Introduction to the Program in Writing and Rhetoric

PWR Mission

The mission of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) is to offer high-quality writing courses to UW students that emphasize ethical composing across difference. To fulfill this mission, we train and mentor instructors in antiracist, accessible, translingual, and multimodal pedagogies that enact practices of inclusion and equity. With the Program for Writing Across Campus (PWAC) and in collaboration with numerous campus partners, we actively create and support knowledge-building about writing and writing instruction broadly within the program, the English department, and across campus.

Each year we offer courses to approximately 5000 undergraduates, impacting roughly 75% of any given first-year cohort at UW-Seattle. We are here to support you in designing a curriculum that develops these students’ analytical, meaning-making, and research capacities and prepares them to compose effectively and ethically across

  • disciplines, genres, media, audiences, and situations;
  • academic, professional, and public settings; and
  • linguistically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse contexts.

Overview of Materials

To support you in your teaching in PWR, we offer four main resources:

  • This Instructors’ Manual, designed to cover the basic elements of teaching a course in composition, with a focus on providing practical information and advice. (However, since no manual can prepare you for everything, this material is meant to lead into the pedagogical work you will do in English 567.)
  • The PWR Website, including pages for students and instructors. Instructor pages include instructor policies, sample teaching materials, department resources, campus resources, and more: https://english.washington.edu/program-writing-and-rhetoric.
  • An archive of materials generated by previous PWR instructors hosted in Sharepoint, available at this link: https://uwnetid.sharepoint.com/sites/program_in_writing_and_rhetoric. You will be added to this archive as part of our pre-quarter orientation and you’ll need to log in with your UW NetID and password to view the materials.
  • Writer/Thinker/Maker: Approaches to Composition, Rhetoric, and Research at the University of Washington, a custom textbook designed to support the University of Washington’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric 100-level course outcomes. The text includes rhetorical chapters on reading, researching, writing, and revising as well as a selection of readings.
  • The PWR Director, Associate Director of Writing Programs, and Assistant Directors are available throughout the year to provide one-on-one support, workshop teaching materials, and consult on any teaching-related questions and concerns. We all hold weekly office hours and are available in the A-11 suite and remotely as needed. Please feel free to drop in or make an appointment at any time. We learn and grow better in community and collaboration with others, and it is normal to have many questions and to build relationships with others in the program to get your questions answered.

Student Demographics

The following information is provided so you can consider, in a general sense, the student community at the University of Washington. The information below comes from the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMAD) “Diversity Fact Sheet” as well as data that the UW tracks on student demographics. As you look at the numbers, it’s important to know that the percentage of International students has increased from 3.5% in 2003 to 16.6% in 2022.

University of Washington Student Enrollment Demographics, Autumn 2022

Table 1: Race and Ethnicity
American Indian or Alaska Native 192 (0.4%)
Asian 11,192 (22.6%)
Black or African-American 1,733 (3.5%)
Hispanic or Latino 4,352 (8.8%)
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 129 (0.3%)
White 17,924 (36.2%)
Two or More Races 3,274 (6.6%)
International 8,236 (16.6%)
Not Indicated 2,490 (5.0%)
TOTAL 49,522 (100%)
Table 2: Sex
Male 21,787 (44%)
Female 27,535 (56%)

Note: UW does not track gender identifications outside of the sex binary, which is clearly problematic in its representation of the student body. The Q Center is an excellent organization on campus that supports access and care for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty, and staff.

Table 3: Disability status
Yes 3,614 (7.3%)
No 45,908 (92.7)
Table 4: Undergraduate Characteristics

UW Undergraduate Characteristics

% of undergrads who live at least 11 miles away from campus


% of undergrads who commute to campus


% of undergrads who work while enrolled in their undergraduate degree program


The data in Table 4 is from an ongoing survey titled Student Engagement at the Research University, found here: http://depts.washington.edu/assessmt/pdfs/reports/SERU_2015/SERU_2015_Ethnicity_All_Colleges.pdf

How to Use This Information

These data show some of the student demographics tracked and reported by the university. In considering the race and ethnicity breakdown of the student body, it’s worth noting that overall, 7,564 UW students identify as an underrepresented minority (URM), representing 15.3% of the student body. The student body is also majority-female, although these numbers come with the major caveat that the university does not (yet) track gender identifications outside of the sex binary, and it does not (yet) include LGBTQIA+ identity in the student demographic data dashboard we consulted for this manual. Table 3 shows that just over 7% of students have identified as having a disability, although again we need to make the major caveat that not all disabled students will openly identify as such, so this is almost certainly an undercount. Finally, Table 4, drawing on a 2015 report, shows that UW students often commute, balance part- and full-time jobs, and that not all live on or within 10 miles of campus.

