English 5213, Fall 2003, Policies and Assignments
Oklahoma State University
On this long, not-very-web-friendly page you will find information about
Course Goals, Policies, Texts, and Grading
Community Assignments (Online Discussion, Class Presentation)
Essay Assignments (Warm-up, Exploration 1 & 2, Synthesis)
Weekly Writing Assignments (8 Reading/Pedagogy Responses)
4 Short Projects
Collaborative Research Project Overview (click here for full asgt.)
Reflective Writing (Post Script)
Final Teaching/Writing Portfolio
Contexts & Goals
This course is designed to complement the main elements of the
OSU Composition TA Education & Mentoring Program:
For TAs without previous teaching experience, the university lends financial support to an internship in the OSU Writing Center and a set of paid "shadowing" visits to composition classrooms, to become familiar with first-year composition
For new-to-teaching and new-to-OSU TAs, the Cross-Visitation program provides the opportunity to exchange classroom visits with other TAs and instructors so that visiting instructors can both "steal" new ideas and discover commonalities
For all new-to-teaching and new-to-OSU TAs, the composition program provides a peer mentor for individual guidance and support during the first year
For all TAs (and many other instructors), the composition program provides a series of orientation and continuing professional development opportunities at the start of each semester, and offers "PD Groups," the composition website, and the CompList discussion group throughout each semester
These activities are designed to provide much of the practical education, course materials, and peer support needed for successful teaching.
The 5213 seminar is designed to make four additional longer-term contributions:
Provide enough information, via quantitative and qualitative research articles, and participation as a student and leader in the seminar, that you can become more aware of a variety of options and reasonings for writing and teaching writing well, and can make intelligent choices about your classes now and in the future
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, theoretical, scholarly, creative, and collaborative exercise -- and thus encourage the awareness and reflection that fosters successful, ever-improving teaching
Encourage you to value composition teaching and teaching in general as a scholarly and creative enterprise equal in complexity of thought and action to any other that you undertake in graduate school, and thus one worth your continuing interest and efforts
Four Further Considerations:
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 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.
Tools and Expectations
Bean, Engaging Ideas (1996)
Connors and Glenn, The St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing (2003)
Corbett, Myers, & Tate, The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook, 4th Ed. (2000)
Straub, A Sourcebook for Responding to Student Writing (1999)
Optional: Wilhoit, The Allyn & Bacon Teaching Assistant's Handbook (2003)
Also, occasional photocopied readings placed in Morrill 205 and on reserve.
Assignments and Grade Values, Very Briefly:
"Weekly" Writing Assignments (12): 30%
Community participation: Email postings,
barn-raiser summaries, warm-up, and in-class work: 20%
Collaborative Inquiry Project: 10%
Final Teaching/Writing Portfolio: 40%
Other Policies of Note:
Attendance is expected. A strict late work policy is inappropriate, though I expect that you'll keep up with both the reading and the writing. The one exception concerns the Collaborative Presentation: 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 professional respect and courtesy -- if not always agreement -- toward other class members.
Students with disabilities: If any class member has a qualified disability and thinks that s/he needs special accommodations, s/he should notify me and request verification of eligibility for accommodations from the Office of Student Disability Services, 315 Student Union. I will be happy to work with the student and SDS to ensure a fair opportunity to perform in this class.
Notes about assignment "grades": This is a workshop-based class with a strong portfolio component. You will receive very few formal "grades" on your written assignments, though you will receive a multitude of comments from me and your peers. Early drafts will not be scored or rated; weekly assignments such as the Reading & Pedagogical Responses and the Short Projects will be "scored" with a check or check-plus. If at any point you are concerned about your letter grade for an assignment or overall, please come see me to talk about it.
E-group Reading-Discussion Posts
Instead of primarily discussing theory in class and doing our writing and pedagogy-planning at home by our lonely selves (as is so frequently the case in university studies), we will reserve a chunk of class time for collaborating on writing-workshops and teaching-workshops, and -- as many pros in the field now do -- conduct much of our more theoretical wrangling from home, via computer-mediated environments.
You are required to post about twice a week to your e-group. You should strive for balance between starting new conversations and responding to others' ideas.
A minimum of 30 "lush" postings (not just "I really agree with Spike"), at least 20 of which must be posted before Week 9, is necessary to earn an email "A." Since the email assignments are linked to the general participation grade, if you're quiet during class discussions, you might consider participating more often in the email discussion.
