You are on page 1of 15

SEMINAR IN COMPOSITION: EDUCATION

writing in, for, and about school
Benjamin Miller EngCmp 0207-1050, Class Number 27573
email: millerb@pitt.edu Spring 2017, TuTh 11:00am–12:15pm
office: Cathedral of Learning 617-N class location: CL 512
office hours: TuW 1:00-3:00pm, or by appointment

Our course website: http://millercomposition.wikidot.com
All this information and more is posted there. Please sign up as soon as you can!

Table of Contents
I. Course Description
II. Required Textbooks
III. Course Outcomes and Responsibilities
IV. Welcome Letter
V. Avoiding Plagiarism
VI. Available Resources at Pitt
The Writing Center
Special Assistance
VII. Class-by-Class Schedule
VIII. Grading Contract
Introduction
For B Grades
For Grades Below a B
For Grades Above a B

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Like other Seminars in Composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to
improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret
and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world. This particular seminar
will include readings that consider issues of teaching and learning in American education, and for
this reason may be of special interest to students who plan to become teachers. As a step toward
college-level critical literacy, the course is designed to help student writers become more engaged,
imaginative, and disciplined composers, better equipped to handle complex subjects thoughtfully
and to use sources responsibly. This section will require at least one crafted composition or revision
per week, as well as participation in class discussion about writing and education.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS
Please obtain the following textbook, which has been ordered at the University Bookstore:
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 2

1. Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic
Writing. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014. Print.
A small and light textbook, TSIS provides templates (fill-in-the-blank guidelines) and rationales for
such fundamental tasks as summary, quotation, agreement, disagreement, and acknowledgment of /
response to counterarguments. A good nuts-and-bolts primer, we will draw on it both for standard
templates and as inspiration to derive templates of our own, for which this book would provide useful
background.

This has been ordered at the University Bookstore, for convenience, but it’s also readily available via
online booksellers. Important Note: You do not need the anthology. Buy the slim book with the
charcoal cover; save money and weight.

Because writing is in some ways defined by its “all-at-onceness,” meaning that questions about one
aspect will lead frequently questions about some other aspect – and because the book weighs so
little and takes up little space – please bring it with you to every class meeting.

2. You will also be responsible for locating, printing (if online), and reading additional relevant
texts using the library database system (again, see links at lower left of the website). I and Pitt’s
reference librarians will happily assist you in this process.

In addition, I recommend but do not require the following:

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Pocket Style Manual. 7th edition. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin’s, 2014. Print.

A light-weight and easy-to-use style guide, PSM contains advice and guidelines for sentence
construction and grammar, as well as extensive references for citation and documentation standards in
several academic fields. I used to require this, but in light of thepunctuationguide.com, Zotero
bibliographic software, and other digital tools, I’m trying to go without. Still, PSM is well-organized,
decently comprehensive, and slim: a great resource when you just want quick and reliable answers to
standard questions.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 3rd edition.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

CR contains a surprisingly good presentation of techniques, not only for conducting library research,
but also for developing and defending claims and theses, and even for revising sentences and
paragraphs for clarity. Some exercises may be derived from this book, so anyone desiring a fuller
background and explanation will find it useful.

Bishop, Wendy, ed. Acts of Revision: A Guide for Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook
Heinemann, 2004. Print.

Bishop, a long-time champion of connecting creative writing with academic writing, assembles here a
collection of essays both practical and theoretical (often at the same time) on revision – which is to
say, on writing. I will doubtless be distributing at least one of these essays during the semester, but all
are worthwhile.
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 3

COURSE OUTCOMES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Students in this course will:
 write frequently, building a habit of reading and writing as reciprocal activities;
 respond orally and in writing to the ideas in scholarly texts about writing and pedagogy;
 respond orally and in writing to the ideas in their peers’ texts;
 revise in response to their own reflections and feedback from peers and the teacher;
 use a variety of sentence structures to revise for emphasis and coherence;
 distinguish between the content and structure of sentences and larger textual units, even
while they recognize that structure shapes our perception of content;
 develop fluency in online composing through participation in the course wiki website;
 complete a portfolio containing, at a minimum, three extended shaped pieces, one set of
drafts, and an introductory reflection.

