ENGL 8870: Writing Center Theory & Practice (Fall 2019)


Writing Center Theory & Practice

The Pearce Graduate Writing Teaching Assistants

Clemson University, Fall 2019


CLASS DAYS/TIME: Wednesdays from 4:30pm-5:20pm

LOCATION: Class of ‘41 Studio, Daniel Hall


Instructors’ Contact Information:

  • Cameron Bushnell: cbushne[at]clemson.edu, Strode 707, Office hours by appointment
  •  Katalin Beck: kbeck[at] clemson.edu, Strode 507, Office hours by appointment
  •  Jennifer Forsberg: jforsbe[at]clemson.edu, Strode 502, Office hours by appointment



This workshop is designed to give you experience in developing your skills as a teacher, mentor, and writer across disciplines. Through weekly texts and class discussions, you will build an understanding of the fundamental processes of brainstorming, drafting, and revising writing across a variety of genres, audiences, and teaching expectations.



This course has two main Learning Outcomes.

1) Explain, explore, and demonstrate the concept of Writing to Learn:

  1. a) Writing across the Curriculum (as Writing to Learn is also known) suggests that writing is a valuable process within learning. Writing asks us to explain things: what we think, what we observe, what we read, and what we do through modes of critical inquiry.
  2. b) Writing provides the opportunity to analyze thoughts, perceptions, and actions. The process of writing, particularly informal writing, becomes a way to generate ideas and to expand our thinking, which leads to critical analysis, the application of material, and the synthesis of concepts.

2) Explain, explore, and demonstrate the concept of Writing to Demonstrate Learning:

  1. a) Writing in the Disciplines (as Writing to Demonstrate Learning is also known) demonstrates to others what we have learned in the process of working with others, reading, doing experiments, making observations, and thinking deeply about specific fields of study.
  2. b) Writing, particularly, formal writing, requires us to think critically about both form and content; it takes note of audience, situation for which we write, the conditions in which we write, and the product on the “page,” including grammar, diction, syntax, organization, style, and revision.



Weekly readings can be accessed via the Canvas site and in John Bean’s Engaging Ideas.



Attendance: Attendance at every class session is expected. Absences must be arranged and accounted for in advance of class. One absence is excused. Any class time missed beyond the 1 excused absence may result in a partial loss of the stipend students receive as part of this program. 

Late Work: 25% deduction for each 24-hour period after the deadline. Work more than 72 hours late may earn no credit.

Team Grading: Students will be graded against the learning objectives and individual assignment expectations throughout the term. On occasion supplemental rubrics will be made available in advance of submission deadlines. Instructors will divide course grading and student feedback, and you will benefit from a variety of reactions and perspectives on course tasks.



Clemson Accessibility

Clemson University values the diversity of our student body as a strength and a critical component of our dynamic community. Students with disabilities or temporary injuries/conditions may require accommodations due to barriers in the structure of facilities, course design, technology used for curricular purposes, or other campus resources. Students who experience a barrier to full access to this class should let the professor know, and make an appointment to meet with a staff member in Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by calling 864-656-6848, by emailing studentaccess@lists.clemson.edu, or by visiting Suite 239 in the Academic Success Center building. Appointments are strongly encouraged – drop-ins will be seen if at all possible, but there could be a significant wait due to scheduled appointments. Students who receive Academic Access Letters are strongly encouraged to request, obtain and present these to their professors as early in the semester as possible so that accommodations can be made in a timely manner. It is the student’s responsibility to follow this process each semester. You can access further information here: http://www.clemson.edu/campus-life/campus-services/sds/.


Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

The following is Clemson’s official statement on “Academic Integrity”: “As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson’s vision of this institution as a ‘high seminary of learning.’ Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form.”

A simple definition of plagiarism—one that we will expand upon this semester—is when someone presents another person’s words, visuals, or ideas as his/her own. The instructor will deal with plagiarism on a case-by-case basis. The most serious offense within this category occurs when a student copies text from the Internet or from a collective file. This type of academic dishonesty is a serious offense that will result in a failing grade for the course as well as the filing of a formal report to the university.

See the Clemson site below for information about Academic Integrity and procedures regarding the violation of Clemson policies on scholastic dishonesty: http://www.clemson.edu/academics/academic-integrity/


Title IX (Sexual Harassment) Statement

Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status, genetic information or protected activity (e.g., opposition to prohibited discrimination or participation in any complaint process, etc.) in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This policy is located at http://www.clemson.edu/campus-life/campus-services/access/title-ix/. Mr. Jerry Knighton is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator and is also the Director of Access and Equity. His office is located at 111 Holtzendorrf Hall, 864.656.3181 (voice) or 864.565.0899 (TDD).



