Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
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About The FYW Curriculum

Our FYW curriculum is rhetoricalinductive,and inquiry-based. Its goal is to prepare students not only to approach new writing situations with confidence, but also to teach them the uses of rhetorical concepts for making sense of their world—most immediately, in the transition to college life and learning. The curriculum invites students to put their prior knowledge in relation to new understandings of rhetoric, literacy, and culture.  It moves students through a sequence of five projects designed to help them:

  • discover and articulate their educational goals through a series of structured inquiries into their own learning, cultural values, and academic literacies;
  • understand the uses of writing for learning and symbolic action; and
  • acquire the means to be lifelong makers of knowledge through writing.

The project sequence is scaffolded so that each experience yields conceptual and productive knowledge useful for the next, and so that rhetorical resources accumulate over the course of the semester.  The five projects may be framed and inflected differently in accordance with the thematic emphasis of the courses in which they are situated, but the general curriculum includes a Learning Narrative Project, a Cultural Artifact Project, a Disciplinary Literacies Project, a Remix Project, and a Reflective Learning Narrative Project.

  • The Learning Narrative Project invites students to consider their experiences with learning in and out of school to encourage them to reflect on the relationship between their learning histories and present lives.  In this first experience with college writing, students learn that their experiences both in and out of school can be useful as resources for academic inquiry--even as the narrative itself will eventually become a useful resource for academic inquiry, especially as a resource for the final reflective narrative.
  • The Cultural Artifact Project invites students to inquire into cultural values in which they are implicated as learners by choosing an everyday object as the focus of guided exploration. This experience gives them further practice in processes of inquiry (formulating questions and forming theories of cultural value). In this project, students explicitly extend their inquiries into the practices and values of learning revealed in he first project into wider cultural contexts. With this project, they begin to see that research is a process of discovery, for which strategies can be practiced and learned.
  • The Disciplinary Literacies Project enables students to learn about the literacy practices of a discipline or profession of their choice by looking at textual products as cultural artifacts to understand the textual products of disciplines as cultural and rhetorical. It combines the self-discovery piece of the Learning Memoir with the inquiry process of the Cultural Artifact Project. The Disciplinary Literacies project invites students to continue asking the questions implicit in the first project: (What am I doing here, and what resources do I bring to the project of my education? What do I need, and how do I achieve my goals?), and to put these in relation to discoveries about the literacies of disciplinary and professional cultures.
  • The Remix Project builds on the learning of the first three projects by making rhetorical moves implicit in these projects the explicit focus of attention.  It asks students to create a product that helps them be more aware of the — of purpose, audience, medium; mode or genre—they make. It invites students to experience and reflect further on processes of invention and arrangement, and further develops inquiries into relationships between rhetorical purposes, audiences, and resources (material, conceptual, and ethical).
  • The Reflective Learning Narrative Project takes students’ own learning as an object of inquiry. It invites students to reflect on the development and uses of their learning over the course of the semester: to make claims about what they have learned, to set goals for their ongoing learning, to propose the means for achieving those learning goals, and to use the evidence and examples they have created throughout the semester to support each of these types of claims. This assignment builds directly from all of the activities of the semester by inviting students to cite examples from early and final drafts of their assignments, their proposals, their peer-review sessions, their student/teacher conferences, etc. The Reflective Learning Narrative Project is designed to empower students to investigate and celebrate their successes and to make the most of their mistakes by setting goals that emerge from reflecting on their activities that went less well than they had hoped.

The FYW curriculum at MSU does not presume to predict or replicate every possible writing task students may encounter in their educational careers. Instead, it aims to develop students’ capacity to understand and adapt to new writing situations by giving them the means to ask the kinds of questions good writers ask: What is the purpose of this writing? What is the task? What does it ask of me? What is the larger context? Who is my audience, and what are its needs and expectations?  What kind of language is appropriate for the work this writing must do? What do I already know, what do I still need to know, and where can I find useful resources?

The goal of the FYW curriculum is to help students develop transferable knowledge about writing – about concepts, processes, strategies, and practices.