As the teacher in this course, I will:
 respond orally and in writing to students’ ideas and the ideas of scholars;
 provide a large number of exercises for generating text, re-chunking how texts are
perceived, and revising texts;
 discuss with students rationales for what each exercise is designed to do, and why it ought
to work;
 encourage students to retry earlier exercises in later contexts, to support the development
of mastery;
 choose academic texts that balance accessibility for novices with constructive challenges
that allow for learning;
 provide background context and guidance in understanding difficult texts;
 structure in-class time, especially time spent working in small peer groups, so there is
meaningful work to be done (even if we finish early or run out of time);
 build in flexibility to per-class and semester-long schedules, recognizing that the
complexity of writing means insights and lessons do not follow a linear order of
development, but leap from teachable moment to teachable moment;
 provide a detailed grading contract that outlines criteria for success in the course, and
communicate with students about their successes, failures, and possibilities.
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 4

WELCOME LETTER
Dear writers,
Welcome to Seminar in Composition. Hopefully we'll have a chance to unpack both of those
terms before long – to think about how seeds and composing and the make-up of complex things are
related to each other, and to that third term more specific to our section: education.
But we are also a Seminar in Composition, and students in every section of SC at Pitt have
some shared activities. In this class, you will...

1. Engage in composing as a creative, disciplined form of critical inquiry.
In this course, you’ll compose as a way to generate ideas as well as explain them. You’ll
form questions, explore problems, and examine your own experiences, thoughts, and
observations. Investigating a multifaceted subject, you’ll be expected to make productive
use of uncertainty as you participate in sustained scrutiny of the issues at hand.

2. Compose thoughtfully crafted essays that position your ideas among other views.
In response to reading, listening to, and discussing challenging texts, you’ll compose essays
in which you develop informed positions that engage with the positions of others. You’ll
analyze as well as summarize the texts you read, and you’ll compose essays that pay close
attention both to the ideas voiced by other writers and to specific choices they make with
language and form.

3. Compose with precision, nuance, and awareness of formal conventions.
You’ll work on crafting clear, precise prose that uses a variety of sentence and paragraph
structures. You’ll be required to learn the conventions for quoting and paraphrasing
responsibly and adeptly, and you’ll be assisted with editing strategies that reflect attention to
the relation between style and meaning. You’ll also have opportunities to consider when and
how to challenge conventions as well as follow them.

4. Revise your writing by rethinking the assumptions, aims, and effects of prior drafts.
This course approaches the essay as a flexible genre that takes on different forms in different
contexts — not (only) as a thesis‐driven argument that adheres to a rigid structure. Much
class time will be devoted to considering the purpose, logic, and design of your own
compositions, and you’ll be given opportunities to revise your work in light of comments
and class discussion, with the aim of making more attentive decisions.

So those are SC’s shared set of goals – but they leave a lot of different ways to get there, not only
across the campus but also for the 20 of us sitting around this room. The throughline I've planned
for us in choosing the readings and assignments is a set of questions that we’ll pursue across the
semester: What does learning look like in the context of writing? In other words, what does a
writer's education consist of? And what work does writing do in the context of learning? Why, for
example, do we write so much in school?
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 5

