2015 Program Grant Winner

Jason Palmeri


Redesigning English 225 as an Advanced Writing Course

As we work to implement the new Miami plan Advanced Writing requirement, it is essential that the university offer a wide range of courses that meet the guidelines for these courses. Although the responsibility of teaching advanced writing will be shared across many different departments, we expect that some departments will choose not to develop their own advanced writing courses and/or will not be able to staff sufficient numbers of sections of advanced writing to meet the needs of all of their majors. To address this concern, the English department is designing numerous advanced writing courses that can prepare students from across the university with the skills they need to succeed in writing in their majors and careers.

As a substantial part of our contribution to the advanced writing requirement, we are redesigning our current elective English 225 "Advanced Composition" course to become an advanced writing course that helps students develop transferable skills of genre and discourse community awareness, rhetorical reflection, and research inquiry that they can apply to wthe diverse kinds of writing they will need to complete within their majors and careers. We also are working to develop special sections of English 225 for first year students who receive AP credit for 111 but who still wish to take a writing course in their first year to ensure that they are fully prepared for college--level writing.

We are anticipating that we could eventually offer 50 or more sections of English 225 each year staffed by both full-time faculty and advanced graduate students in English. Next year, we anticipate offering 5-10 pilot sections of English 225 (depending on demand). Because our current English 225 is an elective course without a standard curriculum, we will need to do extensive work to radically redesign it to address the needs of students in diverse majors. To this end, we request funding to support a pilot team of faculty and advanced graduate students in the English department to redesign the course. Specifically, team members will:

  • Collaboratively develop curricular materials (syllabi, assignments, activities, readings, etc.)
  • Reach out to faculty from departments from across the university to discuss how English 225 could address the writing concerns of their majors.
  • Teach the initial pilot sections of the courses, meeting regularly as a cohort of instructors to discuss challenges, successes, and pedagogical approaches.
  • Design and conduct training workshops and individualized mentoring sessions for future instructors of the course.
  • Participate in an outcome-based assessment of student writing from the pilot sections, refining the curriculum in response to the results of this assessment.
  • Create materials for an online English 225 teacher's guide.

Proposed English 225 Outcomes

The redesigned English 225 Advanced Writing course will focus on writing in diverse genres for specific audiences. Students will engage in an in-­‐depth research project across the term, integrating sources and methods from multiple academic disciplines. English 225 will teach students to analyze how writing strategies and genre conventions differ across academic disciplines and broader communities. Some instructors may choose an interdisciplinary inquiry theme to focus student research and writing while others may guide students in generating their own inquiry questions to spur individual or group research across disciplines. While sections of the course will engage with English studies methodologies of writing and reading (literary, rhetorical, and/or linguistic), they will also engage other empirical and theoretical disciplinary perspectives as well. Although there will be some variance in genres of writing taught across sections, all advanced composition courses will fulfill the following common outcomes:

Genre Knowledge: Students will learn to analyze academic and community genre expectations, understanding how conventions for writing differ across contexts and media.

Inquiry-Driven Research: Students will engage a specific inquiry question in depth over time, conducting intensive research to examine an issue from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

Audience Adaptation: Students will critically analyze the expectations of various audiences, adapting their writing to meet those expectations.

Revision: Students will revise work in response to peer and instructor feedback, deeply re-seeing their work in light of genre conventions, audience expectations, and rhetorical knowledge.

Reflective Transfer: Students will reflect about the writing strategies they have learned throughout their coursework, considering how they can apply and adapt those strategies to meet the writing challenges they will face in their majors, careers, and civic lives.

Style and Editing: Students will learn editing techniques to enhance clarity, concision, and reader engagement while also recognizing how stylistic conventions and citation formats differ across contexts.

The pilot team will work over summer 2015 to refine these outcomes and develop diverse curricular approaches to meeting them. In May of 2016, the pilot team will participate in an outcomes based assessment of student writing portfolios from the pilot sections to see how well students are meeting these outcomes. (Instructors of the pilot sections will be involved in this programmatic assessment; however, they will not assess their own students' work). After conducting this initial outcomes assessment, we will redesign the curriculum in order to address any problems we find.

Proposed Common Assignments and Pedagogical Guidelines for English 225

While course sections may vary in thematic areas of inquiry and specific genres of writing taught, all sections will include the following core writing activities:

Intensive Research Writing

Research methods and writing will be incorporated in this course culminating in an in-depth project that students work toward throughout the semester. Research can be interpreted broadly to include traditional library research, research into community practices, archival or field research, and research about writing / communication practices. The research writing project will include substantial scaffolding, such as proposals, annotated bibliographies, field notes, and literature reviews. Students will analyze conventions of writing in different disciplines and compose their research following those conventions.

