Spring 12 Syllabus

Elise Ann Wormuth
Office: HUM 105
Office Hours: Mondays 3-6 PM and by appointment
Phone: (415) 338-7454
email:  wormuth@sfsu.edu

English 701:

Theoretical Backgrounds for College Reading Instruction

Spring 2012

Mondays 6:10-8:55 PM

HUM 208

“Theoretical Backgrounds for College Reading Instruction” is a graduate level course examining empirical and theoretical issues related to how adult readers process and understand text. The course also addresses how reading research and theory inform postsecondary classroom practice and curriculum development. ENG 701 is a required course for the Certificate in Teaching Postsecondary Reading and an approved elective for both the MA and the Graduate Certificate in Composition.

Course Goals and Objectives:

  • to acquire familiarity with theories of how developing and mature readers understand text
  • to understand how various text, reader, and context factors affect reading comprehension
  • to understand the relationships between reading and writing
  • to be able to critically review various theoretical and empirical studies in order to become more informed on a chosen topic and to be able to relate that information in clearly written prose.
  • experience the relationship between theory and classroom practice.

Required Texts:

Handbook of College Reading and Study Strategy Research, 2nd Edition. Edited by Rona F. Flippo & David C. Caverly. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Intertexts: Reading Pedagogy in College Writing Classrooms. Edited by Marguerite Helmers. Mahwah, New Jersey: LEA, 2003.

Teaching Developmental Reading: Historical, Theoretical and Practical Background Readings. Edited by Norman A. Stahl and Hunter Boylan. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2003.

In addition to these texts, I have placed a number of articles that are required reading in an iLearn folder titled “Additional Class Readings.”

Course Requirements:

Active participation                                                                         10%

Blog postings #1 – #3                                                                      15%

Literacy activity presentation                                                         10%

Blog postings #4 and #5 (Topic exploration)                                10%

Blog posting #6 (Article review)                                                     15%

Blog posting #7 (extra)                                                                   15%

Blog posting #8 (extended topic analysis and synthesis)               25%


Total                                                                                                100%   

Active Participation (10%)  The approach we will use in this class is highly self-reflective and student-centered.  Much of the success of this class is thus in your hands.  You will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and in small-group conversations about the readings for the week.   You will also be invited to participate in an investigation of a topic of your choosing.  This investigation, and the work you do responding to the work of others, will enable you to share your inquiries, findings, and insights with your peers.  Your participation will be assessed holistically through a combination of the quantity and depth of your iLearn postings and the amount and depth of your contributions to whole class and small-group discussions.

Blog postings 1 – 3 and Response to Classmates (15%)  These first three blogs ask you to write responses to what we’ve been reading and discussing in class.  Blog #1 is due by 7 PM, Sunday, 2/8, and by the time we meet in class on Wed. 2/11, you should have also responded to at least one of your classmates’ postings.  Blog #2 is due by 7 PM on Sunday 2/19, and should be at least 500 words in length.  By the time our class meets again on Wed. 2/22, please also respond to a blog posting of at least one of your classmates.  Blog #3 is due by 7 PM on Sunday 3/11, and by the time we meet on Wed. 3/14, you should have responded to at least one of your classmates’ postings.  These first three blogs will also be used to guide both whole class and small group discussion of the readings.  At the completion of the three blogs, I will assign a √+, √ or √- depending on evidence that you interacted meaningfully with the readings and with your classmates (“meaningfully” defined as whether you responded to at least one of your classmates’ blogs and by the depth with which you considered and reflected on the questions that we have posed in class).

Literacy Activity Presentation (10%)  You will each be assigned to a group and each group will be responsible for developing a literacy activity using a particular theoretical perspective.  The class session on 3/28 will be solely devoted to group work on these activities and for planning the presentations.  The presentations will take place in class on 4/4.  Each member of the group will be expected to participate in both the design and presentation of the literacy activity.  The presentations will be assessed by how well the activity uses the theoretical perspective and for its potential to engage first-year students in the act of critical reading.  (Note:  If you are not present in class on the day of the presentations, you will not receive credit for this assignment even if you participated in designing the activity.) 

