English 131: Background & Overview

Our first chapter sought to introduce you to the student population and institutional context in which you will be teaching; this chapter aims to introduce you to the course you will be teaching. Composition has a long history in U.S. higher education, and ideas about the goals of instruction in composition have changed over the decades. If you took a composition course as an undergraduate, it may very well have approached the teaching of writing in an altogether different way than English 131. For these reasons, this chapter begins with a little historical context before proceeding to describe the goals and curriculum of English 131. After an explanation of the course outcomes, you will read descriptions of what students are asked to write in other classes, including other courses that satisfy UW’s composition requirement, in order to help you contextualize the PWR 100-level course outcomes and curriculum.

Histories of Composition & the Teaching of Writing

The place of English composition in the United States university has, as the entry to higher education, always been simultaneously practical and disputed. As far back as the early Republic, written composition was taught in college in conjunction with oral discourse as rhetoric, claiming a heritage back to Greek and Roman rhetoric. In the last 50 years, every one of the items on the following list has been advanced as a reason to teach English composition:

  • to act as the contemporary version of classical rhetoric
  • to provide a place to analyze and debate civic issues
  • to provide remediation for less traditionally-prepared students
  • to be the Other to the more elite study of literature, providing work in more practical, pedestrian prose
  • to teach writers prestigious forms of written English
  • to understand one’s own unique creativity
  • to provide introduction and practice in the writing and reading of belletristic essays
  • to teach writing about literature or simply teaching literature
  • to provide an introduction to academic discourse
  • to learn rhetorical strategies of writing
  • to perform a unifying service to the university
  • to teach students in all disciplines how to write
  • to provide a place for students to participate in liberatory pedagogy
  • to provide a place for the reading and written analysis of “text” broadly understood, from the literary to the popular

No single course can possibly do all of these things, so writing programs select from among these possible goals. At flagship and partially selective state universities, such as the University of Washington, there is often a focus on academic reading and writing, and less focus on some of the other possible goals. Some of these goals speak to the history of composition in the U.S. as the “contact zone,” as new groups of first generation college students enter the university. In English departments in which the understanding of “text” has widened, as through Cultural Studies, for example, the final goal noted above, is often equally important, and this can be said to be true for many instructors at this institution.

Until 1968, the University of Washington required three full quarters of first year composition. During that year, the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college, dropped the requirement and the number of sections taught dropped. By the 1980s, the three-quarter requirement had returned in a slightly different form, one that recognized that other disciplines also use and should teach discipline-specific writing. Students were required to take one general composition course (“C” course) and two writing intensive, “W” courses in the disciplines in which a significant amount of writing was required and in which there was an opportunity for the student to receive a response from the instructor and then complete a revision. The idea was that students would receive writing instruction in their chosen major. In 1994, the W-course requirements were somewhat loosened and it is now possible for students in some disciplines to complete their writing requirements completely within the English department, without ever receiving direct instruction in writing in their majors.

Two aspects of this institutional history are important to remember when teaching the primary English composition course, English 131. One issue is that we must compress a great deal of work into a single quarter, work that 30 years ago was taught over an entire academic year. And, while there is some distribution of the work of teaching writing outside the English department, we must remember that we continue to provide the majority of writing instruction for many majors and because we do so, we must be aware of the disciplinary distinctions that our students face as they compose outside of our English classrooms.

Engl131: The Catalog Description & overview

Many course documents begin with the catalog description, those highly coded, open texts that may be interpreted in various ways. The University of Washington’s current catalog description of English 131, which was last updated in 1987, reads as follows:

ENGL 131: Composition: Exposition (5 credits) C Study and practice of good writing: topics derived from a variety of personal, academic, and public subjects.

However, we are putting through the system a new catalog description which we hope will be approved in the 2023-24 academic year, which better-reflects our current approach to English 131 and our course outcomes:

ENGL 131: Composition: Exposition (5 credits) C Uses a variety of texts across genres to study writing as social action and language as tied to identity, culture, and power. Centers students’ language resources and goals in developing rhetorical and research skills for composing ethically and critically across different contexts and genres. Prepares students for writing to audiences both within and beyond the university.

The C in that description indicates that the course fulfills the university’s Composition (C) general-education requirement. To help you dig into and engage the goals of the course as you think about how you’ll put together your own syllabus, we will now describe its curriculum as developed by PWR administrative team members over the last five years.

course overview

The learning goals for this course emerge out of rhetorical and writing theories that understand language use, various forms of communication, and reception as:

1) inherently situated, contextual, dynamic, emergent, political, and consequential;

2) intimately tied, even when resistant, to culture, identity, material conditions, uneven instantiations of power, and diverse ways of knowing, feeling, and doing specific to different people, places, and times; and

3) recursive, ongoing, and strategic negotiations, translations, and engagements with respects to the various resources and constraints, dynamics, purposes, conventions, norms, genres, modes, contexts, audiences, arguments, institutions, relationships, possibilities, ideas, and the like that exist within a given situation.

Because of the deeply situated, dynamic, and political nature of writing, language, composing, and communication practices, writing is not a skill that can be mastered once and for all. Writers must continually practice and refine their skills. While no one can learn to master writing in ten weeks, English 131 aims to teach students various skills, practices, capacities, and habits of mind that will help them refine the skills they already have, develop new ones, and adapt their knowledge to various writing situations and contexts.

With these broad commitments in mind, our 100-level composition courses all focus on helping students refine foundational capacities and skills required for effective and ethical composition and communication at the university and beyond, including:

Rhetorical awareness and capacity. Rhetorical awareness involves understanding how various aspects of the writing situation affect one’s composing decisions. These aspects include audience, purpose, emotions, language, constraints, resources, styles, media, political climate, ethics, contexts, and genres, among other things. We refer to such characteristics, contexts, and variables that affect one’s composing decisions within any given situation as the rhetorical situation.

Metacognitive awareness. Metacognitive awareness refers to the capacity to reflect on one’s own thinking process, draw on and adapt previous knowledge for the task at hand, and articulate ways one might use what is learned in new contexts (or even to transform situations). In short, we want to teach students skills that will transfer across very different situations and that can be adapted in future contexts.

Foundational skills of academic writing, research, and argumentation. Although the conventions of academic writing, like all writing, will depend on the situation (and discipline), this class will stress one of the hallmarks of academic work: developing claim-based arguments that emerge from and explore a line of inquiry (e.g., inquiries are research questions and investigations that emerge from observations, personal interest, and analyzing various texts, arguments, ideas, situations, and issues). In other words, this class will help students form important questions that matter to them and others; explore these questions through research; and formulate, support, and assess the consequences of arguments (and possibly actions) informed by their research.

The understanding and practice of writing as a nonlinear process that requires planning, drafting, reflection, redesign, and revision. Skilled writers engage in various flexible practices that can be learned and developed, including brainstorming, outlining, and organization strategies; rethinking ideas in conversation with others and through research; giving, receiving, and incorporating feedback; experimenting with tone, style, and grammar not just for correctness but for rhetorical effect; and so on.

In sum, rhetorical and metacognitive awareness—together with learning how to discover and follow a line of inquiry, generate complex arguments, and use flexible revision strategies—make up the transferable writing skills, capacities, and dispositions taught in this class that we hope will help students compose in future contexts. You’ll notice, too, that these skills are featured at the heart of the PWR learning outcomes, which we introduce next.