I mean, I'm sure you've noticed it -- the writing. It comes up everywhere these days, from
history to math to physics to nursing to – look, whatever your major is, you’re going to be writing,
and often. Probably you already had to do a lot of writing in high school just to get here. So what’s
up with that? What are all these teachers and professors (and bosses) trying to get you to do by
putting all these words together?
As it turns out, rather a lot of things. But you don’t have to brainstorm answers on your own,
though it’s not a bad place to start. When I say you’ll “position your views among others,” I mean
(in part) that we’ll be reading published scholarship from professional academics who have
dedicated their careers to these questions. My first introduction to this work was in grad school, and
I was almost angry: why had no one told me this before?
So I'm telling you: letting you in on the conversations that teachers have about students.
Over the next fifteen weeks, we'll be reading and discussing (and, yes, writing back to) a
number of different kinds of texts: our "official" textbook, They Say / I Say, which provides a
focused set of writerly tools, as well as rationales for why they're worth using; several published
articles and chapters from the worlds of Composition/Rhetoric and Educational Philosophy, which
will serve as both models and instigations for your own further thinking and reading; and the "text"
of your own lived experience as readers and writers, which is what the study of Comp/Rhet is
largely about.
I’d also like you to get in the habit of rereading your own work, updating it as time and
desire dictate, but especially reflecting on the processes you use to create your products – to assess
the gaps between what you intended and what emerged, between what is there and what could be
there. To help you improve at this admittedly difficult skill, I'll often ask you to read each other's
work, helping your classmates to discern these gaps by first describing what you see on the page.
Most importantly, you will write: as Doug Hesse put it in the Chronicle of Higher Education
just this week, in the same way that you can’t become a pianist by reading about piano, neither can
you become a better writer without writing. Over the next fifteen weeks, you’ll work through
several low-stakes exercises, doing some writing or reading for and in just about every class. Some
of these exercises will accumulate into a series of larger, more consciously revised and shaped
pieces: one story and three essays, in all of which a key objective will be to reach some new idea
that you and the rest of us will be excited to read. Other exercises will help you develop concrete
writerly skills and habits, which I hope will help you not only with your work for this course, but
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 6

with other writing and reading you'll do beyond this class. Your final project for this class will be to
assemble a portfolio of your written work, demonstrating your awareness of what you've
accomplished and how you might accomplish more in the future.
One final caveat. This class will not teach you The One Way To Write, or even The One
Way To Write For A College Course. It can’t. The situations are too varied, the goals and audiences
and assumptions change, your level of expertise changes as you move from one place to the next.
But what it can teach you, what I hope you will learn, are ways to deal with that uncertainty; a
repertoire of options to draw on, and questions to ask as you move through a complex set of
processes that we sum up, saying “writing.” If we can do that, you’ll be in good shape to teach
yourselves the rest in each new context you encounter.

Excited to read your replies,

Benjamin Miller
(please call me Ben)
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 7

AVOIDING PLAGIARISM

This is a collaborative class, in which we offer each other suggestions and constructive criticism.
However, the goal of all this collaboration is to clarify the expression of original ideas – never to
substitute someone else's ideas for our own, or to impose our ideas on someone else.

To misrepresent the origins of an idea is plagiarism, and it will not be tolerated.
If you want to cite an outside source, there are ways of giving credit to the original author; section
33 of the Pocket Style Manual presents one standard method of documenting sources, and the
English department has some useful resources at http://www.english.pitt.edu/
undergraduate/understand-and-avoid-plagiarism.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, because Pitt takes a very hard stance on plagiarism.
It could get you expelled. Here's an excerpt from the official Policy on Academic Integrity, to give
you the flavor:

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh
Policy on Academic Integrity, from the February 1974 Senate Committee on Tenure and Academic
Freedom reported to the Senate Council, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural
process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz or exam will
be imposed.

A student has an obligation to exhibit honesty and to respect the ethical standards of the profession in
carrying out his or her academic assignments. Without limiting the application of this principle, a
student may be found to have violated this obligation if he or she: […]

8. Depends on the aid of others in a manner expressly prohibited by the faculty member, in the
research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted for
academic credit or evaluation.
9. Provides aid to another person, knowing such aid is expressly prohibited by the faculty member,
in the research, preparation, creation, writing, performing, or publication of work to be submitted
for academic credit or evaluation.
10. Presents as one's own, for academic evaluation, the ideas, representations, or words of another
person or persons without customary and proper acknowledgment of sources.
11. Submits the work of another person in a manner which represents the work to be one's own.
12. Knowingly permits one's work to be submitted by another person without the faculty member's
authorization.

