English 615: Composition Instruction -- Pedagogies and Principles
Spring 2006: Tuesdays, 7:20-10:00 pm
English 615 is designed to provide both immediate help and a foundation for continuing development as a teacher of writing. The course strives to
- Support you as you develop a general philosophy about teaching and prepare specific materials for use when you teach English 101 or a similar writing course
- Provide enough information, via your reading, research, and participation, to help you become more aware of a variety of options and reasonings for writing and teaching writing well
- Allow opportunities to practice, question, adapt, challenge, and compare the writing pedagogy strategies you read about, see, and imagine, particularly in ways that let you connect "theory" to "practice" in a wide range of situations
- Support collegial, reflective conversations about teaching as a practical, scholarly, creative, and collaborative exercise—and thus encourage the questioning and reflection that fosters successful, ever-improving teaching
- Encourage you to value composition teaching and teaching in general as a scholarly and creative enterprise requiring significant complexity of thought and action, and thus one worth your continuing interest and efforts
This is a true introductory class, new-to-you in topic and in pedagogy: for many of you, it's the first "intro" you've taken in several years, and perhaps the last you will take for many years to come. Please try to be patient with the learning curve, with your own frustrations and struggles, with the small steps we sometimes take when you are more used to leaping gracefully about.
This will be a writing-intensive and writing-workshop-intensive class, which should help you connect with your (future) students & peers, encourage you to reflect on the whys and hows of teaching & writing, help you connect your "practice" with your "preaching" (or change one to fit the other), and allow you room to develop your own theories and practices as a writer and writing-teacher.
We will aim not for "right answers" but for increasing pedagogical flexibility. We will attempt to keep a balance between finding solutions and raising additional questions, objections, and confusions; between class assignment expectations and individual investigations; and between giving you (additional) "roots" for your preferred pedagogical approaches and helping you gather a range of optional approaches, theories, or assignments.
In contrast to the "orientations" of the rest of the composition program, then, this class is intended to be dis-orienting, to call "obvious" beliefs and practices into question, to inspire reflection and reconsideration, and to challenge you to go beyond your comfort zones—as writing and teaching so often do.
The more you can use your double-vision in this class, seeing events and assignments and reactions from both a student-perspective and a (future) teacher-perspective, the more useful this class will be.
Course Tools & Expectations
The Books & Readings
- Bean, Engaging Ideas (1996)
- Moore and O'Neill, Practice in Context (2002)
- Straub, A Sourcebook for Responding to Student Writing (1999)
- Glenn, The St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing (free copy distributed at the beginning of the semester)
- Johnson & Morahan, Teaching Composition: Background Readings (free copy distributed at the beginning of the semester)
Also, occasional readings accessible via university library databases such as JSTOR or posted on WebCT (http://webct41.gmu.edu).
The Assignments and Grade Values, Very Briefly:
Practical Assignments (9): 30%
Community participation: E-postings, class activity bank, trading cards, and in-class work: 25%
Collaborative Inquiry Project: 10%
Final Teaching/Writing Portfolio: 35%
Other Policies of Note:
Attendance is expected. This is a workshop- and participation-intensive class, so missing more than one meeting will affect your participation grade.
A strict late work policy is inappropriate, given our emphasis on drafting and revising through the semester, though I expect that you'll keep up with both the reading and the writing. The one exception concerns the Collaborative Inquiry Project: although I don't expect problems, if your procrastination adversely affects your team members' work, you will earn a grade-deduction on your individual project grade.
Although it goes without saying, sometimes saying it is important, especially for a workshop class: you are expected to maintain an attitude of professionalrespect and courtesy—if not always agreement—toward other class members.
Students with disabilities: Students with documented disabilities are legally entitled to certain accommodations in the classroom. Students requesting such accommodation must present faculty with a contact sheet from the Disability Resource Center(703-993-2474). I will gladly work with students and the DRC to arrange fair access and support.