Fall 2017

English/L&S Interdisciplinary Courses 403: Seminar on Tutoring Writing Across the Curriculum

This syllabus was adapted from Emily Hall’s English 403 syllabus. 


Accessibility Statement

Your success in this class is important to me. I am committed to creating an environment that is respectful, welcoming, and accessible to all students regardless of opinion, identity, or personal attribute. We all have different learning styles and I am eager to help you achieve and exceed the learning goals of the course. Please talk to me as soon as possible about your individual learning style so we can work together to make the course accommodating for you.

If you have a disability (or think you might) that may affect your ability to succeed in this course or for which you need accommodation, please talk to me. If you have a disability (or think you might) you can also contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center (, which works with students and instructors to make accommodations. The McBurney Center works with students confidentially and does not disclose any disability-related information to instructors or students.                                     

Course Description

Welcome to English/Interdisciplinary Programs 403, a seminar on tutoring writing across the curriculum. This class will be unlike any other you take at UW-Madison, because in this class we pair intellectual inquiry into issues that surface in the teaching of writing with practical strategies that will help you achieve your goals as Writing Fellows. Just like your work as Fellows, this class is based on the ethic of peer collaboration; in all aspects of the course, you will be both teachers and learners at the same time. I hope this class and your experiences as Fellows will be exciting and rewarding for all of you.

Throughout the semester, we will read articles and complete writing assignments designed to familiarize you with theories of writing and tutoring and to stimulate your thinking about issues these theories raise. We will also consider how the works we read apply to your experiences as Writing Fellows. As we read them, we will ask such questions as:

How do writers learn to write?

How, when, and where—if at all—is writing taught in the academy?

How do culture, race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability influence writing and the teaching or tutoring of writing?

How, and why, does peer tutoring work?

In addition to challenging you to think critically about writing and teaching, this course will help you to develop tutoring skills. During selected class meetings, we will practice writing comments on sample papers, watch videos of Fellows’ conferences, and share details from our experiences as Fellows. In class meetings, we will consider:

How can Fellows write effective commentary on student papers? And hold successful conferences?

How can a Fellow assist writers from different social, cultural, or disciplinary backgrounds?

How do Fellows negotiate the complicated role of at once being a peer and a tutor?

How can Fellows work collaboratively with a course professor?

This class takes as a given that writing is a process with many stages, and that all writers, no matter how successful, can benefit from thoughtful feedback on their writing. In addition, by studying writing across the University curriculum, we will also develop an understanding of the many different kinds of writing done in various academic disciplines. Finally, our explorations of the issues surrounding writing are designed to help you become more aware of your own writing processes and to help you develop and grow as writers yourselves.

Course Requirements

Course Materials


The course reader is available for purchase at Student Print (in the 333 East Campus Mall Building). All other course materials (syllabus, assignments, handouts, links to some readings, podcasts, resources) will be on my professional website Your assignments will be uploaded to the dropbox on our Learn@UW course page (because Learn@UW provides a secure, confidential platform for sharing student work and communicating grades). Please let me know if you would like to access materials in a different format.


I suggest that you purchase a grammar handbook if you don’t have one; I recommend Easy Access or The Bedford Handbook (the latter one is expensive). I also recommend to all writers Joseph Williams’ Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. This book is challenging, but it will help you not only to improve your writing, but also to explain tough writing issues to other writers. We will read a bit of Williams’ book in class.


In this honors seminar, you’ll be responsible for doing all the reading, writing in your journal, participating in class regularly, completing all written assignments, and presenting your research to the class. Our classes will take the form of discussion; these discussions will allow us to analyze and debate the readings as well as to share the tribulations and trials of being a Writing Fellow. Because this class emphasizes collaboration and peer learning, it is essential that you come to every class. If you have more than three unexcused absences, your final grade will be lowered; more than four unexcused absences will likely result in course failure.

If you cannot attend class or complete an assignment because of an emergency, please contact me as soon as possible (via email) and I will be glad to try to help you fulfill your obligations in the course. If a religious observance of yours conflicts with a class period or with an assignment, please let me know within the first two weeks of class. If you need some accommodations because of a disability, please let me know also within the first two weeks of class.

Class Participation

Class participation is vital to the success of any seminar. It is particularly vital in this seminar, because your peers will have much experience and support to offer you as you begin your career as Writing Fellows, since they will be working as peer tutors alongside of you. Our course readings are also central to your success as Writing Fellows. For these reasons, class participation will be stressed and valued highly in this course. I try to keep class discussions lively, provocative, and—at the same—safe. I will routinely ask you to share with the class your impressions of the readings, as well as your experiences as tutors. I will be working hard to provide multiple, different ways of engaging with the course material during each class period. I am open to suggestions for new ways to format our discussions and means of engaging with the ideas. I truly believe in the value of different learning styles, so I invite you to collaborate with me on brainstorming new ways for you to participate and contribute to the community.


