||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
First-year composition is an introductory core curriculum writing course in North American colleges. This course focuses on improving students' abilities to write in a university setting and introduces students to writing practices in the disciplines and professions. These courses are traditionally required of incoming students, thus the previous name, "Freshman Composition". First-year composition is a discipline of composition studies.
First-year composition (FYC) courses are structured in a variety of ways. Some institutions of higher education require only one term of FYC, while others require two or three courses. There are a number of identifiable pedagogies associated with FYC, including but not limited to the following: current-traditional, expressivist, social-epistemic, process, post-process and Writing about Writing (WAW). Each of these pedagogies can generate a multitude of curricula.
Composition professionals, including those with degrees in Writing Studies and Rhetoric and Composition, often focus on a rhetorical approach to help students learn how to apply an understanding of audience, purpose, context, invention, and style to their writing processes. This rhetorical approach has shown that real writing, rather than existing as isolated modes, has more to do with a writer choosing from among many approaches to perform rhetorical tasks. In addition to a focus on rhetoric, many first year composition courses also emphasize writing process, where students are encouraged to interact with classmates and receive feedback to be used for revision. These practices can take the form of essay peer review or workshopping. Portfolios are a common way of assessing revised student work.
Since the late nineteenth century, college courses on composition have become increasingly common in American higher education. Although a longstanding course offering at many colleges, first-year composition remains controversial and marginalized.
Structure of contemporary first-year composition
First-Year Composition is designed to meet the goals for successful completion set forth by the Council of Writing Program Administrators. To reach these goals, students must learn rhetorical conventions, critical thinking skills, information literacy, and the process of writing an academic paper. While there is no American standard curriculum for first-year composition, curriculum is developed at several levels, including the state, institution, department, and writing program.
First-year composition and rhetoric
With the publication of James Kinneavy's Theory of Discourse in 1971, English departments began incorporating rhetoric into their composition classrooms. In doing this, composition instructors have placed more emphasis on teaching audience analysis, Aristotle's three appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos), and teaching Kinneavy's modes of discourse. According to Brian Sutton in "Writing in the Disciplines, First-Year Composition, and the Research Paper," since 1980, there has been an increasing debate in academic circles as to whether the "generic" approach to writing in first year composition is useful for students whose future writing will be discipline specific (46).
First described by Mina Shaughnessy in the 1970s, Basic writing is a division of composition studies that strives to bring disadvantaged students entering college to a more complete understanding of the rhetorical aspects of the writing process.
- Duffy, John. "Essay on the Value of First-year Writing Courses." Inside Higher Ed. March 16, 2012.
- "Principles and Practices in Electronic Portfolios." Conference on College Composition and Communication, 2007.
- Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press: 1998.
- Miller, Susan. Textual Carnivals: The Politics of Composition. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
- Holbrook, Sue Ellen. "Women's Work: The Feminizing of Composition." Rhetoric Review 9(2) 1991: 201-229.
- Clark, Irene. Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. p 6.
- Sutton, Brian. "Writing in the Disciplines, First-Year Composition, and the Research Paper." Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 2.1 (1997) 46–57. Web.
- Otte, George, and Rebecca Mlynarczyk. "Brief: Basic Writing." National Council of Teachers of English. 2009.
- Perryman-Clark, Staci. "Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures (WRA) 125 – Writing: the Ethnic and Racial Experience." Composition Studies 37.2 (Fall 2009): 115–134.