The First-Year Writing Program introduces students to writing and all its uses. We do so by using innovative pedagogy to help our diverse students learn in new, exciting ways. Our courses emphasize active learning, creativity, and collaboration.

Instructional Priorities

Multimodal Composition

A core strategy of UConn’s first-year writing courses is multimodal composition, or using different modes of communication to convey meaning. First-year writing exposes students to a variety of modes and technologies: paper and pen, video, audio recording, photographs, body language, captioning, hypertext, interactive interfaces, graphics, and more. They think critically about multimodal composing in the modern world by producing modern content that is mediated by diverse technologies.

Studio Teaching

The First-Year Writing Program encourages instructors across classrooms and campuses to adopt studio teaching approaches. We also teach and conduct research on studio pedagogy using our Active Learning Center, an innovative classroom located in the Department of English.

Studio teaching turns the classroom into collaborative workspaces. Unlike a lecture or seminar, studio courses encourage students to learn through hands-on projects. Studio pedagogy promotes:

  • Active Learning. Students engage in activities during the majority of class time.
  • Access. Studio space is accessible to all kinds of students. Studio classes use Universal Design for Learning to provide multiple ways for students to engage in learning.
  • Collaboration. Class activities often involved sustained group work. Students practice collaborative writing — a skill that takes practice.
  • Workshop. Some studio time is devoted to peer review and workshopping, which gives students feedback that will help them improve their projects. It also allows them to critically analyze each other’s work, which in turn prompts them to be more critical of their own work.
  • Experimentation, Creativity, Play. Students are encouraged to take risks in the writing studio. Instructors encourage students to try new things and figure things out on their own through experimentation without always receiving precise instructions.
  • Digital Literacy and Design. The studio gives students space to work with different technologies and pay attention to rhetorical design choices across media.
  • Support. Studio instructors check in on students and give them individual feedback on projects while everyone works. Students also get the opportunity to support each other as they work collaboratively on projects.

Course Outcomes

Habits of Practice

First-year writing courses aim to help students master a series of transferable skills they can apply to future courses and contexts. Students develop these skill sets, or habits of practice, both during in-class activities and through writing assignments. These habits are:

  • Collecting and Curating. Includes collecting data; primary or experiential research; text-based research (e.g., curating an annotated bibliography); and creating a meaningful assemblage.
  • Engaging. Includes active reading; unpacking assumptions and values; reading beyond information; arguing beyond reductive pro/con; terms of engagement (e.g., civility); participating and contributing to public discussions and debates; and appealing to an audience.
  • Contextualizing. Includes researching the field, discipline, or question; adapting to disciplinary conventions; finding and using historical and/or critical sources; recognizing how arguments take shape and participate in culture; using data ethically and effectively; tracing provenance; this move builds on “engaging” to add “juggling more than a single point of view," as well as synthesizing and using texts for different ends in moving an argument forward; problematizing and problem-solving with myriad factors/influences/impingements.
  • Theorizing. Includes building new approaches, processes, methods; developing a new critical vocabulary; articulating new connections; contributing new knowledge; reframing arguments in other modes; employing new ways of thinking to move work into new modes of meaning.
  • Circulating. Includes presenting, publishing, and managing an identity as a thinker and scholar; creating interactivity with the public; examining the consequences of broad circulation of words and ideas; and maintaining digital data and creations.

Assignments in first-year writing courses are designed around one or more of these habits, and students practice all of them by the end of the course.

Learning Objectives

The Writing across Technology curriculum includes five major learning objectives that students should be able to do by the end of a course. While habits of practice are discrete actions students can take in rhetorical situations, learning objectives are long-term habits of thinking. They will affect the way students engage with composition broadly and long-term.

There are many ways to achieve these outcomes. Individual first-year writing courses are structured differently and reach these goals in various ways.

Approach Composition as a Complex Process

  • Practice composing and writing as creative acts of inquiry and discovery through written, aural, visual, video, gestural, and spatial texts.
  • Consider projects and problems from multiple ways of knowing.
  • Develop new methods for all forms (including digital) of textual analysis, synthesis, and representation.
  • Formulate strategies for the conceptual, investigative, practical, and reflective work of writing

    Identify Yourself as a Writer

    • Contribute to others’ knowledge and understanding through your research and compositions.
    • Practice ethical scholarship and develop a strong identity as a responsible maker of meaning.

    Engage with Texts

    • Discover, analyze, and engage with others’ ideas in productive ways through complex texts.
    • Approach and use texts as ways to analyze, interpret, and reconsider ideas.
    • Extend your ideas to new ground in the context of others’ work.

    Critically Examine Different Ways of Knowing

    • Identify and analyze conventions of disciplines.
    • Interrogate genre expectations, including how knowledge is created and how evidence is used to forward work in academic disciplines.
    • Evaluate the functional components of format, organization, document design, and citation.

    Use Technology Rhetorically

    • Recognize that technologies are not neutral tools for making meaning.
    • Assess the context and mode of technology you are using to compose.
    • Respond to situations with productive choices to deliver meaningful texts.
    • Employ the principles of universal design to make your work accessible and legible to the widest possible audience.