And in 2023, as we update this manual, it is further important to acknowledge that we all continue to navigate living and working as a a global pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of how we live and work together. Many of your students will continue to experience high rates of burnout and exhaustion, and all of this is affecting how we navigate university classrooms and pedagogical affordances.

As you approach your classes this fall, then, keep in mind that students in your courses will have a variety of beliefs and attitudes and a wide range of different pandemic experiences. Your students will be linguistically and culturally diverse, and they will have a variety of incomes, assumptions, and skill-levels. You will have to carefully consider how you will create a classroom environment where students with varying beliefs can share their perspectives. You’ll find yourself asking how you and your students will negotiate difference in your classroom. And you’ll wonder how to craft curricula, pedagogies, and assessment practices that support all of your students wherever they are. It is a good idea to remind yourself and your students that difference may not always be readily perceptible, and that all students must respect a variety of viewpoints, even if they do not share them. It is also a good idea to remind students that the ability to critically examine a variety of viewpoints, including their own, is a hallmark of academic and public inquiry and writing. It is toward this end—to practice and demonstrate academic forms of inquiry and discourse—that students will be asked to examine complex issues in PWR courses. Our goal is to prepare them to participate as active and responsible citizens within a diverse intellectual community and beyond.

Creating a classroom environment in which all members can engage with difference productively is not an easy task (in chapters 9 and 10 of this manual, we provide some strategies to support you and your students as you engage in difficult class material). More support, too, will be provided in our in-person orientation and during English 567 to help you negotiate difference in your classroom. For now, however, we offer living statements on anti-racist writing pedagogy and program praxis and on accessibility to clarify some of our commitments and investments and to offer you support as you build your own pedagogical praxis.

Statement on Antiracist Writing Pedagogy and Program Praxis

Our Commitments and Vision

We in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric—program directors, instructors, and staff—approach the teaching of writing as consequential social action and ethical communication and we understand language as political and tied to identity, culture, and power. In our role as educators, we commit to reflect on the communities to which we are accountable and the language practices we are sustaining. We further commit to work against the various forms of systemic oppression emanating from racial capitalism and White supremacy that shape the social conditions of teaching, learning, and living in the university, in our social institutions, and in our everyday lives.

Rather than being simply a matter of individual biases or prejudices, we understand that various forms of oppression are pervasive, intersectional, and built into our educational, economic, and political systems. Racism, sexism, oppression of gender nonbinary and queer people, ableism, and oppression on the basis of language and citizenship all work in intertwined ways to reproduce the conditions of racial capitalism and colonialism.

These systemic oppressions are ongoing problems that concern all of us, that we all participate in perpetuating even unconsciously and unintentionally, and that require us to understand the important differences between intent and impact. We commit to working together, with compassion and critical intention, to resist and transform normative systems within our university and program and to rebuild our teaching and learning communities to be more socially equitable, culturally sustaining, and just.

We acknowledge that literacy education and language policies in the U.S. are built on a foundation of racial capitalism, White supremacy, and settler colonialism that persists and has delegitimized and often penalized the language practices, experiences, and knowledges of minoritized and historically underrepresented peoples. We therefore reject Eurocentric assumptions about the written word as a superior form of literacy and define composition and literacy in our program ecology as multi- or trans-modal, translingual, anti-colonial, and culturally affirming communication practices. We also reject the binary formations of standard/non-standard Englishes and native/non-native English speakers that racial capitalism has exploited at the expense of multilingual communities of color. We seek to transform this ongoing systemic inequity and discrimination by developing writing curriculum, assessment practices, teacher development programs, and language policies that recognize linguistic and other differences as the norm of communication and that stress rhetorical effectiveness and ethical language use across different lived experiences, contexts, genres, purposes, audiences, and writing occasions within and beyond the academy (See links at end of this document for more information).

