"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." --Chinese Proverb
A Concise Guide to Technical Communication (Gurak and Lannon)
ability to effectively communicate ideas in writing is one of the most
important skills for you to develop in college, regardless of your
occupational field. English 316C is designed to help you develop that
ability. How will we go about this? This course is based on the radical
idea that the way to learn how to write is to write. Imagine a college
basketball team that, instead of actually getting on the court to
practice, spent its time with the players sitting around talking about
strategies, maneuvers, and rules. How would this team do on game day?
Poorly, of course. It’s the same with writing. To develop your writing
skills, you need to spend your time writing. As with basketball, theory
is important but should supplement practice (and not the other way
around). This course will give you practice for the real world writing
situations that you will face as you graduate. You will develop the
skills you need to go out in the world and write effectively in your
you go about this semester, please think carefully about and apply the
fourth principle of the BYU–I learning model which states that learners
and teachers at BYU–I "act for themselves and accept responsibility for
learning and teaching."
to Hugh Nibley, grades are “acquisitive, competitive, and phony.” I
tend to agree. The more I teach, the less interested I am in giving
grades or in having a system that elevates the grade you get above what
you learn or gain from an assignment. Besides, in the real world, your
writing is not graded: it either fulfills its function or it doesn't;
it is either satisfactory or it isn’t. In this course, we will have
something of a pass/fail system where, instead of getting grades, you
will either get a “credit” (a checkmark) for an assignment or else you
will get it back with the chance to revise it for credit. Your final
grade for the course will depend on how many course assignments you get
may ask, so how can I know if something is going to get credit or not?
If you work hard, write something that’s meaningful, and do a good job
of it, you’ll likely either get credit or be very close to it. I also
strongly encourage you to talk to me about assignments you’re doing to
get feedback on them before you turn them in.
are numerous ways to get credit for assignments; there typically isn’t
just one right approach. Be willing to try new and different things.
One of my goals for this approach to grading is to allow you to get
past trying to read my mind or guess what I want you to do, to give you
the opportunity to do work that is meaningful to you, and to try to
help you, as President Clark is fond of saying, to act and not merely
be acted upon.
you don't get credit for an assignment, you should breathe deep, smile,
and realize that you can revise it for credit. I’m on your side. I want
you to get credit for it. I fully expect you to do so, and I’m prepared
to help you. I strongly recommend that you meet with me if you
have a document that isn’t getting credit and you’re not sure why--if
you've sent something through the workshop multiple times without
success, you should be talking to me about it.
evaluation—having you read, comment on, and determine whether another
student’s work is creditable—gives you the responsibility of applying
your knowledge about writing even after you’ve finished an assignment.
Since in the real world you won’t be writing to an audience of English
professors, peer evaluation will form a significant component of this
class. The papers that you write will be distributed to your fellow
students for their evaluation and comments.
take all opportunities for peer evaluation seriously; apply your
understanding of the assignments (based on the text and our class
discussions) and give a fair and honest assessment of the effectiveness
of your peers’ writing. Inferior work will not be acceptable in the
workplace; if you don’t give an honest and careful assessment of your
classmates’ work now, you will be doing them a disservice.
will periodically spend our class time in evaluation workshops. For
these, you should bring all work you have done that you think is ready
to receive credit. I will divide you into small groups, and you will
pass your documents to be considered to another group. As groups, you
will examine and discuss your classmates’ documents and determine
whether you think they are creditable or not. If a document is not, you
will return it to the student who wrote it and explain to him or her
what needs to be done to make it so it is. If you think it is
creditable, you will submit it to me and recommend that it receive
credit. If I agree, it will receive credit and will be returned to the
student. If I disagree, I’ll return it to your group and explain to you
what needs to be done with it, and then you’ll return it to the student
and explain to him or her what needs to be done so it can be credited.
these workshop days, I will be actively involved in your groups,
answering questions and giving you my thoughts on what should or
shouldn’t constitute a creditable assignment. Please pay attention to
what I tell you; over the course of the semester you shouldn’t keep
bringing multiple documents to me that have the same problem. (I find
that my role in the workshops diminishes as the semester progresses as
students learn for themselves to evaluate work efficiently and
You should return non-creditable documents to students and also call me over for creditable ones throughout
the workshop class period. Do not save a big stack to give back or for
me to consider until the end of the class period. Try to keep the
evaluating load equitable; if your group finishes with all the
documents you have, get some more from another group. Also, it is not
appropriate for you to spend class time making revisions to documents
that have been returned to you while there are other documents in the
class to be evaluated.
