ENGL611 - Approaches to College Composition

Prerequisite: Permission of ARHU-English department. Additional information: Required for graduate assistants (optional to other graduate students). A seminar emphasizing rhetorical and linguistic foundations for the handling of a course in freshman composition.

Welcome to English 611: Approaches to College Composition! In this course you’ll explore some of major pedagogical conversations in rhetoric and composition studies that should guide, inflect, and invigorate your work as a teacher of writing. Over the course of the semester, we will explore such topics as rhetorical approaches to composition teaching, anti-racist pedagogy, the writing process, digital composing, teacher ethos, multilingualism, student engagement and resistance, as well as responding to student work. The project of the seminar, of course, is not for us just to listen to what scholars have had to say but to engage these conversations ourselves, reflecting on how and why certain scholarship might resonate with our own pedagogical investments as well as with the goals of the writing programs at the University of Maryland. By the end of the semester, you might not have all the answers as to how to teach writing—no one ever does!—but you will have gained a deep understanding of the field’s major pedagogical concerns, and these concerns should enable you to become a more thoughtful, reflective, and engaged teacher during your time here at Maryland and throughout your career beyond this institution.


While this course does focus attention on teaching the required writing courses at UMD, a major theme of this semester is to consider how you can transfer what you’re learning about teaching rhetoric to the other kinds of teaching you might take on: creative writing, literary study, writing center tutoring, women’s studies courses, digital humanities work, high school teaching, and so on. To ensure these “transfer” conversations happen, during the final half and hour of each class, pairs of students will take on the work of exploring such possibilities (see description of Conversation Starter assignment below). The goal here is for you to see that the learning you do in this course should not just your guide pedagogy in UMD’s writing programs but also support your teaching throughout your career.


Course Texts

Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Logan: Utah State UP, 2015.

All other readings can be found on our course Canvas page, organized by weekly modules.

I will also distribute to you the Academic Writing Program’s standard syllabus, course assignments, and required textbook, Fearless Writing: Rhetoric, Inquiry, Argument.

Course Writing Projects

Conversation Starters                          Weekly                                    10%

“How I Want to Teach Writing”         February 6                               10%

Class Visit and Reflection                  April 16                                   5%

Inquiry                                                April 9                                     20%

Digital Forum                                     April 23                                   20%

Position Paper                                     May 14                                    25%

Teaching Philosophy                          May 7                                      10%