Composing Your Success with FYC@UTEP

Contributed by Beth Brunk-Chavez, First-Year Composition Program at The University of Texas at El Paso

Course Name/Level: First-Year Writing, English 1312: Research and Critical Writing (second-semester course)

This program-wide approach is an example of one that reflects the principles in the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. You can view a list of other assignments, activities, and program-wide approaches.


Brief Course Description for Assignment Sequence

The primary goal of English 1312 is to develop students’ critical thinking skills in order to facilitate effective communication in all educational, professional, and social contexts. This effective communication is based on an awareness of and appreciation for discourse communities as well as knowledge specific to subject matters, genres, rhetorical strategies, and writing processes. 
The class presents an approach to communication that helps students determine the most effective strategies, arrangements, and media to use in different rhetorical contexts.  It teaches students a systematic approach for analyzing rhetorical situations and then producing a variety of documents and presentations while gaining more confidence and fluency in visual, oral, and written communication.  In addition, because communication is central to being an active and engaged member of society, the course also provides a space for informed advocacy. 
At the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand a theory of discourse communities;
  • Engage as a community of writers who dialogue across texts, argue, and build on each other’s work;
  • Draw on existing knowledge bases to create “new” or “transformed” knowledge;
  • Develop a knowledge of genres as they are defined within discourse communities;
  • Address the specific, immediate rhetorical situations of individual communicative acts; and,
  • Develop procedural knowledge of the writing task in its various phases.  

Framework Connections

The following assignment sequence relates to the “Framework for Success” in several ways. Specifically, the literature review and primary research report reflects the curiosity habit of mind by encouraging students to “use inquiry as a process to develop questions”; the documentary assignment invites students to compose in multiple environments as it requires them to advocate a position well-informed by their research. The genre analysis assignment contributes to their continuing development of critical thinking. Students’ rhetorical knowledge is developed especially through the documentary, the online opinion piece, as well as the final eportfolio.

In addition to the assignment sequence, composing in multiple environments is also emphasized through the delivery of the course as all sections are taught as hybrid courses meeting one day a week face-to-face and completing the remainder of the work online. 

Rhetorical knowledge is emphasized through our electronic distributed evaluation system (EDE). EDE emphasizes to students that they are not writing for a singular, known teacher, but they are composing for an audience who doesn’t know them personally and will evaluate their work based solely on its rhetorical effectiveness.

Program Description

Faced with a variety of challenges familiar to many composition programs—increasing enrollment; a traditional, some would say “out-dated” curriculum; the preparation of graduate teaching assistants; and the retention of undergraduate students from their first to second year at the university, the composition program at the University of Texas at El Paso implemented a large-scale redesign, facilitated, in part, by the National Center for Academic Transformation and funded by a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grant. The redesign of English 1312, the second-semester first-year composition course, sought to meet Anne Beaufort's recommendation that a writing course should be “taught with an eye toward transfer of learning” (7), as well as to embody her five knowledge domains of process, rhetorical, genre, subject-matter, and discourse community knowledge.  With assignments designed to incorporate each of these domains, students create and practice strategies for a variety of writing contexts and discourse communities they will encounter in the academy and in the workplace (9-12).

In place of long, argument-based secondary research papers, students work on projects such as a discourse community map, a comparative genre analysis, and a literature review and primary research report. To better equip students with the technological skills and strategies needed to communicate effectively in future courses and in the workplace, the redesign team also chose to meaningfully integrate digital literacies into the curriculum as well as the delivery.  Project assignments include a collaborative documentary and an advocacy website, and all sections are taught as hybrids where students meet in class for 80 minutes once a week and complete the remainder of their work online (excerpted from Brunk-Chavez and Arrigucci, forthcoming).

Research/Scholarship Connections

This program design is largely based on Kathy Yancey’s and Anne Beaufort’s emphasis on teaching to transfer. Further, in designing the curriculum, delivery, and evaluation, we relied on Beaufort’s five knowledge domains: genre knowledge, writing process knowledge, rhetorical knowledge, subject matter knowledge, and discourse community knowledge.


Beaufort, A. (2007). College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing
Logan: Utah State UP.

Brunk-Chavez, B & Arrigucci, A. (forthcoming) “An emerging model for student feedback: Electronic distributed evaluation.” Composition Studies.