Customizable Syllabus for Wikis, Writing, and Wikipedia (An Honors First-Year Composition Course)


Over the next few days, I will be publishing my course syllabi to the web. This semester, I am making strong attempts to widely circulate my teaching materials and communicate about how they unfold in practice. This particular syllabus is for a course entitled, English 193: Honors First-Year Composition.

The Customizable Syllabus and its Uses

This resource is a detailed, fully customizable, syllabus for an introductory college writing course that incorporates Wikipedia editing and article creation.  Other benefits of the customizable syllabus includes, but is not limited to these characteristics:

1. Features novel subject matter and platforms.

Instructors interested in teaching with Wikipedia and exploring the intersections between new media technology and higher-education institutions will discover several approaches embedded in the course organization and its metrics.  Please note that the course theme links to a Wikipedia dashboard that builds and manages courses. This is highly beneficial to instructors seeking alternative course management systems. I have linked my course as an example in the required materials section.

2. Develops student capacity for talking about learning.

The class inquiry is guided by the question, “What is Knowledge Right Now?” Instructors interested in the “writing about writing” approach as a method for acquiring metacognition will be able to consider even more knowledge spaces to observe and evaluate.

3. Includes Portfolio Design and Assessment.

4. Provides a language for talking about access.

Course methods are explicitly discussed. Students are provided an opportunity to learn how they will receive feedback in the course (e.g. via podcasts or a short letter). The syllabus acknowledges student’s possible financial constraints and comments on the value of open-source technology and open educational resources (OER).

5. Models New Media Writing via Google Documents .

In this form, instructors can adapt easily to feedback by making revisions that are instantly accessible to viewers. They may also look at an archived record and compare changes at any time. This process eliminates the waste of paper and panic of typos and misprints.

Note: Although the syllabus could be easily adapted to other first-year writing courses, this resource is specific to my institution, Spelman College–its demographics and administrative policies. I have tried to identify these areas in pink text, but you will need to adjust accordingly. Formatting may vary depending on the file format you use. The most format will be most transferable within Google Documents. Do not remove the CC License in the footer. Please attribute and share-alike.

A Note on the K-14 Issue and the Broad Audience of Teachers

It is entirely possible that this course is adaptable to high school honors programs, especially an IB program.  Juniors and seniors taking AP English courses, or similar may already be taking this kind of class somewhere.  Thus, I welcome the opportunity to engage any high school teacher stumble upon this resource. If this is your situation, I am confident that you might be able to find ways to creatively adapt it into the curriculum or share the resource with someone else that is in one or more of the following contexts:

1) They teach dual credit English composition courses with a local college.
2) They teach college readiness courses, seminars, or workshops
3) They are looking for more ways to introduce new media to the classroom.

In the case of someone teaching college readiness, they may look to this resource as an example of the kind of course a student may encounter in an English writing course at a small liberal arts college. Furthermore, the student learning outcomes (SLO) are consistent with most college writing programs, but research writing processes are most heavily emphasized.  If you use these materials and you are a high school instructor, please leave some feedback or write me directly.

Reflection on the Definition of Honors and its Relationship to Composition

I’ve taught honors before, but not at Spelman College. I am excited to observe and document some possible ways that honors composition differs from a regular composition course. They both share the same ambitious goal of helping students become an “excellent writer,” but I am not sure if the course methods are explicit about what that means to an honors student. The subject of honors has been widely discussed on the Writing Program Administrator’s Listserv for the past couple of months. As I was lurking, I wondered what it meant for basic writing to be an entire sub-field of composition studies, but not honors. There is, of course, the label of “advanced composition,” but that could simply refer to writing courses that are offered to students who hold classification status as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. This term does not necessarily imply “gifted students.” In fact, most college students probably feel gifted by virtue of being admitted to college. More complex still, why is there a dearth of research about gifted underrepresented students. The thought wouldn’t have occurred to me if I weren’t at Spelman College where black women students are the majority.

How does an honors at an HBCU and a women’s college compare to college honors programs elsewhere? I realize that this question raises a much broader question than that of honors composition, in particular, but it inspires the following research questions: What contexts inspire research on the small demographic of honors students? How do honors programs measure and establish the rigor of their courses (compared to the general education program). What do these students expect from an honors program? How do honors students perform in honors classes (compared to general education students)?

Throughout the semester, I will be taking lots of field notes about honors writing and keeping a pulse on student’s relationship to taking required core courses and their honors status. A survey instrument is being developed and will be submitted for IRB approval next week.

Accessibility of Usable Resources that are Inspired by Research Inquiry

I begin this research experience by acknowledging that creating an honors composition course drew my attention to accessibility in two ways. First, I decided that I should make my course materials available to anyone seeking or stumbling upon teaching resources. Open Educational Resources (OER) has the potential to increase the quality of education. Next, I should also provide instructors with a method of more easily adapting the syllabus for their individual courses.



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