You should plan to post something every week: make it a habit, schedule a day/time, give it a priority status. Since life gets crazy, and this class is built upon long-term learning rather than dictatorial regulations, I will entirely understand if there are one or two weeks during the semester in which you need to "take an email vacation." However, persistent silences or "catching up" by posting eight times right before a deadline will put your "easy email A" in jeopardy.
Demonstration of completed reading: Your email postings should demonstrate that you are thoughtfully keeping up with the required reading. Generally, then, it would be a good idea to post about readings for which you do not complete Reading Responses. If in addition you'd like to post questions or ideas from your reading responses, please do so.
Barn-raising Posts: In a barn-raising, neighbors gathered to put in a few days' extra work to help one member of the community complete a difficult task, knowing that if they ever needed similar help, it would be reciprocated.
Thrice during the semester, you'll be asked to post a quick six-sentence summary of one of our readings to the class email lists. Six sentences: two to give the main argument, one to relay an intriguing quotation, one to describe a specific example or practice the author examines, and one to suggest a question or a link to other issues we've been reading. Sharp. Focused. Timely. Accessible. Provocative.
Why write these? It's one great way to prepare for comps: read/write/connect. It will help you focus and synthesize new information in a new field. And over the course of the semester, we'll build a composition-pedagogy barn: a ready-made guide to all the texts we're covering and how the puzzle pieces fit together.
The email list may also be used for requests, discussions, commiserations, or questions about anything even loosely associated with teaching, grading, reading, or observing classes. General professional "nettiquette" is expected: no virus warnings, cookie recipes, insults, or e-jokes.
General E-Style Hints: Good email stylists always change the SUBJECT header when they choose a new topic or modify an earlier one. They quote just a tiny bit from the post to which they are responding, enough to give context but not so much as to overwhelm their readers. They also tend toward shorter paragraphs and sometimes shorter sentences than they would write in a formal essay, and/or add catchy opening sentences to their paragraphs, hoping to engage their quick-skimming readers visually. They are careful with humor, particularly teasing, because tone is so difficult to convey. On the other hand, they often experiment with informal or even nonstandard language, to try to personalize the blips on the screen and keep conversations flowing. Try to find your email voice this semester.
Warm Up Activity:
Once during the semester, you'll be asked to run the first 15 minutes of class in such a way as to allow/encourage class members to draw thoughtful connections about their current reading, writing, teaching, and other conversations. You might have class members freewrite or respond to a prompt, discuss readings in pairs or groups, respond to a tricky "case study" in teaching; conduct a whole-class discussion, and/or join some other activity.
Please time your activity: at the 15-minute mark, you should have a way of concluding the exercise.
Essay-length Writing Assignments
Warm-up Essay: In a well-organized, thoughtfully-focused short essay (3-5 pages), explain whether you think that First Year Composition classes best serve students if they focus primarily on encouraging students to develop their independent voices, or if they best serve students when they focus more strongly on helping the students master the conventions and meet the expectations of American Academic Prose.
You may of course argue for an "in-between" position as long as you argue something more interesting and original than "Both ways have advantages" or "We should all do a little of both." (You might consider the order of emphasis, for instance.) Support your arguments with specific examples from your own experience(s) as a student and/or teacher, and/or with specific examples from reading you've done (but don't turn this into a review of "what everyone else thinks"). Resist the temptation to cover every possible situation or student.
Note: You are not expected to know an answer to this question as certainly as you know whether Stein was a great writer, how Elizabethan culture is reflected in the Bard's sonnets, what the characteristics of American Romanticism are, or how semi-colons work. Moreover, there is no right answer to this question. But you are a student and a writer, and you thus already have an answer to it -- you have a theory that you can explore -- whether you've thought about it previously or not.
Bring three copies for the workshop. Reflect, revise, complete a Post Script (see page 8), and turn everything in to Dr. Reid a week later.
Purposes of the assignment: To introduce a question central to the scholarship of composition/pedagogy; to establish a baseline of experience/opinion from which to build further discussion; to introduce the drafting, peer-editing, revising, and reflecting process crucial to writing classes. This essay has no grade weight.
Exploration Essay, Part I: Draft an essay-length response (4-8 pp.) to some part of the question below, or some variation thereof:
Why/how do/don't/did/should/might I (want/need/learn) (to) write/teach-writing?
