Following up on yesterday’s post, I wanted to share the syllabus for the second course that I’ll be teaching this fall at UWL, ENG 110: College Writing I. As a class designed for first-year students new to the undergrad experience, I’ve tried to structure the readings and assignments so as to demystify some of the elements I’ve seen students struggle with in the past. And so long as everything goes according to plan (and you know it always does!), this means that students in my two sections should leave the course with a better understanding of at least the following:
- Writing for various purposes, audiences, and situations
- Knowing how & when to use evidence for supporting claims in their writing
- Differentiating between assignment requirements and assignment suggestions
- Providing constructive feedback to their peers (and to themselves)
- Utilizing the resources that are available to them for help with drafting, editing, and revising
The third bullet point in that list (“Differentiating between assignment requirements and assignment suggestions“) is a personal interest of mine, as I often wonder if the reason some students struggle with the writing process is that they think they have to incorporate every scrap of guidance, advice, or support that we provide during class into a single piece of writing. Teaching writing often requires walking a fine line between being clear in your expectation for an assignment and being overly prescriptive about how students complete that assignment. In this course, I’m hoping to help my students negotiate this line for themselves so that they don’t feel crushed under the weight of too much guidance from their professors, tutors, or peers.
The biggest challenge with constructing this syllabus is that I simply don’t know my UWL students yet — and every student population brings a different set of interests, concerns, and “baggage” into the classroom. These aren’t TCU students, and they aren’t Oviedo High School students, either. So in re-designing some of the core assignments that I’ve used while teaching writing in the past, I’ve combined elements from both of my previous institutional contexts and hoped for the best. And even though I put a lot of time, effort, and reflection into the current syllabus, I’ll be taking notes all semester long so that I can tweak and modify (or change drastically, if necessary) the course before teaching it again in future semesters.
Reflective Teaching™: It ain’t sexy. It ain’t easy. And it sure ain’t quick. But if the syllabus-as-contract is to mean anything in our classroom — if these massive, law-giving documents that we spend weeks creating are to accurately reflect the kinds of teaching and learning we hope to foster during a 15-week course — then we have to imagine each iteration of the syllabus as a starting point, rather than an end point, in the lifespan of the courses we design for our students.
This document that I’m sharing is really just a starting point for ENG 110 at UWL. One week into the fall semester, and I’m still optimistic it’s a pretty good one.