Pedagogy

Philosophy

In my classroom, we cultivate a unique form of kinship, one that is driven by mutual respect, curiosity, inter-dependent collaboration, and the collective production of knowledge.

Rarely do I lecture. Rather, I engage with my students to create a learning environment where all members feel comfortable speaking aloud, practicing their critical thinking skills with peers, and venturing into new and challenging intellectual territory.

 

We focus on performing detailed close readings of creative texts—poems, novels, short stories, films, television shows, visual artworks—as well as critical essays from across the social sciences and humanities. We examine the effects of rhetorical and narrative choices in order to ground ourselves in the textual details that make meaning. Then, we apply that grounding to explore how fiction intersects with broader ideologies surrounding gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, ethnicity, and nationhood, both in historical contexts and in our modern day.

Past and present collide as we explore historical works through current cultural lenses. To do so, we rely upon open-ended and free-flowing conversations combined with individual, paired, and small-group activities that bridge written, oral, visual, and spatial elements. This multimodal approach engages the diverse range of thinkers and learners in the room.

Students depart my courses more confident in their capacities as readers and thinkers. They recognize how their fine-tuned skills of analysis, argumentation, and persuasion will continue to guide them as they evaluate the world, far beyond the academic classroom.

 

My goal is to unpack students' inherited habits as writers. To begin with, I disrupt their practice of single-sitting composition. Instead, we treat writing as an evolving process involving piecemeal development, multi-stage revisions, and an understanding that readers can offer us helpful insights along the way.

Throughout the semester, we work on structural elements of our essays such as introductory paragraphs, topic sentences, thesis statements, syntax, and conclusions. But that work is not undertaken in isolation. One week, students gather together to diagram their drafts on the board; another, they work side-by-side rearranging paragraphs on the floor. Through interactive and dynamic activities, students watch as their thoughts evolve in "real time."

When we tackle words on the page, I emphasize one clichéd adage: "Show, don't tell." I train students to apply this creative-writing mantra to their argumentative writing as well. They illustrate their interpretations and analyses through coherent, logical explanatory prose. We learn how to guide our readers to follow the precise cognitive, intellectual, and affective associations that have led us, as writers, to derive particular meaning out of the textual evidence we select. Our essays aim to unfold the rich nuances of language and image.

Teaching Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
 

In both introductory and upper-division courses on family, marriage, kinship, sexuality, and gender, we take an interdisciplinary approach to consider materials both familiar and foreign. We watch romantic comedy films and dissect social media posts while reading legal opinions, anthropological studies, and social histories. By de-familiarizing the everyday, we witness how our contexts shape, and are shaped by, the narratives, expectations, and norms of culture.

We ask questions about how we identify ourselves and how we relate to others. We examine the political, legal, and quotidian rhetoric on topics of pressing interest, and we investigate the roots of such language in documents and narratives of the past. Students appreciate how the fields of feminist criticism and philosophy, gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, critical race studies, postcolonial work, and trans studies have stemmed from moments of cultural upheaval and social revolution. And we discern just how much work remains to be done.

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© 2020 by Talia M. Vestri, PhD. Last updated September 2020.