ENG-W 500: Teaching Composition

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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.

Steps to Complete Before Getting Started

  • To begin this course, please do the following:
    • Obtain the required materials for the class

Getting in Touch with Me … and Each Other

You have several avenues of communication for this course:

  • If you have general questions about the course (assignments, due dates, course policies, textbooks, major projects, etc.), please post your questions to the “Questions about the Course” Discussion in the “Discussions” tab. I will check this Discussion forum regularly and answer any questions you may have. If you have a question that likely concerns the entire class, please use this space.
  • “The Coffee House Lounge” site in the Discussions tab will be an informal space for you to meet your fellow students and get to know one another over the course of the semester. For instance, you may use this space if you find an interesting article, website, or some other resource you want to share with the rest of the class.
  • If you have more specific questions about, say, a project you’re working on or an idea for an assignment or even a question about the readings, the best way to get in touch with me is through the Inbox in Canvas (located to the left of the screen). For more in-depth discussions, I will also gladly set up a Zoom or Skype meeting with you, whether individually or in groups.
  • I will generally reply to messages as quickly as possible during the week (Monday through Friday), during regular business hours (8am to 6pm or so). On the weekends, holidays, and on the rare occasion that I am traveling, it may take me a little longer to return your message.

Course Syllabus and Major Assignments

ENG-W 500_Syllabus_Cook

Guidelines and rubric for Discussions

Major Project 1: Timeline



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