You have the right to a fair hearing, and I’ll talk to you before I talk to anyone else, but it’s far
easier just to avoid plagiarism in the first place. All clear cases of deliberate plagiarism will be
referred to the appropriate Dean for disciplinary action, including an Academic Integrity Board
hearing. For the University's full policy on Academic Integrity and the adjudication process for
infringements, including plagiarism, go to http://www.pitt.edu/~provost/ai1.html.
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 8

AVAILABLE RESOURCES AT PITT

The Writing Center
The Writing Center, located at 317B O'Hara Student Center, is an excellent resource for working
with an experienced consultant on your writing. Although you should not expect consultants to
“correct” your paper for you, they can assist you in learning to organize, revise, and edit your work.
Consultants can work with you on a one-time basis or throughout the term. In some cases, I may
require that you go to the Writing Center for help on a particular problem; otherwise, you can
decide on your own to seek assistance. To make an appointment, come to the Writing Center or call
412-624-6556. For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit
http://www.writingcenter.pitt.edu/undergraduate-services/student-faqs.

Disability Resources
If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are
encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 140
William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890 / 412-624-3346 (Fax), as early as possible in the term. Disability
Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for
this course. For more information, visit www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/drsabout.

Counseling Services
Pitt also offers free counseling for students who are experiencing personal or emotional difficulties.
The Counseling Center, located on the 2nd Floor Nordenberg Hall, offers Psychological Services
and Sexual Assault Services (412-648-7930) (8:30 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Friday) or (412-648-7856)
(after 5 pm, Monday-Friday or on weekends). For more information, see
http://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/cchome.
Miller 2017 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 9

CLASS-BY-CLASS SCHEDULE

The following schedule is just a preview; the full and most up-to-date version will be posted on the
course wiki (http://millercomposition.wikidot.com), including more detailed explanations of each
homework assignment and full lesson plans with space for collaborative notes. This gives me more
flexibility to adapt the specifics to our needs as a reading and writing community.

Assignments are listed (as HW) on the day they are assigned, and are due online at 10pm the night
before the following class meeting, unless otherwise specified. You should in general also bring a copy
to class, so that we have access to it for in-class discussion and/or revisions.

Unit I: Building on What We Know
In this first unit, we’ll introduce and practice moves that will become our constant companions when engaging in
academic work: inkshedding, reflection, active listening and reading, and attending to structures. The major writing
project for this unit is a narrative, exhibiting a moment in your life that we can examine to better understand a
writer’s education.

 Lesson 1, Thurs 1/5 - Course introduction: The Writers in the Room
o HW: Join the wiki; create a gallery page for yourself; buy textbooks; read syllabus and
come in with questions/suggestions

 Lesson 2, Tues 1/10 - Theories of Writing; Genre
o HW: Read Donald Murray’s “Writing and Teaching for Surprise,” and write a brief
reflection
 Lesson 3, Thurs 1/12 - Audience; Exhibits
o HW: First draft of Shaped Piece #1 (writing to render experience). Think about engaging
the senses. Sign up for a one-on-one conference with Ben in the next two weeks.

 Lesson 4, Tues 1/17 - Workshop; Active Listening
o HW: Read TSIS Introduction and chapter 1 (pp. 1-27); do exercise 2 on page 15
(summary-and-response to the Introduction).
 Lesson 5, Thurs 1/19 - Templates and Templatizing; Genre revisited
o HW: Read chapters 2-3 of John Dewey’s Experience and Education, and mark at least 4
passages: for at least one, practice summary-and-response; for at least one, practice
sentence imitation.

 Lesson 6, Tues 1/24 - Theories of Education and Writing
o HW: Read The Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing (or at least the
executive summary) and use it as an opportunity to reflect on your first shaped piece.
What “habits of mind” did that experience help you to develop?

 Lesson 7, Thurs 1/26 - Context and Purpose
o HW: Read Sommers and Saltz’s ”Novice as Expert: Writing the Freshman Year”; lens
writing.
Miller 2016 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 10 Planned Schedule

Unit II: Entering the Burkean Parlor: Academic Conversation
Why do we write at all? In particular, why do we write in "the academy," and what, therefore, are we learning when
we study "academic writing"? What is at stake when we teach it, and whose goals does it (or should it) serve? The
major writing project for this unit is a source-based essay advancing your own claims in light of others’ arguments,
drawing on exhibits to ground your claims in evidence.