Blog Posting #4 and #5:  Topic Exploration (10%)  In Blogs #4 (due  3/28) and #5 (due 4/11), you will choose a topic related to teaching college reading for further reflection and understanding.  In Blog 4 (length 300-400 words)  begin thinking about this topic, why it’s important to you and to the college reading profession.   You will also include links or citations of readings you have chosen to explore on your topic (3-5 readings total).  In Blog 5 (length 500-600 words), you will begin exploring your topic by responding to something we’ve read in class or to one of your self-selected readings.   I will assess postings #4 and #5 using the rubric contained in the article “A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs,” mainly paying attention to your in-depth engagement with your chosen topic.

Blog Posting #6:  Article Review (15%)  In this blog, due Wed 4/18, you will pick an article or document you’ve read (web-based or print) that is related to your topic and you will write a review of that article.  This blog should be no fewer than 750 words.  Be sure to begin your blog by giving the citation of the article in APA format.  I will assess blog #5 using the following criteria:

a)         Is your purpose clear?  Do you tell your reader that in this blog you intend to review a scholarly article and do you provide the reason you selected this particular article to review?

b)         Do you cover the following points?

  • State the overall purpose of the article.  What is its main theme?
  • What new ideas or information does the article communicate?
  • Why was it important that these ideas were published?

c)         Do you address the research methodology, indicating your skills in critical thinking about research methodology?

  • What methods did the authors use to get their results?
  • If this is an experiment or survey, how were the data collected and analyzed?  Who were the subjects?
  • What were the basic results or findings from the research?
  • If this is an opinion paper, where did the author find his or her opinions?

d)         Do you give your impressions of the usefulness of the article and are you sure to give the reasons for your opinions?

  • Were the findings important to an interested reader?
  • Were the conclusions valid?
  • Do you agree with the conclusions?

e)         Do you conclude your review by summing up for the reader how this article contributes to or advances your thinking about your chosen topic?

Blog Posting #7:  First Draft of final blog post (15%)

For the final blog, due Wed. 4/25, you are to select a minimum of three and a maximum of five articles/links related to a topic you’ve chosen in the broad area of reading theory that you find most compelling/puzzling/interesting.  Your goal in this final blog is to articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content in the articles/links/comments/previous posts and to post a blog with potential audience response in mind.  Blog length:  ~1000 words.  I will assess your final blog using the following criteria:

1)         Your clarity of purpose – what specific “issue” or problem are you addressing in your blog post and what the significance of this topic is for you.  Is it a question you’d like answered, a controversy you’d like to explore in order to see where you stand?

2)         Your use of source material.  Do you do more than merely summarize the content you’ve read?  Do you use the source material to think through and arrive at a perspective of your own?  In other words, are you simply reporting the ideas of others or are you assessing and evaluating these ideas for your own purpose?

3)         The significance of your inquiry.  Is your purpose achieved, and if so, is that clear to your audience?  Given where you began your inquiry, have you made it clear to a reader where your inquiry has taken you?  Did any of your questions get answered and/or did you arrive at any new, perhaps “better” questions?  Did you arrive at any new insights or changes of heart or mind?   After you have conducted your inquiry, where does that leave you and our field?

4)         The clarity of your writing.  Is your blog well organized?  Have you sufficiently developed your ideas?  Have you considered your audience in terms of voice and register?  Is your writing carefully proofread and thus free of errors?

As this is a first draft, you will submit this on iLearn rather than on the blog site, and I will give you feedback.

Blog Posting #8:  Extended Topic Analysis and Synthesis (25%)  After receiving feedback and revising, you will post your final blog, due Wed. 5/9.  Please refer to the blog post #7 for description and criteria.



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