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Dr. Kevin L. Ferguson            ENGL 703 (E4M2A): Spring 2012
Office: Klapper 711            Mondays, 4:30-6:20, Klapper 708            Office Hours: Mondays, 3:00-4:00

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Most students in the process of earning an advanced degree in English are strong writers. But even the most skilled writer may be puzzled about how to teach others to write well. This course has three primary goals: 1) to reflect on our own writing practices in the context of literacy learning and teaching, 2) to investigate contemporary scholarship in composition and writing studies, and 3) to situate composition scholarship within the field of literacy studies. Students will be expected to examine the curricular, pedagogical, and theoretical contexts that shape teaching and learning as a way to begin developing their own composition pedagogies. The course focuses on both concrete teaching practices (course and assignment design, conferences and peer workshopping, feedback and evaluation) and larger theoretical issues (the circulation of literacy, formulaic writing, language standards, and technology). The course is designed as a seminar with substantial weekly reading, a shared class blog, and formal writing assignments.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES for students include:

  • to demonstrate familiarity with general theories of teaching writing, reading, and composition.
  • to apply those theories to aspects of their own teaching practice.
  • to have acquired a range of practical tools for the teaching of literacy, such as how to craft assignments, mark written assignments, and give students feedback.
  • to understand how to use digital technologies as pedagogical tools.

All readings are pdfs on our class blog:
You should bring a printed copy of the readings to class.

Three Reading Responses posted on our shared class blog. These should be substantial (400-500 word) responses to ideas from the week’s assigned readings. You don’t need to discuss every reading, and you should not summarize the readings. Instead, do things like: identify a conflict between two authors, present a question that builds on an author’s argument, or connect the readings to a real-world situation. These will follow a schedule to be made the first week of class, and are due Friday at midnight. Everyone in the class will then have the weekend to read these posts and leave a substantial comment (~100 words) on at least two of them by Sunday at midnight. On the following Monday, one of the posters will present to the class a brief (five minute) synthesis of the posts and comments, offering two or three discussion questions.

To summarize: three times a semester you will write long posts, each weekend you will comment on two of your peers’ posts, and once during the semester you will present to the class.

b) A brief (2-3 page) Literacy Narrative. This can be about your experience learning to read, to write, to teach, or any other kind of personal interaction you have had with literacy. Post on blog.

c) Statement of Teaching Philosophy (~4 pages). Details will be distributed later, but here’s some initial advice: We will revise this three times throughout the semester to take into account the theories we discuss.

d) Conference Proposal. Submit a proposal for a conference on composition studies (CFP to come). Your proposal should 1) state your question/problem and your argument, 2) summarize the scholarly framework for your argument, 3) note your method and 3-4 points of your talk’s development and, 4) describe how your presentation would contribute to the topic.

PARTICIPATION: Since participation is crucial to your success, you should not miss more than one class. I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. If you come unprepared to class, you are not present; “coming unprepared” includes such things as not doing the reading, not bringing the text to class, sleeping during class, not making an effort to participate, arriving late or leaving early. If you know you cannot attend, contact me before to ask about homework; I do not accept late assignments.

SPECIAL ACCOMMODATION: If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, inform me and the Office of Special Services at 718-997-5895.

Violations of academic integrity include: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and denying others access to information or material. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of what constitutes academic dishonesty; students who are unsure of whether their work meets criteria for academic integrity should consult with their instructor. Students should look at the full policy, which provides further examples and possible consequences for incidences of academic dishonesty.

I have a zero-tolerance policy towards plagiarism and academic dishonesty. The minimum punishment for plagiarism is an F as a final grade and being reported to the campus officer.


  • Three Reading Responses (blog posts): 25 points
  • Presentation of Reading Responses to class: 10 points
  • Weekly responses to blog posts: 20 points
  • Literacy Narrative: 15 points
  • Conference Proposal: 15 points
  • Statement of Teaching Philosophy: 15 points


1/30: Course Introduction

2/6: Teach Composition and Save the World?

  • Stanley Fish, “What Should Colleges Teach?” Part I, II, and III, New York Times (2009).
  • Patricia Bizzell, “Composition Studies Saves the World,” College English 72.2 (2009): 174-187.
  • Donald Lazere, “Stanley Fish’s Tightrope Act,” College English 71.5 (2009): 528-538.

