“The Rhetorical Situation” and Reading Strategies in Advanced Composition


by: Caitlin Holmes

Caitlin Holmes is the Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at George Mason University.  She blogs regularly about teaching here at thewritingcampus.com.  You can reach her via email at wac@gmu.edu.  

During a pre-semester meeting to discuss the QEP assessment findings of Mason’s English 302 Students-as-Scholars Program, instructors of our Advanced Composition courses went over the primary student learning outcomes (SLO):

  • SLO-1, Discovery: Understand how they can engage in the practice of scholarship at GMU
  • SLO-2, Discovery: Understand research methods used in a discipline
  • SLO-3, Discovery: Understand how knowledge is transmitted within a discipline, across disciplines, and to the public
  • SLO-4, Inquiry: Articulate and refine a question
  • SLO-5, Inquiry: Follow ethical principles
  • SLO-6, Inquiry: Situate the scholarly inquiry [and inquiry process] within a broader context
  • SLO-7, Inquiry: Apply appropriate scholarly conventions during scholarly inquiry/reporting

What those discussions reinforced for my colleagues and me is that engagement in scholarship and knowledge transmission requires that students have advanced reading practices that often are not overtly discussed – or are sometimes presumed as proficiencies – as we work on writing competencies.   Continue reading

Against “The Library Scavenger Hunt”: Better Library Research Assignments

Scavenger Hunt Picture

Jen Stevens is the Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at George Mason University and a consultant for Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Faculty Senate Committee.  She has extensive experience assisting undergraduate and graduate student writers discover new resources and information in their research process.  For her information and current InfoGuides, click here!

In my work as a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at George Mason University, I work with faculty members and their students to help the students learn how to do better research, which in turn leads to better writing.

Last week, I found the strangest thing in the Fenwick Library Reference area. . .

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Responding to Student Writing/Writers

Teaching and Learning in Higher Ed. highlights some of the best practices from Nancy Sommers’ new book, Responding to Student Writers. One of the most helpful insights is the ability to recognize that our comments to students may be contradictory, misleading, or vague, and that the real purpose of offering feedback to students is to “teach one lesson at a time.”

“We should ‘ask ourselves: What single lesson do I want to convey to students through comments? And how will I teach this lesson?'”

Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed.

Responding to Student Writers, Nancy Sommers

In 1982, Nancy Sommers published the landmark, award-winning essay “Responding to Student Writing.” That essay has helped many teachers think more intentionally and act more skillfully when they respond to what students write. Sommers shows how teachers too often write comments that come off as “arbitrary,” “idiosyncratic,” “contradictory,” and even “mean,” even though they put a lot of time and attention into commenting (p. 149-50). While the essay gives a needed call to pay more attention to how and why we comment, it comes off a bit hard on teachers, perhaps unjustifiably so in some cases, as Howard Tinberg has noted (p. 263). Now, thirty years later, Sommers takes up the same questions in a more positive, more practical, and more fully developed way, in her new book, Responding to Student Writers.

In the introduction, Sommers establishes the value of assigning and responding to student writing. She describes a large study…

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Write Nerdy to Me: Utilizing Fanfiction in WAC/WID Courses

Fan Fiction 1
By Caitlin Dungan

Caitlin Dungan is a PhD student in Mason’s Writing and Rhetoric PhD Program. Caitlin is a Graduate Research Assistant for Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, and her current research interests include fanfiction, digital media and rhetoric, online feedback practices, and participatory culture.

It’s interesting, perplexing, and – I think – exciting that geek culture has emerged as mainstream. Realms previously reserved for a few indoctrinated fans are now open for participation to the many. One of the side effects of this growth in fandoms is the increasing number of emergent writers embracing fanfiction as a creative outlet. As young fans pursue this unique composition practice and post their works on online forums like fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own, how much of this self-sponsored writing is informing their writing practice in the classroom?

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Guest Post: Gaming Across the Curriculum


By Steve Holmes

Steve Holmes is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. His primary research areas include classical and contemporary rhetorical theory, continental philosophy, digital rhetoric, videogames, mobile and handheld media, and multimodal composition. His most recent publications appear in Rhetoric Review, Enculturation, and the Fibreculture Journal.

One aspect that writing teachers are increasingly facing is the need to address the role of medium in student composition. Our students communicate through different technologies (laptops, mobile phones, tablets) and social media (SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Yik Yak). In turn, a greater number of professional, industry, and academic communication situations are demanding ever greater familiarity with a variety of digital literacies. Since Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe published Gaming Lives in the 21st Century in 2007, a growing number of composition scholars have sought to make videogames an object of inquiry (Waggoner et al.; Colby-Shultz et al.). Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) scholarship has commendably begun to address these forms of digital writing, but lags behind in attention to videogames and gaming.

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Recent NPR Story: “Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software”


“The fact that anti-plagiarism software can’t tell the difference between accidental and intentional plagiarism is just one reason that Rebecca Moore Howard, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, is not a fan. Here’s another reason: ‘The use of a plagiarism-detecting service implicitly positions teachers and students in an adversarial position,’ Howard says.”

Read or listen to the whole piece here:

From Writing “Intensive” to Writing “Integrated”: Keeping Student Writing at the Center of Your Class


By Michelle LaFrance

In WI courses, achieving a balance between crucial content, key learning goals, and explicit writing instruction is never an easy task. Because this balance is so delicate, “traditional” classes have often posed writing assignments as supplemental to the other work of the course—a paper or project completed outside class.

To kick off our new program blog, The Writing Campus, I wanted to ask faculty who teach WI courses to think about the ways they manage this important balance: What do you do to overcome this divide between simply assigning writing and the need to teach writing? Continue reading