Monday, January 19, 2015

ENG 101 - Spring 2015 - Composition as Critical Inquiry

One of the most difficult challenges facing student writers today is the need to reconcile the literate skills learned through social media with the formal demands of academic genres such as essays and term papers.  Often, neither the social nor academic genres prove very helpful in occupational settings - you can't learn resume writing from the five-paragraph essay any more than you can learn it from Facebook.  This becomes still more complicated as you factor in the variety of disciplines represented in English 101 - I frequently teach students in business, nursing, the humanities, and other majors, and each academic field has it's own demands for "good" writing.

My goal as an instructor is to help students understand that there are differences between the types of writing they are expected to write.  From there, we look at how "good" writing in many genres will share requirements for evidence, relevance, and coherence - understanding the differences in approach can allow students to transfer skills from one genre to another.

Unlike most traditional writing courses, the Composition as Critical Inquiry course at Illinois State follows a Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS) model.  This often causes confusion because we don't focus on "perfecting" writing - unlike courses you may have taken in the past, we won't try to teach "the one style of essay" that will work for all your classes because that's an impossible goal.  Instead, we examine how differing audiences expect unique genres of writing - as you'll see, every audience will have its own definition of what "counts" as "good" writing, and successful writing requires that we adapt our words to match the specific situations we face.

Using writing research and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, we'll examine the conventions (i.e. expectations) of each genre, the trajectory of individual texts, and research methods we can use to better target our writing to our intended audiences.  Ultimately, the course will culminate in proof-of-learning reflections - this is a form of metacognitive writing wherein you describe what you've learned, how you learned it, and what you'll do with this knowledge moving forward.

ENG 101 - Spring 2015
Schedule - Course Policies - Learning Map - Assignment Types

Questions for Consideration:

  • What separates ENG 101 from traditional writing courses?
  • How do we define genre?
  • Why does it matter who the author is?  Or who the reader is?  Doesn't the text just stand by itself?
  • Grammar is important - but whose grammar?


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