Composition as Critical Inquiry

(Fall 2014-Spring 2015)

Course Description:

In this course we will explore the genres that influence our lives on personal, professional, academic, and social levels. Confusion over how to start writing a text or what a text should look like often occurs because the writer lacks knowledge about genres, or even more importantly, how to research genres that they are not familiar with. This class will provide you with opportunities to research and write multiple genres, and we will use Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to guide our understanding of how social, material, and personal factors create the writing process. In this class you will investigate and document your learning process and writing research journey. On that note, the goal of this class is not to learn how to be a “good writer,” but to learn to recognize how the writing situations you find yourselves in are created and how they affect your writing process and final product. Learning how to react to these circumstances and the genres involved in them will hopefully help you gain confidence in your writing and in your ability to research unfamiliar genres that you will encounter as you move beyond this course.

Course Goals:

Throughout this course, your assignments will give you the opportunity to explore how to:

• Identify features of multiple genres and analyze how those features work in different kinds of texts

• Use your knowledge and analysis of genres to create content in multiple genres

• Use your knowledge of technologies and media to produce different kinds of texts

• Trace the path a text takes in its production, distribution, and use and understand how this affects writing in different genres

• Demonstrate knowledge of how to find a variety of source materials for research purposes

• Identify and use different citation styles and grammatical conventions in your writing

• Identify cultural, political and social interactions that shape or influence how writing happens in a particular genre or situation.

Additional Notes

Instructors for all ISU Writing Program classes are given specific learning outcomes to include in the course. Our program uses a Rhetorical Genre Studies approach to teaching, so each unit focuses on different genres. Our program also focuses on creating “writing researchers” and creating assignments that require students to articulate their “uptake,” rather than on supposedly mastering and producing a specific genre. Finally, Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is a foundational element of our program, so students are tasked with understanding not just how to research and create various genres, but also how these genres are part of a larger activity system. With the specificity of our learning outcomes and theoretical foundations and the openness of choosing to teach whatever genres we wished, I took inspiration from syllabi examples from other experienced instructors, but I also used materials I created in a “Teaching College English” course I took at the end of my M.A. coursework at UNCC. My major assignments were almost entirely inspired by the work I did in this class, as I had hoped (and later knew) during that semester that I would be teaching at ISU’s Writing Program during the following fall semester.


Class Materials:

The Grassroots Writing Research Journal 5.1/5.2

Access to Reggienet

USB Flashdrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive

Notebook (Optional)

Additional Notes

As 101 instructors are required to use the journal as our main text, creating this list was quite simple. With my usual eco-friendly approach, students turned in most of their work digitally, which was especially easy as this class was taught in a computer lab. The optional notebook was included for those students who felt more comfortable writing notes by hand rather than typing them out.


Grade Break Down and Major Projects:


Fall 2014

Uptake Genre Exploration – 15%

Annotated Bibliography – 20%

Genre Remediation – 25%

Archive – 20%

Participation – 20%

Additional Notes

Here are brief descriptions of the major class assignments:

Uptake Genre Exploration: This is the first major assignment of the semester, though its main goal was to prepare students for the uptake genres that they would be writing as part of their next three major projects. They had to compose 3 Tweets by the end of the unit, but the main work of this unit was to learn how to research a genre, explain their research process, peer review their peers’ work, and explain the pros/cons of peer reviewing. For this unit, students created: a Research Outline, an Inquiry Narrative, a Peer Review Recap, and 3 Tweets.

Annotated Bibliography: I chose the annotated bibliography as a genre for this course as it is an academic genre that proves useful in multiple ways and is found in multiple fields. The bibliographies had to include four sources from different genres. They were free to research any writing research topic that interested them, but they had to receive topic approval from me before they began. For this unit, students created: a Research Outline, an Inquiry Narrative, a Peer Review Recap, and an Annotated Bibliography.

Genre Remediation: This was a group project, in which I assigned the groups. For each group, students chose one source text (Finding Nemo was very popular) for each of them to remediate into a different genre (at least one genre needed to be digital, one needed to be print, and one needed a visual component). Each of the students had to produce a different genre (from one another), and they presented the remediations to the class as a group.

Archive: The archive was a collection of various assignments they completed throughout the semester. As a whole, it had to illustrate the skills they learned and the concepts they felt strongest about by the end of the semester. It had to be digital, but it didn’t have to be a certain genre, so they could get creative. PowerPoints and websites were common formats for this project.


Spring 2015

Fan Fiction Activity System – 25%

Annotated Bibliography – 25%

Genre Remediation – 25%

Semester Reflection – 10%

Participation – 15%

Additional Notes

Here are brief descriptions of the two new major class assignments from the spring 2015 semester:

Fan Fiction Activity System: Students had to write a piece of fanfiction that was at least 3,000 words in length (a length requirement that was part of the program requirements). Assigned as the first unit, students had almost the whole semester to work on it, as it was the last project due over the course of the semester. By the end of the project, they either had to write a paper or create a map that described their story’s activity system (a program key term) and how they maneuvered in it throughout the semester. They presented this information to the class at the end of the semester.

Semester Reflection: They had to create a powerpoint, website, or prezi reflecting on what they learned throughout the semester. They could decide what concepts, terms, or lessons they felt should be included in the reflection, but there were also a few required assignments to reflect on as part of the project.


Top 5 Online Resources
  1. The ISU Writing Program website
  2. ISU’s Grassroots Writing Research Journal archive
  3. A Fandom Terms Glossary, like this one.
  4. Purdue Owl website
  5. A website-building website, like Wix or Weebly.