Types of Projects

Individual (and group) projects must be approved by your editorial committee and by me. Because the projects will vary to a great extent in the amount of work (verbal, visual, tactile and electronic construction), we will negotiate how much work you will need to do to fulfill the assignment. For example, the writer constructing a web page is taking on a greater rhetorical challenge than the student who is writing an academic essay (one writer is trying something new and facing new challenges while the second is relying upon and building upon skills s/he has already had some experience developing). You will write an analytical coverletter for each major project you construct for this class, and the coverletter will accompany the "final" draft of the project that you hand in to me.

Project 1

A rhetorical performance, a public text you construct about your area of specialization or future career. So, if you are an education major, you may choose to write a class web page complete with lessons and links Or you may choose to develop an Internet Classroom with lessons and links. You may also choose to create and maintain (throughout the semester) a personal blog in which you sound in on a single issue related to your field. Or you may wish to create a documentary film, radio broadcast series, a series of feature articles, or a zine focused upon your field/career.

Project 2

a project of your own choosing. You may develop a personal website, a series of professional materials (portfolios, resumes, web pages, coverletters), an academic essay, a zine, a work of creative nonfiction, a documentary, a radio broadcast series, a presentation for the undergraduate research forum, a political comic book, a parody newspaper or magazine, a personal narrative, an ethnographic report, etc.

Some things you could do with this project...

  • writing, revising your teaching philosophy, a lesson plan, or your entire teaching portfolio
  • researching, writing, revising coverletters and resumes for jobs or internships (4-5 letters and resumes=one project)
  • writing creative non-fiction pieces
  • putting together an anthology/portfolio of your poetry, prose, sketches, essays, photographs (with a critical introduction to the collection that sketches your growth as an artist and outlines a few basic theories you have about the genre and your contribution to it.
  • writing a children's story by applying one or more theories of childhood development (accompanying this story will be your critical introduction to the text)
  • proposing and writing a freelance article ($)
  • collaborating on a class/group anthology (credit for editing, compiling, & introducing the works!)
  • writing an autobiographical piece
  • writing a family history or recording a single important event in your family's history told from multiple perspectives
  • writing, directing, editing, and producing your own documentary (creative non-fiction)
  • writing a scholarly article for publication
  • writing, designing, revising, refining a personal and/or professional webpage
  • writing, creating, and distributing your own underground magazine ("zine"), "e-zine," or newspaper
  • researching, writing, editing, and producing a news broadcast (TV or radio)
  • writing a series of editorials and/or letters to the editors about a single issue
  • writing, designing a brochure, newsletter, and/or webpage for a business, event, charity, organization
  • Applying to grad school? Use this class to draft your personal statement and/or writing sample
  • Apply for a gov't grant or fellowship for first year in grad school, for educational research, for opeing/starting a new business

Project 3

Project 3 is a research project in which you examine some aspect of or issue in education in your field. The twist here is that you will take a historical look at that aspect or issue, examining the archives at ISU and in your own department, interviewing people who have some institutional, professional, or departmental memory, and constructing your own conclusions about what the history of this issue says about your field today. How you write this project will, again, be up to you. You may wish to keep the format academic so that you can use the essay to apply for awards in your department and/or graduate school or so that you can present your research at a symposium or forum. Or you may wish to turn this material into some other kind of published material including (almost...I think a zine or comic or parody might be inappropriate genres for this type of material) any of the above.

Professions, professional programs, and the professionals that emerge from those programs typically arise as a result of some perceived social need or demand. For example, we might argue that law schools came into being as a result of an increased need for lawyers who understood and could work with an increasing variety of complex laws (basic instruction in law was no longer enough). Doctors are needed to cure the sick and to help people remain healthy. But as time passes, what society once needed and demanded may no longer be needed or demanded: in some cases, then, the profession may construct itself, imagining or constructing a need in order to illustrate why it is still viable or making adjustments to its own identity in order to fill some other social need.