The Program in Writing and Rhetoric 100-level Learning Outcomes

English 131, along with the other 100-level courses offered in PWR, is based on four outcomes that define the overall learning goals for students in this course. The language of “outcomes” might be unfamiliar or strange to some of you, but the phrase is commonly used in education (and writing studies, more specifically) to refer to the skills and capacities, as well as goals, that one seeks to teach (or refine, hone, develop). These PWR outcomes were last revised in 2017 in conversation with national research on writing practices and instruction; in response to the changing demands of 21st century literacies; and under the guidance of the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition published by the Council of Writing Program Administrators (https://wpacouncil.org/aws/CWPA/pt/sd/news_article/243055/_PARENT/layout_details/false). They embody our belief that writing is a deeply situated and consequential act that involves a complex set of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that cannot be mastered once and for all. Instead, we believe that successful writers draw on and adapt writing strategies to participate meaningfully, effectively, and ethically within various contexts.


Outcome One

To compose strategically for a variety of audiences and contexts, both within and outside the university, by

  • recognizing how different elements of a rhetorical situation matter for the task at hand and affect the options for composing and distributing texts;
  • coordinating, negotiating, and experimenting with various aspects of composing—such as genre, content, conventions, style, language, organization, appeals, media, timing, and design—for diverse rhetorical effects tailored to the given audience, purpose, and situation; and
  • assessing and articulating the rationale for and effects of composition choices.

Outcome Two

To work strategically with complex information in order to generate and support inquiry by

  • reading, analyzing, and synthesizing a diverse range of texts and understanding the situations in which those texts are participating;
  • using reading and writing strategies to craft research questions that explore and respond to complex ideas and situations;
  • gathering, evaluating, and making purposeful use of primary and secondary materials appropriate for the writing goals, audience, genre, and context;
  • creating a “conversation”—identifying and engaging with meaningful patterns across ideas, texts, experiences, and situations; and
  • using citation styles appropriate for the genre and context.

Outcome Three

To craft persuasive, complex, inquiry-driven arguments that matter by

  • considering, incorporating, and responding to different points of view while developing one’s own position;
  • engaging in analysis—the close scrutiny and examination of evidence, claims, and assumptions—to explore and support a line of inquiry;
  • understanding and accounting for the stakes and consequences of various arguments for diverse audiences and within ongoing conversations and contexts; and
  • designing/organizing with respect to the demands of the genre, situation, audience, and purpose.

Outcome Four

To practice composing as a recursive, collaborative process and to develop flexible strategies for revising throughout the composition process by

  • engaging in a variety of (re)visioning techniques, including (re)brainstorming, (re)drafting, (re)reading, (re)writing, (re)thinking, and editing;
  • giving, receiving, interpreting, and incorporating constructive feedback; and
  • refining and nuancing composition choices for delivery to intended audience(s) in a manner consonant with the genre, situation, and desired rhetorical effects and meanings.

As you engage with these outcomes, we want to underscore that outcomes are not the same as “standards” or benchmarks of achievement. We use outcomes in this context to refer to the skills, capacities, and habits that we hope students will learn and/or refine and which should guide your curriculum design and assessment of student work. There are many ways to practice, emphasize, interpret, and engage these skills, and how you go about articulating and teaching the outcomes will be affected by your own philosophy and who your students are in any given quarter, among other things. Instructors are welcome to layer in additional goals and encouraged to find ways to teach these outcomes in ways that honor their own philosophies and commitments. Rather than limiting the work you might do, we hope that the outcomes provide generative and flexible clarity and a shared vocabulary for accomplishing your and your students’ goals.

Further, while we have broken down the learning goals into four broad outcomes, each outcome involves many complex and interrelated skills. The outcomes themselves are also interconnected, as opposed to independent standalone skills, and the way they are structured highlights the ways in which they actively refer to and build off of each other. So, while you may sometimes target skills associated with one outcome or another, you should also push students to understand how they work together organically and necessarily.

The four main course outcomes include traits that serve as “evidence” of that outcome. In a sense, these outcomes present a series of thinking, reading, researching, and revising habits. We believe that teaching students to perform complex, analytic reading and writing, as well as preparing them for the varied demands of writing both inside and outside of the academic context, is accomplished in part through the development of effective writing habits. English 131 is built on the premise that such habits are developed through a writer’s continued awareness of and engagement with why and how s/he writes.

While teaching and encouraging these habits is part of the core mission of this course, ensuring that our students are able to transfer these habits to contexts outside 131 is crucial to their success as well. As we read in Catharine Beyer’s presentation in Chapter 1, students rarely encounter the exact same writing situation twice and are often frustrated when how they’ve learned to write in one course does not easily translate into other courses. Such concerns are indicative of students’ writing experiences in college courses and beyond. We believe that these concerns are best addressed through attention to how audience, purpose, and genre all change depending on the writing context. An awareness of these variables, together with an ability to follow a line of inquiry, generate complex arguments from reading and research, and use flexible strategies for re-writing, make up the effective and transferable writing habits taught in 131.

In this course, students read and write a variety of texts, with a focus on learning to produce contextually appropriate academic arguments that reflect awareness of rhetorical situation. Such arguments should be supported by applied reading and analysis, emerge from primary and secondary research, and demonstrate comprehensive revision and careful editing. While students will not emerge from English 131 knowing something about writing in all disciplines, or in all public contexts (an impossible task), students who understand that there are disciplinary and situational differences in writing and have had opportunities to think about and practice adapting their writing to a variety of rhetorical situations will have many of the tools necessary to adapt to the various context-specific expectations for writing that they will encounter. For this reason, the first-year composition course cannot simply be a course in which students write “good” English papers, or one in which students simply study literature. A “good” English paper is unlikely to be a “good” sociology or history paper. In other words, rather than focusing on discipline-specific writing, English 131 is the place for students to practice effective writing habits, develop rhetorical sensitivity, learn about general principles of academic analysis and argument, and become prepared for the varied demands of university-wide writing and beyond.

The writing habits and skills embodied by the PWR outcomes— awareness of and ability to participate in a variety of rhetorical situations (Outcome 1); analysis and complex argument based on reading, understanding, and responding to diverse ideas, texts, contexts, and information (Outcomes 2 and 3); being responsive to and responsible for the stakes and consequences of arguments and actions (one’s own and others’) for diverse communities and contexts (Outcome 3); understanding writing as a recursive process and developing effective revision strategies (Outcome 4)—reflect a process of inquiry. This process—from initiating a line of inquiry to reading, research, analysis, claim development, and revision— may or may not already be familiar to your students.

Central to how writing is taught in 131 is that arguments emerge from careful, critical analysis of different types of evidence. This trajectory—from forming a line of inquiry, to reading, research, analysis, and claim development, while revising and complicating an argument—is a method your students will likely not be familiar with. The majority of our incoming students were taught writing in relation to new critical literary analysis. They are extremely adept at arguing for insular interpretations of symbols, metaphors, and themes, but may not be used to analyzing evidence through the lens of cultural theory or through the close scrutiny of the many commonplace assumptions that often inform a new critical literary analysis. In other words, you may find students who are used to finding out “what it really means,” rather than examining evidence in relation to its surroundings. Our course textbook, Writer/Thinker/Maker, has been specifically designed to support you and your students as they practice and demonstrate these writing habits.

