Better late than never, I’ve posted my syllabi and assignments for the semester. While two of the courses I’m teaching this spring have the same title, Writing and Critical Inquiry, I essentially have three course preps because I’m teaching one of them, an Honors section, very differently than the other.
The Honors class is an open-ended nightmare, because I’m making the students design the course materials, down to the policies, syllabus, readings, and writing assignments. Watch it unfold here. Content will fill in as the class collectively completes it, but I hope to have a complete picture of the semester within a week or two. The sooner we work it all out, the better for students. My other 202 course is more straightforward, though I have tweaked the course considerably since last semester.
In a change from prior semesters I am rolling out major writing assignments only as they arise, and not all at the beginning of the semester. This is to keep students focused on the immediate tasks at hand and to reduce their anxiety. We’ll see if it works in either case.
This is also my very first semester at WCU not teaching a grad class. Instead I’m teaching an upper level English Lit/Liberal Studies class called Stories Retold, in which we’ll read Nicholson Baker, Colson Whitehead, Nicole Krauss, Jose Saramago, Italo Calvino, Michael Ondaatje, Magnus Mills, and related criticism.
As always, fellow instructors are free to crib whatever they like, but I always appreciate getting credit.
A little last minute, but policies, syllabi, and assignments have been posted. My grad course, ENGL 610: History of Rhetoric, and my two sections of sophomore writing, ENGL 202: Writing and Critical Inquiry, are up. In the undergrad course I’ll be framing our study of rhetoric around food issues, specifically those raised in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I’ll also be making use of other food-related media, like Will Burdette’s excellent podcast No Satiation, and Perennial Plate. And, it’s an election year, so I’m sure that political candidates will be saying plenty of asinine things for us to have fun with.
As always, feel free to crib materials, but I always appreciate attribution.
A bit late, I’ve posted my syllabi for the Spring ’12 semester.
The info for my grad class, ENGL 614, 20th Century Rhetorical Theory, may undergo some refinements, and largely is intended to fulfill the needs of our rhet/comp MA students preparing for their comprehensive exams, but with my own spin.
I have also revised and updated the syllabus for my version of our sophomore rhet/comp course, ENGL 202 Rhetorical and Critical Inquiry. I haven’t gotten the major assignments posted for this one yet, but will have them up within 48-72 hours. I’ve left more wiggle room in this syllabus than in the past, so some things will be filled in as we go along.
As always, please feel free to crib from here, or from any of my past courses, but I appreciate attribution.
I’ve finally gotten around to posting the syllabi and assignments for my fall courses, ENGL 202: Writing and Critical Inquiry (sophomore level, required, two sections) and ENGL 610: History of Rhetoric (graduate). As always, I will probably tweak things over the course of the semester, giving students appropriate notice.
Fellow teachers, also as always, please feel free to crib from me if you see something you like, but I of course appreciate attribution.
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently asked, as it periodically does,”Should Colleges Do More To Teach Students About Plagiarism?” The Chronicle is a great resource, but they’re pretty good at hyping some fear too. (Note: The Chronicle’s blog, Profhacker, is awesome by the bucketful, and if you aren’t reading it daily, you should check it out. Plug it into your RSS feed.)
But I (and a lot of other rhetoric/composition folks I know) am not thrilled to witness more plagiarism hand-wringing. Like most universities, my institution requires instructors to paste a verbatim academic integrity statement into their policy statements and/or syllabi. That’s fine. Students should know about academic integrity, and practice it. And of course we should teach them the various conventions of citation–which are far broader than MLA and APA, which, honestly, are useless to many first-year rhet/comp students, even over the course of their collegiate careers. We should teach the broader conventions, and spirit, of citation.
Beyond that, I think plagiarism might be more the instructor’s responsibility than the student’s. I’m certainly not the first person to suggest this. Here’s what I mean though:
There are always students who will cheat and seek an alternate route, for whatever reason. But I think these students are extremely rare, more rare than we think. And even if they are more common than I think they are, those negative impulses that might compel some students to plagiarize are very easily short-circuited.
Write creative assignments. A well written assignment, that monkeys with the conventions of typical rhet/comp essay requirements, is virtually impossible to plagiarize, at least in part because good assignments would make plagiarism attempts so ridiculously obvious that even the boldest plagiarists would be unlikely to make an attempt at plagiarism in the first place. I have in mind the types of assignments, for example, that my graduate school colleague Jim Brown (now of Wayne State) assigned in his Anthologics rhetoric class.
Creative assignment design and re-design not only reduces the opportunity and likelihood of plagiarism, but it’s likely to keep students and instructors more engaged. In terms of self-interest, I feel that creative assignment design, which I attempt to practice, not only hijacks students’ opportunities to plagiarize, but makes grading a hell of a lot more fun for me. And creative assignments can and should be every bit as rigorous as more conventional assignments. Ideally, they can be even more rigorous, as it’s often harder to complete an assignment that doesn’t rest upon tired, well-known academic conventions.
When plagiarism cases come up, I wonder if it is at least partially my responsibility, perhaps an indication that my assignment may have invited plagiarism. Of course, there will always be students who try to take a short cut. But perhaps we should be asking, Should Colleges Do More to Teach Professors About Lousy Assignment Design? And I ask that question as an untenured assistant professor. Just something to let your brain-teeth gnaw on.
Inspiration for the title of the post from the Cracker song, Guarded by Monkeys (click for YouTube video – I didn’t want to embed it).