CCR 611: Comp Histories/Theories

What Is Composition Studies?

This is not a question that I could develop in a single blog post–particularly not an initial one. However, I think it is one worth asking over and over again.

This evening was the first meeting of my Composition Histories & Theories class, and the first question on the syllabus is, “What is composition studies?” Well, composition studies is a lot of things:

It is the study of theorists: Elbow, Bartholomae, Berlin, Bizzell, Cushman.

It is the study of theories: process vs. product, post-process, critical pedagogy, multimodalities.

To me, though, composition isn’t really about any of these things. It’s about exploring our own pedagogies as teachers and putting pressure on the question of why we teach. It’s the process of determining what the best modes of learning are for each particular student and how we can combine those ideas into a cohesive model that will touch multiple people within the same setting–even though each student brings so many different characteristics, backgrounds, and personalities to that setting. Most importantly, composition studies should be about keeping an open mind for teaching and writing and literacy. In a “digital age,” learning models, activities, and mediums of communication change so rapidly that we cannot afford to hold our students back by assigning the same written assignments over and over for the sake of convenience.


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