But what about grammar? Some people think that writing courses are solely about grammar and that a course that emphasizes rhetorical awareness and argumentation may deprive students of the chance to improve their mastery of the English language. But that’s not the case. In English 131, we teach students how to take a rhetorical, rather than a prescriptive approach, to the grammar conventions they already know. Our belief is that rather than thinking about grammar as a list of rules one must use to correct their writing, it’s more effective to think about grammar as a set of rhetorical techniques one can chose from depending on context, audience, and purpose. Not only does a rhetorical approach to grammar acknowledge the malleability of language, but it also encourages students to take into account all the ways in which their grammatical choices, from diction and syntax to mechanics and citations, affect their writing as a whole. That is: instead of worrying about whether a sentence is grammatically correct, we ask students to consider what the rhetorical effects of their choices are and how their grammatical choices influence their style. Grammar taught through a rhetorical approach has proven successful because it gives grammar a purpose, and teaches students that things like sentence structure and word placement can have an effect on their text’s reception. Such an approach also relates to Outcome 1, where students need to demonstrate an awareness of the writing strategies they’ve chosen for a given audience in a given situation. (In Chapter 6 of this manual, we discuss grammar in more detail and Chapter 16, “Rhetorical Grammar” from Writer/Thinker/Maker, written by Denise Grollmus, offers excellent support for you and your students on how to approach grammar—including, style, tone, micro-level language choices—strategically.)

By the end of English 131, students will have composed multiple types of projects that generate ideas, respond to texts, examine issues from different perspectives, and apply concepts on the way toward completing two larger assignments, all of which will be collected in a final course portfolio. In addition to numerous shorter assignments in the 2-3 page range, most students write final drafts of the major papers (or projects) in the 5-7 page range. They begin to realize that they need to develop their points, articulate the stakes, add more evidence, and fully explain their reasoning. These papers are longer than what they have typically written previously. As many of our students have never worked in this framework before, it takes a good deal of practice. Thus portfolio assessment (which we use in PWR and explain in more detail in Chapter 9) makes sense for this course in large part because students know much more about writing and revision at the end of the course and can make maximum use of what you have taught over the quarter.

The Course Outcomes & Curriculum

Together, the English 131 Outcomes form the epicenter of the English 131 curriculum. They articulate the goals of the course and the expectations for the final portfolio students will submit, and they provide a shared vocabulary that students can use within their portfolio cover letter to reflect upon their writing choices. These outcomes are also designed to help you generate and evaluate student writing. Over two assignment sequences (roughly four weeks each), you will design several shorter writing assignments that lead up to a major paper (or project) at the end of each sequence. These shorter assignments can be discrete tasks that practice the outcomes in isolation, or they can be cumulative and build on each outcome on the way towards the major assignment. Throughout the course, you are encouraged to highlight for students which trait(s) of the outcomes are targeted in particular assignments. It is also helpful for students to write periodic reflection pieces so that they get used to analyzing their own writing in relation to the course outcomes. Having completed two sequences, students will spend the last two weeks of the quarter completing a portfolio sequence, in which they compile and submit a portfolio of their writing (one of the two longer assignments and three to five shorter assignments of their choice), along with a critical reflection that analyzes their own writing in order to demonstrate an understanding of when, how, and why they employed the four main learning outcomes for the course and how they might use them in future rhetorical situations. In this way, instead of applying all the outcomes to each paper students produce in the course, the outcomes apply to the body of writing selected by students for the final portfolio. From assignment design to final evaluation, these course outcomes guide the work we do in English 131.

Because these are also the final outcomes for the portfolio, it is important that students be well acquainted with these outcomes long before they reach the point of assembling their final portfolio. Indeed, students’ ability to identify and demonstrate these outcomes in their portfolios, along with their success in this course, depends on their being given opportunities to practice and reflect on these outcomes as they work through your assignment sequences throughout the quarter. In what follows, we will first provide an overview of each outcome and then break down each bullet in detail. While written for you, we imagine the below could provide helpful context for your students that you are welcome to share with them.

Outcome One

To compose strategically for a variety of audiences and contexts, both within and outside the university, by

  • recognizing how different elements of a rhetorical situation matter for the task at hand and affect the options for composing and distributing texts;
  • coordinating, negotiating, and experimenting with various aspects of composing—such as genre, content, conventions, style, language, organization, appeals, media, timing, and design—for diverse rhetorical effects tailored to the given audience, purpose, and situation; and
  • assessing and articulating the rationale for and effects of composition choices.

Outcome 1 targets skills, capacities, and strategies for composing in various contexts and situations. Because it is impossible to prepare students to write in all situations they may encounter and participate in, teaching the awareness of how different aspects of the rhetorical situation affect writing is critical to helping them become more flexible and effective writers. This outcome aims to dispel the sense that writing occurs in a vacuum and that there is one “right” way to write. Further, this outcome stresses the awareness that writing has social, cultural, political and institutional purposes, demands, and material consequences that vary by situation, audience, context, genre, and so on. We urge you to design opportunities for students to understand the social dynamics of reading and writing, and the complex reasons people read and write things differently.

Students should leave 131 with a deeper (rhetorical) awareness of the complex relationships and interdependence among writers and their audiences, form and content, language and power, genre and context, compositions and their material consequences, claims and ideology, and so on in any given situation, along with a more developed awareness of and ability to strategically (and ethically) coordinate and negotiate such considerations for various rhetorical effects.

The following bulleted subsections of this outcome explain the different dimensions for teaching rhetorical awareness and capacity. Part 1 (Chapters 1-4) of Writer/Thinker/Maker explores this outcome in-depth and offers tips and strategies to support this outcome; however, the core skills of rhetorical awareness and strategic composition carries through the entire textbook.

Now, let’s dive into more detail. The first aspect of Outcome One stresses the importance of developing rhetorical awareness:

  • recognizing how different elements of a rhetorical situation matter for the task at hand and affect the options for composing and distributing texts

The teaching and honing of rhetorical awareness is perhaps the most important capacity you can teach your students because it will help them navigate diverse writing situations beyond your class. As mentioned above, it involves understanding how various aspects of the writing situation affect one’s composing decisions. Rhetorical awareness also entails being mindful of the possible consequences of one’s own writing and arguments for diverse communities and contexts.

Human beings, as social animals, are generally very skilled rhetors in their everyday lives, acutely aware of the need to nuance and adapt their language to suit the occasion—and yet, it is not uncommon for students to check the rhetorical awareness they already possess when they enter the classroom. We urge you to design assignments and invite conversations that help students tap into and develop their rhetorical awareness and to push against notions of writing as apolitical, acontextual, universal, or one-size fits all.

When thinking about academic contexts, for instance, it is important that students understand writing as an active process that requires attention to style, tone, and convention in order to be effective. Such attention to the changing demands of situation underscores that there is no such thing as the perfect academic argument paper that will satisfy all academic writing situations. It can help, then, to emphasize that they are practicing to write for a range of specific contexts and thus need to be attentive to conventions that are not idiosyncratic preferences but disciplinary (or situational, community, public, workplace, genres, etc.) expectations. You can ask students to write in different genres and apply different forms of disciplinary inquiry (as they work toward the two major assignments) so that they can experience making rhetorical adjustments within these genres and disciplines. Having students write in different genres and situations also has the added benefit of allowing students to examine an issue from various angles of inquiry as they work towards a major assignment project.

To help amplify the stakes of this outcome, you might ask students to write for local audiences they know something about. Doing so will also enable students to engage in the course readings from a place of expertise and incorporate multiple perspectives, which will enrich their understanding of these texts. Asking students to write for actual, local audiences will also allow students to reflect on how language is circulated in their communities, thus allowing for a deeper understanding of the importance of rhetoric. When considering assignments that are university classroom specific, emphasizing disciplinary differences can familiarize students with how audience expectations can change depending on the particular class, major, or larger discipline they are writing in. It is important for students to know that such changes affect things like what types of evidence are acceptable, how arguments are constructed, and what assumptions readers may or may not already have. In other words, the “academic papers” they write for you will likely not be the same as ones they write for other classes. See Chapter 10, “On Argument” (especially the second half on academic argument) and Chapter 14, “Structuring and Organizing Arguments,” in Writer/Thinker /Maker for more support on this.

