First Year Writing Seminar

Introduction to Teaching Core 110

Welcome to this guide for teaching Core 110: First-year Writing Seminar. Our hope is that the following modules provide you with sound principles for designing your course and give you a host of day-to-day classroom tactics for teaching college-level writing.

As a point of departure, let’s re-introduce the five outcomes of Core 110:

  1. Select a writing topic, formulate a purpose, and frame an argument in an appropriately structured essay using proper language, syntax, and grammar.
  2. Read and analyze a text for comprehension and critical evaluation of its thesis/argument and evidence it marshals in support of that argument.
  3. Build an essay through multiple drafts, using peer assessment, instructor assessment, and self-assessment, developing revision and editing skills.
  4. Define and explain the basic concepts of the subject matter of the course, use that knowledge to analyze issues and solve problems, draw connections between ideas, and argue for or against a position, all of which demonstrate an understanding of the grounding of a liberal arts education.
  5. Practice critical thinking by approaching course content from multiple perspectives through class readings, discussion, and writing assignments.

You have chosen a theme unique to your interests and your area of expertise, something that you have always wanted to explore with students but that somehow runs outside the strict channels of your discipline. Outcomes 2, 4, and 5 call upon you to engage your students in a semester-long investigation that explores your interest from many perspectives and in ways that shine a light on what a liberal arts education is all about: critical inquiry that examines ideas, values, and deeply held assumptions through dialogue with others. This is the “seminar” part of the course.

But what about the other two outcomes—the writing? That’s what this guide is mostly about. Our modules assume that you are an experienced professor who eagerly shares hard-won knowledge and insights in your field, but that you might be apprehensive, if not outright frightened by, the prospect of teaching writing. The modules to follow are grounded in composition theory and research, but they are addressed with the non-specialist in mind. Clarity and pragmatism are, we hope, the order of the day.

And it is in the spirit of pragmatism that we introduce this thought about integrating the “seminar” part of the course and the “writing” part of the course: The theme of your seminar generates the intellectual and ethical problems that students try to address through writing. To prepare them to address these problems, you need a course design and an orientation to student writing that provides the structure and direction for the 15-week semester. We introduce such principles of course design in modules 1 through 5:

Module 1: Beginning with the End in Mind: How will you Evaluate Students’ Writing?
Module 2: Design Principles for Writing (or Writing Intensive) Courses
Module 3: Creating Effective Writing Assignments
Module 4: How to Give Students Meaningful Feedback without Killing Yourself
Module 5: Evaluating and Responding to Student Writing

Soon, we will be adding modules that help you work with more tactical matters having to do with the form and shape of academic, thesis-driven writing. In the meantime, consider learning from writing resources geared toward Carroll students on our Writing Center’s website.