You may consider Part I a personal/creative essay, allowing for experimentation in voice, format, and diction/style. Caveat 1: this is an essay about writing and/or teaching writing in the world as opposed to the essay you can all write about the internal bliss or angst of your personal writing experiences. Caveat 2: you need to meet at least some of the expectations of an academic classroom audience, particularly concerning support and structure. Caveat 3: challenge yourself not to write (only) the first ideas that come to mind, and not to merely describe what happened or could happen; dig around a bit. This essay should be a foundation for the kind of thinking/learning/reading that you will do this semester.
Bring copies for the workshop. Revise & Complete a Post Script to turn in.
Purposes of the assignment: To come to know thyself, at least in part, as a writer/teacher, in order to be better able to build on and/or modify your predilections; to write with purpose and clarity in a genre increasingly relevant to scholarship in English Studies, particularly composition; to begin to generate language to talk about "ineffable" qualities of your teaching/writing so that you can explain yourself to future students and colleagues; to have some fun.
Exploration Essay, Part II: Revise, refocus, and expand your early draft to integrate regular thoughtful references to a range of the articles, experiences, and theories you've encountered during this class (and your ongoing teaching or observing). Your revised essay will thus begin to resemble more closely a "typical" graduate-level research essay, but need not obliterate the personal voice or experience that lies at its foundations. The expanded draft should be in the 8-12 page length range, and cite at least 4-6 outside sources either in support of or as contradictions to your own ideas.
A main goal of this revision is for you to demonstrate your ability to see your own preferences in relation to, and in relation with, the advice and preferences of other scholars in the field: you certainly need not revise your preferences to fit theirs, though you will have to explain using some fairly attentive reading & interpretation how their theories, as large gravitational forces in your writing/teaching universe, pull and push at your own.
Note: Some first versions of the Exploration Essay will lend themselves easily to integrating others' voices regularly into the text. Others will require the writer to stretch topically to draw connections to and engage in coversations with other authors (how might Daiker's ideas about praise connect to yours about why you love pen-on-paper writing? how might Wiley's treatise on formulaic writing connect to your worries about teacherly authority?). Yet others will require the writer to stretch generically or formally: perhaps, it turns out, you're writing a play or dialogue? a fugue or a four-part mini-series? a time-travel novel or the transcript of a basketball sportscast? I'm happy to help you explore your exploration options.
Half of the class will bring copies for the first workshop; half will bring copies for the workshop the following week. Recommended: turn in a draft or consult with Dr. Reid.
Purposes of the assignment: To join the professional conversation about writing and teaching-writing; to continue developing strategies for blending secondary source ideas and language with your own; to review and synthesize, in a way that makes sense to you, some of the learning you've done this term; to participate in and develop techniques for writing a truly essay-wide revision.
Synthesis Essay: Choose 3-4 articles or chapter sections from the assigned readings or from other sources that "speak to each other" on an issue concerning composition pedagogy. In a mid-length essay (6-8 pages), explain the connections and/or disparities that are particularly of interest to you, and build an original argument about a theory, approach, and/or practice of teaching composition. What do these authors' ideas add up to that one couldn't discover by reading only one or two of the texts? Again, you will need to resist the temptation to spell out every connection that occurs to you: narrow and focus your attention. It may help to choose one angle or representative situation to explore; to pick out a very small thread to trace through (or reveal by examining) the chosen texts; or one text, idea, or situation that serves as a lens through which to examine the others.
Note 1: This is not a summary essay or a mini "survey of sources." Nor is it an essay about you and how you feel. It is your academic argument about texts: when you turn your intelligence to a reading of these texts, what judgment or conclusion do you make? why? This is a difficult task to do as a beginner in a field: try to think small-and-intriguing rather than grandiose-and-earth-shaking.
Note 2: One way to avoid writing only summary is to choose sources that do not entirely agree with each other -- or even to choose one source that's a clear outlier in some way, one that can serve as a lens, a counterbalance, a sport, a tease, an unexpected guest, a pebble in the shoe that keeps you from being too comfortable and challenges you to think more deeply.
Work the full process on this one: Complete the invention and drafting exercises. Bring draft copies for the workshop. Schedule a conference to discuss your draft; come prepared with questions and notes. Revise & complete a Post-Script.
Purposes of the assignment: To draw connections among readings and points of view this semester; to find a confident voice and join the conversation about composition pedagogy; to develop writing and revising skills for assignments outside your "comfort zone"; to polish your skills at working with secondary sources; to write a "three-source essay" in parallel to the ones assigned in 1113 and 1213.