This is a writing-intensive course, which means you will be writing regularly throughout the semester, sharing drafts with peers and with me, receiving comments on your work from your peers and me, and revising your work accordingly.

  • Reflective Writing: Three times throughout the semester, I will ask you to write 1-2 pages in which you reflect on and analyze your experiences as a Writing Fellow. Writing these journal entries will give you a chance to discover and explore topics for your more formal papers. They will also help me to get a sense of what—in the course readings and your work as a Writing Fellow—is interesting, frustrating, and ripe for further exploration.
  • Literacy Autobiography: You will write one short essay in this course—a literacy autobiography (4-5 double-spaced pages), in which you explore your history as a writer and your relationship to writing.
  • Research Paper: Your major writing task in this class will be a 10-15-page paper that explores an issue related to tutoring or teaching writing. I encourage you to pick a topic that really interests you. In the past, Writing Fellows have explored such topics as student responses to peer tutoring, how writing is taught at UW-Madison, the role of teaching writing in the sciences, and how gender, race, class, or sexuality affect writing and/or tutoring. Whatever you choose, you must conduct both primary (i.e. interviews or a study) and library research. In addition to writing a short proposal and an extended proposal for this paper, you’ll submit a draft for review, give a class presentation based on your research in progress, and submit a final revised version near the end of the semester.

Writing Workshops

We will spend time in class giving and receiving feedback in workshop groups. Since your role as a Writing Fellow is to provide written and oral feedback, these workshops will serve as a way for you to practice your skills and it’s an opportunity to get quality feedback on your own writing from multiple Writing Fellows! We will try a number of different formats for workshops depending on what we are working on, but in general, you will need to distribute your drafts to your workshop members, email written feedback to them (and CC me on the email), and provide oral feedback in class.

Course Policies

Contacting Me

Face-to-face meetings

I love meeting with students. Although it is not required, I highly encourage you to meet with me sometime during the first two or three weeks of the semester. I find that meeting one-on-one early in the course helps students feel more comfortable in the class and helps me feel like I know each student individually. I’d be more than happy to talk to you about Fellowing in general, the course, your particular Fellowing experience, or anything related to your development as a student and intellectual at UW-Madison. Additionally, the best way to handle substantive issues, or to get extra help on your writing, is through a face-to-face meeting with me. You are welcome to stop by my office, though I do not spend much time there. My office hours are by appointment and I will work to schedule a time that is convenient for both of us. If you want to schedule a meeting with me, ask me before or after class, or send me an email.


The best way to contact me for an appointment or to ask a clarifying question about assignments is through email.  I prioritize emails from students and will try to get back to as soon as possible or within 24 hours of your email, though I am not always available on weekends. If for some reason you have not received a response from me within a day, please send another message on top of your original email. Please be as polite, courteous and clear in your messages as possible, this will help encourage a swift and prompt response from me.


You can call or text my cell phone in case of a Fellowing-related emergency.


You are required to have two conferences with me—one after you’ve written your short research proposal and one after you’ve written your research paper draft. You are welcome to meet with me at other points during the semester, but you are also HIGHLY encouraged to also utilize The Writing Center (info under Resources). Visiting The Writing Center will not only help you with your own writing, but it will help you learn more strategies for tutoring writing.

Cell phones and other devices

There are many meaningful ways to use smartphones, tablets, and laptops to expand your learning—feel free to Tweet about what you’re learning, take notes, Instagram your writing spaces @writinglandscapes (a project run by the Kansas State University’s Writing Center Director, Cydney Alexis). But we all know there are plenty of distracting ways to use your devices—this includes texting, playing games, checking your email when it’s not relevant, surfing Facebook, etc. I understand that some of you may use devices at different moments for reading or taking notes, however, you must make an effort to only use your devices in productive ways. I will be using multiple devices at once—laptop, tablet, smartphone, projector—and I will do my best to use them only for teaching purposes. I promise to respect you and your time, so please come to class ready to respect our time together.

Late Arrivals

Please make every effort to arrive in class on time. Being late three times over the semester will constitute an absence.

Paper Guidelines

Papers are due at the beginning of class. All paper formatting should follow either MLA, Chicago, or APA guidelines; which style you choose is up to you. You can find these guidelines in any grammar handbook and on the Writing Center’s website ( All work for this course should be typed, double-spaced, and written in 12-point font and have one-inch margins. Please also insert your last name and page number on all of your pages. I take professionalism seriously. Unless otherwise noted (usually on workshop days), submit all papers to the appropriate dropbox on Learn@UW. 


Because this is an honors seminar, my expectations for your work are high. I will comment on your journals throughout the semester but won’t grade them until you submit your entire journal at the end of the course. You will receive a letter grade on your papers.

Class participation:                           20%

Reflective Writing                             25%

Literacy Autobiography                    15%

Research paper presentation          10%

Research Paper                                 30%

UW Grading Scale: A=93-100; AB=88-92; B=83-87; BC=78-82; C=71-77; D=65-70; F=0-64