Engaging General Education Issues in Composition
This project focuses on developing content for required composition classes (WR 121, WR 122, and WR 123) that links directly to issues taught in the General Education Group Satisfying and Multicultural curriculum. We hope to enhance students’ opportunities to explore ideas in writing that make intellectual connections with what is taught in thematically related Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses. Within the context of this project, these connections will be fostered through the creation of casebooks comprised of readings for the thematically oriented Writing classes that parallel and complement the issues in the General Education Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses, and these special-topics sections of Writing will be available to students in those courses.
Special-Topics Writing Sections
Although the courses which satisfy the University Writing Requirement (WR 121, 122, and 123) already use anthologized readings to provide students with sophisticated content and issues for discussion and written response, we will create a certain number of special-topics sections of these courses using readings directly related to issues addressed in courses in the General Education Group Satisfying and Multicultural curriculum. We will code these sections in such a way that students can identify Writing sections that connect to their other disciplinary interests. Enabling students to make intellectual connections among their other coursework in their composition classes will give them a deeper investment in the writing process and a firmer knowledge base from which to write more meaningful argumentative and research essays.
The development of these special-topics sections of WR 121, 122, and 123 will draw on work already done in the Composition Program to create thematic content for the Writing courses, and will advance that work further by developing a wider arrays of themes derived from specific Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses.
To view the thematic topics already developed for Writing sections, click here.
Casebooks and Cross-Curricular Knowledge
The casebook approach seems the most well suited to fostering meaningful cross-curricular connections because it enables us to bring together sophisticated readings that are grouped around “questions-at-issue” that students may then address in argumentative writings.
Casebooks provide students with source material for the development of arguments and counter-arguments, and they enable us to teach a process of inquiry that goes deeply into issues and makes student writers responsible for addressing and incorporating arguments from a spectrum of points of view. We are working to develop eight such casebooks specifically representing issues relevant to thematically linked Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses.
Each casebook will contain about ten essays representing research and opinion clustered around issues in such thematic areas, as well as an introduction identifying specific questions at issue and ways to address them in writing.
This project benefits the Composition Program and General Education curriculum in numerous pedagogical ways:
- By creating special-topics sections throughout the entire Writing curriculum , we will also be able to include more focus on research in WR 121 and 122, rather than addressing it exclusively in WR 123, the formal Research Writing class. Defining the scope and nature of research in these classes is already a project underway in the Composition Program.
- The pedagogical benefit for students in special-topics WR sections is that class discussion of issues by students with shared interests and knowledge makes more tangible and real the idea of a “discourse community,” a concept already established in the rhetorical pedagogy of the WR classes.
- The casebook approach also facilitates the students’ critical reading of their peers’ writing and encourages them to engage in more meaningful peer-editing. This would in turn create a greater sense of investment in their writing and an increased sense of responsibility to write well. We expect, too, that this sense of purpose and responsibility will carry over into their writing for the linked General Education courses.
Ultimately, casebooks function to provide students with argumentative texts to analyze rhetorically and to respond to thoughtfully and responsibly in their own argumentative writing. Such readings should be challenging, encouraging students to become better critical readers through interpretation and analysis, and enabling students to identify “questions at issue” from which to develop their own stances and arguments.
Why Casebooks Instead of Traditional Anthologies?
Developing our own casebooks rather than relying on commercial anthologies enables the readings to be more strategically grouped so that those issues are clearer: the essays do not all agree and provide counter-arguments for the students to think through logically, in class discussion and in their writing. Ideally, the readings should, therefore, represent diverse and even conflicting approaches to a problem, different ideological perspectives, and perhaps different historical eras in which the topic is salient. Further, since the same issues are addressed by the readings, the writing that students do in the course is able to progress through stages of development that lead to more sophisticated and nuanced argumentative essays.
Within this model, students can explore related issues more rigorously rather than moving from topic to topic in each essay cycle.This process is made even more purposeful and meaningful for students if the issues also connect with their readings and discussions in General Education Groups Satisfying and Multicultural courses.
Making Writing Connections
The contents of the casebooks used for these special-topics sections of WR courses will be developed in consultation with faculty who teach Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses, a collaboration that will ensure a more specific and complementary linkage between the readings and issues in those courses and the special topics WR sections. To identify Group Satisfying and Multicultural courses, interested faculty, and potential special topics, we are surveying and working with faculty in these areas.
CAS faculty who teach courses that might be included in thematic clusters to be linked to specific special-topics WR sections will have an opportunity to serve in an advisory role for the project and/or to become advisory editors of specific casebooks, working with members of the Composition staff who will edit the casebooks.
Once the thematically linked General Education courses and the casebook topics are identified, we will work with CAS Advising and Academic Advising to direct students into the appropriate linked sections. Students will be encouraged to take advantage of this option when enrolling in courses. Thematically linked sections of WR courses are also being developed to parallel FIG classes in the same way.
John Gage, Professor of English
Director, Center for Teaching Writing
Former Director of Composition
Carolyn Bergquist, Senior Instructor of English
Director of Composition
James Crosswhite, Professor of English
Former Director of Composition
Miriam Gershow, Senior Instructor of English
Associate Director of Composition
Anne C. Laskaya, Professor of English
Former Director of Composition
Elizabeth Curry, Graduate Teaching Fellow
Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching Writing
If you have questions about the project or would like to be involved, please contact John Gage (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Carolyn Bergquist (email@example.com).