What Can I Expect From My ICaP Course?
In this section you’ll find out just what to expect from your ICaP course, and you’ll also see what’s going to be expected of you. ICaP courses are geared toward meeting a set of goals that involve more than just producing polished texts: they involve developing a composing process and becoming a critical thinker, reader, and writer. These process-oriented goals make ICaP courses seem a little different, so your course may be different than similar classes you’ve taken previously.
The Workload: What kinds of work can I expect to do in ICaP courses?
Composing through Various Genres and Media
You will be expected to compose in various genres and with various media in this course. This may include writing letters to the editor, personal narratives, review essays, or research papers. You may also be asked to analyze non-alphanumeric or non-print based texts such as films, video games, or photo essays.
In addition to writing more traditional texts (i.e. essays, reviews, and letters) in your Introductory Composition course, your instructor will assign at least one multimodal assignment that may include web page building, graphic design, audio recording & editing, or video recording & editing. Don’t worry if you don’t have much experience with these forms of composing: your instructor will provide adequate resources for you to learn and improve on the necessary composing skills for multimodal projects, and you will not be expected to work at a level that exceeds your ability.
Regular conferences will be invaluable to you in your ICaP course. If you’re taking English 106, you will conference one on one with your instructor each week or at least every other week during your assigned course conferencing time to discuss your assignments or progress in the course. (You may conference more often if you set up appointments during office hours.) If you are taking English 106 online, you will check in with your instructor during virtual office hours, or your instructor may ask that you arrange a time to video conference with them. If you’re taking English 108, you can set up one on one conferences during your instructor’s designated office hours.
Coming to conferences prepared to makes conferencing even more productive. You may be asked to use the pre-conference form before attending your conference. Similarly, completing the post-conferencing form can help you reflect upon the conference afterwards. (For more on conferencing and attendance please see the specific sections in the “Policies” section of this guide).
Another thing that you can expect to do in your ICaP course is research. Because research at the college level involves not just reading and synthesizing material but also contributing new, original ideas to a larger conversation, ICaP courses will often integrate both primary and secondary research. Many ICaP students are familiar with secondary research, but few have conducted primary research in which they gather new data to learn about a topic or issue. Even if you haven’t conducted primary research before, you can expect to learn about some of the ways that this kind of research can be conducted and why it’s important in particular fields or projects. For more information about primary and secondary research and the expectations for citing sources of information, see the Purdue OWL’s resource on conducting research: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/8/.
Participation: What will be expected of me?
Because of the social nature of the process of composing, it will be imperative that you attend and participate in the class. Our Introductory Composition courses revolve around group discussion, peer evaluation, and in-class, group activities that reinforce or clarify the work of the class. These assignments are a regular part of the course, and instructor expectations will be further described in the syllabus. The points designated for these activities are included in your course grade, though your instructor may refer to and organize specific types of participation differently. For example, some instructors prefer to use the term ‘Professional Ethos’ to describe some of the types of activities or engagement that other instructors may label ‘Participation.’ Participation will make up no more than 10% of your grade for the course.
During the course of the semester, it is expected that you will come to class having engaged with course readings and be ready and willing to discuss them in a meaningful and respectful way. Your teacher will be excited to hear what it is that you have to say and encourage you to articulate your responses to what you have read for class. Instructors don’t necessarily assign readings because they agree with them or want you to, but rather because they want to engage you in the topic and make you think. Discussion works best if you have taken the time to think deeply about the reading beforehand.
From time to time your instructor may assign in-class assignments that range from doing an impromptu debate-style activity, to preparing notes for a class discussion, to composing major course assignments. These are learning activities, and everyone is expected to participate in them equally. These activities do affect not only your grade in the class (“Participation”), but also help you to become a better composer/writer. These assignments often cannot be “made up” if you miss the class that they were assigned in; therefore, regular class attendance is crucial.
Group Projects and Assignments
Although not every instructor assigns a group project, you will be required to work in small groups or in a partnership for at least some class activities. For more extensive group or partnered projects, you will be expected to compose collaboratively with your peer(s). Group work requires careful time-management, planning, and communication. Your instructor will help you negotiate the ins-and-outs of more intensive group projects. If you find yourself struggling with a group assignment, communicate your concerns to your instructor, who can help you negotiate and manage group work.
Evaluation of group or partnered projects is typically similar to evaluation of solo projects, where the final deliverable for the project receives a formal grade that all team members share. However, your instructor may also assign some points on an individual basis for certain parts of the project, such as a personal reflection. See the course syllabus or talk to your instructor about any group or partnered projects for your specific composition course.
Although your instructor’s feedback is important to your writing process, your peers’ feedback is also crucial. Peer review is geared toward improvement and further development of key elements in your and your peers’ projects. Throughout the semester, your instructor may integrate formal peer review sessions in class or out of class in order to give you the opportunity to give and receive feedback during the writing process. Peer review is your opportunity (1) to have another set of eyes (besides the teacher’s) on your writing before it is turned in as a final draft, (2) to participate in a personalized and colloquial discussion about your and your classmates’ work, and (3) to gain experience providing and receiving constructive feedback. Your instructor will guide you in providing useful and focused comments and suggestions.
ICaP’s Common Assignment
Portfolios are a standard first-year composition practice at many post-secondary institutions across the United States. The portfolio is a compilation of work that is brainstormed, drafted, revised, edited, and reflected on throughout a semester. The portfolio is as an opportunity for you to showcase your written communication skills, how they have developed, and how you can adapt and negotiate your skills based on context.
Reflection is key to the portfolio because it shows your ability to critically reflect on what you had done and what you could do to better improve your work. At the end of your composition course, you will also be expected to compose a final reflection that synthesizes all that you have learned and puts your work into conversation with the Engl. 106/108 course outcomes.
Although your instructor will provide you with specific guidelines for the portfolio project, each section of first-year composition at Purdue will be completing the assignment. These student portfolios will be used to assess ICaP’s abilities to meet its stated outcomes. If your portfolio is selected during ICaP’s assessment process, it will be anonymized and given an overall score and individual scores on each outcome. This overall score and its individual outcome scores help ICaP understand what areas we succeed in and what areas need further improvement; therefore, this purpose does not affect your grade within your class. Your instructor will assign your final grade for the project.
Succeeding in First-Year Composition
Although the following words of advice seem basic, it is sometimes helpful to be reminded of the steps you can take to do well in the course.
- Keep track of deadlines and organize course materials. Your instructor may hand out assignment sheets and class schedules or post them online. Either way, it can be helpful to have a single physical or digital folder with course readings, assignment sheets, and work in progress to help you stay organized and stay on track.
- Communicate with your instructor. If you are having trouble meeting a deadline or will have to miss class, reach out to your instructor. A good rule of thumb is to give your instructor at least a day to respond to any emails.
- Share your ideas. In many composition classes, you will be engaged in debate and discussion. Remember to express yourself with respect even if you disagree with someone. The goal of discussion is not to make sure everyone agrees, but to better understand one another’s ideas.
- Respect your own and your peers’ time. During classes and conferences, stay focused, take notes, and actively participate.
Email: Communicating Professionally with Your Instructor
To effectively communicate with your instructor, you need to compose a professional email that includes a clear subject line, an appropriate greeting, information with the needed context, including your course title or section, a polite closing, and your contact information. Understanding how to write an appropriate email is one step toward your professionalization as a student, and later, as an employee.
For tips on how to compose a professional email, see this Purdue Online Writing Lab resource on composing emails.