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Student Spotlight: Yanhong Zuo, PhD in Teaching & Curriculum

Student Spotlight: Yanhong Zuo, PhD in Teaching & Curriculum

Originally from China, Yanhong Zuo came to the Warner School to work toward her PhD in teaching and curriculum. During her dissertation work, Yanhong successfully navigated the hindrances of the COVID-19 pandemic to collect data from her home country.

Why teaching and curriculum?
I was an English professor in China, and I am interested in conducting educational research to improve teaching and learning.

Why Warner?
I was impressed by the spirit advocated by Warner that change starts here. I have been enthusiastic about making changes in education, and after reviewing the courses offered, I felt that the Warner School would be a good fit for me.

What have you enjoyed most at Warner?
There are a lot of enjoyable moments at Warner, but I’ve enjoyed working with my academic advisor Dr. MJ Curry and my colleagues most at Warner. Right now, I am in the dissertation stage, which has been long and sometimes discouraging. I still remember the time that the dissertator group—my two colleagues and I—had discussions with Dr. MJ at her house during the pandemic. It was during those discussions that I experienced a lot of ‘aha moments’ and gradually figured out how to tackle my dissertation. I really enjoyed those moments, and the support that Dr. MJ and my colleagues gave me is unforgettable. It will always stay with me after I graduate from Warner.
What hands-on, experiential learning experiences have you gained at Warner?
I had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant (TA) twice for EDU 498: Literacy Learning as Social Practice course and as a writing consultant. My dissertation topic originated from a concept that I learned from EDU 498. I gained so much knowledge and inspiration from the course instructor’s professional spirit. Dr. Jayne Lammers designed the course in a way that considers the background of her students and meets their diverse needs, as well as made sure her course materials were easily accessible to everyone. My work as a writing consultant created a lot of learning moments with the Warner community. I discussed some important topics in academic writing by conducting workshops. And, in one-on-one sessions, I learned alongside Warner students how to improve academic writing. All these hands-on experiences have contributed to my academic work here.
What is the focus of your dissertation?
My dissertation focuses on Digital Multimodal Composing (DMC) for teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners in higher education in China. It explores one instructor’s pedagogical approach and students’ DMC experiences in a first-year EAL academic literacy course in the Chinese higher education context.

How did you navigate the hindrances of COVID-91 while working on your dissertation?
I had planned to return to China to collect data, but due to the pandemic, I had to collect data virtually. Dr. MJ and Dr. Lammers provided guidance on how to collect data online. Dr. MJ invited me to her online class to gain experience in taking field notes for an online classroom. She checked in with me every couple of weeks and provided feedback on my research journals. Dr. Lammers sent me research articles and books on online data collection. It was their support along the way that helped me navigate the hindrances of the pandemic.

What’s next for you? Do you have any plans following graduate school?
I am still working on the final touch of my dissertation and will spend some time adapting it to manuscripts for publication. After I graduate from Warner, I plan to return to China and apply what I learned at Warner to my teaching.