The Teaching of Writing
A Practicum (Fall 2007)

Michael J. Cripps, Ph.D.


In this course, a practicum on the teaching of writing, we will explore both theoretical and practical issues at the core of college-level writing instruction. Each week we will meet to discuss at least one published article in the general field of composition studies, to workshop activities and/or assignments, and to talk about what's going on in the classroom. Over the term, we'll also spend a fair amount of time reading student texts coming out of the classroom.

This year is York College's first year as a member of the CUNY Graduate Center's Teaching Intern program, and I am very excited to be part of what I hope will become a long running relationship between York College and English graduate students at The City University of New York.

Our involvement in the inaugural practicum at York creates both an opportunity and a responsibility. Our status as pioneers enables us to flexibly develop the course and its connection to the practice of writing instruction. We are not hemmed in by expectations established by our predecessors. At the same time, we bear a responsibility to consider just what a successful practicum might look like in our context. I hope that we will take both the opportunity and the responsibility seriously as we move forward.

I am starting us off by providing a preliminary timeline, reading list, and sequence of topics for our weekly seminar discussions. We're beginning without formal assignments because I want us to decide together what makes sense here. Reading prompts, open-ended reflections, teaching journals or logs, blogs, all of the above? And since I believe that teachers teach best when they are engaged in a broader conversation about instruction, I will explore opportunities for us to participate in College-wide events related to teaching in general, and to the teaching of writing in particular. Sometimes we'll go outside of the seminar for such opportunities; other times we'll bring those opportunities to the seminar itself by opening our doors to interested (and interesting) members of the faculty.

One significant aspect of the course that remains unspecified at the outset is the final project. This course is a graduate seminar, and enrolled participants will engage in some project involving inquiry. Options for this project include a traditional, research-based seminar paper, a robust reflective course portfolio, or a project that contributes visibly to the campus conversation about writing. Of course, these are but several of the many possibilities. I encourage you to talk with me about your preference for an inquiry project over the first few weeks of the term.

A Primer on the Course Website
Some people say my course sites are too complex. I've heard the complaint, and this term I have only three main areas open for exploration. The Schedule is the weekly plan. You'll find an overall topic or theme for the week, a reading assignment, and an activity associated with the assignment. I link from Schedule to assignments due for the week. The Assignments area contains links to all the assignments up to the most recent site update. This creates redundancy, but some people like to see all the assignments at a glance, perhaps because they like to know if they're up to date. The Resources area of the site contains anything that I think you might find helpful, or at least interesting. Sometimes I write something and call it a resource; other times I simply link from the Resources area to a site containing a resource that I think is potentially worthwhile. Please suggest particular resources that you find helpful; I'll add them and others will benefit down the road.

You'll quickly discover that the course website is a work in progress throughout the term. We're working together to develop the practicum, and the site will evolve as we proceed.


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