English 521:
Composition Theory and Pedagogy

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Writing Assignments

There are three required writing assignments for this course:

Follow these links for detailed guidelines for each of these assignments.

It is important to note that the primary purpose of these essays assignments is to facilitate our individual and collective inquiry into the tecahing of writing. Accordingly, we will not only share these essays in draft form but we will approach them as important texts that we read along with the assigned course readings


Personal Essay

This essay should focus on an experience or set of experiences related to writing or learning to write, preferably (but not necessarily) in the context of a classroom or formal educational setting. In effect, the essay should tell a story about an experience related to writing that you consider to be important for some reason in your own development as a writer or teacher. For example, the essay might tell the story of your experiences with a particular writing (or English) teacher (or a teacher of another discipline) who was especially influential in your development as a writer. Or you might focus on a specific incident or event (such as the writing of a story or poem you had published) that is in some way important to you as a writer. Or you might describe an experience you had as a teacher of writing that is revealing or illustrative in some way. The story you tell can be a positive or negative one (or perhaps an ambivalent one), but it should have significance in your literate life.

Whatever event or experience you choose to write about, you should tell the story of that experience in a way that enables us to understand the experience itself and gain some sense of why it was important to you. In addition, you should tell the story in a way that conveys some insight into the nature of writing or teaching writing that you believe you gained through this experience (or through your reflecting on it).

One important purpose of this assignment is to examine our experiences, individually and collectively, as writers, as students of writing, and as teachers of writing, so that we might come to a fuller understanding of what it means to teach writing and how we might best do so. Try to keep that in mind as you move through this assignment.

There are no strict length requirements, but you should not think of this essay as an especially long one. An essay of approximately 1200 words should suffice. But feel free to deviate from the guideline if necessary. The important thing is to tell your story effectively, keeping your readers (primarily, your classmates) in mind as you do.

Please be prepared to submit your essay electronically. You can do so on disk or as an email attachment. Since I am working primarily in MS Word, I would prefer that you submit your assignments in that format. If you are using Word Perfect or another program, please be sure to submit your file in Rich Text Format (RTF).

The first draft of this assignment is due in class on September 4th; please bring two extra copies of your draft with you to class on that day. The final version of this assignment is due by September 11th.

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An Examination of an Issue in Teaching Writing

This essay is pretty much what the title of the assignment suggests: a careful, thoughtful examination of a specific issue or question related to the teaching of writing that you find important, troubling, intriguing, or puzzling. Ideally, the question or issue you focus on for this assignment will grow out of the first assignment, but you should feel free to pursue any question or issue that you find compelling at this point in the semester.

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this essay is to extend our individual and collective inquiry into the teaching of writing by discussing in some depth an issue or question that is in some way at the center of writing instruction for you as well as for others who are interested in teaching writing. Although you should think of this essay as more academic than the first assignment, you should not necessarily think of this assignment as an argument or a critique in the strict academic sense, and you should feel free to explore unconventional approaches to addressing the topic you are writing about. In other words, I am not interested in strictly academic arguments about an issue in Composition Studies; rather, I am interested in your writing about issues that engage us individually and collectively in ways that contribute to our understanding of the teaching of writing.

Although you should feel free to approach this essay in an unconventional way, you should also think of it as an in-depth and rigorous assignment. Accordingly, expect your essay to be at least 1200 words in length and quite possibly somewhat longer. But that is a guideline, not necessarily a length requirement. Your essay should be as long as necessary for you to explore your issue or question sufficiently; at the same time, it is not a seminar paper. Keep your readers (primarily, your classmates) in mind as you write.

Please be prepared to submit your essay electronically. You can do so on disk or as an email attachment. Since I am working primarily in MS Word, I would prefer that you submit your assignments in that format. If you are using Word Perfect or another program, please be sure to submit your file in Rich Text Format (RTF).

The first draft of this essay is due in class on October 9th; please bring two extra copies of your draft with you to class on that day. The final version of this assignment is due by October 16th.

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