English 16: Intro to Writing & Digital Publishing: The Teaching of College Writing Past, Present, and Future

English 16 serves as an introductory “gateway” course for English majors, introducing them to the field of writing studies, or composition. The focus of this course will be on the teaching of writing at the college level, which has long been at the center of writing/composition studies. As a result, our readings, discussions, and activities will deal with both theoretical approaches to teaching writing and their practical applications. As we move through the quarter you will read and assess arguments about how writing has been and should be taught, and finally will articulate your own philosophy of writing instruction and vision of its future based on current research in the field.

Because the vast majority of writing now occurs in electronic environments (whether using word processing programs, social media applications, or multimedia), studying and practicing writing in the 21st century necessarily involves digital publishing. To explore both the affordances and limitations of writing in digital environments, the formal and informal writing we do in this class will take place on blogs and will ask you to create content using both alphabetic text and other modes.

English 16 is also an Advanced Writing course, and so we will look throughout the quarter not just at what the scholars we read say about (teaching) writing, but also at how they say it. We will look at the the writing (and even literary) techniques these writers use and how they draw on the work of others to make their arguments. There will be a heavy emphasis in this class on information literacy and research in the field of composition studies, but always with a strong emphasis on using this research to articulate your own critical argument.

Course Materials:

  • A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966 – Joseph Harris, 2012 edition
  • Additional readings posted in “Schedule” page of instructor blog
  • Research and Documentation, 5th edition – Diana Hacker and Barbara Fister (available free online at We will use the MLA style guide for documentation.

Bring readings and a LAPTOP/TABLET COMPUTER to class each day.


I will communicate with you outside of class via your Santa Clara email address, which means you need to check your email between classes.

To make checking your email easier, I strongly recommend setting up access to your SCU email account on your phone and/or tablet. Instructions for how to do this:

I will also be accessible via Twitter at:

Follow me and I will follow you so that you can either tweet at me @AcademiadeCruz , or Direct Message (DM) with questions or links related to the course content.

Grade Components:

Reading Logs & In-Class Discussions/Activities – 10% 

Leading Methods Activity – 20%

Writing Process Research Project – 15%

Harris and His Sources – 40%

The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas – 15%

Unless otherwise specified, all assignments will be composed on your WordPress blog and submitted by URL to Camino.

Assignments will be graded using rubrics that give grades in percentages. These percentages will be converted to letter grades using Santa Clara’s standard grade conversions.


Reading Logs & In-Class Discussions/Activities

Before each class that has assigned reading, you will write a short blog post identifying what struck you most about the reading, how that aspect relates to the article/chapter as a whole, and why it struck you. (seeassignment page for more information and for reading log post format). In order to jump-start in-class discussion and help the class develop an intellectual community, you will also read and respond to a classmate’s post before class. We will use these posts and replies in class to frame our discussion of the readings.

For other in-class activities (methods activities, analyses of sample texts, application exercises, etc) your participation is essential for your learning in this seminar-style class. We will talk about and practice writing in various genres, formats, and media to work with and examine the approaches to writing teaching and development described in the readings. In-class activities will also help you approach the major writing assignments in the class.

I don’t expect you to talk in every discussion, lead every small group presentation, or complete every single out-of-class writing assignment. I do expect you participate in most of these activities. When I calculate participation and engagement grades at the end of the quarter, 85% of the total # of possible points will be an A, and grades for Reading Logs & In-Class Discussions/Activities will be scaled to that.


