Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing

Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing

Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing

Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing

Synopsis

Focused on scholarship in rhetoric and composition over the past quarter-century, Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing is designed to foster reflection on how theory impacts practice, enabling prospective teachers to develop their own comprehensive and coherent conception of what writing is or should be and to consider how people learn to write. This approach allows readers to assume the dual role of both teacher and student as they enter the conversation of the discipline and become familiar with some of the critical issues. Each chapter addresses a particular theoretical concept relevant to classroom teaching and includes activities to help readers establish the connection between theoretical concepts and classroom lessons. A major premise is that only when prospective writing teachers understand this relationship will they be able to teach effectively. The chapters, designed to facilitate this understanding, include: an overview of a significant concept in composition that has generated scholarly attention, and in some instances, critical controversy over the past 25 years; writing assignments and discussion prompts to foster further exploration of the concept; thought-provoking articles; bibliographies for further research; and suggestions for classroom activities to apply the concept in a pedagogical context. The text is enriched by seven chapters authored by invited scholars with expertise in particular concepts of composition. Two appendixes-"Developing Effective Writing Assignments" and "Developing a Syllabus" enhance the pedagogical usefulness of the text.

Excerpt

At the beginning of each semester, at colleges and universities throughout the country, writing program directors and department chairs grapple with two important lists. One is a schedule of first-year composition classes; the other contains the names of teaching assistants and faculty members, both full- and part-time, who are available, willing, and sometimes eager to teach these classes. Generically referred to as First-year Writing or Freshman Comp, such classes at some institutions comprise more than one hundred sections, and the question of who should teach them and what sort of preparation Composition teachers should have remains a perplexing one.

At one time, not too long ago, it was believed that pretty much anyone who could write or who had studied literature was, by definition, qualified to teach first-year writing. In fact, in my first academic job, the Chair of the English department assumed that my Master's degree in English Literature rendered me perfectly capable of teaching three sections of Composition per semester. I recall being handed a sample syllabus, a book that explained traditional rules of grammar, and a collection of exemplary essays, including “Once More to the Lake, ” which, at that time, was my first visit to that welltraveled shore. Then I was left on my own to plan and teach my classes-to construct writing topics, provide feedback to students, and assign grades. No one asked if I had been given any sort of preparation for teaching writing, if I had any notion of what a Composition course was supposed to be, or even if I had ever taken such a course, myself. Miraculously, though, with the help of sympathetic colleagues and generous students, I managed to get through that first semester without doing too much harm. Cheerfully, I blundered my way from class to class, relying on my youth, enthusiasm, and determination to carry me through.

That was the way it used to be. More recently, scholarship in the developing field of Rhetoric and Composition has brought the recognition that teaching writing requires not only willingness, enthusiasm, an interest in texts as a subject of study, and the ability to write and “relate” to students, but also an understanding of the “concepts” of Composition on which effective . . .

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