Teaching, Mentorship & Community Building
Timothy M. Ponce, PhD
From technical communication to freshman writing and sophomore literature, 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 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 scrutinize during one-on-one instructor student conferences. Though these conferences require approximately 50 extra hours of meetings from me, they insure that each student receives personalized and constructive feedback. This kind of individualized interaction yields extensive student growth, not least of which can be seen in my student’s second place prize in the 2017-2018 UTA English Department Duncan Robinson Essay Contest.
In my sophomore and junior level technical communication classes, we incorporate what we learned from the dissection of texts in the freshman writing courses 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. This kind of user-centered, multimodal authorship focused on healthcare concerns prepares these burgeoning nurses to engage in the kinds of writing they will encounter in their professional lives.
I continue this experiential learning in Business Proposals and Grant Writing, 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. It also empowers my students with the confidence to seek their own funding, with one student in my spring 2019 section securing a fellowship worth $25,000 with the assistance of the materials she created in the class. Employing a problem-based learning paradigm in my technical writing classroom helps students connect my course objectives with their career goals, leveraging their career aspirations to enrich their educational experience.