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Developing and Writing an Effective Advanced PWR Course Proposal

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The following suggestions are adapted from notes that PWR lecturer Hayden Kantor produced for his session on developing advanced course proposals at September Sessions 2022. The session was titled "Developing and Writing an Effective Advanced Elective Course Proposal."

Proposal Framing & Language

  • Your audience is students: engage them at their level and with their interests
  • Be welcoming and excited
  • References issues and topics that they care about
  • Avoid jargon (ex: multimodal) and heavily theoretical opening paragraphs
  • Avoid making it too niche
  • Avoid making it seem intimidating, daunting, or overly challenging
  • Avoid references that make students feel unprepared
  • Reference issues students care about, current events
  • Use relevant, compelling hook and questions
  • Structure in short paragraphs
  • Provide specific description of assignments, skills, & learning objectives
  • Show students how they will have the opportunity to take projects in their own directions & connect with issues in their own lives
  • Want electives to provide communication strategies and new types of writing that they can apply to their careers
  • Students are interested how you frame key concepts, like identity and culture
  • Title must be legible to future employers, etc. (as it appears on transcripts)
  • Course needs to be clearly situated in writing/rhetoric/communication, not in a discipline (i.e., if a student wants to take a feminism course, they'll take it from FGSS - how is your course a PWR course?)
  • It's important that the course invites dialogue and multiple perspectives rather than just serving as a platform for the instructor's agenda or a particular ideological/political stance

Assignment Design

  • Students are reading to see what they will doing in the class
  • Make sure the description explains the writing or the products that they will produce
  • Provide explicit word counts and expectations for the coursework in general and the assignments in particular (what will they be doing in class? what will they be producing as work?)
  • Must be less work than PWR 1 or PWR 2
  • They are not interested in writing "just another PWR RBA"
  • Excited to produce in new genres and formats, especially with real-world applicability (hands-on) or creative options
  • Concern that they might lack the specific knowledge, like comics or infographics- don't just say it's not needed, explain how it will work or how they will be trained
  • Want practice and training in genres that will be useful for their careers
  • For artistic projects, questions about the balance between analysis/critique vs. production
  • Group projects & collaboration are OK and might excite students, but be clear about division of labor & assessment

Notation students are the primary audience

  • Appeal to NSC & NCR students
  • Bonus if you can attract or bridge both NSC & NCR students, though not necessary
  • What they produce must become an artifact for their portfolio

Workload Concerns

  • Students are concerned about their obligations, bandwidth
  • Must be less work than a PWR class
  • Make sure creative projects aren't too much work
  • Student want to take 3 credit vs. 4 credit courses
  • Amount of reading- more than PWR, less than a seminar

Community Partner Engagement

  • Students are interested in connecting with communities in the real world and getting beyond the bubble
  • They are very concerned and critical about the ethics and practicalities of engagement
  • They don't want it to be extractive, burdensome, awkward, or cringy
  • Very daunted by the idea of finding community partners themselves (rarely will they have pre-existing relationships)
  • Concerned about doing interviews or other skills- need training
  • Explain how it's going to work & proactively allay their concerns
  • Mention guest speakers or field trips

Marketing a Course

  • Word of mouth among students
  • Email and social media from clubs and center
  • Title is very important
  • WAYS certification & cross-listing are major benefits (instructors can note possibilities on the proposal and then pursue it once the course is approved)

Wish list of topics:

  • Identity categories that are marginalized or aren't well-represented in the curriculum: Asian-American, gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity (including mixed race), disability, FLI/class in America
  • Bay Area, learning more about our communities & region
  • Activism
  • Public art
  • Non-Western approaches to rhetoric or non-Western rhetorical forms
  • Health/medicine
  • Science communication skills
  • Interdisciplinary between fields
  • Visual rhetoric, drawing, art, animation
  • Documentary
  • Podcasting
  • Technology/programming and society
  • Scientific controversies
  • Science fiction
  • Media and ethics
  • Archives
  • Connect STEM issues and arts/humanities or identity questions
  • Intersection of different fields, topics, identities, modes
  • Intersection of different topics in new combinations: ex: Asian-Americans & hip-hop
  • Anything where students can say "there's no other course like this on campus"