Blog Post

Preparing for Public Facing Writing in the Composition Classroom with Professor Johnson

Headshot of Professor Leslie Johnson in a grey blazer.

In HASTAC’s Progressive Pedagogy group, we share innovative teaching strategies and activities happening across higher education. Our commitment to public-facing work is shared by Professor Leslie C. Johnson at Lansing Community College where she teaches Composition I and II. In her Composition II classroom, Professor Johnson has students practice the genre of academic essay and then transition their research for real world import.

About her strategy, she says: “In my argumentative writing class, Composition II, my students recast their first essay for a real audience. As a class, we choose a broad topic related to college for their first essay. After studying how original research is reported in journals (and how it's a specialized form of argument), we return to Essay 1 and do our own original research. We develop a hypothesis or two, create a survey for their fellow students, then spread out across campus, having students take the survey.”

“Each student chooses an option to ‘re-envision’ the first essay so that it includes our survey results: a poster or oral presentation at LCC's student scholars event; a static web page; a narrated video posted to the internet; or public comment at an Academic Senate or Trustees meeting. They can also choose their genre: a traditional argument or a journal-style research report. As part of the process, classmates who chose the same option discuss the changes they must make to fit their audience and purpose (including images, graphs, documentation, and accessibility issues).”

“My core goal for any class is simply to help students be able to complete any writing task that comes their way. Everything I do should help them produce writing that is clear, concise, correct, and compelling. I based this project on so many influences. From Composition Studies, I definitely took the idea to have students write for a real audience. I used the principles of Universal Design for Learning to begin offering students options. I draw upon critical pedagogy to involve students in the topic selection, looking for something about which they can share their knowledge and experience. Similarly, we list the requirements for each option on the board, and we reach an agreement on how to make the requirements for each option equivalent.”

“I think this project is the culmination of my graduate studies and 22 years of college teaching experience. I want my students to leave my courses feeling like they were treated as human beings with ideas, opinions, and feelings worthy of expression. Yes, we are reaching goals established by a degree-granting institution, but I hope I am using those goals as a path to help them rationally and kindly engage with the world, now and in the future.”

Professor Johnson has spent four years directing Lansing Community College’s Center for Teaching Excellence. She is “first and foremost a teacher,” saying, “I knew 26 years ago that I wanted to work with college writers and that I wanted to do so at a community college.” Professor Johnson generously shares a chapter she has published “Moving Beyond Plagiarized / Not Plagiarized in a Point, Click, and Copy World.” 

For more details on how to implement Professor Leslie Johnson's Re-envisioning assignment, please see her lesson plans at the following links:

Professor Leslie Johnson General Lesson Plan

Professor Leslie Johnson Re-envisioning Essay Assignment

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