Composition and Rhetoric
While working for the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky, I have had the opportunity to help students craft arguments for select academic programs, for professional communities, and for the larger public sphere. Through a variety of courses, I have sought to equip students with the communicative skills to navigate these communities through publicly engaged assignments and a grounding in rhetorical theory.
Composition and Communication I
Composition and Communication I (or WRD 110) is a required course for all first-year students at the University of Kentucky. It is the first part of a two-semester sequence that integrates both written and oral communication to delve into issues of public concern and develop skills critical to academic success. This yearlong sequence aims to provide students the skills necessary to confidently and effectively engage with their community, both on campus and beyond.
My own approach to WRD 110 asked students to explore the idea of “community” on several levels – from a subjective definition of “home” to a little-appreciated keystone event in their adopted community of Lexington, KY. Assignments in the course move from an expository essay to a cooperative project that uses primary-research to bolster student claims for a broader public. While broad in its scope, this approach allows students the flexibility to pursue their own interests while they develop the composition skills at the center of the course.
Composition and Communication II
Composition and Communication II (or WRD 111) is the second half of the first-year composition sequence at the University of Kentucky. The course asks students to focus on rhetorical analysis, deliberation and argumentation through a semester-long collaborative research project. After meaningful research into a campus-wide public debate and its primary stakeholders, they are expected to weigh in and develop a well-supported and persuasive argument from a clearly defined perspective of their own.
In my own WRD 111 courses, students are asked to utilize audience analysis and rhetorical awareness to develop stronger arguments in both the campus public sphere and in their future course work. Through a focus on the rhetorical situation in multiple modalities, I work to help students position their claims confidently and effectively impact academic (and public) debates both in the course and beyond. Over the last couple of years, we have looked at the various stakeholder positions involved in the debate over required textbooks, campus safety, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Lexington. As the course demands sustained engagement with a single topic, I work to adapt each course to the interests and concerns of the students. By relying on rhetorical appeals and an effective approach, the course centers on learning objectives that meet the diverse concerns and demands of the students themselves.
Accelerated Composition and Communication
Accelerated Composition & Communication (WRD 112) is an advanced version of the standard two-semester Composition and Communication sequence offered at the University of Kentucky. As a blend of the two customary courses, it also focuses on integrated oral, written, and visual communication skill development and emphasizes critical inquiry and research.
My version of this course asks students to take a broader debate about the college experience nationally and apply it locally to the University of Kentucky campus. Utilizing the same critical literacy skills developed in WRD 110 and the rhetorical analysis techniques from WRD 111, they are asked to compose effective arguments that effectively engage with their peers and affect the public sphere of the University of Kentucky. As the concerns of college freshman and sophomores are ever changing and idiosyncratic, I structure the class around the interests and concerns of the students in each individual course, with an emphasis on translatable skills and adaptability. While developing familiarity with academic genres and appealing to broader public debates, my WRD 112 courses center on learning objectives that are able to meet the diverse concerns and demands of a diverse array of professional, personal, and cultural interests.
Professional Writing and Communication
Business Communication (or WRD 203) is a course designed to provide instruction and experience in writing for the modern workplace. With an emphasis on clarity, conciseness, and effectiveness, students are asked to prepare real-world documents and communicate in authentic ways. Assignments include the preparation of a job search packet (résumé, cover letter, etc.) and a collaborative proposal that aims to publicize/enhance the work done by a local non-profit organization.
While introducing students to the conventions and formal requirements of common business genres, my approach to the course maintains focus on the agency afforded writers in such staid formats as a resume or executive summary. By focusing on effective rhetorical techniques and strategies for challenging generic standards, students are prepared to effectively communicate within and thrive in their chosen field.
Technical Communication (or WRD 204) is a course designed to provide instruction in writing for scientific and technological fields. In focusing on genres like informational reports and technical instructions, students are able to refine their prose and develop a style that favors the precise, clear, and concise writing that elucidates the obscure findings typical of engineers, neuroscientists, and other specialized professions. Assignments include a collaborative recommendation report, public-facing explanatory memos, and a capstone report that builds on their current understanding of a chosen field.
A subject like technical writing can be tedious, especially for students that do not see themselves as skilled communicators, so my sections of this required course rely heavily on purposeful inquiry and a practical application of the skills developed in the course. While drawing on personal interests and disciplinary knowledge, students are asked to develop technical documents that prioritize effective utilization of the reported content. In other words, students must first consider how their auditor should use (and possibly reuse) a given text. This focus on audience usage provides space to explore a variety of topics while still working as a class to develop the rhetorical skills that are central to effective technical communication.