Here is a link to my complete TeachingPortfolio.  This document includes syllabi, assignments, observation reports, handouts, and papers with my comments for revision.

Kent Emerson

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Contemporary students are positioned at the intersection of a vertiginous network of information media and interpretive contexts.  They are consistently asked to participate in live and online classroom communities, ingest and interpret texts of all kinds from print to digital sources, build and use digital tools, and transition between bodies of information that are continually being mediated and remediated.  My role as a teacher is to provide students with strategies for orienting themselves within these contexts and with the confidence to engage as citizens sensitive to the complexity of the lives they and others lead.  From my basic writing to my literature classes, I seek to equip students with these skills by emphasizing argumentation.  I begin by introducing students to the explicit and implicit arguments that inform each of the social, material, and cultural artifacts with which they come in contact.   For students interacting with massive amounts of information, developing the skills to identify and evaluate the positions of others provides them with the informed orientation necessary to navigate the many interpretive situations in which they may find themselves.

 

Beyond the skills and strategies I seek to impart, I am an advocate for the special set of questions, techniques, and ethical concerns that accompanies traditional humanities inquiry.  My own research is defined by the study of transatlantic modernism, contemporary American literature, and a comparative approach to print and digital texts.  My work in the digital humanities is primarily concerned with the technical and conceptual concerns that arise when applying digital tools to print texts.  This type of research translates seamlessly into the classroom.  For instance, in my upper level undergraduate course, Modernist Information Media, I present the students with Ezra Pound’s highly difficult “Canto II,” and through class discussion, help students to arrive at an understanding of the poem’s aesthetic, informational, and poetic patterns.  I then guide a lab exercise during which students mirror the interpretive strategies from discussion by applying Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) xml semantic and structural tags to a digital version of the poem.  Through the application of the tags, students are forced to identify, classify, and then link the intertextual references appearing in the poem.  In this way, the class crafts a digital version of the text that reflects their ideas from class discussion, drawing connections between the interpretation of literature in print and the functions of digital media.  The discussion and lab demonstrates not only that students can understand some of the most difficult poetry of the twentieth century, but that the aesthetic and conceptual tactics employed by Pound are both representable with digital tools and function according to informational relationships similar to the kind those that animate digital media in the twenty-first century.  Assignments and exercises like these illustrates that the intellectual labor associated with traditional humanities inquiry can be translated into an increasingly digital media landscape in useful and exciting ways.  

 

My approach to student assessment is in some ways old-fashioned.  I feel that when learning to write and develop an argument, there is no substitute for producing drafts, receiving detailed feedback, and revising.  Not only does this method provide students with more writing practice, but it also instills in them the importance of process in producing college-level work.  My assignments feature detailed rubrics that make each assignment’s learning outcomes clear, and I am as transparent as possible about my grading process.  I am also a proponent of frequent small-scale writing projects for literature courses in which students identify quotations, ideas, or other aspects of each text they find important or interesting.  By requiring students to generate substantive reactions to class material, I shift the practice of reading from passive absorption of information to active interaction with ideas and the formation of evidence based positions.  Each of my assignments relates to the complex social, ethical, and cultural questions confronting students in a contemporary university setting.  

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