What Is FYW 100?
First-Year Writing (FYW) 100, Introduction to Academic Writing (formerly Writing 100/WRTG 100, Writing and Rhetoric) is an introduction to the kinds of academic writing and rhetorical strategies expected of students as undergraduates at Rhode Island College. Future writing assignments and courses, both inside and outside students’ majors, should build on the work done here and will help students understand the conventions and practices specific to their majors, disciplines and professions.
As in many First-Year writing programs across the nation, FYW 100 at RIC builds on the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition,”
which can be accessed here:
In building on the “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” as well as additional research and pedagogical findings, the RIC First-Year Writing Program can present some tenets, or “best practices,” of FYW 100 here at RIC. Students and instructors in the FYW Program have diverse, rich backgrounds and educational experiences, and the program encourages them to use their interests and expertise to create interesting writing and research opportunities. Students who enroll in FYW 100 can expect the following:
Process: In FYW 100, students will be asked to view writing as a recursive, ongoing process that is never finished (even though writers must, at some point, declare an “end” to each project). Some of the more common hallmarks of the writing process include researching, revising, editing, brainstorming, conferencing for feedback (with peers, instructors and/or tutors), drafting, and proofreading. Upon completion of the course, students should be familiar with most of these terms and have had an opportunity to practice writing as a process. In all FYW 100 sections, the primary text is student writing, and students can look forward to spending class time revising, discussing, writing, and reflecting on their own and their peers’ texts.
Inquiry as Sequential and Sustained: In FYW 100, students can expect to view research as a multifaceted, organic part of every course and every assignment. In this sense, “research” can mean a variety of things, including but not limited to working with a single text or artifact in one’s writing, to more traditional library research and the synthesis of multiple resources, to incorporating multimedia (digital, visual, audio, etc.) into analyses and projects. The key understanding is that writing does not exist in a vacuum and that one writes in response to something or someone else, often as a result of critical and sustained reading of texts and images. Writing requires purpose.
FYW courses have often seen research as confined exclusively to a one essay assignment, due after a few short weeks of discussion, drafting and revision. In FYW 100, students can begin to think of each assignment as part of a larger, semester-long sequence, with each essay or project building on the work done before and contributing to the work that is yet to be done. Ideally, few if any projects will exist in isolation, where a semester is broken up into six small essays, for example, that do not inform or enrich each other. In a recent interview with John Schlib in College English, David Bartholomae described such a class this way: “We had created a curriculum where reading and writing assignments were sequenced, so that students worked on a semester-long project, thinking from one essay to the next, rather than writing discrete essays, this topic one week, another the next” (73.3 [January 2011]: 260-82). While sections need not be locked in to one theme or area of inquiry for the entire semester, FYW 100 instructors can help students understand and become invested in a discourse community (or communities); students can recognize their writing as contributing to a field of knowledge.
By the end of the semester-long course, students can expect to have written a minimum of twenty pages of polished, revised writing (or its equivalent); and at least one assignment should require a longer (a minimum of six to eight pages) essay or its equivalent. In this instance, we note equivalency because some students might choose to do projects that reflect the generic requirements of a discourse community in genres other than an academic essay. In particular, the academic uses of multimedia significantly expand the possible genres of writing students might be asked to do in their college careers, and so FYW 100 encourages students to think of writing and “texts” equally as expansively.
Regular Feedback and Meeting with Instructors and Peers: Because the writing process encourages writers to solicit feedback from readers, students will regularly give and receive comments, response, and criticism to/from both peers and instructors, in writing and in person. This feedback can take many different forms, from marginal and end comments on an essay or project to individual conferences with instructors, to peer review sessions, to small group tutorials with instructors and peers. The degree and investment of feedback will depend on the project or essay in question: shorter, informal in-class writings might not warrant individualized conferences, for example.
Instructors and students are encouraged to reassign class time as needed so that more face-to-face interactions may occur, with an emphasis on small group tutorials (SGTs). Students can expect thoughtful, helpful feedback from all major assignments or projects. Instructors not familiar with small group tutorials, or who would like resources about feedback in general, are encouraged to visit the FYW Program office and meet with the Director of Writing for more information and guidance.
Information Literacy: Part of articulating and acting upon a research agenda involves knowing what sources of information are helpful and valuable, and learning how to locate, analyze, synthesize, and integrate those sources of information into one’s own project. In other words, writing requires one to be literate about the information one needs to construct one’s argument. While many might equate this exclusively with technological literacy, the online and digital worlds are just one part of the equation, albeit an increasingly vital part.
FYW 100 cannot certify all students as “information literate,” but the course can introduce students to some of the different kinds of information available to them at RIC and beyond, and how to judge the legitimacy, usefulness, and effectiveness of different kinds of information (i.e., journal articles versus books, personal websites versus scholarly databases, biased versus unbiased reporting, etc.). Critical reading and analysis, the integration of information into essays and projects, and the appropriate citation and acknowledgement of that information are also part of the WRTG 100 curriculum (note that students are encouraged to determine the style guide of their particular major or profession and to use it consistently in the course). Instructors are encouraged to schedule an information literacy session with a librarian as a starting point.
Finally, the FYW Program reminds instructors, students, and college community members that each FYW 100 section is part of the larger program. We all work towards the common goal of helping students be better writers. The FYW Program Office (in Craig-Lee 258) and its website (www.ric.edu/firstyearwriting), as well as the Director of Writing (firstname.lastname@example.org or 401.456.8674), offer information, resources, and discussion to help insure quality instruction and a transparent pedagogy. Comments from faculty and students about the program and/or courses are always welcome and encouraged.
A note on attribution: Our Course Description is in many ways adapted from other such documents; the discussion of inquiry as sequential and sustained, for example, borrows from the University of Connecticut’s Freshman English Course Description. The requirement of twenty pages of polished and revised writing appears in more than one institution’s course description. We have examined the research in our field as well as the practices of other colleges and universities and have modified them to meet the unique needs of RIC’s community. As that community grows and changes, we will revise the Course Description accordingly.