ENGL 471 A: Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
Sitting in the library
Dylan Medina

Syllabus Description:

Although the teaching of writing as a practice has existed in various manifestations for hundreds of years, it has primarily existed as a subject of study since the 1960s and the emergence of the “process movement.”  Prior to the 1960s, writing instruction consisted mainly of teaching and evaluating product-oriented skills such as organization, paragraphing, sentence construction, grammar, spelling, and so forth.  These “technical” skills were meant to help students prepare and present their texts—their written products—to teachers who then corrected them (often with the infamous red pens).  By the 1960s, however, writing teachers, influenced by work in creativity research and cognitive psychology as well as by political exigencies, became interested not just in the finished product of writing but in the processes of its production, hence a shift in focus from a product- to a process-driven writing instruction that we now call the process movement.  While today the product approach is far from extinct, the process movement has nonetheless played a large role in making the field of composition studies—and this course, for that matter—possible by giving writing teachers and scholars something to study in addition to something to teach, namely the conditions—socio-political, material, linguistic, psychological, and cognitive—that shape writers’ composing processes.  As a result, the past sixty years have witnessed a wealth of research studies, theories, and practices that examine and encourage students’ writing development.

This course will introduce you to and help you work with some of these approaches that guide the study and teaching of writing. We will explore the different methods of teaching writing that have emerged in the last fifty years, from text production to assessment. We will examine the research and theories that underscore these methods, starting with the emergence of the process movement itself and then inquiring into its various manifestations in the years since, including the impact of new media and an increasingly globalized and multilingual reality.  Along the way, we will think critically about the values and assumptions that guide these approaches and whose interests they serve, so that we all can become more self-reflective readers, writers, and teachers.  Most of all, I would like this course to give us a chance to think about what it means to teach writing, to develop and share our own goals for teaching writing, and to generate and articulate practices that will help us achieve these goals in the contexts of the schools, communities, and state-mandated requirements in which we teach.

As such, the course goals are as follows:

  • To familiarize you with the various theories and approaches that inform writing instruction.
  • To help you develop the critical ability to examine the values and assumptions behind the various approaches (whose interests they serve, what they enable and what they prevent).
  • To provide an opportunity for you to conduct writing-related research.
  • To introduce you to a theoretical vocabulary that will allow you to articulate your goals as a writing teacher.
  • To give you a chance to develop a range of teaching materials that will help you achieve your goals in the context of grade-level and state and national standards.

Full Syllabus: Syllabus for Winter 2021 

Catalog Description: 
Reviews the research, core debates, and politics that have shaped the practice, teaching and study of writing. Introduces theoretical and methodological approaches that inform the teaching and learning of writing.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Other Requirements Met: 
Service Learning
Last updated: 
October 13, 2020 - 4:40am