Theory/Prac of Tchg Compositn

English 605 “The Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition”

T 3:30-6:00 pm Daphne Desser

Course Description

One of the primary aims of this course is to prepare graduate students across the concentrations to teach composition at the college level, whether this occurs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, local community colleges, or at future sites of employment. Thus, we will read research in composition studies that is set in Hawaii, as well as important institutional documents such as UH-M’s hallmarks for the general education Writing Foundation, the English Department’s recommendations for teaching composition, and findings from the Department’s various first-year composition assessment projects. Our examination of our particular site of teaching and researching writing will occur, naturally, within the context of current national conversations on the theory and practice of teaching college-level writing; thus in addition to extensive reading in current composition scholarship, we will examine the National Council of Writing Program Administrators’ outcomes statement and guidelines for teaching composition, as well as relevant conversations on the Writing Program Administrators’ listserv.

Students will be introduced to the history of composition studies and its emergence as a discipline within English studies, research methodologies in composition studies, leading composition pedagogies and their theoretical underpinnings, primary journals in composition studies and their various theoretical and methodological leanings, as well as composition’s ongoing responses to important theoretical developments in English studies, such as cultural studies, feminism, queer theory, community-engaged pedagogies, and critical theories of technology.

Readings will be grouped around key pedagogical theories and practices; likely subtopics include: “not so” basic writing, collaborative learning and writing, community-engaged writing, critical pedagogies, cultural studies and composition, feminist and queer pedagogies, new media and multimodal writing, rhetoric and argumentation, WID/WAC programs and pedagogies, and place-based pedagogies. Practical dimensions of teaching writing, such as grading, providing effective feedback, designing writing assignments and lesson plans, will be covered as well.

Possible Assignments:

  • Short papers written in response to the readings
  • A formal lesson plan that articulates with an in-class teaching presentation
  • An educational and/or literacy autobiography
  • A teaching portfolio that consists of at least one syllabus for a college-level writing class accompanied by assignment sheets, which include criteria for assessment, as well as a statement of teaching philosophy, sample lesson plans, and a researched rationale for at least one syllabus.

Likely Texts:

Expect this list to be updated, in particular the secondary sources. Final selections will be made in consultation with students once the fall semester begins; some possibilities for us to collectively choose from include: 

Not so” Basic Writing:

Bernstein, Susan. Teaching Developmental Writing: Background Readings. 3rd. ed. 2007

Lamos, Steve. Interests and Opportunities: Race, Racism and University Writing Instruction. 2011.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. Collaborative Learning Techniques: a Handbook for College Faculty, 2005.

Bruffee, Kenneth A. “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.’” College English 46.7 (November 1984): 635-52. Print.

Trimbur, John. “Consensus and Difference in Collaborative Learning.” College English 51.6 (Oct. 1989: 602-616.


Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. 1944.

Flower, Linda. Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement. 2008.


Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, Continuum, 2000

Giroux, Henry. Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life: Critical Pedagogy in the Modern Age. 


New Media/Globalization:

Palmeri, Jason. Remixing Composition; A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. 2012.

Payne, Darin and Daphne Desser. Teaching Writing in Globalization, 2012.


Rhetoric and Argumentation:

Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Updated Ed, Cambridge UP, 2003.

McComskey, Bruce. Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition, 2017.



hooks, Bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, 1994.

Rhodes, Jacqueline. Radical Feminism, Writing, and Critical Agency. SUNY P, 2005.



Schippert. “Critical projection and queer performativity: Self-revelation in teaching / learning otherness.” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 2006.

Winans, Amy “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom: Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops.” Pedagogy, 2006.


Place-Based Pedagogies:

Grande, Sandy. Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought, 2015.

Vandenburg, Hum, and Jennifer Clary-Lemon. Relations, Locations, Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers. Urbana: NCTE, 2006.

Student Learning Objectives:

 As a graduate seminar in composition theory and practice, the course is designed 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. This course will thereby enrich students’ disciplinary knowledge in C/R specifically and English studies more generally. 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 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 field of Composition and Rhetoric.