For example, my profession (rhetoric and composition) has been tainted by its roots: in the late 19th century, composition emerged as a field in order to correct the linguistic “errors” of college students so that they could go on to write flawless essays for their more privileged literature professors. We emerged because around the time that the working classes and women were given entrance to the university, someone decided that Johnny (or Jenny) couldn’t write. We emerged as a “temporary” fix to a social “problem.” Gradually the field began to construct an identity for itself, to diversify according to many different perceived social demands for writing and rhetoric, and to adapt, in some cases, methods and theories that fly in the face of what society demands (we don’t teach grammar anymore because our research revealed such instruction was useless and, perhaps, even harmful, but society still wants us to teach you grammar…in this case, we’ve actually constructed ourselves as professionals in direct opposition to what society wants, needs, demands of us).

Here’s another example: this document, this syllabus that I’ve constructed for us, is a relatively new invention. There was a time (about 60 years ago, I believe) when instructors simply didn’t feel the need to tell students what the course policies were, how they would be graded, and what would be expected of them throughout the semester. But times have changed and now schools compete for your tuition dollar: somewhere along the way, and I happen to think this is a good thing, the academy realized that maybe students had a right to know these things, and the syllabus was born. A need arose, a social demand was made, professionals in the university responded, and a great (and, I think, ethical) pedagogical tool was born.

Here's another interesting turn of events, the terror alert levels posted and explained at a public school site. Reminds me of the days of crawling under desks for H-bomb drills, of fire drills, and of tornado drills. To what extent, I wonder, has security become a pedagogical issue over the years (especially since Columbine and 9-11)? How has it affected teaching and learning?

Smaller Projects

A Journal that you will write in every week. I will typically give you time to do this in class and I will collect the journals periodically throughout the semester to respond to and grade. It is in your best interest to keep up with the assignments. Descriptions of the individual journal assignments will be available online every Monday afternoon (Click on "Journal entries" above). Each week's journal entry should be at least 250-500 words in length (around a page), although I welcome you to write more, if you wish.

Please Note: The purpose of the journal is to help you begin to make sense of what you are discovering about your profession during your research for and construction of the major projects in this class. But I will also ask for your permission to use your journal for further research. My dissertation focuses on English Studies and the construction of the discipline of English over the last 125 years, and one of the focuses of my research is on how students (English majors--myself included) have been constructed by the field of English and how they have been and are professionalized. The information provided by the folks in our class who are not English majors will also inform how I interpret the field's professionalization. But you need not agree to participate in my research for this class. Indeed, your decision to grant or withhold your permission will have no impact on your grade for the class. However, whether you choose to allow me to use your work or not, you will still be expected to complete all of the journal entries according to the standards outlined above. If you do choose to participate, you should know that while the research may be made public, I will never publish your name in connection with it. You will be asked to provide me with a pseudonym to use, and your identity will remain confidential. In this way, I minimize any risk to you that might result from your voluntary participation in this research project.


Readings from the course pack and from online sources will be assigned periodically, and you will usually write a single page response to these readings. (with other social practices grades including attendance)

While not everyone will choose to develop a web page, blog, or Internet Classroom, I will take some time in class to introduce everyone to the technology. This way should you choose, later in the semester, to try a different forum for your work, you will have an idea of how to begin. I also believe that as writers it is important for all of us to explore some of the options we have for getting our work out there: precious few of us will ever publish a novel, but many of us will be asked to design web materials at some point in our careers.

Revision Policy

This will not be a portfolio class. To a certain extent, you will be creating works that you will have to abandon to a "published" form at some point, so there will be a point when you will have to stop working on one project, publish it, and move on to the next. If you are doing an electronic publication you can obviously return to your work any time you want, but in the interest of fairness to those creating paper publications, we will have deadlines for the work.

You will hand in a "final" version of your work on the due date. When that work is returned to you, you will have a two week grace period during which you may revise and resubmit the work for reevaluation. The revision protocol involves you emailing me with a detailed revision plan no more than one week after I have returned your graded project. You then have an additional week to revise the work. I will not accept any "late" revisions, and you must send me the revision plan and be present in class on the day you hand in your revised project. I will not average the original grade with the revised grade. Instead, I will simply erase the original grade and give you the revised grade...which means that if you make a C on the original and an A on the revision, I will not average the two grades, giving you a B for the project. Your grade will be an A. So, it may be in your best interest to take full advantage of this policy.

Division of Grades and Responsibilities

  • Attendance, participation, editorial responsibilities, reading responses, short assignments: 20%
  • Journal: 20%
  • First Project: 20%
  • Second Project: 20%
  • Third Project 20%

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