Weekly Participation

The key expectation of this course is your engaged participation. This involves completing all class readings for the week, contributing deeply to class discussions that reflect on your experiences with teaching and writing, and offering questions, strategies, and resources. Finishing the semester without going over the quota for absences and maintaining habitual, high energy, full workshop participation will reward you full points in this score.

30 points (30% of Final Grade)


Observation and Reflection

At a scheduled time in the semester, one of us will come to observe you teaching a short writing lesson (roughly 15 minutes in length) to your class or another class. To earn points for this course component, provide a brief reflection (250 words) of your lesson objectives, how you felt it went, and things you might do differently. Post this to Canvas by the end of the calendar week of your observation (by Sunday @ 11:59PM). Expect your observer to provide feedback on your reflection, self-assessment, and observation in an effort to construct a dialogue about your teaching.

10 points (10% of final grade)


In-Class Workshops (to be revised for final portfolio)

  •       Discourse Analysis Workshop: This assignment asks you to evaluate the formal conventions of writing in your discipline. What does writing look like in your field? What seems to be of the highest priority? Bring a single paragraph example to class, and be prepared to discuss your observations. Your submission after the workshop should include the single paragraph example text and clearly indicate the findings of your analysis (250 words). 5 points (5% of Final Grade)


  •          Assignment Analysis Workshop: This task requires you to bring the instructions, directions, or introduction for any assignment from your class for an in-class workshop that examines the language and intention of description(s). This workshop includes but is not limited to troubleshooting what the assignment asks for, analyzing the explicitness of the direction, and identifying potential elements that could improve future use. Your submission after the workshop should include the assignment text and clearly indicate the findings of your analysis (250 words). 5 points (5% of final grade)


  •       Evaluation/Rubric Analysis Workshop: Bring a rubric or description of the evaluation that has been assigned to your class and/or that you might use for assessment. Be prepared to draft your observations of what the rubric communicates, and analyze the individual elements. For example: You may have a “Conclusion” section in your rubric worth 10% of student’s total grade on this assignment. But what does the rubric ask for, or assess, exactly? What is that section supposed to accomplish? What discrepancies are there between what the rubric says and what you envision being assessed? Your submission after the workshop should include the rubric/evaluation text and clearly indicate the findings of your analysis (250 words). 5 points (5% of final grade)


  •       Writing Samples and Feedback Assessment: Collect and assess 3 student samples of the same assignment from a class you are teaching. These samples should reflect student work that excels, meets the baseline, and that falls below the baseline to show a distribution. Note: Students without current teaching assignments should construct an example of what each of the papers would look like with notations to indicate assessment feedback. Your submission after the workshop should include the 3 samples (with your feedback) and offer a reflection about your assessment process (250 words). 5 points (5% of final grade)


Writing To Learn: Final Portfolio

This portfolio, due during finals week, will exemplify the progress you have made throughout the term and aims to serve as a resource for you in future teaching endeavors.

Part one provides the opportunity to revisit and revise your short workshop assignments to construct a clear, working foundation on which your teaching is situated. These assignments include:

  • Discourse Analysis (what writing looks like in your field)
  • Assignment Analysis (how to instruct and ask for student writing)
  • Feedback/Rubric Analysis (how you assess writing)
  • Writing Samples and Feedback Assessment (how your feedback skills have grown throughout the term)

Part two asks you to draw on the reflective gains of part one and design an ideal assignment that can be both practical and productive in the classroom. Part two should:

  • Construct or design an assignment; including the description you would provide students. This assignment can be modified from an assignment already scheduled in the syllabus (lab report, essay, project) or be wholly of your own creation
  • Develop an assessment rubric that adheres to your particular disciplinary conventions, while acknowledging the broader goals of improving undergraduate student writing per class discussions
  • Explain and reflect on the aspects of writing you have focused on, and how you expect your students to achieve mastery within the context of your rubric.

30 points (30% of final grade)



In our final class meeting, you will be asked to distill your Writing Assignment Design Portfolio into a video of no more than 4-5 minutes. These presentations should focus on Part 2 of your Portfolio in an effort to create a classroom resource that your peers can draw from in future teaching via a Canvas collective. You will receive feedback from peers during class time to facilitate finalization of your final portfolio.

