1121 Unit Descriptions

While 1101 and 1121 are somewhat similar in that they focus on genre awareness, metacognitive awareness and discourse community with the main goal of transfer of writing skills, there are some differences between the two courses. Let us put it this way: the courses rhyme, but 1101 asks students to look inward and examine who they are as writers and 1121 is more focused on asking students to look outward– who are they as public  writers? With this in mind, while it is not a requirement, many instructors assign at least one group or community-based writing project in 1121.

 While it is not a requirement, we suggest a brief, community-building  mini-unit (perhaps a week or so long) before getting into the “heavy lifting” of units 1-3, as these are longer, more research-heavy assignments. This might be a short narrative assignment in which the student reflects on their own discourse community, on their own name, on their own speech acts, on their own education– whatever the instructor sees fit.  

 Unit 1.     Discourse Community Project

According to James Paul Gee, “Discourses are ways of being in the world; they are forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes.” As such, membership in a “discourse community” is membership in a group that shares more or less the same ways of saying (or writing), doing, being, valuing and believing. And within these communities, certain forms of art, certain styles of dress, certain ways of speaking, and certain genres of communication carry more sway than others. This unit seeks to examine that sway.

In this unit,  students begin to examine how genres and language function to reach specific discourse communities, whether they be discourse communities of which the student is a part or not. The student will then produce a finished piece of writing—perhaps a document fit for the discourse community in question, perhaps a rhetorical analysis of a document or documents, perhaps another type of project entirely—one way or the other, the student should emerge with a better understanding of how language functions to designate membership in the community they are investigating. They may also investigate whether the artifacts produced by a discourse community relate to societal issues or engage in conversation with other discourses.

Unit 2.   Inquiry-Based Research– The Problem. 

The purpose of this inquiry-based research is to spark and deepen student curiosity and scholarship. In this unit, students will further their research skills to investigate a problem of interest to them. This may be a problem in their communities,  that arises in the literature they’re reading, that arises from the discourse community projects or from any number of other places. The key here is that students begin their research with a question or a hypothesis as opposed to a thesis or an answer. Their research may lead them to an solution, but it is more likely that the research will lead them closer to a solution, or to a different, deeper question– and that’s fine! 

Instructors can and should scaffold the problem-finding process, narrowing it down to a family of topics or otherwise helping students choose a place to begin,  but instructors should not prescribe topics to students wholesale.  Students will be expected to a variety of online resources and will also have the possibility of conducting interviews or other observation based research. Research will require that students use appropriate attribution practices including gathering and evaluating of multiple sources, both primary and secondary sources. Students will be asked to synthesize a variety of ideas and sources while they pursue their research goals and questions. Research assignments can be individual projects or group projects.

Unit 3: Repurposing– with Persuasion!

This assignment asks students to re-think, or re-envision, one of the assignments they have written previously in the semester, presenting it in a totally new genre, perhaps changing  modes: for example, a revision that goes from a written essay to an audio podcast, website, graphic, video essay or rap album and in this translation, making an argument to their new audience.  This assignment builds on the generic, rhetorical and audience awareness that students have worked on all semester long, asking them to consider what discourse community they are trying to reach and, not only what diction, but also what mode of delivery would be best for persuading that discourse community of their message.

This “translation” is key to transfer, one of the core learning outcomes of this course. If students can take a message and transform it for different audiences and media, then they are well on their way to being able to transfer writing skills across fields, disciplines and discourse communities.

 Along with the multimodal piece itself, students should write a metacognitive reflective essay explaining their process, their initial goals, and how well they feel they were able to reach those goals.