Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition

In this course, students will explore the composition theories and pedagogies that have been of particular interest to writing teachers and scholars in the last 50 years. This course will provide students with a solid, working foundation for the discipline of composition studies so that they can position themselves within a few of the scholarly/teacherly conversations of the field. By the end of the course, graduate students should have a clearer sense of who they are and what they can be in the first-year writing classroom, as teachers. They will explore possibilities, contextualized in different pedagogies and student needs, for how to thoughtfully and productively navigate and negotiate the politics of a first-year writing classroom and first-year writing course. They will build course materials, including an ENG 100 syllabus, that are reflective of their evolving pedagogies.



Analyze required texts according to the historical and political contexts particular to the field of Composition Studies

Identify and evaluate scholarship relevant to the pedagogy/ies taken up in the teaching philosophy

Enter the scholarly conversation by articulating one’s own position in it, through the processes of inventing (e.g., brainstorming, researching), drafting, and revising research-based writings

Invent course materials informed by scholarly conversations in the field of Composition Studies


What have been the prominent pedagogies valued by and developed in the field of Rhetoric and Composition over the last 50 years?

What sociopolitical and institutional concerns and values have driven the valuing and development of those pedagogies?

What are the most salient pedagogies articulated, forwarded, and embodied by writing teachers today?

What are the costs and benefits of each?

How can pedagogies be adapted, even combined, to enable a more productive writing course?


A presentation on an assigned reading.

Two observations. Students will observe two teachers of ENG 100 (they can seek permission to observe teachers of different courses, if that would be more beneficial, given their future teaching assignments and career goals). They will also ask to look at those teachers’ course materials. After completing the observation and reviewing the course materials, they will submit a reflection that explores the ways in which the course is responding to institutional, student, and disciplinary demands through its participation in a particular pedagogy (or collection of pedagogical approaches).

A packet of course materials. Students will put together the materials for a writing course (preferably ENG 100), including a syllabus, course calendar with readings, and major course assignments. They will include a cover letter with the packet, which explains how each item participates in the pedagogical framework within which they intend to work.

A teaching philosophy. Students will write two teaching philosophies: the first will be an extended articulation of their teaching philosophy (about 10-12 pages), which references source materials from inside and outside of the course; the second will be a single-spaced, one-page teaching philosophy, which they could use on the job market.


(Not in order)

Harris, A Teaching Subject (1996)

Chapters from Villanueva and Arola, Cross-Talk in Comp Theory, 3rd ed (2011)

Gregory, “Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Teacherly Ethos” (2001)

Payne, “Rend(er)ing Women’s Authority in the Writing Classroom” (1994)

Excerpts of Rose, Possible Lives (1995)

Kantz, “Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively” (1990)

Charney and Carlson, “Learning to Write in a Genre: What Student Writers Take from Model Texts” (1995)

Chapters from Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism (2008)

Skorczewski, “‘Everybody Has Their Own Ideas’: Responding to Cliche in Student Writing” (2000)

McLeod, “Defining Writing Across the Curriculum” (1987)

Carter, “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines” (20)

Hartwell, “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar” (1985)

Chapters from Soliday, The Politics of Remediation

Tatum, “Talking about Race, Learning about Racism” (1992)

Chapters from Inoue, Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies (2015)

Berlin, “The Three Rhetorics” (1988)

Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation” (1992)

Vatz, “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation” (1973)