Phil Bratta

 

Philosophy

I approach the classroom with a philosophy based on my experiences teaching at five different institutions in the last nine years, tutoring/consulting for two years in the Writing Center @ MSU, and participating in the 2016 Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC). My overall philosophy is for students to foster connections with their community and other communities through rhetorical and writing reflections, decisions, actions, and productions. I see my role as a facilitator of learning spaces that encourage students to participate in both critical thinking and civic engagement. This philosophy is influenced by Linda Brodkey’s work in Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only, where Brodkey remarks, “I equate literacy with democracy, and suspect all definitions of literacy that either exclude writing or subordinate writing to reading of eroding everyone’s civil liberties and civil rights by barring most citizens from access to publication, one of the most important public forums for sustained critique of government in any participatory democracy.” I see the work of teaching writing and rhetoric and encouraging students to transfer knowledge and skills outside the classroom as the most significant bridge between the academy and communities.

To build this bridge requires not only careful thought lesson plans, readings and dynamic and generative classroom discussions, but assignments that steer students toward critical thinking. For example, I typically begin a semester with students identifying their cultural experiences in a variety of contexts: home, school, social spaces, extracurricular activities, etc. Next, I propose critical questions (which will be revisited throughout the semester) that link to writing and rhetorical practices in those contexts. These questions generate reflection and reflexivity, as well as create a space where students’ knowledge can be valued. I work to have these questions create a student-centered classroom where students are able to reflect on, critique, and build knowledge from their experiences and the texts we read.

I also give a number of assignments that foster civic engagement, particularly ones that require students to work with digital composing. For example, one assignment—a multimodal composing project—begins with investigating videos, audio, websites, video games, newspapers, magazines, etc. to learn how writing, design and communication factor into cultural and political ideologies and paradigms. These texts specifically enable students to explore the linguistic, visual, aural, spatial, and temporal intersections of rhetorical production. Drawing on this knowledge, students then create well-researched multimodal/multimedia presentations, such as YouTube clips, songs, websites, storyboards, Prezis, and animated videos. The final step in the assignment requires students to figure out ways to circulate their project/writing in digital (typically through online publishing, but also through circulating, for example, via blogs or social media) or physical spaces (for example, through proposing community film screenings). 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 (or not reach) certain communities. Especially when challenged to address social and political issues, students also learn how their writing and rhetoric has political implications and the ability to create social change.

I also bring local organizations into the classroom. For instance, at Michigan State, students in the Introduction to Professional Writing course worked with the Refugee Development Center in Lansing, MI. The students and I consulted with the director (Dr. Erika Brown Binion), employees, and volunteers of the Refugee Development Center to practice rhetorical listening, critically think about and assess rhetorical decisions in situations, accounting for all the elements in a rhetorical situation (context, audience, stakeholders, genre, exigency, medium, organization, style, design, and circulation), and compose newsletters for the public.

As a facilitator, I also see critical classroom discussions as opportunities to co-produce knowledge with students. Such collaborative knowledge production enables students to further see their agency and how that agency can be practiced in a democracy. Ultimately, my goal is for students to invent new ways of democratic practice and community connections through their rhetorical lives. This goal, I believe, can be achieved by paying particular attention to assignment development and approaching classroom discussion as collaborative knowledge production space. When we teachers make these efforts, we allow students to bridge their college experience to our public lives and (underserved) communities as well as prepare them for successful careers beyond their undergraduate experiences.

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—beginners 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).