Phil Bratta

 

Philosophy

Educational interactions should do two things: (1) enable students to voice their experiences and concerns; and (2) foster connections with their community and other communities through rhetorical and writing reflections, decisions, actions, and productions. I see the work of teaching writing and rhetoric accomplishing these goals with outcomes that encourage students to transfer knowledge and skills outside the classroom and build bridges between the academy and communities. This is one way for civic engagement, which I understand to be as making connections and creating new ways of thinking, knowing, and acting with(in) both one’s community and those communities considered “outside.” Through my experiences teaching at five different institutions in the last nine years and tutoring/consulting for two years in the Writing Center @ MSU, I draw my philosophy from bell hooks’ work in Teaching to Transgress, where hooks remarks, “Commitment to engaged pedagogy carries with it the willingness to be responsible, not to pretend that professors do not have the power to change the direction of our students’ lives” (206), and Linda Brodkey’s Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only, where Brodkey believes writing is “a social and material political practice in which writers endeavor to reconstruct society” (80-81).

To build the bridge between disparate communities, teaching  should steer students toward reflective and reflexive critical thinking. For example, I typically begin a semester by prompting students to identify their cultural experiences in a variety of contexts: home, school, social spaces, co-curricular activities, etc. Next, I propose critical questions—revisited throughout the semester—that examine writing and rhetorical practices in those contexts. Some initial, general questions might be:

How would you describe your culture?
What would you consider are your everyday cultural practices?
What is expected of you in your cultural spaces and places?
What kinds of speaking and writing happen in these spaces and places?

With these questions as a backdrop, I encourage students to take the lead as they reflect on, critique, and construct knowledges from and about their experiences, the texts we read, and the writing they compose.

My courses build on this reflective and reflexive civic engagement with and through digital technology and multimodal composing. In working with multimodality, students better understand how their writing and rhetoric can circulate across various contexts and be produced in various mediums to reach certain communities. For instance, at Michigan State University, I had students in the Introduction to Professional Writing course work with the Refugee Development Center in Lansing, MI. First, we discussed and reviewed language used in popular culture in order to understand that refugees’ stories matter. Then, the students and I consulted with the Center’s director and interviewed employees and volunteers to assess the rhetorical situation and practice rhetorical listening about their needs and stories. Working from the Center’s needs, I had students consider how language, culture, design, and usability function rhetorically together, and they composed eight digital RDC newsletters for the public. Finally, I had students consider ways to circulate publicly the newsletters to have the greatest rhetorical impact, a way to make clear that writing and democratic practice can be part of active citizenship.

Ultimately, my goal is for students to invent new ways of democratic practice and community connections through their writing and rhetorical lives. Through the focus on individuals’ voices across social identities and experiences, I see the classroom as a place to foster global and local connections that seek to overcome ideological and political divides within the academy and beyond its walls and in students’ careers.

Courses

American Cultural Rhetorics

WRA 848 American Cultural Rhetorics Syllabus
In spring 2017, I was a teaching intern to Dr. Trixie Smith for a graduate course in American Cultural Rhetorics (WRA 848) at Michigan State University. This course focused on the theories and methodologies useful to research and scholarship in cultural rhetorics. By the end of course, students were able to map relationships between/across/among various intersecting theories, methodologies, disciplines, practices, and questions that comprise scholarship in cultural rhetorics.

Introduction to Professional Writing 

WRA 202 Introduction to Professional Writing Syllabus
In spring 2016, I taught Professional Writing (WRA 202) at Michigan State University. After students worked with various rhetorical concepts (texts, audience, exigency, constraints, culture, and others) in the first half of the semester, they worked with a non-profit organization: Refugee Development Center (RDC) in Lansing, MI. The RDC provides educational and social services for refugees from various countries, striving to facilitate self-sufficiency for individuals and families. I decided to partner with the RDC since the directors had expressed that it needed a variety of professional documents. Working in teams of three, students practiced listening to a client’s needs and wants, working with an organization and its community, and crafting professional newsletters.

Composition 

ENC 1101  Writing Academic Arguments Syllabus
ENC 1102  Rhetoric and Academic Research Syllabus
WRA 110 Writing: Science and Technology Syllabus 
I have taught a total of six first-year composition courses at two institutions: University of Florida and Michigan State University. At UF, I taught ENC 1101 and 1102—Writing Academic Arguments and Rhetoric and Academic Research, respectively—and focused each section on one of the following themes: food politics, adaption, and material culture. In ENC 1101, students practiced rhetorical and practical elements (exigency, devices, audience, message, context, and constraints) of writing effective arguments for contemporary academic audiences and food production and consumption issues. In ENC 1102, students learned techniques and forms of argument in a broad range of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, business, and natural sciences. And as they learned the complementary relationship between writing and research, they also practiced the stages of brainstorming, formulating a research problem, planning, researching, organizing, revising and presenting their writing.

At MSU, I taught WRA 110: Science and Technology. For the students, I defined these two course themes broadly, noting the importance to think about both non-digital and digital technologies as well as science and scientific paradigms in relation to other disciplines and areas of interest. Also, I integrated discussions, readings, activities, and assignments that connected science and technology to culture, highlighting issues of subjectivity, difference, and power.

Professional & Technical Communication 

ENC 2210 Technical Writing (Online Course) Syllabus
ENC 3254 Professional Communication for Engineers Syllabus
At University of Florida, I taught four sections of Professional Communication for Engineers and one section of the online course Technical Communication. The former was designed to help students master a variety of communication strategies, genres, and writing situations in the technical workplace. In addition to learning and composing a variety of professional documents (email, technical definition, instruction manual, progress report, feasibility report, and proposal), I also integrated an assignment on social awareness and change. I designed this assignment as a way for engineering students to become socially, politically, and globally aware by participating in an art activist project—One Million Bones, a large-scale social art installation that addressed current and historical genocides and thrived to raise funds for victims of genocide, to influence politicians to potentially end current genocides, and to inspire the public to engage more with global social issues. The assignment also required students to address a current engineering issue, considering what the political and social implications are in a global context.

The Technical Communication ENG 2210 was a survey of the forms and methods of communication used in business, industry, and government, including nonformal and formal reports, letters, resumes, and proposals. As an online course, I used a variety of modes of communication for instruction and engagement: emails, forum discussions, video tutorials, and podcasts.

ESL/EFL Teaching

I have taught a number of English as a Second Language and English as a Foreign Language at a variety of levels—beginner to advanced—and at four different institutions. With every course, I have worked to include various learning modes and assignments to ensure the greatest possibility for English language acquisition for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I have also obtained two certifications for teaching ESL/EFL: University of Cambridge ESOL’s Teaching Knowledge Test Module 2 Band 3 and TELF Institute’s Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).