Similar to teaching conventions appropriate to context, teaching students to consider audience is integral to rhetorical awareness. Although it seems like an obvious point—that audience and context demands will alter the conventions and genres employed— audience analysis may not have been a big part of our students’ previous writing experience. Discussions of audience are an important way to get students thinking about what happens when someone writes as well as reads. To get your students to consider the needs and expectations of a broader audience of readers, it can be helpful to discuss the particular audience for whom the students are writing—for instance, one that includes their classmates and the authors they are reading, or the readers of the UW Daily. It may also help to ask students to revise their writing for another audience so they practice making different rhetorical choices and notice these effects.

Let’s move on to the next aspect of Outcome One:

  • coordinating, negotiating, and experimenting with various aspects of composing—such as genre, content, conventions, style, language, organization, appeals, media, timing, and design—for diverse rhetorical effects tailored to the given audience, purpose, and situation

Beyond gaining a deeper sense of rhetorical awareness, this class also focuses on making use of one’s rhetorical knowledge by coordinating this knowledge effectively in one’s writing. In Writer/Thinker/Maker, we refer to this capacity as rhetorical capacity, which involves strategically acting on one’s own rhetorical awareness by coordinating various aspects of writing (such as genre, language, tone, style, and so on) for the audience and situation.

The final aspect of Outcome One stresses the importance of metacognition to learning and the transfer of learning to future contexts:

  • assessing and articulating the rationale for and effects of composition choices

As stated earlier, metacognitive awareness refers to the capacity to reflect on one’s own thinking process, draw on and adapt previous knowledge for the task at hand, and articulate ways one might use what is learned in new contexts (or even to transform situations). Writing research has found that providing space for metacognition is crucially important for students’ ability to learn and adapt skills and knowledge to future situations. Metacognition asks students to not only demonstrate rhetorical awareness but also engage in a very intentional and explicit reflection on their knowledge and learning. For students to demonstrate awareness of how writing choices help create rhetorically savvy writing, they must be able to explain why they have made particular choices in their writing and to what end. One obvious place to demonstrate such ability is in the final portfolio’s critical reflection, in which students explain the reasoning behind their selections and how these pieces of writing demonstrate their achievement of the course outcomes. Again, asking students to do some reflective writing—that is, writing about other writing that they have produced—throughout the quarter can help them develop this metacognitive skill. You may want to ask your students to note which of their choices were more or less effective after you’ve handed back an assignment with your comments, to keep a journal in which they reflect on their writing choices, or to attach an explanation for their choices to one of their assignments. Asking students to explain their choices during peer reviews and conferences can also help scaffold this awareness of and reflection on rhetorical choices throughout the quarter. Along the way, you can also model students’ reflection and analysis of their own rhetorical choices by having them analyze the rhetorical choices and effects of the texts they are reading. From Writer/Thinker/Maker, see Chapter 4, “Tools for Metacognition and Reflective Practice,” by Jaclyn Fiscus, and Chapter 17, “The EWP Portfolio,” by Kirin Wachter-Grene, both of which help support this practice.

Outcome Two

To work strategically with complex information in order to generate and support inquiry by

  • reading, analyzing, and synthesizing a diverse range of texts and understanding the situations in which those texts are participating;
  • using reading and writing strategies to craft research questions that explore and respond to complex ideas and situations;
  • gathering, evaluating, and making purposeful use of primary and secondary materials appropriate for the writing goals, audience, genre, and context;
  • creating a “conversation”—identifying and engaging with meaningful patterns across ideas, texts, experiences, and situations; and
  • using citation styles appropriate for the genre and context.

The readings collected in Writer/Thinker/Maker have been deliberately chosen to support the learning goals of English 131. Therefore, these readings emerge from a range of rhetorical situations, include a variety of genres, and showcase a number of discipline-specific uses of evidence and argument. We have purposefully expanded the notion of “reading” to include visual, multimodal, and textual pieces, as well as academic and non-academic texts. We encourage you to teach analysis, synthesis, and the incorporation of evidence in ways that treat all of the readings as cultural objects capable of providing: (1) a method of analysis (meaning they can provide techniques for analyzing a concept, idea, phenomenon, and the like), and (2) an object for analysis (meaning they can be analyzed for how they function, what they do, style, cultural assumptions, and so on). Because English 131 is a writing course and not a literature or cultural studies course, the texts you use should not serve solely as the subject matter of your course but instead should be used to support writing goals. Students should be able to create complex and interesting arguments (which may or may not be about the course texts), and marshal evidence from the selected texts to support their arguments in strategic ways. The critical reading and research chapters provided in Part 2 (Chapters 5 – 9) of Writer/Thinker/Maker are designed to guide students in this practice.

As you know, reading, analysis, and synthesis form the backbone of academic writing and research practices. The first aspect of Outcome Two stresses these skills:

  • reading, analyzing, and synthesizing a diverse range of texts and understanding the situations in which those texts are participating

Your curriculum and pedagogy should provide students with opportunities to engage in a variety of reading and analytical strategies. Writer/Thinker/Maker offers a variety of useful strategies for rhetorical analysis, visual and multimodal analysis, close reading, reading for content, unpacking and challenging texts’ assumptions, and so on. We feel it is important to help students understand that reading practices, like writing practices, are not neutral and apolitical. There are many ways to read and many reasons, purposes, and goals for doing so—therefore, we encourage you and your students to work to clarify, in any moment, why they are reading/analyzing/ synthesizing, what forms of reading might be best to accomplish their aims, what the consequences of their practices might be, and what voices or perspectives they might be overlooking (whether intentional or not) and to what end. Furthermore, this aspect of Outcome Two also stresses the importance of not only reading (and clarifying one’s reading goals), but also of understanding and being responsible for how texts are participating in context—thus tying back to Outcome One’s concern for how a text emerges from and responds to various complex aspects of any given rhetorical situation. With Outcome One, however, the emphasis is more on how one’s own composing choices are affected by the rhetorical situation they’re writing in, while Outcome Two stresses how other people’s texts are/were affected by the historical and sociopolitical context/situation to which they were responding. Understanding the contexts that texts participate in is important for careful, analytical, academically responsible, and ethical reading practices.

Let’s move on to the next aspects of Outcome Two:

  • using reading and writing strategies to craft research questions that explore and respond to complex ideas and situations
  • gathering, evaluating, and making purposeful use of primary and secondary materials appropriate for the writing goals, audience, genre, and context

Using texts in strategic and focused ways demands that students understand the relationship between the readings and the writing they are being asked to do. What is strategic for one writing situation may be entirely inappropriate for another. Similarly, what is considered a focused argument for situations in popular culture may be rejected for its lack of depth and sustained argument in academic contexts. In addition to using course texts for strategic content-specific purposes, this outcome is about using texts generatively in order to develop informed arguments and research questions that matter (to students and to others). One very clear way to tether reading/analytical skills to writing/research skills is to ask students to read a variety of texts with the intention of crafting and exploring important research questions that might guide, emerge from, and even shift as a result of one’s reading. The goal is to challenge students to move beyond the comfort zone of reading in support of an already established point of view.