your work does not get credit, you should revise it and bring it in to
be evaluated at a later date. If you disagree with the group evaluating
your paper as to whether your work is creditable or not, you can submit
it unrevised to a different group at a later workshop and hope for a
different result. If you have a document that you think is creditable
but has failed to make it through the workshop at least twice, then you
can bring it directly to me (I’m happy to give suggestions for your
papers at any point in the writing process, but I’m not willing to
directly evaluate a paper’s creditability unless it has been turned
down by two groups and you think it is creditable).
these workshops certainly function for you to get credit for your
documents, there's much more to them than that. It's by carefully
examining and responding to the work of others that you can learn how
to improve your own work. It's true that you'll sometimes get uneven
feedback from your peers. Nevertheless, you shouldn't view these
occasions as reasons for getting upset but rather as learning
opportunities for everyone involved.
time will be spent in a variety of ways, including discussions about
writing techniques and assignments, learning activities, and
workshopping. I believe in having a very hands-on approach to writing;
as the Chinese proverb above states, you don't learn best by hearing
but by doing. At times, classes may be shortened or cancelled
to make way for individual or group conferences. In all cases, class
time will be spent in the way that I think is most beneficial for you
in learning the concepts and developing the skills you need for this
course will also incorporate some elements of a hybrid course.
Periodically, instead of meeting together as a class, I will give you
out-of-class Blackboard assignments. Your attendance will be determined
by whether or not you complete and post the assignment. When we have
days like this, I will typically meet with students on an as-needed
basis either in the classroom or in my office.
of the documents you create for this class will revolve around the new
children's museum in Rexburg and the organization Have Fun, Inc. These
are real-world documents and will have real consequences for these
organizations. I expect you to take them seriously and to do an
excellent job. I also hope that you'll take advantage of this
opportunity to be involved with these worthwhile organizations and to
give yourself a meaningful academic and life experience.
is a critical component of the writing process. A first draft thrown
together at the last moment is seldom going to be creditable. While you
should consider the draft you post or bring to a workshop to be a final
draft (if you're serious about your writing, you will probably find
yourself bringing in at least a second or a third draft), you should
pay careful attention to what I and your peers suggest to help you
create better work. A good motto to adopt for this class would be,
"Don't get frustrated, get it right."
hate late work. Assignments are to be submitted on the day they are
due. All discussion board postings must be made by the determined
dates. In extraordinary circumstances, things may be submitted or
posted late for less credit than they would otherwise be worth. If you
miss class for any reason, it is your responsibility to get work that
is due to me any way you can.
keep strict attendance. Much of your success in this course will depend
on your being there and being involved in our discussions, activities,
and workshops. You may miss 4 class sessions for any reason. Each
absence over 4 will cap your grade at a certain level. With 5
absences, the best you can get is an A-, with 6, a B+, etc.
should always inform me, ahead of time when possible, about why you
miss class. Save your absences for when you get sick or for family
emergencies. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to talk to a
classmate to get whatever notes you may have missed.
exceptional circumstances, I don't care why you're gone. Even if you
have a good excuse, you're still missing the educational content of the
class period (this applies to university-excused absences as well; if
you are going to be missing classes for approved reasons, you need to
make sure not to miss too many other days for unapproved reasons).
shouldn’t really be an issue in this class. Nevertheless, plagiarism is
grounds for suspension from the university as well as for failure in
this course. It will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is a
counterproductive, non-writing behavior that is unacceptable in a
course intended to aid the growth of individual writers. It has no
place at this university.
Students with Disabilities:
compliance with the applicable disability law, qualified students with
a disability may be entitled to “reasonable accommodation.” It is the
student’s responsibility to disclose to the teacher any special need
she/he may have before the end of the first week of class.
note on the computer classroom: The classroom computers are NOT to be
used for instant messaging, checking your e-mail, websurfing, playing
games, doing homework for other classes, or any other unholy practice
(this applies to you even if you bring your own laptop to class, and
don't even get me started on cell phones . . .). This policy will be
reserve the right to add, delete, or modify any part of this syllabus
as necessary as the semester progresses. I will discuss any changes to
the syllabus with you.