ENG 594: Teaching Composition

Fall 2017
Tuesdays 6:00pm-9:00pm
Ross 0280

Dr. Marc C. Santos
Office Location & Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00-2:00

UNC Course Catalog Description

Train new teaching assistants in School of English to teach college level composition to UNC students.

Course Description

This course has a few goals. First, as the catalog description indicates, it seeks to train you in how to teach writing. Much of this training will also include stressing how *not* to teach writing. You’ve spent four years developing your ability to think critically and write cogently. Chances are there is still room for improvement–I know my writing improved throughout not only my MA program, but also my PhD program (and my time as an assistant professor). Writing is an activity that we constantly refine through practice.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that your studies have necessarily prepared you to teach others how to write. While I cannot be certain of your teaching experience, I can design a course that introduces you to pedagogic theories tied to the teaching of writing. That is largely the province of composition. And, as the pieces by Valerie Strauss and John Duffy I sent out this summer indicate, composition theorists and pedagogues sometimes feel as if they spend as much time stressing how not to teach writing as they do teaching writing.

Our approach to teaching writing will be informed by rhetorical theory, with an emphasis on four of Aristotle’s five canons: invention, arrangement, style, and delivery. Invention here concerns using heuristics to generate ideas, informing beginning writers of the various “topoi” they can use to develop and strengthen the persuasiveness of their ideas, arguments, and responses. Arrangement speaks to genre awareness, helping young writers recognize audience expectations depending on the type of writing they are doing. It also speaks to logical development–making sure ideas build progressively and in a way that an audience can follow. Style speaks to developing an appreciation for prose–for knowing when to make an idea clearer or when to amplify it with the use of a rhetorical device, metaphor, etc. Finally, delivery speaks to the digital dimensions of this course, ensuring that our writers know how to use digital tools to make themselves heard and contribute to important discussions taking place in our society today.

A second concern of this class will be introducing you to the wider scholarly discipline Rhetoric and Composition. Every week we will read 2-3 articles on topics germane to the discipline on a variety of subjects, from classical work on the scope of rhetoric and its essential elements (logos, ethos, path, kairos, etc) and the purpose of a writing classroom to contemporary work examining the intersections of ethics and listening, the role of technology in promoting democracy, and the relationship between race and assessment.

A third goal of this class will be to increase your ability to develop new lessons and assignments. Throughout the semester, you will work in teams of two to develop 10-15 minute multimedia presentations on a rhetorical or composition topic, along with 20 minute in-class exercises to reinforce the presentations.


Here’s a description of the work you will be expected to do this semester:

Canvas Discussion Forums

As I mention above, you will be required to post approximately 250-300 words a week to our Canvas discussion forum in response to the assigned reading. I will expect at least two posts a week, at least one of which is a response to someone else’s post. You will be expected to have one post up by midnight on Sunday so that other people can read and respond on Monday or Tuesday before class.

Google Drive Sharing

As a part of weekly 122 course prep, I will ask you all to share 1-2 examples of writing you plan on workshopping in Wednesday’s class. We will talk about some of these pieces in our class.

Teaching Observations

Starting in week 5 I will ask you to observe a classmate twice. We will develop a series of forms and rubrics in class to help generate meaningful feedback throughout this process. You will write up your observation feedback into a short report.

Course Preparation Project

Working in teams of 2, I will ask you to prepare short presentations and exercises on rhetoric and composition topics for 122 to share with the practicum. Each student will be expected to complete two course preparations this semester.

Synthesis Research

The major research component of our semester asks you to write a conference length paper (2000 words or so) that synthesizes the articles we read in class with other recent publications in the field. I will have recommendations for further research available for each week.

Synthesis Research Presentation

I will ask you to develop a short video that remediates your synthesis research paper.

Project Plan

Your final project asks you to create either a new assignment or series of presentations for either ENG 122 or ENG 123. My hope is that these projects grow out of your synthesis research: how can attending to current research in the field make our courses better.

Grade Breakdown

As follows:

  • Canvas Discussions: 20%
  • Google Drive Sharing: 10%
  • Teaching Observations: 15%
  • Course Preparation #1: 5%
  • Course Preparation #2: 5%
  • Synthesis Research: 20%
  • Synthesis Research Presentation: 10%
  • Project Plan: 15%
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