I am currently teaching first-year composition courses at Case Western Reserve University in the Seminar Approach to General Education Program (SAGES). SAGES is a unique program that combines general education and writing across the curriculum in a series of seminars that Case students attend. The courses draw on subjects from all corners of the university and promote written and oral communication skills. In the Foundations First Seminars that I teach for incoming first-year students, we explore writing as a personal process and as a social project. The Foundations Course provides attention to the personal aspects of writing (processes, habits, skills) as well as to the social aspects (genres, persuasion/argument, conventions). Students learn academic writing conventions, rhetorical techniques, and various processes and methods that they might adopt and employ as they move into other writing situations.
- We explore writing from multiple positions: writer, reader, critic.
- We explore various genres of writing: alphabetic text, visuals, multimedia.
- We work to achieve the course objectives through writing: freewriting, drafting, revising, reflecting, debating, discussing, blogging, emailing.
This semester, the course is divided into three phases—body, mind, emotion—and we read about and consider how these affect how we write and read the world around us, particularly in the context of academic and scholarly work that students will be expected to do at the university.
In the spring, I will teach a University Seminar. These are writing-intensive, general education courses designed for second semester first-year students and sophomores and they promote further development of communication skills within the context of a particular area of study. In Contemporary American Rhetoric, we will return to modern democracy’s ancient roots, using the lens of classical rhetoric to explore contemporary political debate. By learning how rhetorical devices are used, we empower ourselves to analyze policy debates and to make our own contributions. As part of this investigation, we will research contemporary public policy and political issues, debate and develop positions, read and evaluate speeches, write about our own positions, participate in public conversations by writing letters to representatives and opinion pieces for newspapers, and prepare an oral presentation. We will also complete a research project in which we analyze the different perspectives on an issue of interest, formulate our own positions on an issue, and reflect on our internal processes as we take on a belief and act on it.
Also for Spring 2015, I am planning also planning an advanced writing course. Topics in Language Study: How English Works offers advanced study of grammar to writers and teachers of writing. It is a course for people who are fascinated by language, who seek to expand their own writing abilities through a better understanding of the mechanics of English, and/or who are interested in grammar instruction as part of the larger project of teaching students to write. We will discuss general principles of grammatical description and use these principles to construct a grammar that describes the basic structures of American English. We will also study and practice methods for converting unclear, inelegant prose into clear, pleasing prose. Finally, we will study research on the relationship between writing ability and knowledge of grammar in order to develop appropriate strategies for teaching grammar in the context of writing.