 Lesson 8, Tues 1/31 - Using sources: BEAM and Academic Conversation
o HW: Read TSIS chapters 4 (“I Say”) and 6 (“Some May Object”). Begin your second
shaped piece by writing from an exhibit to an argument or from an argument to an
exhibit.
 Lesson 9, Thurs 2/2 – Essaying as Argument
o HW: Read TSIS chapters 2 (on summary) and 3 (on quotation); use the TSIS moves to
flesh out your SP 2 with a claim of your own, incorporating at least one argument and at
least one exhibit

 Lesson 10, Tues 2/7 - Small-group Workshop
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 5 (“Distinguishing What You Say From What They Say”); do
exercise 2 on page 77
 Lesson 11, Thurs 2/9 – Exercises for Expansion / t.b.d. based on questions
o HW: Read Wendy Bishop's "Revising Out and Revising In." Choose 1-3 of her revision
suggestions to bring in a revised draft of SP 2.

 Lesson 12, Tues 2/14 - Workshop of SP 2 / Modes of Revision
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 11 (“Using the Templates to Revise”). Incorporate or otherwise
respond to suggestions from today's feedback. and from the book.
 Lesson 13, Thurs 2/16 - Writer’s Choice: in groups, workshop writing (SP 1 or SP 2) or discuss
texts you're responding to.
o HW: a mini-portfolio containing "final" versions of SP 1 and SP 2 plus
Reflection due Tuesday, 2/21. Choose another revision strategy to keep working on SP 1
and SP 2.

Unit III: Widening the Conversation, a.k.a. Essaying as Questing

Thus far, all the source material we’ve engaged with has been assigned or found within your own head. In this unit,
you’ll follow your interests outward to new material, using library resources, interviews, or direct observation to
answer a question of your own choosing about writing and education. The major writing assignment in this unit is a
source-based essay much like the one you completed in Unit II, now grounded in your own research.

 Lesson 14, Tues 2/21 - Discuss reflections. SP 3 introduced. Questions everywhere. Zotero.
o HW: Read Booth et al, “From Topics to Questions.” Write a research opening reflection
(see lesson plan). Install Zotero and join the group library if you couldn’t do it in class.
 Lesson 15, Thurs 2/23 - Research Strategies 1: from questions to keywords. Discipline-specific
glossaries. Zotero follow-up.
Class meets in library; exact location t.b.d.
o HW: Begin research proposal, due in conferences next week

 Lesson 16, Tues 2/28 - Research Strategies 2: Following the bibliographic trail.
Class meets in library; exact location t.b.d.
o HW: Make and follow a personal reading schedule that will allow you to turn in a Report
on Research-in-Progress when we get back from Spring Break. Begin by actively reading
one article/chapter for Thursday
Miller 2016 Spring Syllabus – SC: Education – page 11 Planned Schedule

 Lesson 17, Thurs 3/2 - Pooling resources
o HW: Update and follow a personal reading schedule that will allow you to turn in a
Report on Research-in-Progress when we get back from Spring Break.

No classes Tues 3/7 or Thurs 3/9: Spring Break

 Lesson 18, Tues 3/14 - Generative style / sentence shapes for thinking
o HW: Finish your report on research in progress, and post to your sp3 page. Email Ben for
approval. Begin working on HW after lesson 19 if possible.
o Last day for monitored withdrawal is tomorrow, Wed 3/15.

No class Thurs 3/16: Ben will be at the Conference on College Composition and Communication.
(Follow the Twitter hashtag #4c17 if you're curious!)

 Lesson 19, Tues 3/21 - Exhibits and Arguments revisited
o HW: Two arguments, an exhibit, and a model
 Lesson 20, Thurs 3/23 - Small-group workshop
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 8 (“Connecting the Parts”). Write "the Turn"

 Lesson 21, Tues 3/28 – Perl Guidelines for composing
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 9 (“Ain’t So / Is Not”). Do exercises for expansion.
Full-breath draft of SP3 due Tuesday 4/4; final due Tuesday 4/11.
 Lesson 22, Thurs 3/30 - Workshop: Rotational Writing
o HW: Continue (re)reading and writing for SP 3, posting changes as you go; final due in
1.5 weeks

 Lesson 23, Tues 4/4 - Sentence Outline / Writing alone together
o HW: Read TSIS chapter 10 (“The Art of Metacommentary”). Choose another revision
strategy to try as you continue revising SP 3.
 Lesson 24, Thurs 4/6 - Workshop
o HW: "final" version of SP 3 and reflection due Tuesday 4/11.

