Building an intricate wooden ceiling takes planning and practice. What assignments led to this pattern's success?


This class is designed to be flexible, meeting your needs based on your interest in teaching and your professional aspirations. In the first week of class, you’ll need to select one of the three project options ( Textbook Chapter, Course Design, or Journal Article). The option you choose determines which assignments you’ll be responsible for throughout the semester; see the projects page for those details. Please note: Graduate students should select the Journal Article option unless the instructor agrees their professional situation calls for a different approach. The assignment descriptions below offer details about the shared tasks everyone will do during the semester regardless of project choice.

Because this class holds ENG 5020 (graduate) or ENG 2020 and 3005 (undergraduate) as prerequisites, you should already possess facility with rhetorical analysis, multiple literacies, and genre conventions. Further, because this is a 4000/5000-level course designed for English and Education/Writing majors, you should produce insightful, structured, polished writing that you revise and proofread prior to turning in.

Blog Posts (weekly)

For each of your weekly reading assignments, you will create a blog post response. These posts serve as conversation starters, sharing your thinking with the class. They also require you to process and engage with the material. Our in-class discussions will focus on connecting text with other material and exploring the implications of the theories we survey. You will need to digest each week’s material before coming to class so our conversations can be productive and rewarding.

Because your work will be publicly visible, you’ll need to think carefully about audience. Though you’ll write these posts primarily for an audience of your colleagues, anyone on the Internet can access your work. We’ll talk about who is and is not likely to see your ideas, and that awareness will help you tailor your writing. It’s possible that the authors of our readings might even drop by and comment on our discussions. (I have commented on blog posts made by students at other institutions who respond to my publications.)

Search Engine Optimization (Optional)

In order to be seen by readers outside our class, our blog needs to be attractive to search engines. (How often do you visit a site that’s not suggested to you by your search engine of choice?) Successful blogs—including those dreadful recipe blogs we’ve all seen—use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve the likelihood that they’ll appear near the top of search results when people look for the content on the blog.

Our class blog is no different—we want to be relevant to the discussion of writing studies—so I’ve added a behind-the-scenes tool to help keep SEO and post readability in mind. When you create a blog entry, you can see how good your post looks to search engines and get pointers on improvement. Getting good SEO or readability scores are completely optional in this class, but they’re a clear way to keep multiple audiences in mind as you write and learn.

Pre-Publish Checklists

Because our blog is publicly visible, it needs to be accessible to any visitors. For example, any images included in a post must include alt text so visually impaired visitors can still understand the content. To help address needs such as those, our blog includes pre-publishing checklists to make sure nobody forgets anything. Mostly, though, the checklists work to ensure consistency and functionality on our blog. At first, some of these requirements might cause a little frustration. However, you’ll quickly get into the habit of making your content accessible and connected.

All told, these are the requirements each blog post must meet:

  • Title must be ≥ 10 characters long
  • Content must be ≥ 250 words
  • Post must be assigned to 1 category, filing it with the right homework assignment
  • The post’s excerpt must be 120–155 characters long
  • Any links used must be valid (no broken/dead links)
  • Any images used must include alt text for accessibility

Teaching Philosophy (×3)

A common requirement of application packets for teaching positions, a statement of teaching philosophy gives a clear sense of an educator’s priorities and intentions in the classroom. These documents also change regularly, as teachers’ perspectives shift with personal development and social changes.

You’ll write a teaching philosophy three times this semester. By returning to the same task multiple times, you’ll get snapshots of how your pedagogical position changes over time. Additionally, the repetition will provide practice in writing this essential tool for professional educators.

Synthesis Papers (×3)

In addition to weekly blog posts, you write a synthesis paper at the end of three units of study: threshold concepts, frameworks and ideologies, and pedagogies. (See details and dates on the calendars page.) The purpose of each synthesis paper is to bring together the concepts from all the readings done during that module. You’ll use the authors’ ideas to generate your own new conclusion or theory and show how the authors support your thinking.


By successfully completing the synthesis assignment, you will:

  • Extend course readings into a broader theoretical framework
  • Apply class discussions to your thinking
  • Synthesize significant concepts of pedagogy and rhet/comp theory
  • Practice articulating your ideas as you refine them


Complete the following steps in order to create an effective synthesis paper:

  1. Review the recent readings and class discussions and come to a conclusion about the ideas we’ve discussed. This conclusion can be general or specific, theoretical or applied. But it must be clearly articulated. (In other words, include a strong thesis statement articulated early in your response.)
  2. Apply the content of this course to a specific issue. This is your chance to experiment with ideas and think critically about something of interest to you. If you fixate/obsess over something we’ve discussed, let that focus your work. If you see a way our discussion topics apply outside class or academia, let that motivate your response. (In other words, you’ll be given a broad direction; the narrow issue you address is yours to choose.)
  3. Make connections among the source material we’ve considered in class, as well as any other outside sources you deem relevant. This assignment is a synthesis, not an analysis, so create a cohesive whole based on your ideas.
  4. Explain your thinking in an essay (audience: classmates and instructor) that asserts your conclusion and supports it with evidence, examples, and related texts.


The three synthesis papers will address these broad topics, in this order:

  1. Threshold Concepts: In their introduction to Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle offer what they call the central questions of writing studies. Choose one of these central questions from the list below and address the difference between 1) how you would answer it based on your current understanding of writing studies and 2) the way your past teachers would have answered the same question, based on the way you were taught writing.
    • How is “good” composed knowledge (and its opposite) defined?
    • How are students taught to produce composed knowledge?
    • How is composed knowledge assessed?
    • What values are associated with judgments about composed knowledge?
    • What consequences are attached to the teaching, production, and/or assessment of composed knowledge?
  2. Historical Approaches: Richard Fulkerson asserted that in the 1970s, “educators exhibited a consistent mindlessness about relating means to desired ends.” Choose a subject of analysis from among your personal pedagogy, a select institutional approach (Kean’s, UCF/Wardle’s, Beaufort’s, etc.), or a national standard (NCTE, CCCC, CWPA, etc.). Within that context, address the ability of that environment to remedy Fulkerson’s complaint by exhibiting consistent mindfulness in terms of philosophy, axiology, and ideology.
  3. Progressive Pedagogies: Sean Michael Morris cautions us that digital learning is “the practice upon which education must wager its future.” However, he—like Freire and hooks—also makes clear that teaching is built around people, not technology. Thus, how does technology inflect the human work of writing instruction, and what principles or values should guide our work as instructors in digital spaces?