2/13: NO CLASS

2/20: NO CLASS

2/27: Literacy Studies

  • Harvey Graff, excerpt from The Literacy Myth (New York: Academic Press, 1979).
  • Deborah Brandt, “Sponsors of Literacy,” College Composition and Communication 49 (1998): 165-185.
  • Deborah Brandt and Katie Clinton, “Limits of the Local: Expanding Perspectives on Literacy as Social Practice,” Journal of Literacy Research 34 (2002): 337-356.
  • Due: Literacy Narrative

3/5: Perspectives on Writing and the Teaching of Writing

  • Wayne Booth, “The Rhetorical Stance,” College Composition and Communication 14.3 (1963): 139-45.
  • Sondra Perl, “Understanding Composing,” College Composition and Communication 31.4 (1980): 363-369.
  • Patricia Bizzell, “Cognition, Convention and Certainty: What We Need to Know About Writing,” Pre/Text 3 (1982): 213-43.
  • Peter Elbow, “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic,” College Composition and Communication 46.1 (1995): 72-83.

3/12: Writing Assignments

  • John C. Bean, “Ch. 5: Formal Writing Assignments” and “Ch. 6: Informal, Exploratory Writing Activities” from Engaging Ideas (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

3/19: Formulaic Writing and the Five-Paragraph Essay

  • Gabriele Lusser Rico, “Against Formulaic Writing,” The English Journal 77.6 (1988): 57-58.
  • Deborah Dean, “Muddying Boundaries: Mixing Genres with Five Paragraphs,” The English Journal 90.1 (2000): 53-56.
  • Kimberly Wesley, “The Ill Effects of the Five Paragraph Theme,” The English Journal 90.1 (2000): 57-60.
  • Mark Wiley, “The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (and Why We Need to Resist),” The English Journal 90.1 (2000): 61-67.
  • Tracy A. Novick, “Praise for the Five Paragraph Essay,” The English Journal 90.3 (2001): 12.
  • Kerri Smith, “In Defense of the Five-Paragraph Essay,” The English Journal 95.4 (2006): 16-17.
  • Due: Statement of Teaching Philosophy

3/26: Revision, Or Writing It Over and Over and Over Again

  • Donald Murray, “Teaching Writing as Process not Product” (1972): 3-6.
  • Nancy Sommers, “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers” (1980): 43-54.
  • Anne Lamott, “Shitty First Drafts” from Bird by Bird (New York: Pantheon, 1994): 21-27.
  • Joseph Harris, “Revision as Critical Practice,” College English 65.6 (July 2003): 577-592.

4/2: Grading, Responding to Student Writing, and Minimal Marking

  • Nancy Sommers, “Responding to Student Writing,” College Composition and Communication 33.2 (1982): 148-156.
  • Richard H. Haswell, “Minimal Marking,” College English 45.6 (1983): 600-604.
  • Peter Elbow, “Ranking, Evaluating and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment,” College English 55.2 (1993): 187-206.
  • Peter Elbow, “High Stakes and Low Stakes in Assigning and Responding to Writing,” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 69 (1997): 5-13.
  • Due: Revised Statement of Teaching Philosophy


4/16: Grammar and Language Conventions

  • Patrick Hartwell, “Grammar, Grammars and the Teaching of Grammar,” College English 47.2 (1985): 105-27.
  • Martha Kolln, “A Comment on ‘Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar’ [by Patrick Hartwell],” College English 47.8 (1985): 874-877.
  • Robert J. Connors, “Mechanical Correctness as a Focus in Composition Instruction,” College Composition and Communication 36 (1985): 61-72.
  • Peter Elbow, “Inviting the Mother Tongue: Beyond ‘Mistakes,’ ‘Bad English,’ and ‘Wrong Language,’” JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 19.3 (1999): 359-388.

4/23: Standards

  • Lil Brannon, “The Problem of National Standards,” College Composition and Communication 46.3 (1995): 440-45.
  • Lori A.S. Kixmiller, “Standards without Sacrifice,” The English Journal 94.1 (2004): 29-33.
  • “Learning Standards for New York State,”
  • NCTE, “Standard for English Language Arts,”
  • Due: Conference Proposal

4/30: Second Language Learning and World Englishes

  • Sondra Perl, “The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers” (1979): 17-39.
  • Mike Rose, “The Language of Exclusion: Writing Instruction at the University,” College English 47.4 (1985): 341-359.
  • A. Suresh Cangarajah, “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued,” College Composition and Communication 57.4 (2006): 586-619.

5/7: Teaching with Technology

  • James P. Purdy, “Wikipedia is Good for You!?” from Writing Spaces (2010): 205-224.
  • James Gee, “Ch. 2: Semiotic Domains” from What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 17-43.
  • NCTE statement on Digital Environments: digitalenvironments

5/14: Last Day of Class

  • Due: Revised Statement of Teaching Philosophy


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