Leading Methods Activity

Working in a groups of 3, you will create a 30-45 minute activity that asks your classmates to apply the methods or techniques found in one of the assigned articles (not one of the chapters from A Teaching Subject). Since everyone will have read the article, your group won’t summarize its content. Instead, you’ll provide background information about the author and the pedagogy they describe, and MOST IMPORTANTLY design an activity that will let your classmates practice either the kind of research method the article describes or attempt/assess the instructional method the article recommends. Your activity should include clear instructions, clearly explain the relationship of the activity to the reading, and provide a conclusion that asks your classmates to explicitly compare their experience with this method to the account given of it in the article. You must meet with me no later than 1 week before your activity day to plan that day’s class (since I will be responsible for planning the rest of that day’s class, so I need to know what you’re doing). 1 week after the activity day, you’ll turn in a report that documents the research you did for your activity, describes the activity you designed, specifically states what you wanted your classmates to learn from the activity (learning objectives), evaluates how the activity went, and assesses the extent to which your classmates met your learning objectives for the activity. Along with your report, you’ll also turn in any materials you created for the activity and any work you collected from your classmates.

This assignment will not be composed on your course blog. You will create materials for your in-class activities using whatever software or materials you see fit, and submit these materials and your report as files to Camino. If you have hard copies of some materials, make arrangements with Dr. Voss to submit these.

Length: 1000 words (Methods Activity Report, excluding citations)

Sign up link:

Writing Process Research Project

The writing process is one of the fundamental research and teaching concepts in writing studies. It has a long history, spanning from the 1970s to the present. During the quarter, you’ll read about writing process research and will design a small empirical research project that studies one writer’s process of producing a specific text using writing process research methods like talk-aloud protocols, retrospective interviewing using various media, photo diaries, or other methods. Your project will compare your findings to the writing process research you’ve read, using the data you’ve collected as evidence, and will comment on what these empirical methods allow you to learn. Along with your written report on the project, you’ll turn in the primary data you collected (interviews, recordings of composing sessions, photos, etc, and all documents generated by the writer you’re studying).

You will compose this text as a separate page on your class blog. It will include both references to the writing process sources assigned as course readings (secondary sources) and to your primary data (interviews, recordings, photos, etc). Depending on the primary evidence you incorporate, your project may be multimodal or or may use only alphabetic text.

Length: 600 (written report only, excluding citations and trascripts etc. from primary data)

Harris and His Sources

Harris spends most of A Teaching Subject reviewing famous research in writing studies and re-reading it to describe and evaluate various approaches to teaching writing. You will evaluate Harris’ interpretation of these classic texts in one of his chapters by going back to his original sources and

  • mapping out his bibliography to look for patterns in his research and his use of sources
  • carefully re-reading 2-3 of the main texts he talks about in detail, and
  • assessing his claims in the chapter in light of your investigation of his research.

You will compose this text as a separate page on your class blog. It will be multimodal, combining written argument with some kind of embedded visual (chart, interactive timeline, etc) that will present evidence for the “bibliography mapping” part of this assignment. Your review of Harris’ use of his main sources can be multimodal as well, or can use only alphabetic text.

Length: 3500 words (excluding citations)

The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas

Choose one of Harris’ 5 key ideas and map out its future. This will take the form of a critical review of 5-8 articles from composition journals, edited collections, or books published after 2010. Pick up where Harris left off and 1) describe current research on this topic and 2) make a case for where this idea is headed in the next 10 years based on what you see in current publications. Possible threads to trace: how “writing” is defined, the research methods used, teaching strategies recommended, locations (university or otherwise) discussed, and populations focused on. This assignment will be multimodal, using 2 or more of the following modes (writing, audio, video, images). It can be composed digitally and submitted on your course blog, or composed using physical materials and submitted in person.

Length: 1200 words/7 minutes/3-level (excluding citations)

Course Learning Goals & Objectives:

Learning Goals: Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication

Meta-Learning Goals: Intentional Learning, Information Literacy

Learning Objectives: You will

  • Read and write with a critical point of view (Learning Goal: Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication; Linked to Reading Logs, Harris and His Sources Assignment, The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas,Leading Methods Activity)
  • Write research-based essays that contain well-supported, arguable theses and that demonstrate personal engagement and clear purpose. (Learning Goal: Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication; Meta-Learning Goal: Intentional Learning; Linked to Harris and His Sources Assignment, The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas, and Writing Process Research Project)
  • Independently and deliberately locate, select, and appropriately use and cite evidence that is ample, credible, and smoothly integrated into an intellectually honest argument.(Learning Goal: Complexity, Communication; Meta-Learning Goal: Information Literacy; Linked to Intro Harris and His Sources Assignment, The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas, Writing Process Research Project)
  • Analyze the rhetorical differences, both constraints and possibilities, of different modes of presentation. (Learning Goal: Critical Thinking, Complexity; Meta-Learning Goal: Intentional Learning; Linked to Harris and His Sources Assignment, The Future of One of Harris’ Key Ideas, Writing Process Research Project)
  • Reflect upon the writing process as a mode of thinking and learning that can be generalized across range of writing and thinking tasks. (Learning Goal: Critical Thinking, Complexity; Meta-Learning Goal: Intention Learning; Linked to Reading Logs & In-Class Discussions/Activities, Leading Methods Activity, and Retrospective Reading Reflection)

Course Policies and Resources:

Assignment Submission: Unless otherwise specified, you will turn in assignments in digital format using WordPress and Camino, and I will grade formal assignments in Camino. Some assignments may have particular submission instructions which you must follow to receive full credit for the assignment. Some assignments may have particular file format submission instructions, which you must also follow to receive full credit.

Late Work: Assignments must be turned in on time — deadlines are indicated on the schedule and on assignment description pages. I will only accept late assignments if you have made prior arrangements with me, at which time we will discuss grading penalties (if appropriate). Absences and technological mishaps do not excuse missed deadlines. Save early and save often, and make sure you back up your work. Begin work on your assignments early enough that if you run into problems, you have time to talk to me about them.

Attendance: Attendance is essential to the success of this class and to your development as a thinker and writer. Therefore, each unexcused absence after 2 will lower your final grade by 1/3 of a letter (i.e. from A- to B+). Excused absences—such as those for documented illness, family tragedy, religious observance, or travel for university athletics—will not affect your grade. To arrange an excused absence, you must

  • notify me before you miss class,
  • make up any missed in-class work by its original deadline (unless otherwise specified), and
  • submit your excuse documentation no later than the day you return to class.

Tardiness: Missing part of class also affects your learning and therefore your grade. Three tardies will be equal 1 absence (i.e. every 3 tardies will lower your grade by 1/3 of a letter grade). You are tardy if you

  • arrive more than 15 minutes late to class,
  • sleep, text, or email, etc. during class in a way that interferes with your participation, or
  • come to class unprepared to discuss the day’s assigned readings. I may give in-class quizzes to check for preparedness.

Technology Use: I have asked you to bring in your own laptops, tablets, etc. for use in class. I invite you to use these and other devices productively during class, for example to find relevant resources during class discussions or to pull up notes during in-class writing activities or to record photos/audio/video during fieldwork exercises. Technology use that interferes with your participation will count as tardiness.

Conduct: This class is an intellectual community created by the contributions of each member of the class. This entails both active participation (described above) and refraining from negative participation. Disagreement is a valuable part of vigorous discussion, but verbal and non-verbal slurs or mockery are not. Intellectual exploration and spirited debate are welcome; personal attacks are not. You will treat yourself and your classmates as serious thinkers and writers, keeping in mind that we spend 20 weeks together.

Accessibility: Everyone is entitled to equal access to learning resources in this class. I am happy to work with you to make this course accessible, according to arrangements made with the Office of Disabilities Resources. Inform me as soon as possible about any accommodations you need.

HUB Writing Center: In addition to writing exercises and peer review workshops, the Writing Center offers additional support for writing assignments like the ones you’ll complete for this course. I encourage you to use their services, which follow the model of peer review and feedback we will use in in-class writing workshops.

Academic Integrity: From the SCU Undergraduate Bulletin: “The University is committed to academic excellence and integrity. Students are expected to do their own work and to cite any sources they use. A student who is guilty of a dishonest act in an examination, paper, or other work required for a course, or who assists others in such an act, may, at the discretion of the instructor, receive a grade of “F” for the course.” We will cover source use and citation in English 1A and 2A.


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