Teaching Statement

Amanda Starling Gould, Teaching Statement

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I consider the classroom itself to be a mode of streaming media, one that can model effective strategies and demonstrate artful authorship in a wide variety of forms. My classrooms are designed to be open, multimodal knowledge-building, knowledge-sharing environments that speak equally to those with differently-abled minds and bodies and those with diverse learning and communicative styles. Following Cathy Davidson who writes “If your personal goal is equality in a world where inequality is structural, violent, and pervasive, you can at least start with your classroom as a place in which to model a better way,” I believe rigorous, generous classrooms can nurture equality, experimentation, and professionalism so that students cultivate not only new scholarly practices but also intentional ways of living in a diverse world.

“If your personal goal is equality in a world where inequality is structural, violent, and pervasive, you can at least start with your classroom as a place in which to model a better way.” Cathy Davidson, Why Start With Pedagogy?

In my classes, we use a range of technologies—from novels and social media to text analysis and hands-on field research—as scholarly tools to directly engage contemporary texts and contexts. In my recent Augmenting Realities course, for instance, the students used Twitter to perform a role-playing exercise wherein they adopted the particular historical, gendered, racial, and cybernetic identities of characters from the decades-old cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. If learning is an embodied material practice, this simple exercise opened the students to new points of contact with the world. In trying to imagine inhabiting differently-figured bodies the students began conversations about the rhetoric and ethics of representation on social media, the parameters of social justice, the role our individual bodies have on our daily perspectives, and the cultural construction of normalized minds, bodies, and identities.

“New digital tools available to students have flung open the doors to creativity, imagination, and student-directed learning.” Jonan Donaldson, The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism

As the course format and content allow, I use a makerspace ethos and distribute responsibility for expertise across students. I ask students to bring their individual backgrounds and disciplinary interests to bear on the knowledge we create in class by assigning each to participate in both large-group and small-partnered collaborations. Two of my most successful assignments combined this collegial makerspace style with a problem-based science and engineering model I observed in a Duke Faculty Teaching Triangle classroom visit. As a semester-culminating exercise in my Augmenting Realities 2.0 course, I surprised the students with the Ultimate Oculus Rift Challenge: students were split into teams and each had forty minutes to draw from our previous course readings and experiments to sketch a design prototype for a new literary Oculus app. The problem-based ‘challenge’ sparked their creative energies and they proposed innovative projects like interactive reading apps and educational digital annotation programs. During their design sprint, I heard them discussing literary merit, speculative technological futures, accessible design, ethics, and cultural relevance—all topics we had touched on in class. In application, these topics became vivid and the students connected to them far better than they had through classroom conversation.

Stemming from this project, I assigned the Impossible One-Side Presentation asking students to distill their multimodal final projects into a one-slide, three-minute presentation. Being another exercise in articulation, this assignment pushed students to find creative solutions for delivering their ideas. Once again, they exceeded all of my expectations. In my upcoming Global Environmental Humanities course, the students and I will be testing entirely new methods of embodied hands-on practice by visiting the Duke Farm, engaging in local environmental action, and participating in global eco-activism. Inspired by innovative pedagogue Mark Sample, who sees critical making as critical thinking, I integrate these types of assignments into my courses in order to broaden what counts as scholarly knowledge-production and to facilitate potentially transformative interdisciplinary interactions.

“As educators, we must do more than expect critical engagement from our students – we must model it in our efforts to change, modify, and adopt new learning practices” Adam Heidebrink, Cracking Open the Curriculum

I have more than ten years of formal teaching experience that includes a variety of genres, learning environments, and educational roles. My methods are informed by my early training in languages, my professional background in writing and publishing, my abiding interest in the evolving nature of scholarly communication, my tutelage under a line of interdisciplinary pedagogical mentors and colleagues, and by my own research practices. In my research, I am continually testing new tools and methods that then feed back into my classrooms. Learning to use a communicative tool, whether it be technical, rhetorical, or theoretical, includes learning how to use it with intention, clarity, and purpose. As an instructor, I feel a responsibility to develop these new literacies and evolve my critical practice alongside today’s ever-evolving contexts. Collaboration, observation, and creativity are formative modes of inspiration for my own continued education and I have learned a great deal from the workshops and teaching triangles I participated in as a Duke CIT Faculty Fellow. My classroom evaluations positively reflect my dedication, with a handful of students saying my classes were their favorite and nearly all reporting a new sense of the various roles media, cultural rhetoric, and social networks play in the construction of their identities and ideals. That is the triumphant intervention the open-access streaming-media classroom, no matter its discipline or thematic focus, can make in our hyper-digital modern age.

“The sobering environmental and social challenges of the 21st century—our grand challenges, global challenges—will require a more capacious humanities.” Bethany Nowviski, On Capacity and Care

In her recent keynote to the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bethany Nowviskie said “the sobering environmental and social challenges of the 21st century—our grand challenges, global challenges—will require a more capacious humanities.” It is this type of ‘capacious’ thinking that motivates my teaching: I try to meet the students in the many diverse spaces where they reside, and I make a point to teach across technologies, both mediated and methodological, so that students who learn differently can be differently engaged. I believe the tools we use in the classroom can be meaningfully molded outside the walls of academia to be put toward making powerful positive change.

 

Amanda Starling Gould, 2016