March 30, 2017

Please note: This teaching philosophy was written for a course titled Teaching Writing Online which is offered by the Department of Writing and Communication at Nova Southeastern University.


“We are teaching a way of experiencing the world, a way of ordering and making sense of it.”

~James Berlin (1982)


I believe that writing courses - online writing courses included, should be a practice run for real-world professional writing. College courses should foster critical thinking skills that ask students to answer these questions:

  • Why study this information or skill?

  • How is it relevant to me?

  • How can I communicate its relevance to the world?


To that end, I think it’s essential to – as they say – meet students where they’re at. I believe it’s practical and realistic to evaluate students’ individual writing levels at the beginning of the term and assess them not only by their completion of assignments but also according to their personal improvement.


I see each course following a four-phase collaborative model in which there are four types of communication: Professor to student, student to self, student to student, and student to audience. For the purpose of discussion boards, that audience is the class; for major assignments, that audience is the public.


Students should be encouraged to research and write about topics they are interested in exploring. It is my role to introduce new ways for students to display their opinions and knowledge. I might give assignments in which students are asked to present information both textually and visually, using images, charts or videos. Students might be given the choice to use a word cloud or a mind map. I believe it’s advantageous to encourage students to share the multimodal tools and methods with which they are familiar, effectively teaching each other throughout the course. I think it’s important to leave open the evolution of course content to incorporate students’ input.


One of my favorite adages that applies to teaching is: Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. I provide discussion activities to encourage imagination, initiative, and independence. I want my students to “eat” for a lifetime. I use a four-tiered discussion board schedule in which students must post a 400 word reflection on the week’s reading, post a response to their classmates’ reflections, post three questions about the reading for their classmates to answer, and post responses to their classmates’ questions. I expect students to step up and provide constructive and substantive feedback on one another’s work. I encourage students to use the sandwich method in peer reviews, bookmarking each negative comment with two positives.


I support an informal but professional tone for my online courses – the equivalent of a business casual dress code. I want students to get to know one another not only through introductory posts at the outset of the class, but throughout the course. To that end, I ask students to post a self-evaluation discussing their progress in the course on a bi-weekly basis. This is an opportunity for students to identify problem areas before they fall behind and ask for clarity on any student or instructor feedback that’s been a source of confusion.


I believe in maintaining a consistent, regular, active presence in the course by responding to the class as a whole in all four tiers each week. I answer questions in my responses, and I am available to students via email or by phone during weekly office hours. I will conference with students via Skype upon request during my office hours. Skype conferences are by appointment, and reserved spots will be posted in the course to avoid scheduling conflicts. I provide detailed rubrics for all course assignments and clearly outline course and institutional policies in my syllabus.