Link to University of Washington
Information for Current and Prospective Students
Puget Sound Writing Project
Course Portfolios
London Theatre and Concert Tour
About Me
Contact Information


English 108L, Early Fall Start 2019

Assignments and Updates

See also: Blackboard

This page has the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

(Information on this page will be listed in reverse chronological order--beware!)

For help with grammar and mechanics for ELL/ESL students, try:

Friday, September 20th

Writing: Two things: 1) The Final Conference Narrative and Account (see the assignment for Thursday, September 19th), and 2) your Portfolio collection of the writing you have done in the course. Browse through your papers and get a sense of what has happened to you over these 4 weeks. Think about how much you have written and the progress you have made towards confidence, fluency, and comfort as a writer. Follow directions given in the assignment here.

You will be writing in class a second Snapshot essay--to a prompt quite like the one you wrote on the very first day of the quarter. It is an essay that, as a kind of bookend to the course, will help me greatly in assessing your progress over the four weeks of the course because in doing so you will be giving me a way to make sure that what we do next year is as effective as possible. If you liked anything in this course, it was there because students before you have written this same end-of-quarter assessment.

Thursday, September 19th

Reading: none

Writing: Work on your final paper:

Final Conference Narrative and Account

Having finished a complex process to participate in our academic conference, some of which had to be new to you, now write about it as your last formal paper in the course.

You did a lot for the Conference project. You worked as a member of a research team, navigated a UW Libraries database, read various sources to find something you could use for your presentation, and found a way to organize your thoughts into a two-minute chunk, and then you actually performed it, too. 

So for Friday, September 20, the last day of class, write a 3-5 page paper (1000+ words) that has two parts. First, tell the story of your conference experience (a narrative of what happened as you began the project, how did you and your group functioned, what was hard to do, and what turned out to be less challenging than you thought), and then Second, conclude by writing up an account of your part of the presentation.

Begin this second section with a paragraph that sets the context by describing the topic your group took up and your part in the overall presentation, and then go on to write a summary of your contribution. Finally, include a list of the sources you yourself used along with a two to three sentence summary of each source’s contents. 

Due: Friday, September 20 along with your portfolio. 
Format: 3-5 pages, Double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman Font


Wednesday, September 18

Reading: none

Writing and Presenting: Your Conference Presentation!!!!

Tuesday, September 17

Reading: Research articles

Writing/performance: Research presentation

Friday, September 13

Reading: None

Writing: Complete Research Proposal Due, including a presentation plan describing the roles you expect each member of the group to take.

Thursday, September 12

Reading: NONE!!

Writing: "My Learning Life" due--two copies at 9:30am

Wednesday, September 11

Reading: Alfie Kohn: "Do Our Kids Get Off Too Easy?" (click on the link to find the essay)

Writing: Two things: First, your paper for Thursday, and second, having read the Kohn piece (link above) think about how it is about some of the things we talked about last week with respect to motivation and success in college. Kohn is writing about K-6 students, not university students, so one could say that his argument simply doesn't apply. But Kohl was dealing with K-6 students, too, and his concept of "not-learning" has been transformative at many levels of schooling, so maybe Kohn has something useful to think about, too!

What you should keep in mind as you read is that educational psychology has not come up with a consensus on the issue of how best to motivate students (even if many people in the field, like Kohn, have come up with their own theories!). There really are a number of views on how to think about the emotional and cognitive dimensions of early childhood education, but there are fewer views about what we do at the university level. Or rather, there actually are quite a few, but higher education tends to provoke much less argument on such matters, at least in part because many professors haven't thought through what the stakes would be for college level students in the first place. Few have training in how students learn best, so they often just do a version of whatever was done to them.

Once you've read the piece I would like you to write two paragraphs: One about Kohn's piece in relation to your own experience growing up, and the other, tranferring the argument to high school and college, about whether, how, and (especially) why you do or do not agree with Kohn's sense of how best to get people to learn.

Tuesday, September 10

Reading and Writing. No new reading or writing; this is meant to give you time to get into your research materials for your presentation. Some groups will find that their first idea isn't practicable for one reason or another, and they will need to refocus their subject and their research question. That's ok if it happens, but you do need to make progress on all of this because you will have a paper to write between Tuesday and Wednesday--"My Learning Profile".

I'll give you your proposals back on Tuesday; you'll conference with me either Tuesday or Wednesday to think about how to enable you to make your paper stronger. You can also make appointments with the Writing Center, of course. Try it out--it may turn out to be a resource that makes a big difference in your Fall Quarter classes.

Friday, September 6

Reading: none

Writing: My Learning Profile Proposal. Due at 9:30am. Please bring two copies.


Thursday, September 5

Reading: Part 2 "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Learning"

Writing: Notes towards your Full Proposal for "My Learning Life." Here is the paragraph that describes the Full Proposal assignment:

"This will be a 3-4 page (900-1200 words) draft in which you give: 1) an account of who you are as a learner, 2) a summary of each of the anecdotes you will use to talk about yourself as a learner; and 3) how/why the learning concepts we've encountered this term that might apply to the anecdotes. The Full Proposal will be due September 6 at the beginning of class.

"A “Full Proposal” is shorter than a full draft for the paper, but it should be more than just a simple proposal. I want to see not just what you want to do, but also how you are developing your thinking. I want you to have a strong working start on the paper, yet also something that you know will need substantial upgrading, whether in terms of expansion or of rethinking—something that can be thrown out entirely if need be—before it is to be submitted as a Final Draft on September. The grade on your final draft will take into account the strength of your full proposal.

"A full proposal draft focuses less on fluency and presentation than does a full draft."