Unit IV: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As we head into the final weeks of the course, your major writing project will be to complete a final portfolio,
demonstrating the degree to which you have met the course's objectives and your own: that is, you will demonstrate
both to yourselves and to me what you have learned that you will take with you to other courses and beyond. The
capstone for the portfolio is a reflective introductory essay, in which you will draw on the theorists you have read
and your analysis of the processes you’ve practiced, developing your own theory of writing education.

 Lesson 25, Tues 4/11 - Discuss reflections, introduce Shaped Piece 4
o HW: Reread and tag all your pages on the wiki. What does it start to add up to? What
exhibits might you want to include in your SP 4?
 Lesson 26, Thurs 4/13 - Theories of Writing for/as/in Education
o HW: Write a draft of SP 4.

 Lesson 27, Tues 4/19 - Workshop of SP 4
o HW: Bring something to workshop (or read, if we have a party instead)
 Lesson 28, Tues 4/21 - Last real day of class – final celebratory reading (or workshop)
o HW: final portfolio due online before start of final exam slot
Spring 2017 SC: Education (Benjamin Miller) page 12 of 15

GRADING CONTRACT*

As composition theorist Peter Elbow has written in a number of places (see especially his
“Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking”**), grades are a surprisingly crude way of measuring or
producing learning: they reduce complex phenomena to a single letter or number, and thus
obscure the differences between, say, proofreading skills and ability to support an argument.
Some teachers might try to get around this by assigning percentages of their grades to particular
skill-sets, but I find I can’t know, in advance, what any one of you will need to work on: I want
to be free to give more targeted feedback, and set more targeted goals, than any pre-set
percentage allows me to do. As I see it, each of you is here to become better than yourself, not
better than anyone else. Grades distract from that, and distract from the particular reactions and
suggestions that can help you improve.

So to shift our attention away from grading – and therefore toward thoughtful assessment – I’m
going to cut you a deal. If you fulfill all the terms of the contract below, I will guarantee that
your grade is no lower than B. If your work is consistently excellent, it can go up from there; if
you can’t complete all of the terms of the contract, your grade may go down. As you read, you’ll
notice that these B-level expectations are based on concrete, observable behaviors, not
subjective judgments of quality. No matter where you start out, the playing field is level.

Moreover, because the contract is based on good writing processes, not on mastery of skills, you
can focus on a few manageable goals at a time, rather than feeling pressure to master everything
at once. I hope you take this as an opportunity to experiment, to take risks in your writing, and to
trust that you will learn something in the process: even if you try a new writing-move and fail,
you can (in the words of Samuel Beckett) "fail better" next time, without being penalized.

Please initial each item to signal you've read it, and sign at the very end. Students who have
not turned in a signed contract by the end of the fourth class may not remain in the course.

To earn a B for this course, you must:

1. Engage actively during every class period, and use class time productively. Everyone has an
off day from time to time, but for nearly every class meeting, to the best of your ability, your
brain should be working for the full 75 minutes. This means you must also be consistently
prepared for class: read, annotate, and bring any required readings, and bring your notebook
and whatever drafts, exercises, or research you'll need. _______
2. Participate actively during every workshop, and push yourself to provide your class- and
group-mates with consistently thorough, thoughtful, helpful feedback. You should help your
group-mates to become better writers throughout the course. Taking their work seriously
enough to think hard about how it can be improved is crucial for your success, and theirs, in
*
This grading contract, including some of the language, has been adapted from Danielewicz, Jane and Peter Elbow.
"A Unilateral Grading Contract to Improve Learning and Teaching." College Composition and Communication
61.2 (December 2009): 244-268, as well as the online appendix to that article (see their note 1). The contracts and
rationales published there were made available for the purposes of such adaptation.