Timed Writing Assignments: To help you develop strategies for writing quickly in response to a writing prompt chosen by someone else -- as in, say, a comprehensive examination -- we will complete two in-class timed writing assignments. One will take place near mid-semester; one during the final examination period.
Collaborative Inquiry and Presentation
You and a partner or set of partners will choose a topic pertinent to composition pedagogy, develop a question applicable to a FYC classroom, complete some basic research on it, write up a research-based handout, and give a 15-20 minute presentation to the class outlining how the research you conducted sheds light on and/or complicates the classroom-based question. See attached handout.
Weekly Writing Assignments
To earn an "A," you must turn in all 12 assignments; at least three of each kind must earn a check-plus. Revisions and/or additional submissions are allowed. Don't procrastinate!
Reading Responses: Over the course of the semester, you will turn in 4 short responses, each 2-3 pages long and responding primarily to one recently-assigned article. You may choose which days you bring a response to turn in; please plan to spread these assignments out relatively evenly through the semester.
Reading Responses should include four approaches**:
a short (one-paragraph), formal abstract of the article's main arguments;
a paragraph providing critical or theoretical or rhetorical analysis of one of the author's ideas or quotations and/or its connection to other readings (not simply a restatement of what the author[s] said generally, but your own judgment[s]);
a paragraph connecting one or two of the article's specific ideas to your (current or proposed) classroom pedagogy or experience;
and a set of 3-4 questions or exploration points that link the essay to the others assigned for the same week and help you extend your (and perhaps your classmates') thinking beyond the text.
Pedagogical Responses: You will turn in 4 short responses (2-3 pages) concerning classes you have taught and/or observed this term. Responses may review one whole class, a class sequence, or a single aspect of a class. Please plan to spread these assignments out more-or-less evenly across this semester, alternating (roughly) with the Reading Responses and Short Projects.
Each PR should include four parts**:
a log or short description of the classroom activities under consideration;
a paragraph reflecting on whether (or how) the events demonstrated an effective and/or well-intentioned pedagogy that you could adapt to future teaching (explain your judgment);
a paragraph reflecting with some specificity (if not always direct quotations) on at least one specific connection to an assigned reading that has been given at some point during our class;
and a set of 2-4 questions or exploration points that could help you extend your (and perhaps your classmates') thinking beyond the immediate classroom experience. (See note above about varying the structure of this four-fold response.)
At least one PR should be about someone else's teaching; at least one about your own. When you plan to write about another teacher's class, please ask his/her permission and explain that you will describe the class anonymously.
**Note: The four-part format is designed to stimulate rather than restrict thinking; it's important for scholar-teachers to be able to write/think toward all four purposes (summary, analysis, synthesis, exploration), and to distinguish among them. If, after trying out a response in the basic four-part format, you wish to experiment with other ways of representing your four-fold thinking, feel free to do so.
Short Practical Projects
You'll complete four short projects designed to provide you with specific plans and resources for your current and future teaching. You may collaborate with another student/teacher on any of these projects if you wish.
Short Project #1: Conscientious Grading
Submit via conference with the professor two composition papers (anonymous) with your comments and grades. (Bring the essay assignment, if possible.) Be prepared, in each case, to discuss the principles behind your responses/choices.
Short Project #2: Clearsighted Assignment
Option A: Draft an assignment for one of the OSU 1113 or 1213 main essays. Include the instructions as you would give them to the class, as well as a description of the criteria for evaluation and/or a grading rubric. Add a paragraph or two reflecting on the difficulties that you would expect average college writers to encounter in working on this assignment, and how you might help those writers.
Option B: Draft an essay/writing assignment for another class you hope to teach -- at OSU or elsewhere. Include instructions, criteria and/or rubric, and a reflective paragraph or two explaining what you hope students will achieve with this assignment and where you anticipate they'll face difficulties and/or undergo confusion.
Short Project #3: Other Professors' Pedagogies
Option A: Choose a tenured or tenure-track professor at OSU, and arrange to visit one week's worth of one of his/her non-comp undergraduate courses and to interview him/her about his/her teaching choices. Submit a brief (2-4 pp.) report on what you saw and what you learnedas a new teacher & a student of pedagogies (you should plan to write this up anonymously to protect the professor's identity & privacy).
Option B: Choose two approved composition textbooks and, in a short essay (2-4 pp.) compare one angle of the pedagogy they profess (their overall organization/focus, a chapter of each, the tone or examples of each, etc.) in order to judge possible ways to teach FYC.