Genre / Discourse Community Analysis

Students will research and analyze writing and speaking conventions utilized and expected within or across diverse discourse communities (e.g. academic disciplines, workplaces, community groups). Through analytical writing and research, students will learn to analyze and recognize specific genre conventions and to adapt their writing to meet these expectations. Genre / discourse community analysis may be taught as a discrete assignment or as a substantial scaffolded step of a larger research project. Possible approaches may include analytical literature reviews, rhetorical analyses of common genres in a specific discipline, comparing the presentation of a research topic across discourse communities, and/or person-based research in a discourse community.

Writing for Public Audiences in Specific Genres

Students will transform their research writing into one (or more) nonacademic genres for a public or workplace audience. This project will include a substantial reflective component in which students articulate the rhetorical choices they made in relation to audience, context, purpose, delivery, medium, and genre. Possible genres include reviews, editorial columns, white papers, blogs, multimedia presentations, and videos. This project will include a substantial reflective component in which students articulate how and why they shaped their communication for a particular audience, genre, and medium.

Reflective Portfolio

Students will be asked to compose a portfolio of their best writing in diverse genres, including writing from ENG 225 as well as writing from other contexts. Writing a substantial rhetorical genre analysis of their portfolio selections, students will reflect about what writing strategies do and do not transfer across contexts--with emphasis on considering how they can apply and adapt the knowledges and practices they learned in to 225 to future writing in their majors, careers, and civic lives.

In addition to the common types of assignments outlined above, English 225 sections will also adhere to the following common pedagogical guidelines:

  • The majority of class time will be dedicated to the students' own writing.
  • Students will complete informal writing activities every week (e.g. generating ideas, conducting research, analyzing genres, reflecting about learning, considering revision).
  • Major writing assignments will be carefully scaffolded (e.g. proposals, annotated bibliographies, drafts, revision exercises).
  • Students will receive detailed instructor feedback throughout writing process.
  • Students will engage in deep revision of major writing assignments based upon both instructor and peer feedback.
  • Students will complete at least 5000 words of revised writing (with at least 2500 words of informal writing).
  • All sections will include readings from multiple academic disciplines as well as readings about writing strategies and genre conventions.

In order to prepare instructors to implement these common pedagogical guidelines and assignments, we will need to develop a substantial online Teacher's Guide including assignment prompts, writing activities, lesson plans, assessment strategies, and suggested reading selections. Our current Teacher's Guide for English 112 runs well over 100 pages; we expect that we will need to develop a guide of similar scope to effectively support instructors teaching English 225. Because our proposed revision of English 225 is substantially different from current writing courses, we will need to create most of the materials for it entirely from scratch.

Developing Sections of English 225 Specifically for First Year Students with AP Credit

At least one third of entering students come in with credit for English 111 by earning a three or higher on AP English composition or literature exams; unfortunately, these exams do not require research-based writing and thus AP English courses often do not include instruction in college-level research writing. If students do not take 111 and delay taking advanced writing until later in their college career, they may not be prepared for the research-based writing tasks assigned in their other Miami plan and major courses. To address this issue, the CAS advising office has requested the English department offer designated sections of English 225 specifically adapted for first year students who place out of English 111 but who still wish to take a writing course in their initial year. To this end, we are currently planning to design and offer at least three first year designated sections of English 225 that will be opened and promoted during summer orientation. These sections of "Advanced Composition for First Year Students" will begin by quickly reviewing foundational rhetorical concepts (audience adaptation) and research writing skills (locating and evaluating sources, academic integrity) that students would have learned in 111. In addition to offering some review of foundational rhetorical skills, first year sections of English 225 would also include reflective writing designed to help students clarify their academic and career goals. In our assessment in May 2015, we will compare writing from first year sections of 225 and regular sections of 225 to ensure consistency in meeting outcomes for these different populations of students.

Implementation Timeline

Early May 2015: Team leader (Jason Palmeri) recruits a pilot team of faculty and advanced graduate students to develop and teach sections of English 225.

Summer 2015: Pilot team works collaboratively to develop syllabi and curricular materials for pilot sections. Pilot team begins to reach out to faculty in other disciplines to find out how we can adapt our curriculum to meet the writing needs of their majors.

Fall 2015: Instructors of pilot sections regularly meet together and observe each other's classes, discussing successes, challenges, and pedagogical approaches. Pilot instructors collect student writing for assessment and also conduct student surveys to gather feedback on what they find most useful in the course and what could be improved. Pilot instructors continue reaching out to the wider university community to share our approaches to 225 and seek feedback.

Winter and Spring 2016: Fall instructors of 225 meet with spring instructors to discuss experiences and recommendations for teaching the course. The entire pilot team begins to develop and implement training workshops for future instructors of the course. We continue meeting together to reflect on our teaching experiences, collecting assessment data, and reaching out to the wider university.

Summer 2016: Team conducts outcomes-based assessment of student writing in 225 and works to revise curriculum in response to the results of this assessment. Team develops intensive online guide. We share the materials and assessment reports we generate with the Howe Center and the wider university.

Proposed Budget

Pilot Team Members Compensation: 7 x $700 each = $4900
Incidental costs: $100

Total: $5000

Note: Compensation rates may be adjusted depending on how work is divided among the members of the team.