My Perspective as a Comp Instructor at the U of Louisville

I feel really lucky to be pursing a Rhet/Comp Ph.D. at the University of Louisville. Rather than “brag on” the quality of our program, I’d rather construct myself as being able to offer insights into parts of our program in which you might be interested. I’ve taken classes with Min-zhan Lu, Bruce Horner, Debra Journet, Joanna Wolfe, Karen Kopelson, Bronwyn Williams. While each of them has their own niche in Comp Studies, I really appreciate their commitments to pedagogy.

Students

As far as our students go, Louisville is an urban commuter campus. I’m not sure, but I guess that means that we have a relatively high percentage of students who live off campus and drive to school, students who commit significant time to jobs unrelated to school, and many first-generation college students. Our class size for the first semester of First-Year-Comp is 22. Second semester class size is 26. Business Writing: 26. Upper-level courses vary widely.

Teaching

Graduate students are responsible for teaching two section of Comp each semester. I really appreciate the fact that we are allowed to choose our own textbook and design our own courses. The variety of texts chosen isn’t surprising, but Joseph Harris’s Rewriting gets more popular every semester among graduate students and professors. In order to maintain some sort of consistency within these flexibilities, the Comp department clearly communicates its commitment to common outcomes for each of our major courses. Those outcomes align pretty closely with those offered by the WPA. Each instructor is observed by a colleague each semester, and instructors are required to submit a copy of their syllabus for each course during the first week of the semester.

Technology

I wish we had more resources to work with. We have only two computer labs dedicated for writing courses. With more than a hundred sections of courses each semester, those labs remained booked from 7:30 am to 10:00pm. Then close. Students are left to complete their work in open labs in the library or their respective college labs or, of course, their own computers. Instructors assign technology-centered texts at their own (and their students’) peril. We do the best we can with what’s offered, though.

Texts

(I’m guessing this will be one of the main concerns of this advisory board.) Most instructors at UofL adopt a combination of bound-published text (like Ways of Seeing or Rewriting) as well as offering additional readings via course management software (Blackboard, WebCT). Listening to discussions about text-adoption from my colleagues, I think they are most attracted to two qualities in a text: a) readings in which students will be invested; b) readings that offer conventions more closely resembling those expected in our classrooms (citation styles, close conversation with other texts, student perspectives, etc.).

*Note: Next week I’ll be attending the “TA Advisory Board Summit in Boston” at the pleasure of Bedford/St. Martin’s. They asked that each of the ten attendees post a message and bio to get things rolling. Once I finished it, I figured it might be useful as a post for this blog. I’m also thinking about posting it as a static page here, too.

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