Timothy M. Ponce, PhD
Teaching, Scholarship, Community
From freshman writing to sophomore literature and technical communication, I craft curriculum grounded upon problem-based learning, a pedagogical methodology that fosters a “hands-on” approach to education. For example, I design my freshman writing courses to function like linguistic anatomy labs. As we dissect published texts to discover how they function, we gain valuable knowledge about the interrelated components of successful writing. We then apply this knowledge to the construction of our own texts, which we subsequently scrutinize during one-on-one instructor student conferences. Though these conferences require approximately 50 extra hours’ worth of meetings from me, they ensure that each student receives personalized and personable feedback. This kind of individualized interaction, in turn, yields extensive student growth.
My sophomore literature courses build from the first-year courses, moving the students from dissection of a simple text to examining a selection of “case studies.” Viewing poems, novels, and plays as case studies allows my students to see each text as a singular perspective on a given situation. Thus, it is possible for two different authors to address the same topic yet hold vastly different perspectives. Structuring the class in this way allows my students to understand why our world is filled with such diverse opinions, and how studying said opinions opens doors for cultural understanding. My students have discovered this to be especially true as they compare ancient texts and modern films.
In my sophomore and junior level technical communication classes, we incorporate what we learned from the dissection of texts and the examining of case studies into an active writing laboratory. I have thus designed all of my writing projects in these courses to be experiential in nature. For instance, in my introduction to technical writing course, which is almost exclusively taken by pre-nursing students, the capstone assignment in my instruction unit introduces a scenario in which they work for a home health agency that has asked them to create a set of instructions for a client placed on home oxygen therapy. After they construct an audience profile, I supply each team with the necessary medical equipment, allowing them to interact with the objects as they plan their instructions. They then use a combination of text, image, and video to relay instructions to our client.
I continue this experiential learning in my business proposals and grant writing class, where I partner with a local nonprofit who acts as a client for our grant writing team. As the class explores the proposal and grant writing process, I demonstrate how this genre of writing is dependent upon an in-depth understanding of the client, their mission, and the objectives of each of their programs. To that end, I invite the client into our classroom, coordinate site visits for my students, and repeatedly reinforce the need to match client needs to funder concerns. Centering this class around a community partnership allows me to ground the theory of grant writing in the tangible, demonstrating the exigency of the course material.