Our Praxis

In teaching writing as social and ethical literacy, we are committed to developing antiracist and equitable pedagogical frameworks in our writing program and policies, in our teaching preparation and mentoring efforts, and in our curriculum and classroom practices. Antiracist pedagogical frameworks, as we understand them, are intersectional, which means that they center different forms of intersecting marginalizations as well as the power relations among race, class, gender, and other social, political, and cultural identities and experiences that may manifest in texts that we read and write, in students’ and teachers’ experiences, and in classrooms as well as broader social dynamics. While this statement and the below examples only signal the start to ongoing work, we seek to support our students and instructors through active antiracist and equity-focused pedagogies and program praxis that:

  • contextualize writing as a socio-political practice that helps students and instructors examine how writing might be practiced as personally and socially impactful, ethical, and empowering forms of literacy;
  • practice ongoing metacognition and self-reflexivity with regards to our own teaching philosophies, classroom practices, power, policies, and positionality to help create more equitable classrooms and curricula;
  • create a culture of unlearning the norms and characteristics of systems of White supremacy and continually build a more actively antiracist writing program and praxis.
  • make instituted and sustained efforts on recruiting and retaining instructors and administrators of color and of historically marginalized identities through equitable hiring practices and antiracist forms of support for teacher development;
  • develop writing assessment criteria for grading, peer-reviews, and students’ self-assessment that emphasizes writers’ development and their language choices and rhetorical effectiveness based on the writing occasion, genre, purpose, and audience rather than strictly on monolingual and dominant academic English norms and standards of correctness;
  • integrate language justice work as part of writing courses in which we examine how systemic racism is often encoded in practices that uphold “academic language” or “Standard English”;
  • encourage and support all instructors to practice antiracist pedagogy that is critically responsive to the contexts of their social identities, positionalities, teaching philosophies, and disciplinary and course objectives;
  • nurture classroom learning environments in which students and teachers are committed to engaging in critical and productive dialogue on issues of equity, justice, difference, and power as they manifest in class readings, writing, discussion, and more broadly;
  • conceptualize and practice teaching and learning with accessibility and Universal Design principles within the context of antiracism and anti-oppression;
  • resist Eurocentric and White U.S.-centric curricula and engage in curating reading and writing curricula that centers voices, knowledges, and experiences from marginalized authors and discourse traditions;
  • help students engage with course curricula in reflexive and compassionate ways that do not ask students of marginalized identities to relive trauma, but that asks all students to engage in social issues and how they relate to composing with criticality;
  • explore the relationships among writing, language, power, and social identities such as race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, mobility, faith/religion, and citizenship;
  • encourage students to make connections between their lived experiences and academic research and inquiries that complicate the notions of objectivity and neutrality in writing and academic learning;
  • encourage students to think about the social impact of their writing and the social groups and communities they are accountable to as part of audience awareness;
  • create composing occasions through assignment design that invite students to practice their multilingual, translingual, and multimodal language and literacy repertoires for different audiences, contexts, media, and situations with varying stakes.

This statement on antiracist writing pedagogy and program praxis has been informed and inspired by the following publications and documents:


The Program in Writing and Rhetoric is committed to accessibility across instructor, student, and administrator experiences. This commitment begins with recognizing that all of us have bodies and minds with various needs and preferences that matter to how we navigate the many physical and virtual environments in which we teach and learn together. Our social identities and identifications also shape how we move together and influence how and whether spaces are accessible. Thus, this statement works in concert with the above Statement on Anti-Racist Writing Pedagogy and Program Praxis in asserting that classroom and pedagogical accessibility also means considering the ways that BIPOC people, LGBTQIAA+ people, disabled people, and multiply marginalized people are affirmed and supported in being fully present within a space.

Essential to this work is responding to formal accommodation requests that we receive through Disability Resources for Students (DRS), who negotiates the ADA accommodation process for students as well as the Disability Services Office (DSO), who negotiates the ADA accommodation process for employees.