Instead, reading and analysis should support the discovery and exploration of possible inquiries and arguments student might make themselves. Rather than reading with the intention to cherry pick evidence to support an argument already mapped out, we strongly encourage you to help students see research as a way to understand the conversations already taking place before finalizing a research question or argument. This is a scholarly effort that is necessary to demonstrate your knowledge of a field or body of research, but it is also an ethical practice of taking care to learn the stakes and contexts of myriad perspectives participating and affected by an issue. Students should be able to identify and articulate the concepts in a text that are most relevant to their reading and writing goals, and how these concepts are rhetorically presented. Part 2 of Writer/Thinker/Maker also provides strategies for reading rhetorically in this way, as does Chapter 1.

The next aspect of Outcome Two focuses on intertextuality:

  • creating a “conversation”—identifying and engaging with meaningful patterns across ideas, texts, experiences, and situations

This part of Outcome Two asks students to position their thinking in relation to the ideas (texts, arguments, experiences, situations, perspectives, assumptions, ideologies, etc.) of others. There are two primary ways to understand creating a “conversation” in writing. First, intertextuality can be stressed by teaching students that no writing occurs in isolation, and that powerful and effective writing responds to the ideas of others in order to make a difference. Practicing this type of intertextuality not only shows students that writing is a social and generative act, but it also reinforces the ideas of audience, context, and genre in that students must accurately assess those elements of situation in order to be accepted into and perhaps even recognized by those engaging in conversations they wish to enter. Second, students in 131 need to be able to put multiple texts into conversation with one another and articulate the significance of this relationship—for example, asking students to “read” a particular object through the lens of one of the essays in the textbook. This type of intertextuality can take place on multiple levels: interaction of concepts, arguments, genres, style, modes of presentation, or conventions. Importantly, these conversations are not made haphazardly, but are in support of the writer’s goals, which means that the writer must have an awareness of those goals. Chapter 9 of Writer/Thinker/Maker offers an in-depth explanation and exploration of intertextuality (pg. 214 discusses intertextuality in non-academic discourses/genres).

Some 131 students may not have much experience using “outside evidence” to supplement their own writing—especially using numerous sources to inform a single argument or using evidence to generate an argument as opposed to using evidence to substantiate an already formed argument. In 131, evidence that students use will come from a variety of sources. Some evidence will come from the Writer/Thinker/Maker essays in the form of close reading, summary, and textual analysis. Admittedly, this is the type of evidence analysis that most of us are used to, but, because 131 is not an introduction to the major, we emphasize taking students through multiple types of evidence analysis of both primary and secondary sources that occur in disciplines outside of English. Chapters 8 and 9 in Part 2 of Writer/Thinker/Maker complement this outcome and are designed to help students gather and use evidence from other sources in order to discover inquiries, refine research questions, and support their writing, as well as to gain exposure to the range of research methods they will be asked to use in other courses. In addition to these chapters, which are explicitly devoted to research methods (library research, interviews, observations, and surveys are among the methods demonstrated), a number of readings in Writer/Thinker/Maker rely on evidence developed from various sources and methods and thus serve as useful models.

The final aspect of this outcome deals with citation:

  • using citation styles appropriate for the genre and context

For the academic genres you ask students to write in, including writer’s memos, students should get accustomed to consistently and accurately documenting sources. It is a good idea to discuss the basics of citing sources and the style appropriate to the type of projects they are writing as early in the quarter as possible. (It can work well to pair this discussion with one about plagiarism.) It’s also a good idea to explain that documentation conventions, like those of MLA or APA for example, are part of how academic writers identify themselves with and gain credibility within a discourse community. If you expect documented sources from the very beginning, students are more likely to take this seriously, and since inconsistent documentation has the potential to get them in hot water in other classes, it may be kind to insist they get it right with you. In addition to explaining how much of a source to use, how to introduce the source and its author, etc., a discussion of the reliability of sources is worth class time. A UW library workshop can be a handy way to address these issues (visit http://lib.washington.edu/help/instruction/ to learn about arranging one) as can the library’s online (and customizable) “Research 101” tutorial (http://lib.washington.edu/uwill/research101/). Writer’s Help also provides a guide to APA and MLA conventions. Which citation style you teach and how intensively you plan to scrutinize entries is up to you in negotiation with your students, but please do teach and expect one. We also feel it is important to stress to students that not all genres require academic citation, but might still have forms of what we might call “citation.” Websites, for example, cite via aesthetic design or hyperlinks (see Writer/Thinker/Maker, 214). See Chapter 8, “Finding and Evaluating Evidence and Source Materials,” and Chapter 9, “Practicing Intertextuality: Joining the Conversation,” by Liz Janssen, from Writer/Thinker/Maker for more support.

Outcome Three

To craft persuasive, complex, inquiry-driven arguments that matter by

  • considering, incorporating, and responding to different points of view while developing one’s own position;
  • engaging in analysis—the close scrutiny and examination of evidence, claims, and assumptions—to explore and support a line of inquiry;
  • understanding and accounting for the stakes and consequences of various arguments for diverse audiences and within ongoing conversations and contexts; and
  • designing/organizing with respect to the demands of the genre, situation, audience, and purpose.

Although English 131 emphasizes the situatedness of writing, the course also attempts to teach several general hallmarks of academic writing that often transcend disciplinary differences, such as emphasis on arguments emerging from inquiry, use of evidence; stakes and relevance; analysis; and concession to complexity and multiple points of view. While 131 isn’t a course in academic argumentation per se, the class should devote a substantial focus on both making and analyzing arguments in ways that reflect academic forms of inquiry, even if you also ask students to engage in non-academic forms of composition. Students are often quite skilled in argumentation in other arenas but need help identifying similarities between the skills they bring with them to class and the varied expectations of academic argumentation. In addition to the classroom, our students encounter various situations that call for writing at the university. The classroom is the obvious place, but many students are also actively engaged in extracurricular activities, projects, and activist/community-based work that deeply matter to them. Therefore, we encourage you to think of the phrase “academic context” broadly. On the one hand, there are the hallmarks of academic discourse mentioned at the onset of this paragraph; on the other hand, there are campus-wide spaces that students inhabit and participate in that also call for various forms of argumentation. Part 3 (Chapters 10 – 14) of Writer/Thinker/Maker is designed to support students in developing their own arguments in relation to issues, questions, and audiences that they themselves have identified.

  • considering, incorporating, and responding to different points of view while developing one’s own position

Learning to develop arguments of appropriate complexity is harder than it sounds. While it may seem obvious that papers must have claims, students may have had success in the past with simply declaring a topic and never specifying a stance toward that topic. Students also commonly offer “facts” or “personal opinions” as claims, neither of which is traditionally considered academically arguable. A related complication that you can help your students to tease out is the relationship between inquiry and argumentation. This outcome stresses claims that both emerge from and explore lines of inquiry. Claims that emerge from inquiry proceed from tasks outlined in Outcome 2, in which students actively examine multiple kinds of evidence in order to develop a complex claim. The importance of exploring a line of inquiry (rather than just hammering home a point) can be explained in terms of audience; because academic activities are based in inquiry, even when we want to make an assertion we acknowledge the intelligence of our readers by presenting evidence of inquiry alongside our claims so that readers can see why we have come to our conclusions. Therefore, this focus on the relationship between inquiry and argument has two sides. On the one hand, students are taught to generate claims through inquiry. On the other hand, students are taught to explore lines of inquiry in their papers. As they generally are not familiar with academic argumentation, many of the hallmark conventions of academic genres—such as admitting complexity, addressing counterarguments, and acknowledging limitations—may not strike them as persuasive; it will be beneficial to teach students that this type of exploration actually adds credibility to their papers.