10 points (10% of final grade)


Preliminary Itinerary:

Readings and Assignments
Aug. 28.
Prof. Bushnell
Discuss about the results of the survey:
– Where does writing fit into the class you are a TA in?
– What areas of writing do you feel confident in?
– Where do you want to improve? Etc.
Discuss workshop expectations and process
WAC Casebook: Prologue, Introduction
Ch 1, 2, 3
REMINDER: Bring a sample for the Discourse Analysis Workshop
Sept 4.
Prof. Beck
Issues of Form and Content
– What does ‘writing’ mean in your field? What are the characteristics of your discourse community?  How does a sample from your discipline exemplify (or deviate from) the conventions of your DC’s writing style? How can reading skills (reading for form, not content) inform
Bean: Dealing with Issues of Grammar and Correctness
Reference Guide to WAC: “The Place of Students in Disciplinary Discourses” (98-102) (Canvas)
WORKSHOP: Discourse Analysis
(Submission due Sunday, 9/ 8 @11:59 pm)
Sept. 11
Prof. Forsberg
Audience and Organization
How do you manage issues of audience, purpose, organization, and style as you generate content for a draft? What strategies help to prioritize these issues?
Bean, “What Causes These Organizational Problems?” (pp. 24-31)
WAC Clearinghouse Articles: Planning an Argument & Rhetorical Terminology (Canvas)
REMINDER: Bring Assignment/Task for Workshop Next Time
Sept. 18
Prof. Forsberg
Informal Writing and Modeling
What is informal or low-stakes writing?What is informal or low-stakes writing? How does it pertain to writing in your discipline? What does it look like, and what can it accomplish?
Reference Guide to WAC, “Mathematics” (pp. 131-134) (Canvas)
Bean, “Informal, Exploratory Writing Activities” (pp. 98-100; 104-115)
WORKSHOP: Assignment Analysis (Submission Due Sunday 9/22 @ 11:59PM)
REMINDER: Bring a Rubric/Evaluation for Workshop Next Time
Sept. 25
Prof. Bushnell
Rubrics and Assessment
What is a rubric? How can we use rubrics to improve writing?
WAC Casebook: “Who Has the Power” (pp. 33-39) (Canvas)
Bean, “Developing and Applying Grading Criteria” (pp. 255-266)
WORKSHOP: Rubric/Evaluation (Submission Due Sunday 9/29 @ 11:59PM)
REMINDER: Schedule an observation time by the end of week
Oct. 2
Prof. Forsberg
Providing Feedback (Formal and Informal)
How do you provide frequent and effective feedback without sacrificing all of your time and energy? How can you encourage students to receive that feedback?
WAC Clearinghouse Article: How to Get the Most Out of Peer Review? (Canvas)
Bean, “Coaching and Handling Paper Load” (pp. 237-238)
WORKSHOP: Writing Sample/Feedback
(Submission Due Sunday 10/6 @ 11:59PM)
Oct. 9
Prof. Beck
Document Design
How can we use design as a writing tool? What basic design principles can help students with document design? How are genre conventions related to design?
Booth: Communicating Evidence Visually
Oct. 16
Prof. Beck
Templates and Conventional Moves
How do we present arguments effectively using templates and conventional moves of academic rhetoric?
Booth: Craft of Research (handouts)
They Say, I Say (handouts)
Oct, 23
Prof. Bushnell
Introduction and Conclusion
How do you get writing started? How do you wrap it up? What strategies can help students through these challenges?
Oct. 30
Prof. Forsberg
Genre: Summaries and Lit Reviews
What are summaries and lit reviews? What  is their function? How do you assess them? How can you make them an important  part of scholarly research?
Reference Guide to WAC: “The Particularity of Disciplinary Discourses” (pp. 90-97) (Canvas)
WAC Clearinghouse Article: Writing-to-Learn Activities (Canvas)
Nov. 6
Prof. Bushnell
Writing and Revising as Process
WAC Casebook: “Making Learning Visible” (pp. 69-71) (Canvas)
Lamott, Anne. “Shitty First Drafts.”Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life(1994): pp. 21-26 (Canvas)
Introduce Writing To Learn Portfolio Assignment
Nov. 13.
Prof. Forsberg
Multimedia and Multimodal Tools
What does research look like today? How might alternate assignments and assessments impact your student. How might you assess these alternatives?
WAC Casebook: “Trudy Does Comics” (28-32)(Canvas)
Sawmiller, Alison. “Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning?”The Clearing House, 83:2: 44-48, (2010).
Introduce Writing To Learn Presentation Assignment
Nov. 20
Prof. Beck
L2 and Tutoring Strategies
How can writing teachers’ ESL back background benefit students? What are effective
WAC Casebook:“You Have No Right” (pp. 130-132)
Fitch and Morgan “A lick of English”
Dec. 4
Writing to Learn
Dec. 11
Final Exam
Writing Portfolio due