We talked about this on Wednesday; I'll bring in a sample of such a proposal for tomorrow's class.

Wednesday, September 4

Reading: Meyer and Land, "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Learning" (packet).

Not everyone will find this an easy read. It is, like the Ramirez and Beilock, written not for a popular audience (you and me, for the most part) but for professionals in the field of educational theory. That said, for such an article it is more readable than most. It has many examples drawn from many fields. But because "threshold concepts" (TCs) are by their nature concepts that require you to rethink and re-understand what you think you already know, they can be pretty hard to get your head around.

The value of M&L's multiple examples is only to give you several specific concepts that are already familiar to you and thus will give you a good sense of how they (in effect) take you across a threshold from one way of thinking to a different way of thinking. We have all learned a number of threshold concepts, even when we haven't known that we are learning something that will reorganize or recontextualize something we already know and by doing so enable us to think in a new and different way.

All of which means that you don't have to understand every concept M&L point to. They give lots of examples in order that you can find one or two that work for you. I mentioned last week in class the mathematical example of i and I explained how in writing studies the concept of "rhetorical effectiveness" for expert writers has replaced the concept of "correctness" as a primary criterion for good writing. Both of those newly defined concepts enable a student to work at a more expert level in a particular disciplinary context.

The principal value of M&L's multiple examples is only to give you several specific concepts that may already be familiar to you and thus will give you a good sense of how such concepts (in effect) take you across a threshold from one way of thinking to a different way of thinking. We have all learned a number of threshold concepts, even when we haven't known that we are learning something that will reorganize or recontextualize something we already know and by doing so enable us to think in a new and different way.

This reading is also actually two articles in one--the first deals with the notion of "threshold concepts," and the second deals with other kinds of "troublesome knowledge" of which TCs are only one kind. This second section is easier to read, but perhaps harder to see the point of. It may help to know that the authors are only trying to list some ways in which education often goes wrong. It's about the problem of teaching things without making clear why one would want to know them or how they will (if they ever will) be useful. We'll go through these together in class and sort them out for ourselves.

Writing: Though threshold concepts are most often talked about in academic spaces, we actually can run into them almost anywhere. So as you read make an inventory of the things you know, especially about things you are expert in, and list and explain three that seem to be "threshold" concepts, don't forget to think outside of the academic box. Write about the concepts you choose, explaining as fully as you can both what it means and, as best you can, why it seems to be a threshold concept and not just a core concept. Finally, go on to explain as best you can why some people might find that concept troublesome! What do you have to put aside in order to adopt its new way of thinking?

(It's not all that important here that you be "right." We can learn something about threshold concepts from non-threshold concepts, too.) (Not-learning, by the way, is for most people a threshold concept.)

Tuesday, September 3

Reading: Three things from the packet: (1)Webster, Learning About Learning and the accompanying Glossary; (2) Willingham, "Why Don't Students Like School?" and (3) Ramirez and Beilock, "Writing About Testing Worries." You should probably read them in that order, too.


1. Pick three entries from the glossary that seem relevant to your own learning, and explain for each how you think they may be relevant. For each, use an anecdote to illustrate.

2. For Ramirez and Beilock, write a paragraph that summarizes their study by explaning what they did, why they did it, what results they had and your best sense of whether they are convincing. (This sort of commentary is often called an "annotation") (An "annotated bibliography is a bibliography that includes a brief summary along with the basic bibliographical information. For examples click here.)

Friday, August 30

Reading: None

Writing: "My Writing Life." (See Blackboard for full assignment) You will need to print out your paper and bring TWO hardcopies to class. One will be used for the "Read-Around. On that copy, please just put your student number, not your name.


Scavenger Hunt in the Syllabus:  (Search for John Webster Washington

1. When are my office hours?  What do you do if you need help outside of office hours?

2. What are the goals of English 108? Why do we learn learning theory?

3. What is the OWRC and where is it?

4. What is ECI?

5. What one book do I recommend? Why do you think I recommend it?

6. What is my policy on correcting your grammar? 

7. So if it’s a writing course, why the emphasis on cognitive learning theory?

8. What is plagiarism, and what will I do about it?

9. What is the average GPA of first-year students at the UW? 

10. Where is my office?

11. What is the English 108 grade policy?




Wednesday, August 23

Reading: Herb Kohl, I Won't Learn From You, pp 1-15 (ending with the last full paragrpah on page 15).

Writing: written responses to the questions below:

1. How does Kohl explain his decision to not learn Yiddish? Why did he later come to regret his decision?

2. How was Kohl’s motive for not learning Hebrew different from his motive for not learning Yiddish? How does he explain his motives for each?

3. Kohl talks about “complex factors” behind the failure of children to learn various things. What does he mean by that? Think about a time in your own life when you found something difficult to learn, or even failed to learn something. What was going on in YOUR mind?

4. Kohl’s point of view is retrospective here; he is looking back at himself as a learner (or not-learner!). His current point of view is different from the view he took as a child. How is it different, and why?

5. Kohl talks about learning as “a major loss of self.” How can this be? We go to school not to lose ourselves but to develop ourselves into more effective and able thinkers. In Kohl’s thinking, in what way could this be a loss?

6. Kohl talks about creating a “strategy of empowerment” for enabling Barry to learn to read. What does he do to empower Barry? Have you ever had a teacher who you felt either empowered or disempowered you? What happened?

7. Think about the way in which Kohl makes his argument. What does he use as a means to convince you that he knows what he is talking about—a quality of writing we call “authority”? Find an example of ways in which Kohl develops “authority” for his argument?

(This is itself a "writing assignment," so think of these as short answer paragraphs.)