Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just Writing, Huh? Writing-about-Writing

For years, I've taught basic writing with a topical focus on "literacy studies," taking a select few literacy studies and educational research pieces as course texts. Broadly speaking, my goals have been to help students work on reading/annotating, summarizing, analyzing, synthesizing, and arguing with texts in academic ways. The focus on literacy also provides opportunities for metacognitive reflection on both their past experiences and present situation, giving them a theoretical lens through which to read personal commitments they hold to given communities and the work of schooling.

This semester, however, is my first to teach the SU sophomore-level "critical research" course using a writing-about-writing focus. Though the course has a 200-level marker, I often have as many FYW students as sophomores in a given section.

The trajectory I laid out in my syllabus runs like this:
-Unit 1 (4 weeks): "Just Writing, Huh?" An essay that answers these questions, "What are literacy, writing, and rhetoric? How are they interrelated? What stakes are involved when we study them?" I asked students to make an argument in response to these questions by drawing on our shared readings/videos--pieces like Deborah Brandt's "Sponsors of Literacy," Keith Grant-Davie's "Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents," the videos "In Defense of Rhetoric: No Longer Just For Liars" and "Shit-Plus, Awk, Frag, Huh?" There were a few others, including an essay from Young Scholars in Writing.

-Unit 2: (8 weeks--including spring break): "Original undergraduate research in writing and literacy." I asked students to design and conduct a project and write it in such a way that it might be a draft of an article they could submit to an undergraduate research journal. Students could do anything from survey research to interviews to rhetorical analysis or any combination of methods if it helped them answer their research questions. We read lots of models, practiced creating different kinds of research instruments, discussed ethical issues, and workshopped research designs and paper drafts.

-Unit 3: (4 weeks): "Writing for publication or public circulation." This is where we are now. I'm asking students to determine their own writing project: decide on a rhetorical action they want to accomplish, choose a venue they could write for that would help them accomplish that purpose/action, and write toward something that could be published in that venue. I'm using a couple of genre theory texts to give some framework. We're also reading several short texts from many different publications, reflecting on a variety of genre conventions and getting a sense of the many available venues.

It's been an interesting course and it's given students the chance to produce some really interesting projects. More about the course in the coming days.

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