Because accessibility is not realized solely through individualized accommodation processes, but through collaborative, cooperative, and interdependent interactions among those who share (various kinds of) space together, instructors and administrators who compose materials for PWR courses should, from the outset, maintain accessibility principles, including those forwarded by the DRS office for making online course materials accessible: http://depts.washington.edu/uwdrs/faculty/online-course-accessibility-checklist/. In addition to these guidelines, we also seek to explore the accessibility of physical and virtual classroom spaces as well as of the materials we use to support instruction and instructor/student learning. Finally, accessibility is not just about transforming spaces and materials, it is about developing new ways to move and recognizing possibilities for enabling different kinds of presence. In “Universal Design: Places to Start,” Jay Dolmage offers a long checklist of possible ways to move. We commit to experiment and engage with these possibilities to support all members of the program.

Working With Undocumented Students

There is a significant population of self-identified undocumented students at UW that embodies multiple identities, cultures, and countries of origin. Undocumented students are not legal permanent residents and do not possess a current green card, visa, or other form of legal documentation. These students must navigate serious obstacles and challenges (from accessing housing and securing financial resources to worrying about the threat of deportation and shifting immigration laws). Should a student disclose their undocumented status to you, here are some concrete things you can do to advocate on their behalf: maintain your student’s privacy; be willing to be flexible with deadlines and accommodate students who may need it; educate yourself on issues undocumented students face; attend ally trainings for supporting undocumented students; and share relevant campus resources with your student.

Two key campus resources to direct your undocumented students toward (and where you can further educate yourself) are:

Leadership Without Borders. Located on the third floor of the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, the LWB Center at UW can offer information, guidance, and support to undocumented students on housing, study abroad opportunities, scholarships, academic support, and mental health counseling. It has also compiled an Undocu Ally Directory that can help connect undocumented students with trained allies across campus. In addition, LWB offers quarterly Undocu Ally Training for UW staff and faculty. They can be contacted at undocu@uw.edu. Their website is: http://depts.washington.edu/ecc/lwb/

Purple Group. This group is a peer support network of undocumented students that meets the first Wednesday of every month “to foster community building, connect with allies, share resources, participate in workshops, and discuss issues affecting immigrant communities locally as well as across the country and the world.” Previous Purple Group meetings have included workshops, presentations, and discussions on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), WASFA (state-funded financial aid), and so forth. They can be contacted at undocu@uw.edu. Their website is: https://depts.washington.edu/ecc/lwb/services/purple-group/

In addition to the above, should you be interested in learning more: The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is a valuable resource for you that offers the latest immigration updates, community information, and important details about the NW Detention Center, “Know Your Rights,” and DACA/Dreamers. The UW Law School also occasionally holds UW Community Immigration Workshops that include informative panels as well as free attorney consultations.

UW Students’ Previous Writing Experiences

In many places in the United States, high school students receive very little training in writing beyond the literary criticism paper, although this is changing with the Common Core, which stresses writing and argument in a variety of genres and for various purposes. The University of Washington is considered a selective university within the state and the Pacific Northwest region. Because Washington State, like California, has a three-tiered system of higher education—community colleges, comprehensive master’s granting state universities, and doctoral granting universities—the students entering the University of Washington tend to be particularly high achieving students. Approximately 80% were in the top fourth of their high school graduating class, and slightly more than half of those students were in the top 10%. Their average SAT scores are above 1650, and their GPAs are generally 3.7 and above. But they are also quite varied in their abilities to write, and we know that most have never read any academic or scholarly writing, even when they have taken Advanced Placement courses. Some students have emerged from high schools having taken AP English and are adept at producing a 20- or 40-minute essay exam, but may not understand how to develop a topic, solicit readers’ responses, or revise and edit a more substantial paper. Other students may be quite familiar with a kind of personalized, introspective writing process, but may have little or no idea of how a writer integrates complex, academic texts with personal reaction and opinion. Still others may arrive with exceptionally high quantitative abilities and less stellar verbal abilities. In addition, because the Puget Sound region has been an attractive place to settle for many immigrant groups, non-native speakers of English entering the UW may be very capable academically but may still be hesitant writers.


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2023 English 131 Instructors Manual Copyright © 2022 by kersch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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