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Five Principles for Teaching Composition at RVCC


Students should be learning to create text-based arguments

Text-based argument is a central part of all of our composition courses.  This means building an argument in response to specific claims and evidence from the assigned readings.  The student puts him or herself “in conversation with” the ideas in the texts.  The more your assignments are geared towards text-based argument, the better your students will develop their argument skills.


Students should be learning to ground arguments in research

English Composition I requires that at least one out-of-class essay be based on research; English Composition II requires that more than one out-of-class essay be based on research. These courses are also required to include a library instruction session provided by the Library.  This instruction session will introduce students to the basics of doing research and give them hands-on practice in using the library catalog and databases.  You can request an instruction session for your classes through the library instruction request page.


Students should be learning to revise their writing

Revision is also a key component of our composition classes. Instructors should require a rough draft for each out-of-class essay and provide ample opportunity for students to get feedback about their writing from their peers (through peer workshop activities) and from you.


Students should actively participate in the work of the class

Our composition classes are not meant to be lecture classes in which the instructor does all of the talking.  Instructors should try to strike a productive balance between talking about the topic at hand and having students actively doing something that helps them to learn what you want them to learn in that class meeting.  Small group work, mock debates, role-play, and informal class presentations of research the students have done are a few examples of the kinds of activities that help students be active learners.


Students should receive all essay assignments in writing

Assignments communicated only verbally in class can be misheard and/or forgotten by the student.  Putting all of the requirements of an assignment in writing (such as due dates, length requirements, and texts to be used) will make it less likely that a student will misunderstand the assignment.  A written handout that describes the assignment will also help the tutors at the Academic Support Center (if the student takes the paper there) and will give the student something to refer to throughout the writing process.



Updated 8/22/12 by SA


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