Revision… Revision is a word, that as teachers, we are quite familiar with. We develop scaffolded assignments dedicated to ongoing revision. We provide in-class writing activities to promote revision. And we constantly work on perfecting our methods of peer review and instructor feedback in hopes that students revise. Yes. One of our constant goals as Composition instructors is to encourage students to see writing as a process in which revision is the foundation for writing and academic development. This focus is a noble one and we place considerable effort into revision in our classrooms.
Yet, as a teacher, I’ve begun to reflect upon revision in a different light as well; especially this month as many of us are tasked with the responsibility of assessing our work as instructors and academics. How do we, as teachers, revise? We are certainly comfortable with revision of our own writing. We’ve learned from our academic training and our professional development that revision is ongoing; we’ve learned that revision can be tedious and painful; and we’ve learned that revision is necessary for our growth as writers and researchers. However, we often fail to place the same focus of revision to our teaching and academic practices. And revision of our professional selves can be tricky. We are often following department common syllabi that allow for limited revision to the course. We might be new instructors only comfortable with pre-established techniques or approaches; we may be seasoned instructors relying upon what has always worked for us as teachers; or we may be overworked academics who understandably decide that revision to our practices would take too much of our already limited time. Whatever the reason might be, revision of our teaching and professional methods may be the last area we consider as instructors.
But as I look over the requirements for my annual review and my assessment as a PhD student, I begin considering how my goals are represented in the static documents that I revise in order to justify my growth and work in the past year. What do the SET scores, the conferences, the workshops, and the committee work all really say about who and what I do as a teacher? How does the revision of my past year’s documents and CV represent my continued growth and my impact on student learning? And finally, how does my reflection on the revisions of these documents lead to a reflection and possible revision of my own academic practices? Am I simply revising these documents to ensure my position in the department or am I using them to contemplate if and how I should revise my own beliefs, goals, and methods?
Last year, I used the annual review process to consider what my revisions to the required documents actually said about me professionally. I reviewed my SET scores and student feedback. I reflected upon my own personal and academic research and writing, and I considered my work in the department and beyond. These reflections allowed me to assess the disconnect students in my ENG 6010 course were experiencing. It lead me to determine that I should take a year off from the conference scene in order to place more focus on my own writing and research. And I considered how my department and cross campus work could be more dynamic by being interpreted and developed for online use.
While I may be kicking myself for revamping my ENG 6010 course while writing my dissertation, or tackling the grueling task of making hard copy materials into online material for the WRT Zone, I am also incredibly fulfilled and recharged. I’m seeing how my new methods and instruction in my class are positively affecting my students and their learning of complex pedagogical theories. I am enjoying my collaborative work with fellow tutors in the WRT Zone and the positive feedback we’ve received on our online materials and tutorials, and I am forging new connections and research projects with colleagues within and outside of the department. Revision might seem daunting – it requires difficult reflection on our part, and it is time consuming. But the outcome is as positive and necessary for our growth as teachers and professionals as it is for the students we teach.
Jule Thomas is a lecturer at Wayne State University and director of WSU’s writing center, the WRT Zone. She is currently ABD, and her research focuses on Composition Pedagogy, Writing Center Pedagogy, and helping students develop genre awareness as a strategy for learning transfer.