ENGL 121 C: Composition: Social Issues

Meeting Time: 
WF 12:30pm - 2:20pm
LOW 217
profile photo
Katharine Walker

Syllabus Description:


In this course, students will examine social issues of Seattle and how those social issues came to be. We will study the history of Seattle through service learning, reading, and research to unpack how economics, politics, culture, and the landscape shaped the inequities, attitudes, and environment of Seattle today. As history is closely tied to rhetoric, we will examine both how language shapes the understanding of the past and how composition as social action can shape the future. Students will experience writing not as a static, isolated, individual act, but rather as a dynamic, social, communal process grounded in the specificities and complexities of the writing situation.

This course introduces students to strategies, tools, and processes necessary to writing effectively. Focusing on four foundational and interrelated outcomes, we will study key concepts that can be applied to all writing situations.

  • Outcome 1: How do we recognize different audiences and contexts, then compose for a specific writing situation?
  • Outcome 2: How do we engage with complex information in order to incorporate it into our writing?
  • Outcome 3: What is an inquiry-driven argument? How do we craft arguments that matter?
  • Outcome 4: How do we revision writing—our own and others'? What makes a piece of writing "finished"?

Our overall objective is to write into questions. Why write it if you already know exactly what you want to say? The questions, problems, and concerns raised at the university level are complex—so much so that they often do not have a single, straightforward answer. In fact, the best questions inspire many thinkers and writers to respond in order to reveal the complexity and nuance of an issue. The writing process (encompassing reading, research, conversation, and publication) is exploratory. Experimentation, in the service of getting to know ourselves as writers, is required. By beginning with questions, exploring, and experimenting, the writing process becomes meaningful, leading to broadened perspectives and discoveries.

Role of Service-Learning in the Course

Through volunteer work, students will have first-hand experience with opportunity gaps and resource inequity. In class, students will reflect on their dual roles as observer and participant. Readings and assignments are focused on the historical contexts that shaped Seattle, created the need for service organizations, and how individuals and groups are working to solve problems. Through the service learning partnership, students will learn rhetorical strategies for audience awareness and how to make arguments both within academic and non-academic community contexts. It is my hope that students will use skills and concepts from class to find interdisciplinary solutions to further the goals of the organization and become more engaged citizens, capable of making informed decisions within their communities. 

Along with these skills, we will be focusing on the rhetoric strategy of feedback (or feed-forward!) Writing, which is a method of communication, is inherently social. In addition, giving, receiving, and incorporating feedback are important skills for college and beyond. We will ground our feedback in how to be of best use to the author and the purpose of the piece, and we will study different approaches for feedback, all within a structured environment with risk-taking. Practicing productive and kind feedback for our selves and others allows us to see our own writing more clearly, ultimately becoming flexible, nimble, and confident writers.

Assignments Related to Service-Learning

There will be two assignment sequences with short assignments (2-3 pages each) and a major paper (5-7 pages) in each sequence. All assignments except for Short Assignment 1.1 will directly incorporate service learning. The first sequence builds to a site history of the student’s community partner, placing the need for the service organization in context of the history of Seattle. Students start by writing a personal history of Seattle, then a short essay profiling their community partner, then create a proposal for their Major Paper, ending the sequence with an essay on how their community partner’s history is intertwined with the history of Seattle. The second sequence focuses on composing for the community partner, beginning with an email interview with their community partner supervisor and ending with a major project incorporating both an artifact for the community partner which mitigates or solves a problem and an analysis of the artifact. Other homework includes participation in online discussions, reading responses, and peer feedback. In-class work will be interactive. Be prepared to read and/or write for every class meeting.  

Catalog Description: 
Focuses on the study and practice of good writing: topics derived from a variety of personal, academic, and public subjects. Includes a service-learning component allowing students to engage with and write about social issues in applied ways.. Cannot be taken if student has already received a grade of 2.0 or higher in either ENGL 111, ENGL 121, or ENGL 131.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Other Requirements Met: 
Service Learning
Last updated: 
November 20, 2019 - 10:50pm