PWR In the Spotlight
Spotlight on: Professor Laura Lisabeth
By: Lopa Shah
1. When did your teaching career begin, and what prompted you to venture down this path?
Professor Lisabeth always had a keen interest in reading and thinking and after earning her MFA in fiction, she strove to learn more from challenging theoretical reading. This drew her to pursue a Ph.D. in English at St. John’s University. With a PhD in English which was housed in an interdisciplinary program (composition theory, cultural studies, pedagogy); she began teaching there while completing her Ph.D. work.. During this time, Professor Lisabeth worked with theories of pedagogy and was able to apply it at the same time while teaching.
- What are some of the writing courses you teach here at SB and what is your teaching philosophy and your favorite part of teaching?
Professor Lisabeth teaches WRT 102 courses and will begin to teach Professional Writing courses next fall. Her teaching philosophy is partially based on “Event based pedagogy.” She describes an example which epitomizes this approach where her students created an Instagram journal in response to watching the Ken Burns film, The Central Park Five. One student created an Instagam journal about how sad and angry she felt about justice not being not served when five young boys were wrongly prosecuted for a violent crime. One of the Central Park Five, Raymond Santana--now an exonerated man--responded to the public Instagram post of the student. This contact caused students to jump out of their chairs in the classroom and sparked fervent discussions during which students were able to converse about how this might have happened (maybe the hashtag). Other students chose to make their Instagrams public and the class continued to have discussions with Santana. The students formed public connections during their classwork. Professor Lisabeth explains how digital pedagogy and social media can initiate this kind of event in the classroom. This connects with her interest in social media writings.
- How do you motivate your students to write in the classroom and outside of the classroom?
Professor Lisabeth states that students are generally eager to get their thoughts out on paper, so as a writing professor building a community within the classroom, she cultivates this ambition. One technique which Professor Lisabeth used to create a sense of community was through “wall writing,” during which students were allowed to generate questions for their research and put them up on the walls in the class; then students were encouraged to write questions for each others’ projects and to respond and engage in meaningful discussions based on what they wrote. Professor Lisabeth hopes to “make writing like the air we breathe” as she creates an environment in the classroom that encourages writing as soon as they step in the room. By using discussions on BlackBoard, students can write outside of the classroom and can get feedback from both her and other students.
- What are your current research interests?
Professor Lisabeth has done prior research looking into William Strunk’s life, and her goal is to continue this research into his life and analyze the legacy he left based on his work in The Elements of Style. She hopes to explore how even though this work seems to indicate a regulative style, her archival research of his life and work at Cornell University show a progressive mindset. She is also interested in looking into how to get students interested in research and argument. She fosters research in her classroom by having her students craft “inquiry questions” during wall writing. She lets her students start with a broad topic like “how does the culture remember,” and then by figuring out beliefs, values and assumptions they have on that topic, the students are able to start drafting questions and eventually respond to others’ questions with comments or further questions on the wall.