- Evaluation Samples
I have assembled a sample of the results from three recent courses I have conducted for the Department of English. Additionally, I have provided a range of written responses to present my teaching from my students’ perspective. Upon request, I will gladly supply complete sets of evaluations.
As is so often the case in our profession, the following teaching materials were assembled by borrowing pieces from those that came before. While I have done my best to put my personal spin on all aspects of the courses, that means that some of this text was originally written by others and adapted for my purposes. Accordingly, I am posting these documents under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. In other words, you are free to adapt them for educational purposes as long as you allow others to adapt your work, but you can’t make money off them, and you have to acknowledge that you borrowed from others who came before (though I’m waiving the need to credit me specifically, since I’m just a link in the chain).
- English/Interactive Media Studies 224: Digital Writing & Rhetoric
“Analyze and produce digital multimodal compositions that integrate words, images, and sounds.” Students work with multimodal rhetoric, investigating the ways that arguments are constructed in multiple formats, and build arguments around a single focal topic throughout the semester. Curricular focus on advocacy and social awareness.
- English 225 – Rhetorics of Murder
- English 225 – Rhetorics of Privilege
- English 225 – Op-Eds and Argument
“Practice in various types of expository and narrative writing.” Students are expected to produce multiple papers of significant length. Course themes have included public argument, focused on scaffolding one coherent argument throughout the semester; privilege, focused on public argument in areas of inequity in the United States and asking students to engage within discourse communities on topics they found important; and murder, which invited participation in the varied areas of media dedicated to violence in our culture.
- English 111 (FYC) – Composition and Rhetoric in Public Argument
“Study and practice of effective explanatory, expressive, and persuasive writing.” First semester composition course, designed for incoming students to prepare for college-level writing. Focuses on application of rhetorical principles to analysis and composition.
- Manifesto 1.0 and Manifesto 2.0
The manifesto assignment is a new initiative, and we’re still working out the kinks. In short, we want to invite students to tell us what writing means to them in a low-stakes fashion, allowing us to get a feel for their initial state as writers, then have them update the document at the end to see how they have progressed. These prompts are a first attempt, but they worked reasonably well in practice.
- Rhetorical Experience
This is the “old” first assignment for First-Year Composition; the idea is to sort of reflect on their history with the concepts of the class. Since my classes tend to focus heavily on rhetorical technique, with an eye toward the idea that rhetoric exists in everyday life, I formulated my first assignment to get them thinking in those terms. I have received some very interesting answers to this question over the years, and it’s a prompt I quite enjoy.
- Comparing Arguments
The trick to this assignment is convincing students to pick a topic about which they have strong opinions, and then do their best not to talk about that topic at all. I consistently remind them through the writing process that the goal here is not to tell me about the topic, but simply talk about the way their chosen articles are doing so. It’s a challenge, but I find that it pays off to get them thinking about the structure of arguments in addition to the content. And of course the kairotic component of the assignment is flexible, meaning I can waive it for students with hard-to-research topics, but has the benefit of keeping the arguments relatively fresh (and much harder to plagiarize).
For my FYC research papers, I like to do things that students haven’t often seen before. One, I make them find sources from “popular culture,” i.e., items that would not count as valid sources in most cases, especially those devoted to satire. The value of this comes from constraining their topic to issues that are being widely discussed, and forcing them to incorporate alternate perspectives. Two, I make them do “extra” research–the first part of the assignment is an annotate bibliography that must include ten sources; the final paper only requires the use of five. The value of this is giving them sources they can choose not to use, instead of just picking the first five they find and trying to make them work together. (I am very open with students about this.)
The goal of the remediation assignment is to move student thinking from “writing papers” to “crafting arguments.” While I would love to be able to teach every form of expression, that’s simply not an option, and if it were, there would be disciplinarity issues. So instead of teaching students how to use specific software, I try to teach them how to experiment with new programs and make them work. Since they are graded on their argument, not the technical proficiency of such (beyond “functional”), they are free to try different approaches that might not be ideal, all the better to build off next time.
This is a fairly standard research paper, but I’ve chosen to include it because students often seem confounded by the idea that I want them to construct an argument about their topic, rather than just an informative overview. Additionally, this assignment requires at least one (sourced) counterargument to be included in the paper, which forces them to engage with dissenting viewpoints; this forces a “so what” moment, often readjusting the trajectory of their overall argument to something more controversial.
This is the followup assignment to the research paper above, where students are able to take that counterargument and go after it. I am fairly flexible about the nature of this assignment, as one of its goals is to force them to write to a medium that isn’t “academic papers”–students need to write for the same publication that they are using as a source. In the case of a blog, they should write accordingly; if they are responding to a magazine, they should evoke its format. This leads to a variety of papers that I often find quite enjoyable to read.
- Reflective Transfer
Since reflective transfer is a university-wide goal of advanced composition courses, I chose to approach it explicitly in this final assignment, by asking students to consider not just the progress they made throughout the semester, but how it will apply to their own degree programs–why is advanced composition important for someone majoring in business, or chemistry, or math? This is a discussion that needs to be had throughout the course, naturally, but it is greeted with some skepticism in the beginning, and hopefully this is their chance to change their minds on that.