ENGL 296 A: Critical Literacy in the Natural Sciences

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:30am - 11:20am
SAV 139
Picture of Josephine Walwema
Josephine Walwema

Syllabus Description:

ENGL296 S 21: Critical Literacy in the Natural Sciences

What is this Course About?

ENGL 296: Critical Literacy in the Natural Sciences develops critical literacy in the diffuse but interlocking disciplines of the natural sciences. Through analysis and composition of various texts, students become authoritative participants in scientific discourse while also becoming familiar with ways that Western values are embedded and centered (often invisibly) in the sciences and its related institutions. Offered: AWSp. 

Learning Goals

Upon successful completion of this course, you will become familiar with:

  • theory—understand major theories of the dimensions of critical literacy in the natural sciences
  • inquiry— explore, experiment with, and invent a variety of writing genres in communicating science
  • practice—persuasive written, oral, and visual arguments, organize ideas and language effectively to address specific readers and meet specific purposes

Required Texts


Instructor information
This is the picture of professor J. Walwema  

Josephine Walwema, PhD
email: walwema@uw.edu
Office: PDL A-18
Office Hours: MW 12:30-2:30 and by appointment


What Are the Class Expectations?

Reading assignments typically appear in the syllabus on the date on which they are due. You should have completed these readings before coming to class that day.

Reading Logs. In addition to reading quizzes, you will submit weekly reading logs covering the reading as assigned. On Friday of each week, you will post a 300+ reading response addressing (in polished, professional prose) the following:

  • What did you read about (summary)?
  • What have you learned from it (analysis)?
  • How will you use what you read to connect with something else you have learned up to that point in the readings, from a lecture, or another source (contextualize)


Understand and use various research methods and sources to produce quality documents, including:

  • analyzing historical and contemporary contexts
  • locating, evaluating, and using print and online information selectively for particular audiences and purposes
  • triangulating sources of evidence

 Community Norms 

This course will take on challenging questions about science and technology. We will endeavor to discuss both the course materials and our responses to them in a respectful manner. In this community of thinkers demonstrating your maturity will be paramount, as will considering our classroom a productive space for expression and critique. When engaging in discussions, think not only about your own contributions, but also about the overall classroom dynamic: who is speaking more, who less? How might you contribute to an atmosphere that enables everyone to participate meaningfully? 

What Are the Assignment Expectations? 

Your writing and my grading is informed by four of the five canons of rhetoric below

Content (invention)The report reasons effectively, logically, and persuasively; draws on the resources of rhetoric (i.e., logos, pathos, ethos) to invent content, responds to the needs of the audience, addresses high level concerns: purpose, effective research, knowledge of topic

Structure (arrangement). The report is organized logically and persuasively; partitions the content into major sections; divides each major section into three parts (intro, body, conclusion); adopts an appropriate organizational strategy (e.g., narrative, causal, problem-solution). Strong purpose statement; context of logical and detailed argument or exploration, effective paragraph organization

Design (Delivery)Document design, adherence to HATS*, professional pages, accurate visuals. The report adheres to standards of effective document design, which, of course, change depending on the medium you’re using.

Style adheres to the standards of the plain language; strikes a balance between the plain style and the persuasive style; follows conventional standards of grammar and mechanics; uses a discipline-appropriate citation style. Sentence-level organization, prose, punctuation mechanics

Context/situation Show awareness of the document’s purpose, audience’s needs and viewpoint; effectively describes the rhetorical situation; connect to a problem-solving point of view.

Writing in Context

Analyze cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse, with an emphasis on:

  • writing for a range of defined audiences and stakeholders
  • negotiating the ethical dimensions of rhetorical action


All assignments are due on the dates indicated and will be available the week prior and submitted through Canvas. Never via email. If you anticipate that your assignment will be late, please reach out to me ahead of time so we can work out some accommodation. My philosophy is to accept ALL your work as assigned and completed. Please ask for an extension if you need one. The assignments are broken down in these modules:

    1. Science Writing, Rhetoric, and Practice 25%
    2. Ethics and Science  (25%)
    3. Accommodating Science (25%)
    4. Technology and Design Research Project (25%)


We will use a contract grading system, which includes revision as part of the writing process. You'll revise your drafts in response to peer review and instructor's comments before you turn in the final draft of major projects. Locate the revision process here.

Refer to UW's numerical grading system.

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Religious Accommodations 

“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy.  Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Academic Integrity

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/

Here's what you can do to cover yourself against plagiarism or collusion:

  • At any stage of your writing, keep your drafts, notes, papers, and research materials. If a question of plagiarism arises, you'll have a paper trail ( paper trails protect you in a variety of academic, public, and work-related contexts)
  • Don't use editing services. Don't ask anyone, even family or friends, to edit your paper or help you write it. You need to do that work yourself.
  • If you need additional help with your writing, contact the University Writing Center, UW Writes, where trained professionals are there to help you without colluding in plagiarism.
  • Last but not least, ask me if you have any questions about honesty.


The IWP's Anti-Racist Pedagogy 

The Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) is committed to engaging with anti-racist pedagogies. These pedagogies may take various forms, such as curricular attention to voices, communities, and perspectives that have been historically marginalized inside and beyond academic disciplines; inclusive classroom practices; discussions of racism; and consideration of other forms of prejudice and exclusion. We believe that countering the cultures and practices of racism in an academic institution is fundamental to developing a vibrant intellectual community. The IWP is happy to talk with you about your questions as well as to support student-led initiatives around anti-racist work, and we invite you to contact IWP faculty member Rush Daniel at daniej9@uw.edu or IWP Program Director Carrie Matthews at crmatthe@uw.edu. If you’re interested in how teachers of English as a professional community have taken up anti-racist work, check out the National Council of Teachers of English Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning.

Catalog Description: 
Develops critical literacy in the diffuse but interlocking disciplines of the natural sciences. Through analysis and composition of various texts, students become authoritative participants in scientific discourse while also becoming familiar with ways that Western values are embedded and centered (often invisibly) in the sciences and its related institutions. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
October 21, 2021 - 4:51am