**
Elbow, Peter. “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment.” College English 55.2
(1993): 187-206.
Grading Contract Spring 2017 SC: Education (Miller) syllabus page 13 of 15

this course. Note that this is not just about praise or criticism: ask questions, make
connections, explore possibilities. Open space for them to do or say more. _______
3. Work with your group-mates to complete group assignments and exercises, to the satisfaction
of everyone in the group. Divide group assignments and time fairly, and complete, on time,
all the work you take on. Note that this also means demanding satisfaction from your group
mates: if one of you is slacking off, the whole group suffers. Let that person know. _______
4. For every assignment, produce substantial, thoughtful writing that follows the guidelines in
the prompt – including deadlines. _______
5. Revise thoroughly and thoughtfully after every workshop. Thoughtful revision means
substantially clarifying your ideas, reorganizing your argument, rethinking your claims,
adding to or explicating your evidence, deepening your research, adjusting your style, or/and
re-imagining your relationship to your audience. (Proofreading and swapping out individual
words, while they can be important, are not what I'm talking about here.) Even if you have
not received thorough feedback during a workshop, make at least one substantial revision
before the next workshop and before turning in the final draft. _______
6. Use the feedback provided by your instructor and your group-mates to improve your writing.
You don't have to make every change suggested, of course, because your writing is yours,
and after all, readers will sometimes disagree. But you must take all feedback seriously, and
your drafts (or notes; cf. #7) should show evidence of your careful consideration of your
readers’ suggestions: if a reader is confused or has an objection, don't ignore it, but instead
try to clear up the confusion or incorporate and respond to the objection. _______
7. When turning in final drafts and subsequent revisions (as well as for any earlier draft on
which it feels appropriate to you), attach a brief note explaining what in particular you were
trying to achieve in that draft. e.g., Were there particular reader comments you were trying to
address? A sentence or paragraph style you were trying to emulate? You can also use this
note to acknowledge suggestions you consciously decided not to take, explaining your
reasons. (This may, in fact, help you to discover your reasons.) I'll distribute a handout with
some more suggestions when the time comes. _______
8. Proofread final drafts to eliminate distracting surface errors and typos. Final drafts do not
have to be perfect, but you should learn any grammar rules that consistently cause you
trouble, by talking with a classmate, using a guide such as Hacker's Pocket Style Manual,
and/or through meetings with me or the Writing Center staff. _______
9. Attend all scheduled conferences with me and your Writing Center Consultant (if
applicable), and come prepared to use the conference time productively. If I indicate on a
draft that I would like you to schedule an appointment to talk with me, do so within the week.
A missed conference counts as 2/3 of an absence (see #12). _______
10. Avoid plagiarism by (a) taking careful notes to help you distinguish between your own ideas
and language and those you have borrowed from sources; (b) being generous about
attributing ideas and acknowledging those whose work has influenced your own, i.e. by
attempting to cite all sources correctly, even in first drafts; (c) mastering citation conventions
and citing all sources correctly in all final drafts; and (d) never attempting to disguise
another’s work as your own, never purchasing essays online, and never engaging in any other
act of academic dishonesty.
Grading Contract Spring 2017 SC: Education (Miller) syllabus page 14 of 15

This is a collaborative class, in which we offer each other suggestions and constructive
criticism. But we do so to clarify the expression of original ideas – never to substitute
someone else's ideas for our own, or to impose our ideas on someone else. _______
11. Show respect for your classmates and your instructor. This includes using respectful
language, taking each others’ ideas seriously, and refraining from distracting behaviors, such
as gossiping, reading the Post-Gazette, or using electronic devices for non-class-related
activities. Ensure that your cell phone doesn't ring during class. _______
12. Be consistently on time for class, and be absent very rarely. Three “absence tokens” equal
one absence. Coming late to class earns one absence token. Missing more than 20 minutes of
class earns two absence tokens (though you're still always welcome to come in, quietly).
Four absence-equivalents throughout the semester, three absence-equivalents during any one
unit, or absence on a day when your work is scheduled to be workshopped by the full class is
a major breach of contract (see next section). Having more than six absence-equivalents (¼
of the classes for the term) could be grounds for failure. _______
13. Submit a complete, fully revised portfolio that meets all outlined requirements by the due
date. The portfolio for this class will consist of all major writing projects, with marked-up
drafts, plus your selection of materials (e.g. inksheds or exercises) that represent your best
thinking or writing in the course. More details to follow, closer to the deadline. _______

If you fulfill all of these expectations, you are guaranteed a grade of at least a B overall. I will do
my best to keep you informed and afloat with regard to your successful participation. If you're
ever in doubt about your contractual status, feel free to email me and/or drop by my office hours.

