ENG-W 500: Teaching Composition

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Course Description

This fully-online, graduate-level course is an introduction to—and a history of—the field of writing studies, which goes by various names, including “composition studies,” “rhetoric and composition studies,” “composition-rhetoric,” and sometimes “rhet-comp.” This course historicizes approaches to writing instruction in the West going back as far as classical antiquity, it surveys writing studies’ major movements and moments in the mid- to late 20th century in the US, and it speculates about the teaching of writing well into the 21st century. Together we will study the major concepts, themes, debates, and politics of the discipline; investigate the theoretical assumptions and historical foundations that underpin the various movements within writing studies (e.g., expressivism, Writing Across the Curriculum, critical pedagogy, social constructivism, post-process, etc.); and explore the impact of digital technologies on the teaching of writing.

After examining where we’ve been and where we are in writing studies, you will then apply what you’ve learned to develop a writing assignment/unit of your own, from preparation or invention, to assignment and production, to evaluation or assessment. Drawing upon the pedagogical theories, concepts, and histories you’ve examined, you will argue for and justify the effectiveness and appropriateness of this assignment/unit in your (or another’s) writing classroom.

Finally, this course has been designed to give you several opportunities to reflect on how your own background, interests, and goals fit into the larger network of issues and approaches in writing studies. We conclude the course by thinking about where we’re going as a discipline, which includes projecting into the future as to where and how your understanding of your background, interests, and goals can be implemented and enacted.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe and differentiate the role of writing in writing pedagogy throughout history;
  • Describe the significant features of pedagogical approaches to teaching writing in more recent times, and describe how these features reflect larger conceptual debates in approaches to writing instruction;
  • Analyze and contrast how the larger contexts (such as social, economic, political, historical, cultural, and institutional forces) have influenced the development of different pedagogical approaches to teaching writing;
  • Analyze how ideas about text and textuality have shifted in disciplinary, institutional, and social history;
  • Outline a plan for teaching a writing unit (from preparation or invention, to assignment and production, to evaluation or assessment) that draws upon course concepts and information, and argue for or justify its use;
  • Discuss how your own background, interests, and goals fit into the larger network of topics, issues, approaches, theories, and research you have studied, and project into the future as to where and how your understanding of your background, interests, and goals can be implemented and enacted.

Reflection and Revision Statement (2018-2021)

ENG-W 500 is an introductory graduate course surveys the history of writing instruction and rhetoric since antiquity, provides an overview of contemporary approaches to composition pedagogy, and prompts students to explore a contemporary composition pedagogy of their choice, culminating in a unit/lesson plan based on this chosen pedagogy.

I am now teaching ENG-W 500 in the summer of 2021 for the third time. The first time I taught this fully online graduate seminar, in the summer of 2018, I was still largely inexperienced as an online instructor. Since then, I have taken several training sessions through the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and IU Kokomo and throughout the IU system and become much more comfortable teaching in an online environment. Since the first time I taught this course, I have used the TILT approach to assignment transparency developed by Mary-Ann Winkelmes, now at Brandeis University, for every single assignment and project in the course, no matter how large or small. This approach enables students to see precisely what is expected of them, why they are being asked to complete a particular assignment or project, and the criteria by which their work will be evaluated. See the sample assignments below for more details.

Due to an unfortunate error that resulted in a loss of the course evaluations in Summer 2018 and a very low (one student) response rate for the evaluations in Spring 2019, I have not received much student feedback on this course on which to base my revisions. However, I have taken care to apply what I have learned about various products within the Adobe suite and Kaltura Media to create videos on readings, infographics, and other materials that I hope will make the current iteration of ENG-W 500 successful. In fact, I am already hearing from students in my current (summer 2021) section that the course is well-paced and enlightening, and that they are learning new material–in particular the history of rhetoric and writing instruction–that is completely new to them.

For example, one student writes that

The sequence [of assignments in Module 1] was excellent, and I learned a lot of additional information. It was a lot in a short period of time and I think that was difficult. What has stuck with me the most is the development of writing in an oral society and the transition [from] writing as a memory aid to what it is today.  

Another student writes,

You’ve been fair, patient and refreshingly responsive!

I will say I particularly enjoy that you are inaccurate when you say in your videos that this one will be short, but it often is not. (lol). That usually makes me chuckle, but keep them that length! I love the knowledge you share and your class. 

I usually watch them several times and take notes. 

Course Syllabi and Select Course Materials

ENG-W 500 Syllabus (Summer 2018)

ENG-W 500 Syllabus (Spring 2019)

ENG-W 500 Syllabus Cook (Summer 2021)

Guidelines and rubric for discussions (Summer 2018)

Guidelines and rubric for discussions (Spring 2019)

Guidelines and rubric for Discussions and Minor Assignments (Summer 2021)

Major Project 1: Timeline (Summer 2018)

Major Project 2: Annotated Bibliography (Summer 2021)

Major Project 3: Lesson Plan/Unit Plan for Composition Course (Summer 2021)

Course Evaluations

Due to an unfortunate clerical error in the IU Kokomo Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, the course evaluations for the Summer 2018 section of ENG-W 500 were lost before they could be reported to me.

Spring 2019 Course Evaluations

Summer 2021 course evaluations will not be available until August 2021.

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