Short Project #4: Planning Ahead
Option A: Submit a three-day course plan for an 1113 or 1213 course at OSU. For each day, describe the activity/ies that you would have students engage in as they worked toward completing an essay and note the approximate time given to each.. Finish each day's plan with a sentence or two about possible pitfalls and/or back-up plans, and a few sentences connecting it to theories, goals, or procedures we've been discussing this semester. (2-4 pp.)
Option B: Submit an Ideal Course Description for an academic-writing or first-year composition class that you would like to teach. Your course description should discuss the general whats, how manys, hows, and whys of the major course components: readings, main writing assignments, and dominant classroom approaches/styles. You should also include a lush paragraph or two explaining the goals and rationales behind your choices. (2-4 pp.)
Purposes of Weekly Writing Assignments: The formal essay and research assignments in this class are tougher than they look: they involve new genres, new assignment structures, and a new field of information; they will prove challenging to experienced writers, and will involve a lengthy draft-and-revise process leading up to the final portfolio. Short assignments, in addition to individual goals, serve en masse as a way to "warm up" for larger ones, and provide opportunities for you to have more immediate success. And -- given their total grade weight and the likelihood of your earning an "A" on them -- they should contribute significantly to your lasting success in this class.
Reading Responses and Pedagogy Responses aren't book reports or Big Brother monitors: they're write-to-learn assignments. When you write, you think differently. You slow down; you integrate; you give yourself time to make sense of and question all the data you're inputting. Chances are, you'll ask smarter questions about something you're writing about, that you'll remember it better and more holistically. Short writing assignments are important when entering a new field of study: you need to build a whole new framework to sort through new info, and it's helpful to do so in small pieces.
The Four Short Projects should provide you with four immediately useful, practical teaching resources: an essay assignment, a set of strategies for grading, a two-week plan, and a faculty mentor (live or entextbooked) you can go back to later for more advice and ideas about your teaching. Elements of these projects also encourage you to link practice and theory, and to work collaboratively with other teachers.
POST-SCRIPT: "Dear Dr. Reid . . . "
This assignment should be completed after you write/revise an essay.
You should complete a 300-400 word post script for the revised early essays, and for any other essay draft you'd like me to look at. You may answer any or all of the questions below, and/or explain something else important about your thinking/writing process.
1. What (if anything) was most difficult about writing this essay? what contributed to that difficulty? how did you cope?
2. What (if anything) was easiest about writing it? why? is this usually easy for you?
3. What do you think is the strongest part of this essay? where do you come closest to affecting your reader the way you'd like to? what did you do to make this part work?
4. What changes have you already made in the essay from its earlier draft(s)? what (if anything) did you learn as you were writing/revising? which(if any) of the peer or teacher comments did you find useful as you revised?
6. Where, if at all, are you still having difficulties? What other changes or additions might you make if you had an extra week of peace and quiet to work in? What (if anything) might you do differently on your next essay?
7. What, if anything, did you learn from writing this essay that will be useful in teaching other people to write academic essays? What about the assignment or process would you do differently if you were assigning a similar essay to undergraduates?
Your final class portfolio should include the following, arranged in an order that makes sense to you and helps your work cohere into a single story, most of which should be introduced and/or annotated (short paragraphs, section introductions, post-it notes) to show how they contribute to your ongoing development as a writer/writing-teacher:
All major workshop and final drafts of your Synthesis and Exploration essays, with original Post Scripts -- and new Post Scripts if you're turning in new revisions
Two or three Reading Responses (mini-intros explain: why these?)
Two or three Pedagogical Responses (why these?)
Written products from one or two Short Projects
Your thoughtfully-written "final exam"
A short, reflective Introductory and/or Concluding essay that ties the portfolio together
You may also include copies of email posts, class handouts, or other teaching-related materials selected for their connection to and/or support of other required materials.
Portfolios will be graded holistically based on several general criteria:
demonstration of writing quality
evidence of flexible, substantial, successful revisions
evidence of having assimilated a range of current ideas and information about composition pedagogy
clarity and cohesiveness of the pedagogical vision or development narrative presented in the final version
Note that "writing quality" -- whether you earn an "A" on the synthesis essay or not -- is only one of several important criteria. Portfolio grading emphasizes the learning process as well as reflection and self-awareness: writers (and teachers) who have developed coping strategies and can articulate issues and approaches concerning their writing (and teaching) are likely to be prepared for successful adaptation to a range of future situations . . . which is a fundamental goal of any instruction.