Teaching in our proposed composition program

I’m preparing for a meeting with our writing faculty to discuss our proposed model. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t think that it’s anything revolutionary, nor do I imagine it will "solve" the problems of writing instruction on our campus. The purpose is primarily to dislodge the program from its bureaucratic and calcified state. I think I used the same adjectives last time, so I’m sticking on message ;o

Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to provide some examples of how these 200-level courses might be developed. I didn’t want to do entire syllabi (too much work!) but the following provide enough details. Again, I’m not trying to be radical here and if I were to teach these courses I might not do what I describe here. Instead I’m really just trying to communicate how these courses are "doable."

CPN 203: Writing in the Sciences
(A) Introduction to writing and library research practices in the sciences. Prerequisite: A grade of
C- or better in CPN 100 or 102. Fulfills Liberal Arts Requirement: LASR (3 cr. hr.)


Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map.
Other readings online or on reserve

Kuhn’s work is foundational in science studies/rhetoric of science and accessible. Johnson’s book (a national bestseller) looks at a cholera outbreak in 19th century London. Bazerman would be another option here. I would also include an excerpt from Bruno Latour’s work. And there are many others.


“Normal Science in Action.” Here I’d have students examine an article in Scientific American or Popular Science to investigate how scientists and science are represented to the general public. This is a kind of critical-rhetorical analysis.

“Explaining Controversies.”  Students are asked to explain a current scientific controversy (stem cell research, biofuels, etc.) to an audience of high school students. This could potentially be a multimodal writing assignment.

“Revolutionary Science Wiki Project.” Students collaborate to conduct research on a number of scientific revolutions (the class could focus on one or the students could be divided into smaller groups). Students could do research on individual scientists, relevant technologies, scientific methods and theories, broader cultural contexts, and so on.

CPN 205: Writing and Professional Studies
(A) Introduction to writing and library research practices in professional studies.
Prerequisite: A grade of C- or better in CPN 100 or 102. Fulfills Liberal Arts Requirement: LASR
(3 cr. hr.)


Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
Richard Florida, Flight of the Creative Class
Other readings online or on reserve

The theme here is to examine the shifting nature of the economy and workplace. Pink and Florida offer related definitions of an emerging class of “creative professionals.” Pink’s book offers some insight into how to prepare for such a career. Florida’s is more of a social-scientific study of the behaviors and values of the creative class.


“Escape from (Upstate) New York.” Bright flight from our region has been a challenge longer than most of our students have been alive. Florida’s book addresses this subject. Students write an essay for a college student magazine (e.g. NeoVox) explaining why they believe their peers should be encouraged to leave or how they might instead be convinced to stay.

“Preparing for the 21st-century career.” Students conduct research on what they believe will be the key knowledge and skills they will require for successful careers. They present this information to entering college students. This could be a multimodal assignment, perhaps a website.

“Co-working and the nomadic worker.” Students do field research on the emergence of semi-public co-working spaces (e.g. coffee shops with wi-fi) and the role mobile technologies have on how people work. They present their work as a slidecast presentation–combining slides with audio.

CPN 204: Writing in Education
(A) Introduction to writing and library research practices in education. Prerequisite: A grade of C-
or better in CPN 100 or 102. Fulfills Liberal Arts Requirement: LASR (3 cr. hr.)


Commission of the Future of Higher Education (Spellings Report)
Ted Sizer, The Red Pencil
Rebekah Nathan, My Freshman Year
Other readings online or on reserve

In this class I would explore the explosive, partisan discourses on public education and have students balance these with their own observations and experiences with schooling.

“A Day in the Life.” Document your daily activities as a student. What happens in your classes? What else do you do? How and when do you “learn”? What do you observe in yourself and your peers that resonates with what we’ve read?

“Why is education so political?” The public discourse on education is heavily partisan from NCLB to the perceived liberal bias of college courses. Why have the challenges of educating our children become a site of such intense ideological struggle?

“The changing space of the classroom.” From mobile networks bringing increasingly sophisticated phones into college classrooms to K-12 schools trying to block social networking sites, the classroom is being changed in fundamental ways from the 19th-century industrial model on which is currently functions. Discuss these changes and how teachers might address them. This assignment would be a good place for a multimodal and/or collaborative web project.

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