This next aspect of Outcome 3 reinforces analysis skills, this time with more focus on supporting students’ own arguments:

  • engaging in analysis—the close scrutiny and examination of evidence, claims, and assumptions—to explore and support a line of inquiry

This part of the outcome echoes back to both Outcome One and Two. As we’ve mentioned, the outcomes are interconnected and there is no reason to see the analytical skills here as wholly distinct from those discussed earlier. In Outcome One, analysis is engaged to better understand one’s rhetorical situation; in Outcome Two, to better understand others’ texts in context; and here, analysis is being engaged with a more focused aim of supporting one’s own argument that has emerged with increased clarity as a result of the research process.

Often, students rely on unspoken assumptions when analyzing evidence. Students will need to learn to explain how they arrived at their ideas, recognize the different kinds of knowledge and assumptions that different audiences bring to a text (themselves included), and think about how their assessment of a rhetorical situation will shape how they present ideas. Again, students may not be accustomed to defending their assertions (much less their assumptions) at all. One useful way to teach students the importance of identifying, questioning, and disrupting the assumptions undergirding their writing is to have them practice identifying these in others’ arguments. As you engage in rhetorical analyses of course texts, you can ask your students, “What are the assumptions undergirding this argument? Based on the argument presented, what are the unstated and implicit beliefs that the author must be holding to be true?” Another useful exercise is to have students identify a particular assumption of theirs that is disrupted by a course text and to think through which cultural forces (family, education, media, personal experience, etc.) helped shape that assumption in the first place.

In addition to relying on assumptions, some students will provide too much evidence with too little analysis. It is also common to see description in place of analysis. Don’t be discouraged if you have to go over this aspect of Outcome 3 many times. Once students think about support as an essential element of argument, you can move on to the more sophisticated issues of marshaling evidence, citing authoritative sources (and what counts as such in a given discursive context), and keeping the presentation of evidence at a level consistent with the anticipated audience.

The next aspect of Outcome 3 deals with understanding the stakes and consequences of arguments (both one’s own and others’):

  • understanding and accounting for the stakes and consequences of various arguments for diverse audiences and within ongoing conversations and contexts

Many students are used to writing papers because they have to, but may not have much practice in explaining why the line of inquiry they are addressing matters. Without some discussion of why it is important to explain the stakes of an argument, most students will assume that the existence of the writing prompt is explanation enough. However, once they understand the importance of heading off the “so what?” question by persuasively articulating both the reasons and the ethical and political implications of making a particular argument, students’ papers begin to look much more like arguments than exercises and become more interesting both for them to write and for you and other students to read. If students are working in nonacademic genres where explicit articulation of the “stakes” would violate genre conventions, you might ask them to articulate the stakes of their composition in a writer’s memo. One very productive way to get students to think about and explicitly articulate the stakes of their argument is to ask them, “For whom are you writing and to what end? Who is affected by your argument and in what ways? Whose interests are you prioritizing over others’ when you make your argument and why?” You can do this in the written feedback you give on individual student papers or during student conferences. You can make space for it during peer review as well, by requiring students to answer these questions on each other’s projects. You can also familiarize your students with thinking about stakes in this way throughout the quarter by leading them through rhetorical analyses of course texts and asking similar questions of those texts—“What are the specific urgencies and stakes motivating this author’s project? Who is it addressing and why? What kind of material impact is it hoping to make? Who might be particularly persuaded by this argument and who may not be and why?” Requiring students to grapple with and answer such questions can help them think more critically, strategically, and ethically about why their argument matters.

Another way of teaching stakes is by returning to elements of Outcome 1. Many students have a hard time narrowing down the stakes of the argument, and it’s common to see broad generalizations about why something matters to humanity in general. Focusing on elements of the rhetorical situation, particularly on the audience and the reason for the argument, will ward off such broad statements. This also teaches them that stakes are culturally and historically specific, and that not all issues and arguments matter for all communities in all historical time periods, a point that might seem straightforward but is easy to lose sight of in the writing process.

Many students have little experience (in academic contexts at least) explaining what they think and why—the idea here is not that they should produce entirely original arguments, but that they should practice critiquing and building on, rather than simply regurgitating received knowledge. As mentioned above, basics of persuasive academic writing, like acknowledging complexity, will not necessarily strike your students as obviously persuasive since they may seem to detract from a clear-cut argument. Along these same lines, this kind of positioning may be new to the students who generally have more experience taking a stance for or against a position than they do considering multiple perspectives and engaging with them. Once you have them thinking that they do need to provide support for their assertions, you can move on to discussing how they can do this in relation to others’ contributions to the line of inquiry they are exploring.

Finally, students will need support on organization (or design for multimodal genres), which includes attention to how best to order, lay out, and craft your argument, ideas, and logic to suit the occasion:

  • designing/organizing with respect to the demands of the genre, situation, audience, and purpose

Students will often promise arguments or topics in their introductions which, after the first page, are never to be seen again. Especially on early drafts, students are likely to present evidence which (at the time of writing, at least) seems self-evident in its relevance to the paper’s larger topic. They may need to be reminded to tie everything they say back to that claim or organizing idea. As academic papers increase in length, students need to know that readers need reminders of where they are in the paper. That said, one of the characteristics of “Engfish”[1] is an overuse of “therefore,” “however,” “whereas,” and other relational signposts for letting readers know where they are in the argument. It’s worth some time to talk about how the transitions between paragraphs and sentences can, and should, serve to further an argument, and to illustrate the relationship between the ideas those paragraphs and sentences communicate. In Part 3 of Writer/Thinker/Maker, Chapter 12 and 13 offer direct support to organizing paragraphs and logics in academic papers that can be adapted for other genres. Chapter 7 offers strategies for design and organization in multimodal genres.

Outcome Four

To practice composing as a recursive, collaborative process and to develop flexible strategies for revising throughout the composition process by

  • engaging in a variety of (re)visioning techniques, including (re)brainstorming, (re)drafting, (re)reading, (re)writing, (re)thinking, and editing;
  • giving, receiving, interpreting, and incorporating constructive feedback; and
  • refining and nuancing composition choices for delivery to intended audience(s) in a manner consonant with the genre, situation, and desired rhetorical effects and meanings.

This outcome embodies the ideas that composition is hard, recursive work that can require, among other things, the substantial revision (re-working) of an entire project; disrupting and rethinking of one’s core assumptions and values; and a lot of experimentation and false starts. The portfolio system—which builds in multiple drafts, stresses revision, and postpones final grading to the end— attempts to support this notion of writing as a recursive process. Part 4 of Writer/Thinker/Maker supports this outcome and offers instruction on developing meta-cognitive habits for revision, as well as explanations on how to revise and edit individual pieces of writing, from larger organizational issues to sentence level issues. The subsections of this outcome describe the types of flexible strategies that we hope students can take with them: knowing how to perform substantive revisions; being able to work with feedback by teachers and peers; and developing techniques not only for catching technical errors, but also for experimenting with grammar and style for intentional rhetorical effects. In many ways, successfully revising a piece of writing is as much a mindset as it is a set of skills.

