back home

English 706, Spring 2006

Special Topic in Rhetoric and Composition:
Writing Program Administration in the 21st Century

University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming
  • CLASS MEETINGS: F 10:00 - 12:30, 7105  H. C. White Hall
  • OFFICE: 6187D  H. C. White Hall
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 1:00 - 2:30; R 11:00 - 12:00; & gladly by appt.
  • PHONE: 263-3367 (o)
  • EMAIL:

  •  Description | Assignments | Texts | the WPA | Calendar | Coursepack of Readings | Rhetoric Links on the WWW


    Running a writing program, whether it’s first-year composition (FYC), writing across the curriculum or in the disciplines (WAC/WID), a writing center (WC), or some other entity, has become in less than a generation one of the main career paths of PhDs in composition-rhetoric – so much so that some critics worry that the field’s center of gravity has shifted imperceptibly from research and teaching to administration.  This graduate seminar will examine the role of writing program design, development, management, and assessment in our intellectual, professional, and public lives.  It’s designed to serve not only fairly mundane practical goals, i.e., to help prepare future writing program administrators, but also to encourage a critical attitude about just those goals.

    We’ll treat “writing program administration” here very broadly, taking into account the seemingly limitless activities that make up “administration.”  We’ll also look at a wide variety of program types, from the three mentioned above (FYC, WAC/WID, and WC) to service learning and community literacy programs, undergraduate writing majors and minors, graduate programs in composition-rhetoric, professional and technical communication programs, English education programs, ESL and basic writing programs, National Writing Projects, learning centers and first-year experience programs, etc.  And we’ll imagine these operating in a wide range of institutions: from two-year colleges to comprehensive research universities, from religiously-affiliated institutions to historically black colleges and universities (click here for an overview of institution types).  We’ll also look at links between higher education and primary and secondary schooling as well as the world outside the academy: community organizations, private businesses, government agencies, etc.  Our goal will not be to cover every kind of program in every kind of situation but to raise key issues and recurring problems, develop professional skills, and learn about the past, present, and future of WPA work in this country.

    back to top


    Expectations for reading and discussion will be high.  Please come to every class meeting with good questions and comments about the day's readings and respond thoughtfully to the questions and comments of others.

    A major project will be due at end of semester: it can take any of a number of forms: a traditional research or seminar paper, a program proposal or assessment, a resource guide, etc.  Your work for this project will be made public in three stages: a written proposal due right after Spring Recess, a 20-minute oral presentation delivered during the last three weeks of the course, and a final project due during the exam period.

    In addition, you’ll complete three smaller projects in the first half of semester:

    Details about these projects and their final products will be negotiated as we proceed.

    back to top

    3.  TEXTS.

    Readings in the class will come from the following texts, all available for purchase at University Book Store on State Street.

    In addition, there will be a required coursepack [CP] for sale at ASM’s Student Print in Memorial Union.  A listing of the articles and chapters in the coursepack can be found by clicking here.

    back to top


    Some of the most important resources for current and future WPAs are professional and peer networks, the central one probably being the Council of Writing Program Administrators.  You may want to join the Council ($10 per year for graduate students, which includes a subscription to the journal WPA: Writing Program Administration) as part of this course.  I also strongly encourage you to subscribe to WPA-L, the active and interesting email discussion list for faculty and students involved or interested in writing program administration.  To subscribe, send the following message to LISTSERV@ASU.EDU: Subscribe WPA-L Firstname Lastname.  Leave everything else in the subject line and message field blank.  For more information, click here.  Obviously, there are lots of other organizations, journals, discussion lists, and resources for people interested in writing, the teaching of writing, and the administration of writing programs: see my “web resources” page by clicking here.

    back to top

    5.  CALENDAR.

    day topics and assignments
    1 F Jan 20 Introduction: on designing developing managing and evaluating writing programs. Read Intro. and Ch. 1 of Richard Miller’s As If Learning Mattered.
    2 F Jan 27 Histories: writing programs in the United States in the 19th-20th C. Read Robert Connors Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds Theory and Pedagogy.
    3 F Feb 03 Settings Part 1: the 21st American university. Read Bill Readings The University in Ruins; read also the Boyer report and Freedman (CP). Writing Project #1 due (MLA job profile).
    4 F Feb 10 Settings Part 2: the 21st American university and Students Part 1: discourse/development/diversity. Read Merrow (see bib). Writing Project #2 due (book reports).
    5 F Feb 17 Students Part 2: discourse/development/diversity. Continue book reports. Read Herrington & Curtis Persons in Process: Four Stories of Writing and Personal Development in College; read also Levine (CP) and Suro & Fry (CP).
    6 F Feb 24 Programs Part 1: on bureaucracies institutions and projects. Read Miller As If Learning Mattered; see also Miller “Assets” (CP) Hesse (BE) and Dean (CP).
    7 F Mar 03 Programs Part 2: on different kinds of writing programs. Read Haviland (BE) Townsend (BE) Holmsten (CP) Tinberg (CP) McClelland (CP) Myers-Breslin (CP) Maurrasse (CP) and Hall (BE).
    8 F Mar 10 Curricula: designing growth. Read Smit The End of Composition Studies. Read also Merrill & Miller (BE) Crowley (BE) and the Crowley debate. Writing Project #3 due (program profile or proposal).
    9 F Mar 17 Spring Recess 
    10 F Mar 24 CCCC (Chicago)       back to top
    11 F Mar 31 Teachers: staffing training and evaluating instructors. Read Bousquet (CP) Bullock (CP) Green & Harrigan (CP) Latterell (CP) Morgan (BE) Schell (BE) Ward & Perry (CP) and the workplace debate. Proposals for semester projects due.
    12 F Apr 07 Leadership: beyond teaching and scholarship. Read Ward (CP) Hildy Miller (CP) White (CP) Phelps (BE) Stygall (BE). Legal & ethical issues – Pantoja (BE) and Ferganchick (BE) – and problem-solving Wiesenfarth (CP) and Brown (BE).
    13 F Apr 14 Assessment & other: Read Anson (BE) the Spring 1999 Communication-B Study (Solomon & Knobloch) Lerner (CP) and Enos (BE).
    14 F Apr 21 Symposium of semester projects
    15 F Apr 28 Symposium of semester projects
    16 F May 05 Symposium of semester projects
    17 F May 12 semester projects due

    For the course pack of readings (CP), click here.

    back to top