Grades Below a B:
If you break the contract, your contracted grade for the course will be lowered as follows:
 For minor breaches (e.g. missing or not bringing in a short homework exercise, being unable
to participate in full-class discussion, or persistently distracting groupmates from the task): in
each Unit, I will permit you one “Mulligan” – one minor misstep that will not break the
contract. But two minor breaches during any Unit will lower your minimum grade by ⅓ of a
letter, i.e. to a B–; another breach in the same unit or two minor breaches during the next
Unit, and your minimum grade will be lowered further to a C+, and so on. These lowered
grades can still be improved by an exceptionally strong portfolio. _______
 For major breaches (e.g. turning in nothing for an essay draft deadline, failing to participate
in peer review, or failing to acknowledge direct revision-suggestions in all subsequent drafts
and notes): no Mulligans; your minimum grade will immediately be lowered to a B– after the
first major breach, C+ after the second, and so on. These lowered grades can still be
improved by an exceptionally strong portfolio. _______
 For the final portfolio: each day it is late, the contracted grade drops ⅔ of a letter. _______
 The attendance policy is outlined above, in item #12 (though see also #9). _______
 If your minimum grade falls below a C-minus, you cannot pass the class. _______
Again, I will do my best to keep you informed and afloat with regard to behaviors that threaten
Grading Contract Spring 2017 SC: Education (Miller) syllabus page 15 of 15

to break the contract: my goal is to keep everyone engaged, active, and learning. If you are ever
in doubt about your contractual status, feel free to send me an email or drop by my office hours.

Grades Above a B:
As mentioned above, grades up to and including B are based purely on behaviors, which is to say
on process; for grades above a B, you must demonstrate Excellence and Quality in your final
written products. While these terms are, unavoidably, rather fuzzy, in my defense I can say only
this: First, most grades in writing are somewhat arbitrary, and at least by using the contract above
I'm doing my best to limit and control the arbitrariness. Second, I promise to do my very best to
articulate, in particular instances, what I think would most help the piece in question achieve
Excellence and Quality. One of the characteristics of such writing is that it tends to stand out as
its own self, original and often surprising, and it is therefore far harder to give guidance in
general terms. Still, certain approaches are more likely to move you in that direction (though,
again, a given essay written with these processes won’t always succeed as a product):

 Begin from perplexity. Motivate each essay with a genuine question, or felt itch, that you
legitimately want to puzzle through. In other words, don't tell me something you already
know, like "honesty is often the best policy" or "reading books helps you learn a language";
start with something you know about, but don't yet understand. _______

 Proceed by thinking. This may seem obvious, but it's actually hard: having found a
motivating question or puzzle, write so as to think your way toward greater understanding.
Make some intellectual gears turn; you should know more by the end of the process than you
did at the beginning. It's fine for a B to say that 1 + 2 + 3 = 2 + 3 + 1. But to get above the B,
aim for 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Put the pieces together. _______

 Resound with grace. The best essays will not only hold together, but take pleasure in their
own unfolding language, balancing economy and precision of diction with rhetorical prowess
and poise. The fuzziest criterion of them all, but throughout the term, let's all resolve to point
out examples of graceful writing when we see it. _______

If your work is trending towards a better-than-B portfolio, I will do my best to let you know
where you've leveled up over that line, so you can try to recapture and consolidate whatever was
working so well. (Don't worry, I'll keep giving suggestions for where you can improve, as well,
because I believe that even the best of us can.)
Once more, should you ever find yourself in doubt about your contractual status – whether your
work is satisfactory for a B, unsatisfactory for a B, or excelling beyond the B-level, please feel
free to send me an email, drop by my office hours, or even to set up a conference at a better time.
PLEASE SIGN BELOW.
I, the undersigned, have read and understood the above contract to be the grading policy
for Benjamin Miller’s section of Seminar in Composition.
_________________________________ _________________________________ ________
name (in your most legible print) signature date