Writing 101: Guidelines for Teaching

While we encourage diversity in course offerings, instructors are asked to keep the following guidelines in mind as they design their courses. Students in all sections of Writing 101 should expect to:

  • Read, discuss, and write in response to a series of texts—books, essays, films, etc.—addressing an issue of some real intellectual interest and complexity. Course texts should emerge organically from the course’s area of inquiry and should be challenging and generative. Ideally, some texts should serve as a model for the kind of academic writing you are asking of Writing 101 students.
  • Make active and critical use of these readings in their work as writers. Whereas faculty in a discipline-based lecture course might include a relatively large number of texts as a means of mapping out a particular field, Writing 101 faculty generally make more extensive use of a fewer number of texts in order to offer students the opportunity to meaningfully grapple with the complex ideas of others. Writing 101 assignments, then, should challenge students to move beyond summary and towards application, critique, or counterstatement.
  • Write frequently throughout the term. Some writing—whether a first draft, revision, section of a longer project, or some other form of work—should be due every week. New assignments usually build in some way on previous work in the term. This commits us as teachers to responding not only to the form of student writings but also to what they are trying to say—and particularly to how their work connects to the issues being taken up by the class as a whole. And if we are to offer students a real chance to rethink what they want to say and how they want to do so, we need to comment on and return their writings to them quickly—in most cases, within a week after they are submitted.
  • Rethink and revise several of the writing projects they are assigned. We are also interested in teaching writing as an activity—both by making room in the course of a term for students to reflect on and rework the writings they have done, and also by making the various sorts of labor involved in drafting, revising, and editing texts part of the focus of a class.
  • Have the work they do as writers be a regular, integral, and visible focus of discussion in class. A characteristic way of doing so is to center much of the talk of a class on actual student texts, to set up discussions in which student writings figure not simply as examples of good or bad work but as attempts to articulate intellectual positions that merit serious consideration and response.  

Beyond these defining practices, we hope to encourage versions of Writing 101 that are as diverse as possible in the topics they explore, the forms of critical writing they encourage, and the modes of inquiry and conversation they provoke. We look forward to helping you define your own role in this collective project.