Chapter 1: The Introduction
What is a College Writing Course?
Students often enter college writing courses believing they will be taking an “English” course that revolves around reading literature, writing creatively, and/or focusing on grammar. In fact, that is rarely the case.
At Cleveland State University, each student is required to take either ENG 100: Intensive College Writing or ENG 101: College Writing I and also ENG 102: College Writing II. Although each course is tagged as “ENG”, the official titles of each course include the words “College Writing.” Their official titles show that they are situated within the academic discipline, or the field of, Composition and Rhetoric. As members of that field, college writing instructors create, critique, and/or draw from pedagogical (teaching) theories and practices. Instructors might gather information from or publish in various discipline specific academic journals or conferences such as the College Composition and Communication Conference.
In practice, college writing courses teach students about writing and composing processes, how to think critically, use rhetorical knowledge to evaluate sources, integrate legitimate research in formal writing assignments, and write formal expository texts.
Cleveland State University’s First-Year Writing Sequence
ENG 100/101 helps you learn basic academic writing techniques while also examining rhetorical situations and rhetorical appeals. These skills connect to the “real world” in multiple ways. For instance, think of the last political ad you saw or an article you read online–how do you know if it was legit? Do you know who paid for the ad/article or who will profit from it? If you do know, what does that mean? Do you ask yourself, “whose agenda is this?” when you interact with popular media like reality tv shows, news programs, commentary programs, blogs, articles, etc.? In ENG 100/101, you will address some of these questions in various contexts to help you learn how to think critically about the world around you.
ENG 102 teaches you how to do research—find information—and how to use it, which is necessary for any major. We read, research and write to learn, and additionally by doing so, we gain the ability to read and follow both directions and instructions—a skillset desired by all employers. Then, unspoken and perhaps not emphasized is the confidence you gain in a first-year writing class when you discover your voice which after taking a year of composition results in a more mature outlook. This newfound connection to the human world and the natural world is what the critical thinker experiences. Overall, ENG 100/101 and ENG 102 are complimentary to but also different from most “English” courses you might have experienced in the past.
Why Should I Care About College Writing Courses?
Many students who enter college writing courses may at first feel apprehensive or may not see how these courses connect to their intended majors. In reality, college writing courses teach students to use writing to communicate and use critical thinking skills to become savvier consumers of information. Additionally, according to data gathered by Cleveland State’s Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs using the third-party software platform, Civitas Illume, a student’s successful completion (earning a C or higher) in both ENG 100/101 and ENG 102 have been linked to increased persistence and graduation rates.
The data show that students who earn a B or higher in their college writing courses have an above average likelihood of graduation. Even though some students might find the idea of earning a B or higher daunting, it is important to remember that you are generally evaluated based on completing process-driven and reflective writing assignments, attending class regularly, and participating. Even more exciting is that the data also suggest that a student who simply raises their grade by one letter, for instance increasing your grade from a C to a B or a D to a C, also has a stronger likelihood of graduating. What this means is whether or not you conceptualize yourself as a B or A student in writing, any student who participates in revision opportunities, attends class, participates in class discussions, and communicates clearly with their instructor can increase their course grade, which positively affects the likelihood that he or she will graduate.
This all goes to support the notion that while writing class does not need to be scary it should be taken seriously and it does matter.