The Course Review Committee (CRC) began work in fall 2019 on a revision of the Composition I curriculum structure with the dual intentions of updating the overall approach of the course and maximizing equity in student learning and performance. In October 2020, the CRC drafted the following “statement of intention” to guide all stages of the curriculum revision process. (See the CRC Blackboard site for documented stages in the process of the development of this statement.)
Our intention is to create a curriculum structure for FYC 1 that works actively against racist and other oppressive structures in our society. With this intention in mind, in our targeted course outcomes for English 12 and in our assessment of those outcomes, we strive to create broader and more inclusive paths to demonstrating learning, ability, and accomplishment in writing. We will examine the notion that the “academic essay” should be the target performance genre throughout the course and the primary means of assessing learning. Although we realize we must work within CUNY-wide Pathways outcomes for composition courses, we also recognize that those outcomes are quite broad and leave space for us to revise our own, more specific, program outcomes for FYC 1. We will question whether a less-specific, broader set of course outcomes might allow for, and encourage, greater flexibility and a greater range of possible approaches to demonstrating and assessing proficiency. Further, contemporary assessment movements—self-grading, ungrading, and labor-based grading—might offer more equitable alternatives.
In our suggested instructional materials, we want to encourage and offer themes for the course that focus on anti-oppressive, social justice issues in our society. In addition to the thematic focus of the course, we will examine course structures and policies that can act as gatekeepers for students. We’ll strive to utilize course resources that are accessible—financially and intellectually, as well as utilizable for all learning needs—for our students. Further, we want to be open to various digital and communicative modalities and genres for both the texts we assign in our courses and the writing we ask students to produce. We commit to encouraging pedagogical approaches to English 12 that create more equitable learning and performance environments for our students. This very likely means designing with greater flexibility and choice—in terms of genre, modality, and access points/paths for students. There should be space for students’ lived experience and the local issues that are of the most importance to them in both the course theme and the pedagogical choices we make as teachers. Writing is well-known as a “high-impact practice” (Kuh 2008) in higher education that leads to greater student engagement and, ultimately, retention; and we want to double-down on the power of writing in FYC 1 to engage and add personal and intellectual value to our students’ college experience.
This statement of intention served to focus the CRC in the development of a new Curriculum Guide for Composition I, including revised Course Learning Outcomes. We hope that the different sections of this guide offer support and inspiration to Composition instructors.