Statement of Mission and Course Goals
Recent research into the role of first-year writing reveals that first-year writing courses are best used to encourage meta-awareness of the genres, contexts, and audiences that writers encounter in college (see Anne Beaufort, Writing in College and Beyond). English 101, which the great majority of incoming students take their first or second semester in college, serves as an important introduction to the culture of the academy—its habits of mind, conventions, and responsibilities. Its central purpose is to immerse students in the writing, reading, and thinking practices of their most immediate community: the university. Students explore how literacy works, both within the academic and without, through extensive inquiry-based writing.
English 101 focuses on engaging students as writers and building the reflective awareness needed for success in a wide range of writing experiences within the university. In English 101, students write consistently, receive feedback on their writing and give feedback to others, are introduced to academic writing conventions (including using the library, integrating sources, and using a citation system), engage with challenging readings, and begin putting others’ ideas in conversation with their own. Because writing in the 21st century means composing in a wide variety of print-based and digital environments, the 101 curriculum encourages students and instructors to work in online environments as is appropriate.
The overall goals, outcomes, and curricular components for English 101 and 102 have been developed locally through discussion and collaboration among instructors in the First-Year Writing Program. They are directly informed by our annual student assessment process, and they have been written within the framework of nationally accepted outcomes for first-year composition. The yearly assessment reports are available at the First-Year Writing Program website; the Council of Writing Program Administators Outcomes for First-Year Writing are available at their site.
What You Should Know about This Course
Writing effectively involves making a multitude of choices. Many of these choices are determined by the rhetorical situation—the writer’s purpose, the writer’s audience, the nature of the writer’s subject matter, and the writer’s relationship to the subject. English 101 is intended to increase students’ awareness of rhetorical situations—within each writing project at the university, and beyond. Students learn that language has consequences and writers must take responsibility for what they write.
In English 101, students to take responsibility for the ideas they discover as writers—ideas that occur through engaging with a range of materials in independent research and considering how one’s own perspectives add to those of an ongoing conversation. The course frequently puts students at the center of their own discourse, challenging them to discover and express their own ideas and to make their ideas convincing or compelling to others.
Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing
In English 101, students work with readings that stretch them intellectually; readings may be challenging, or may be in genres with which they are less familiar. Generally, readings in English 101 center on intellectual challenges and questions—that is, they are written to respond to and extend the conversations in academic communities of various kinds. However, instructors sometimes also provide a wider range of nonfiction texts as they guide students toward becoming more flexible readers. While English 101 is a primarily a writing course, it is also a course in rhetorical reading. Students learn how to engage with a variety of texts, how to understand a writer’s argument, and how to actively critique and respond to the ideas of others.
Knowledge of Process and Conventions
Part of helping students to embrace writing as a lifelong practice is to emphasize that writing itself is a kind of inquiry, a way to think and learn. It is not simply a means of recording what one already knows. English 101 creates the conditions that allow students to gain confidence as they discover what they think through writing, helping them see that this process can be used in any subject, any discipline, and almost any situation that demands thought.
How students view themselves as learners and what motivates them to acquire a particular body of knowledge strongly influences students’ learning. As instructors of an entry-level writing course, we believe that students’ experience with language and language use in the course should be a positive one, and this will provide the basis for the development of writing strategies and practices. As a consequence, English 101 focuses, in part, on the affective dimension of writing and thinking processes; the course encourages students to believe that reading and writing are meaning-making activities that are relevant to their lives, within school and without.
A Final Note about the Activity of Writing
In English 101 students work within a community of writers in which they understand that membership implies engagement with each others’ struggles to make meaning. They experience writing as a social interaction for a particular purpose, for knowledge is not created in isolation but through dialogue and writing shared with a real audience. The writing classroom functions as an intellectual community in which students are encouraged to think freely and deeply, where difference is not only accepted but is also seen as an opportunity for learning.
English 101 Student Outcomes
By the end of English 101, students will be able to
- apply strategies for generating ideas for writing, for planning and organizing material, for identifying purpose and audience, and for revising intentionally;
- produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres appropriate to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
- integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research into their own writing in a way that begins to complicate their own understanding;
- use a variety of strategies for reading and engaging with a range of material;
- use an academic documentation style, even though they may not show mastery;
- revise to extend their thinking about a topic, not just to rearrange material or “fix” mechanical errors;
- articulate the rhetorical choices they have made, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
- provide appropriate, engaged feedback to peers throughout the writing process;
- produce prose without surface-level convention errors that distract readers from attending to the meaning and purpose of the writing.
The curricular components listed here only begin to capture the energy and commitment necessary for student success in a first-year writing course. Individual instructors work within these outcomes and curricular expectations in a variety of ways.
- Students in writing classes continuously produce written work. This includes evaluated work, such as formal assignments and subsequent revisions, as well as informal and non-evaluated work, such as research blog entries, annotated bibliographies, collaborative wikis, in-class writing exercises, reflective logs and memos, rough drafts, and peer responses. Students can expect to write a considerable amount of informal and non-evaluated work from which their formal, evaluated work may grow.
- Instructors generally assign four projects, at least two of which encourage students to integrate outside sources and perspectives to inform, complicate, and/or extend their perspectives. Instructors will encourage student writers to draw purposefully on a range of sources, including (but not limited to) personal experience, observation, interviews, field work, and text-based sources—both online and in print—in a wide variety of ways.
- Students produce the equivalent of 20 or more pages’ worth of “final draft” material. As students work in digital spaces, the writing produced should be appropriate for those genres and media.
- English 101 is a revision-based writing course. At the end of the semester, students select at least two “final draft” projects to substantially revise and also write an extensive portfolio cover letter. Taken as a whole, the revisions and reflection demonstrate how students have met or exceeded the assessment scoring guide for English 101. The final portfolio generally accounts for a significant portion of students’ final grades.
Reading and Research
- Instructors encourage students to engage with readings through a variety of critical reading strategies. These may take the form of informal, in-class work as well as annotated bibliographies, source reports, double-entry journals, and reading workshops of various kinds.
- Instructors will provide an introduction to library references and methods of citing sources.
- Writing courses are highly interactive and depend on frequent feedback, discussions, and in-class workshops. Attendance, in-class participation, and respect for submission deadlines are expected in writing classes.