What should be clear by now is that when we speak of revision, we do not merely mean end stage “error correction” or proof reading. Rather, revision entails everything from the refining of and experimenting with micro-level grammar and style choices to the changing of one’s claims and argument as a result of what one discovers during the research and composition process. Such is crystallized in the first bullet:

  • engaging in a variety of (re)visioning techniques, including (re)brainstorming, (re)drafting, (re)reading, (re)writing, (re)thinking, and editing

Like the previous outcomes, Outcome 4 emphasizes skills for students to practice in 131, but also, and perhaps more importantly, focuses on effective writing habits that students can take with them and apply to writing they do in the future. Therefore, lessons on revising, rethinking, playing with style, experimenting with micro-level choices for effect, editing, and proofreading need to simultaneously be about the project at hand and about flexible revision strategies in general.

Many of your students may be used to thinking of revision as a minimal effort of cleaning up typos at the end of the writing process and may, understandably, be resistant to making substantial changes to their drafts. Outcome 4 encourages students to rethink these perceptions and habits, and we encourage you to provide opportunities for students not just to draft work but to experiment and play with it along the way. One way we can do this is to make comments about revision part of our feedback response process. In short, we need to make revision “count” and we do that partly through our responses to drafts.

Bottom line: we recommend that you are explicit about your understanding of and expectations for revision and provide ample opportunities for revision, feedback, and experimentation. In addition to being clear about your expectations, consider constructing your assignments so revision is unavoidable, by asking students to adapt their original positions to new information, readings, or research. It is also essential that students can talk about the revisions they’ve done in their final portfolio critical reflection. The critical reflection is a place where students can demonstrate to you not only that they have revised the assignments included in the portfolio but also that they have developed flexible strategies to employ in future writing, beyond the portfolio and beyond the class. From Writer/Thinker/Maker, see Chapter 17, “The EWP Portfolio,” by Kirin Wachter-Grene, and Chapter 9, “Portfolios in English 131,” from this manual for more on the portfolio critical reflection.

The next bullet stresses the importance of working with feedback:

  • giving, receiving, interpreting, and incorporating constructive feedback

Being able to respond meaningfully to and incorporate feedback as opposed to simply “fixing” grammar and spelling errors is harder than it sounds, and your students will benefit from explicit instruction on how to take another’s comments and work them into their papers. Class lessons dedicated to moving from comment to revision will help, as will repeated focus on getting students to articulate, either verbally or in writing, what they think they should be responding to. But, in order for the students to successfully respond to comments, those comments must be clear and pertinent. For example, writing “awk,” or “?” or “explain,” often results in confusion and frustration. Drafts riddled with these types of comments are difficult for students to respond to. Therefore, class time needs to be spent on teaching students how to comment as well as how to respond to comments. Many students will come to class with the idea that only the instructor has anything relevant to say about his or her writing and ignore their peers’ reactions. Our response can direct them to specific peer comments in which the peer reader has given appropriate, interesting, or even compelling advice. At the same time, be sure students feel empowered to question advice that seems inappropriate. It is also important to emphasize that the comments you write not only address your concerns as an individual, but the alternative views of other possible readers that may not be currently accommodated by the draft. Getting students used to peer review and peer comments early in the quarter may help mitigate their resistance to their peer’s role in further developing their work. Such work also tends to create a collaborative atmosphere in the classroom and gets students used to sharing their work and ideas with others rather than writing in isolation. See Chapter 8, Evaluating and Responding to Student Writing,” of this manual for more support.

Finally, we want to encourage students to both incorporate and push back on feedback, as well as to develop the ownership, agency, and skill for revising their work beyond whatever feedback they may receive. Some students may be tempted to simply respond to comments you or peers make and call it a day, perhaps assuming you noted all the “problems to fix.” So, here again, framing for students that while feedback is one valuable resource for improving their work, they should go above and beyond “fixing” and embrace revision as deep and meaningful rethinking for rhetorical effect.

Now, at last, to our final bullet:

  • refining and nuancing composition choices for delivery to intended audience(s) in a manner consonant with the genre, situation, and desired rhetorical effects and meanings

This final aspect of Outcome 4 stresses the work involved in refining projects for “delivery” to intended audiences. While delivery is a complex rhetorical concept, let it suffice to say here that this is the outcome that asks students to, finally, polish their work for circulation (distribution, performance, etc.) in a way that jives with the context, genre, rhetorical situation, audience, and hoped for outcomes. Here, you might notice that Outcome 4 loops right back to Outcome 1 since this “refining and nuancing” should be done with all the rhetorical awareness one can muster. This bullet does not, as you can see, simply mean “cleaning up typos,” although that is part of what one might do—it also means being aware and in control of one’s composition choices in a manner that is persuasive, appropriate, and ethical given the situation, audience, genre, and context. What it means to “refine” a project for delivery will depend on the situation. Appropriate and effective writing in an academic essay will differ from a blogging project on environmental advocacy for young adults. This means that students’ work towards delivery and how you assess it will, likewise, depend. Should Standard Academic English always be used as the gold standard that students must aspire towards and that we must use to guide our assessment? Probably not. At least, not when students are not writing academic discourse/essays or attempting to reach a non-academic audience!

This said, because we are preparing students, in part, to successfully write at the academy, this should incline all of us to devote ample time to helping students understand and practice using academic conventions (and hopefully also to push back on such conventions, experiment with them, and understand how they are linked to access, power, and exclusion). Writer/Thinker/Maker offers support for both academic writing conventions (see Chapters 10 and 12) and non-academic, multimodal genres (see Chapter 7).

English 131: The Textbook

The textbook for English 131 (as well as 109/110, 111, 121, 182) is Writer/Thinker/Maker: Approaches to Composition, Rhetoric, and Research. This textbook is made up of six parts that are designed to support you in developing and practicing the PWR Outcomes. Parts 1–4 focus on building and practicing writing skills targeted in the PWR Outcomes; Part 5 introduces the PWR portfolio that you will need to create in this course; and Part 6 includes readings and other texts that provide contexts for your inquiry.

Part 1 targets Outcome 1 and explores how inquiry is a means by which students discover the aspects of their rhetorical situations that matter and a means to join important conversations in the academy and beyond. Chapter 1 defines rhetoric and rhetorical situations, offering a variety of tools for analyzing rhetorical situations; Chapter 2 provides resources for understanding and adapting writing for different audiences; Chapter 3 supports genre awareness and offers tools for genre analysis, a form of rhetorical analysis; and Chapter 4 provides resources for developing metacognitive reflective practices.

Part 2 targets Outcome 2 and focuses on reading and research skills that will help students generate and support their writing. Chapters 5–6 provide strategies for reading and conducting rhetorical analysis. Chapter 7 offers tools for reading and composing multimodal texts. Chapter 8 discusses strategies for finding, evaluating, and documenting sources. Chapter 9 offers tools for putting ideas, sources, and texts in conversation with each other and for joining the conversation.

Part 3 corresponds with Outcome 3 and introduces key skills in argumentation, making claims, conducting research, and supporting inquiries. Chapter 10 covers different types and forms of argument, as well as overviews of some of the key aspects of argument in academic writing. Chapter 11 provides strategies for formulating, developing, and supporting academic arguments and initiating a line of inquiry; Chapter 12 covers the creation of complex claims; Chapter 13 offers resources to your students for analyzing evidence and assumptions in constructing their own argument.

Part 4 corresponds with Outcome 4 by suggesting various flexible strategies for planning, drafting, revisiting, and revising ideas and writing. Chapter 15 targets various stages of revision, including outlining and developing revision strategies; Chapter 16 focuses on style and grammatical choices for rhetorical effect.

