Theory/Prac of Tchg Compositn

ENGLISH 605 (1): Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition 

Darin Payne

T 6:00-8:30 pm





The purpose of this course is to introduce graduate students from across the concentrations in UHM’s English Department to the major theoretical trends and complementary practices that currently dominate college writing instruction in the United States. Because composition pedagogy has become a wide-ranging set of practices that both inform and grow out of an even wider set of social, linguistic, rhetorical, and political theories, this will not be a course that will teach students simply “how to” teach writing once and for all. Instead it will be a course that asks students to consider the purposes of writing instruction, to explore options (and thus implications) for teaching writing, and to situate specific composition pedagogies rhetorically—that is, within particular conditions of time and place (disciplinary, geographic, economic, cultural, and political) and upon at least one identifiable ethical framework.


One caveat to such openness: the course will take First-Year Writing as a significant site of theory building and practical application.  ENG 605 will in this way extend the professional development and pedagogical support that we offer brand new GAs teaching for us for the first time.


The course will involve students in an ongoing dialectic between theory and praxis, one that will be played out in discussions, presentations, debates, and scholarly/pedagogical projects. Students will construct frameworks for understanding and interpreting—as well as developing and deploying—specific methodologies and practical activities for writing instruction, particularly those made prominent by cultural studies, feminism, queer theory, globalization, postcolonial studies, and critical theories of technology. Individual students will also work to understand in more theoretical, critical, and practical depth at least one specific writing pedagogy of their own choosing, which they will research, write about, and put into practice vis-à-vis a course rationale and proposal that may be published online.


In addition to learning disciplinary content as described above, students in this course will also be learning and experiencing (pre)professional activities that will serve them within their PhD program and potential academic careers. These include the development of teaching and administrative materials, practice in teaching, guidance in proposing conference presentations, and writing for publication.




Reading Responses: On a regular (usually weekly) basis, students will be required to write short (750-1000 words), semi-formal essays that they will post to an online course site. These essays will usually be written in response to a question about a reading or discussion, although others might include reflections and analyses of ENG 100 classroom observations, a teaching philosophy statement, a conference presentation proposal, and/or an abstract for a longer scholarly work.


Pedagogy Activity: Students will develop a teaching activity that will help the class learn material and will demonstrate/enact a pedagogical moment that can be examined and refined. The material or subject matter can be theoretical, practical, or administrative. In doing so, each student will develop connections to prior readings / discussions / themes / issues tackled in the course up to that point.


Praxis Project: This final project will be a combination of a critical theoretical essay and a corresponding practical proposal, which includes a syllabus, for teaching a writing course. While any number of relevant courses might be chosen depending on student interests and career goals, many will likely be ENG 100 at UHM.


Student Learning Outcomes:


As a graduate level seminar in the theory and practice of teaching writing in an English Department, this course aims to:


  • broaden students’ foundational understandings of the teaching of college-level writing as a form of praxis and as part of the intellectual work of the humanities;
  • enrich students’ disciplinary knowledge in C/R specifically and English studies more generally;
  • enable students to make connections with other courses in our graduate curriculum relevant to the course’s subtopics; and
  • to enable students 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 field of Composition and Rhetoric.





Journal articles: 


There will be a lot of PDF readings available online–which will include various articles from mainstream academic journals in writing instruction, including but not limited to College English, Composition Studies, and College Composition and Communication.


Additionally, students will be responsible for finding and compiling a collaborative resource of writings relevant to our shared interests.


Possible books to purchase (do not purchase in advance, as this list is merely one of examples.  It will be revised and reduced after an initial consultation with the class on the first day):


  • Gary Tate et al’s. A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, 2nd edition (2014)
  • Susan Miller’s. The Norton Book of Composition Studies.(2008)
  • Stacey Waite’s Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing (2017)
  • Asao Inoue’s Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future (2015)
  • Stephanie Kerschbaum’s Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference (2014)
  • Frankie Condon and Vershawn Ashanti Young’s Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication (2016)
  • Shari Stenberg’s Composition Studies Through a Feminist Lens (2013)