Seminar in Composition Studies

English 705 “Seminar in Composition Studies” W 3:15pm-5:45 pm  Dr. Daphne Desser


The Politics of Writing Program Administration CR


This course will introduce graduate students to the theory and practice of writing program administration (WPA), an area of English Studies and especially Composition and Rhetoric that has become its own sub-discipline, complete with academic journals, research programs, and a thriving, stable position in the academic job market.


This course will introduce and examine such WPA subfields as writing program assessment, large-scale student assessment, WAC (writing across the curriculum) and WID (writing in the disciplines) programs, writing centers, and first-year writing programs. These examinations will take into consideration local and global economic, racial, and geographic contexts among other socio-political factors. New technologies and digitized forms of writing and teaching will be explored, as will the state of the profession and the rise of our dependence on adjunct labor. For those interested primarily in pedagogy in English studies, we will examine classroom assessment, curricular development, faculty professionalization, and teacher training from a WPA’s perspective.


All of the above will occur with the purpose of recognizing the significance of the socio-political contexts in which such programs take place and with an eye toward assessing their political implications, with the ultimate goal of theorizing and practicing writing program administration as a tool for furthering social justice.


We will study pertinent research and analyze the theory and practice of writing program administration through program visits, lectures, discussions, presentations, and sustained scholarly projects.



Graded assignments will include the following:


1) Reading responses to current scholarship in the Writing Center Journal, the WPA Journal, and The Journal of Assessing Writing. Reading responses will also enable reflections and analyses of posts on the WPA listserv. Other assignments may include an analysis of the Job Information List, as well as a conference proposal to national Writing Program Administrator or Writing Center conferences.


2) Analyses of institutional documents typical of Writing Program Administration work, such as (a) reports on visits to relevant programs and centers (e.g. the Writing Center, the First-Year Writing program, the Mentoring program, and the Student Success Center) and/or (b) grant proposals for administrative research.


3) A scholarly, thesis-driven seminar paper that engages the politics, theory, and practice of writing program administration.



Required texts:




Bousquet, Marc. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (NYU, 2008).


Inoue, Asao B. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. Perspectives on Writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press. (2015). Available free at


Poe, M., Inoue, A. B., & Elliot, N. Writing Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of Opportunity. Perspectives on Writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado. (2018) Available free at


Malenczyk, Rita. A Rhetoric for Writing Program Administrators. (Parlor P, 2016).



Likely Articles and Book chapters:


Alexander, Jonathan. “Queered Writing Assessment.”

Bousquet, Marc. “Monetizing the Student.”

Desser, Daphne. “Who Speaks for the Underprepared?: Writing Assessment as Political Definition.”

—–. Institutional Reports: “Report on WIDFs in First Year Writing, 2016” and

—–.”Report for English Department: Best Practices for Assessment, 2017.”

—– and Payne, Darin. “WPA Internships.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Practice.

Glenn, Cheryl. “Feminist (Writing Program) Administration”

Giroux, Henry. Selections from Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (2014).

Goodyear-Kaʻō­­pua, Noelani. “Domesticting Hawaiians”

Green, David Jr.. “Expanding the Dialogue on Writing Assessment at HBCUs: Foundational Assessment Concepts and Legacies of Historically Black Colleges and Universities”.

Lee, Jerry Won. “Beyond Translingual Writing.”

Naynaha, Siskanna. “Assessment, Social Justice, and Latinxs in the US Community College.”

Nee-Benham, Maenette. “Making and Mending Net.”

Perryman-Clark, Staci. “Who We Are(n’t) Assessing: Racializing Language and Writing Assessment.”

Mcleod, Susuan. Selections from Writing Program Administration.

West-Puckett, Stephanie:  “Making Classroom Writing Assessment More Visible, Equitable, and Portable through Digital Badging.”


Articles will also be drawn from recent, relevant scholarship from Assessing Writing, The Journal of Writing Assessment, The Writing Center Journal, Composition Forum, and Research in the Teaching of English.


Student Learning Objectives


As a graduate seminar in writing program theory and practice, the course is designed to broaden students’ foundational understandings of the administration of college-level writing as a form of praxis and as part of the intellectual work of the humanities. This course will thereby enrich students’ disciplinary knowledge in C/R specifically and English studies more generally as well as deepening their understanding of program administration in higher education. The course should additionally enable students to make connections with other courses in our graduate curriculum relevant to the course’s subtopics. Finally, those graduate students who are aspiring or practicing teachers and administrators will also come to see increased possibilities for curriculum development in both college and high school language arts programs; this latter goal is made manifest in the various readings that explicitly address writing pedagogy and in the various assignments that require students to design course materials informed by scholarly conversations in the fields of higher education, writing program administration and English Studies.