Part 5 provides the rationale behind the PWR portfolio, as well as helpful guidelines and resources for creating one. The PWR portfolio is the culminating project for this course, in which your students will be asked to deeply revise some of the writing they have completed for the course; to make the case for how their writing accomplishes and embodies the PWR outcomes; and to reflect on what they have learned. We strongly advise that you and your students peek at this chapter early in the quarter to see where the class is headed.

Part 6 includes materials carefully selected for range of genre, audience, context, and type of argument. The readings include texts that have emerged from distinct rhetorical situations and allow for a variety of applications, from close reading to rhetorical analysis to examples of disciplinary methodology. These texts provide materials for you and your students to critically read, analyze, and write about, but also demonstrate the multiple kinds of genres one might compose in.

What Students Are Asked to Write in Other Classes

Having described the English 131 course outcomes and the course text, we will now briefly relate writing from 131 to other types of writing that students may encounter at the UW. While the amount of writing students are asked to do in large lecture courses is always less than optimal, UW students are asked to do a variety of writing in their other classes. Drawing again from research conducted by Catharine Beyer and Joan Graham, we quote from the first- and second-year students describing their writing assignments:

International Relations/English link

We were asked to take theories from the international relations course and apply them to the end of the cold war. Which theory worked better? I chose interdependence and realism for mine. Research was required.


We were asked to take one person in history, take the textbook’s view of the person, and contrast that with three other sources we found on our own. I chose Martin Luther. I argued that the textbook gave a pretty shallow description of him.


The assignment was to write a paper on something that interested us (about) the physics of music or sound. I wrote on the importance of the evolution of guitar strings—classical through acoustic.

Political Science

We were supposed to compare the conceptions of human nature offered by Hobbes and Plato and show how each of these conceptions leads to the view that people are condemned to a horrible existence unless order is imposed on them from above. Finally we were to state whether we think Plato or Hobbes provides a more convincing justification for government and why.

Native-American Studies

We had to examine at least six issues of a Native-American newspaper, following one issue. Then we were to find the same story in a mainstream newspaper. We had to describe the audience for the Native-American newspaper and compare the two newspapers.

What is common to all of these descriptions of other writing assignments is the students’ need to create viable academic arguments, using analysis, application, evidence, and logical reasoning in ways acceptable to a particular disciplinary perspective—in other words, skills we hope to prepare students for in English 131.

A Note on Citation Practices and Reading Selections

While Writer/Thinker/Maker’s reader (Part 6) offers a wide range of useful texts that can help you design your course, you are not limited to this selection. While you should be drawing heavily on Parts 1-5 of the textbook to support the teaching of writing, research, and rhetorical skills, you are welcome to incorporate content readings outside of the textbook that you think will be generative and productive. As you begin thinking about which content texts you might want to work with, however, keep in mind that reading selection—much like writing itself—is always a political act that determines which kinds of knowledges are privileged and legitimated in academic contexts and which subjugated and obscured. Be intentional and purposeful about the kind of readings you weave into your class; the ethical and political implications of doing so; and the ways that readings are intended to support the goals of PWR, the diverse incomes and goals of your students, and your own personal philosophies.

You may find it useful to include a blurb in your syllabus that explicitly reflects on the particular practice of selection you are engaging in within the space of your classroom. Note that such an act can also model thoughtful metacognition and critical self-reflection for your students. The one below is from Belle Kim’s syllabus:

“The collection of readings we will be engaging with in this class seeks to interrogate and disrupt a technique of selection that violently erases Black, brown, indigenous, trans*, disabled POC, QT*POC, feminist, activist, and disability/crip contributions from our intellectual genealogies. Sara Ahmed (2013) describes citation as a ‘rather successful reproductive technology, a way of reproducing the world around certain bodies.’ She argues that ‘citational structures’ can form disciplines and ‘the reproduction of a discipline can be the reproduction of these techniques of selection, ways of making certain bodies and thematics core to the discipline, and others not even part.’ In centering the writings and perspectives of those whose bodies and knowledges have often been appropriated or deemed irrelevant, disposable, and peripheral, this course pushes us to think through the politics of citation that make and remake our fields.”

By including this blurb, the instructor reinforces the idea that writing—how we produce it, how we engage with it, how we circulate it—has material impact.

General Policies for 100-Level PWR Courses

All Instructors in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric are expected to meet the requirements specified in the PWR Policies for Instructors, which can be found on the PWR website. These policies describe the basic requirements for teaching PWR courses and for meeting university expectations regarding conduct.

The Program in Writing and Rhetoric Website also describes the policies for students in your course. (Please note that these policies are different from those governing instructors.) It is strongly suggested that you both direct students to the website and distribute a printed version of these policies. The policies for students are reprinted below for your convenience and you can find a checklist of policies to include in your syllabus (including those below) on the PWR instructor policy page.


Each course in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric has specific policies determined by the instructor. In addition to those specific policies, there are several policies that apply to all courses and all sections in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

Grade of “2.0”

A grade of “2.0” or better must be received in all Program in Writing and Rhetoric Courses for those courses to count toward the University’s “C” credit.

Overloads and Auditors

Because of the importance of maintaining writing courses as small communities of writers, there are no overloads or auditors in 100-level Program in Writing and Rhetoric courses.

Instructors cannot issue add-codes for 100-level Program in Writing and Rhetoric courses; all students must register on-line. Any student not officially registered by the end of the first week of classes will not be allowed into a class even if other students drop the course during week two.


Students can withdraw from courses during the first two weeks without an entry being made on the transcript. After that time, fees ensue. See the University’s withdrawal policy for more information and dates.


Receiving a grade of “I” for Incomplete is extremely rare in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, as instructors are discouraged from issuing Incompletes. To receive an Incomplete, a special request must be made to the instructor and approved by the department. In addition:

  • All student work must be complete through the eighth week of the quarter
  • There must be a documented illness or extraordinary situation
  • The advance permission of the Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric must be granted
  • A written contract, stipulating when course work will be completed, must be arrived at between instructor and student
  • Failure to complete the course by the end of the following quarter (summer term excepted) will result in a failing grade of 0.0

If a student leaves a class at any time during the the quarter without explanation, an Incomplete grade will not be considered. In such cases, grades are determined based on work submitted.

Amount of Writing

Courses in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric are graded classes. Students are expected to compose frequently, both in and out of class. The minimum writing requirement for our “C” classes is 7,500 words submitted, of which at least 3,600 must be graded. Students should thus expect to be turning in an average of 3-4 pages each week.

The final grades for all students in 100-level PWR courses (111, 121, 131, and 182) are determined by submission of a complete portfolio of student work; students must turn in a portfolio to receive credit for the course.

Academic Honesty

Instructors in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric adhere to the University of Washington’s strict policy on academic honesty. It is the policy of the PWR to report all students suspected of plagiarism to the Office of Student Affairs for review.

Plagiarism in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric includes:

  • failing to accurately cite sources
  • representing someone else’s work as your own
  • undocumented paraphrasing
  • the resubmission of work completed for another course or purpose
  • undocumented collaboration

Student Conduct

All students in PWR courses are required to follow the University’s Student Conduct Code.

Reaching Out

If you have any concerns about a course or instructor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the PWR Director. Please see the PWR People Page for current staff offices, phone numbers, and email addresses. If, after speaking with the PWR Director you are still not satisfied with the response you receive, you may contact Anis Bawarshi, English Department Chair, in Padelford A-101, at (206) 543-2690.

  1. A term for “the phony, pretentious language of the schools” popularized by Ken Macrorie's book, Telling Writing (1970).


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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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