literature. All students will present on a reading that is also the topic of their second short paper, giving students the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills with little risk. They also create a handout for their peers, allowing students the freedom to choose a topic from the reading that appeals to their tastes. Group discussions will give students the opportunity to work as a team, practice their oral and writing skills, and create a classroom community. Minute papers are no-risk CATs that provide focus and clarification of complex topics. My sample alignment plan showcases the integration of learning outcomes with content, assessment, and practice.
As a teacher, it is my responsibility to learn about my students, including memorizing their names. A quick background knowledge survey combined with basic demographic questions administered on the first day of class provides me with a better understanding of my students’ needs. It will also allow me to call on individual students to solicit more participation during discussion.
Coming to class prepared with learning outcomes for each day will facilitate more efficient and effective classroom discussion, as well as allow me to share the rationale behind the schedule and activities I’ve selected. Providing students with structured recaps, debate opportunities, discussion, activities, debriefs, and reviews will strengthen their trust in me, their teacher. Study guides detailing historical, cultural, biographical, and literary contextual information for texts assigned assist students in making connections between early American literature and contemporary issues. Study guides for “Museums & the Language of Curiosity / Indians as Curiosities,” “Challenges of Voice and Alternative Spaces of Interpretation: Women’s Crime Narratives,” “Female Friendship in Early American Literature,” and “Hannah Dunstan & The Panther Captivity” illustrate the need to provide students with contextual documents and background information.
My willingness to include technology such as Juxta, NINES, 18th Connect, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and Google Sites will signal to Millennials that I am committed to the age of Web 2.0 and digital humanities. Nontraditional students, or those unfamiliar with these tools, will be directed to resources on campus for further assistance beyond that which I provide in the course. For example, one of my microteaching sessions focused on the inclusion of NINES in the semester long research portfolio project, which is available here.
I firmly believe that lecture can be a valuable asset in the classroom, especially because it can showcase my enthusiasm and passion for the topic in a way that group discussion cannot. My lectures will be organized, focused, and expand upon the assigned readings rather than reiterate them. I will incorporate time and space for questions raised by my lecture, allowing for spontaneity. My microteaching session on Deborah Sampson, a cross-dressing solider who served during the American Revolutionary War, showcases the first five minutes of a class that features a guest-lecturer and interactive virtual tour, available here.
To ensure that my lectures are utilized by students, at each class meeting, designated students will take notes and post them in a Google document for the rest of the class. The students will rotate, each one having the chance to practice and hone their note-taking skills and contribute to the class community. This will also allow me to locate and correct any misconceptions by quickly reviewing their collective notes, as well as freeing me from the obligation of providing students with my PowerPoint and/or Prezi files, which could prevent them from taking productive notes in the first place.
Since my course is a literature course, writing will play a large role for the students. Two small papers provide me with an introduction to their individual styles and allow them freedom in choosing their own theme of an assigned text to focus upon. The second short paper is staggered by the week the text is discussed in class so I will have more time to give feedback. The semester long research portfolio exposes students to the types and formats of scholarly writing expected in the academic world. The low risk assignments—the artifact inventory, rhetorical analysis, key issues list, preliminary bibliography, abstract, conference paper proposal, contextual documents, and peer review evaluations—build in difficulty and complexity, culminating in a ten to twelve page conference paper. These assignments are posted to group blogs based on themes found in the texts so that peer evaluations and informal commenting is made possible.
By the time the conference paper is due, students will have become “mini-experts” on their texts, the result of which is increased confidence in their research and writing skills and commitment to the course. The mock conference allows more practice of their public speaking skills and introduces them to the backbone of academic life: presenting research to peers at conferences. I decided to include this research portfolio project in my course because as a graduate student, I found it to be a highly motivating and confidence-building experience. I have completed this semester-long research project three times under the guidance and support of Lisa M. Logan, Ph.D., and my blogs, Conduct Yourself, Bonds of Intimacy, and Indians as Curiosities chart my discovery process publically, so that others can benefit from my research.
I know that student’s schedules are often hectic, leaving them little free time. In addition to office hours that fit both their and my schedules, I would encourage students to utilize email, Course Mail, and a discussion board in Webcourses set up specifically for their questions. Students who receive a D or F on any assignment would be required to consult with me, either face-to-face or via email or Course Mail. I would create a sign-up sheet for voluntary consultations the week before add/drop week in order to prevent last minute frantic emails from students. As many students email professors about grades, I would take advantage of the GradeBook function in the Learning Management Service platform (branded Webcourses at UCF and administered by Blackboard Vista), posting all grades there and returning assignments with comments made in Microsoft Word’s Track Changes for increased efficiency.
I have spent two semesters as a graduate teaching assistant grader for large courses of 100–150 students that met once a week with mandatory online discussion. In my first semester as a grader, grading an estimated forty-four discussion posts every week meant creating a rubric with my co-GTAs for our students to facilitate fair, consistent, and quick grading. I also designed a grade book in Excel from scratch for our use. This opportunity and experience prompted me to enroll in the voluntary, not for credit twelve week program Preparing Future Faculty at the University of Central Florida to give me a better understanding of what it means to be a teacher. This course assisted me with theoretical and practical experience in course design, learning outcomes, presentation skills, microteaching, classroom management, current academic technology, learning theories and more.
My membership in the Modern Language Association, HASTAC, Society of Early Americanists, Society for the Study of American Women Writers, and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association indicates my participation in the academic community, and my intention in contributing to the scholarly discourse in the future. I am also active in my campus community, serving as the Treasurer of the Graduate Student Association and a member of the Graduate Curriculum Committee of the Graduate Council.
* This syllabus is adapted from an example provided by Lisa M. Logan, Ph.D.
My Teaching Narrative is available as a downloadable PDF file here: Stroup.Teaching Narrative.