Background

History 190 is one iteration of a College Writing 2 (CW2; sometimes alternately referred to as EC2) course, part of the Pathways general education curriculum developed by CUNY and in force for freshman and transfer students as of Fall 2013.

The defining requirements for Pathways CW2 courses are the following:

1: Include instruction on writing

2: Require at least 20 pages of formal, graded writing with at least one of the writing assignments requiring revision

3: Include informal writing assignments such as blogs, journals, writer’s notebooks or field notes, or in-class writing exercises

We should expect that syllabi, and eventually assignments and student work, will be collected for assessment of these courses (so far, only syllabi are being systematically collected).

Queens College’s Faculty Writing Committee has also tentatively outlined the following general guidelines for how we see CW2 courses (guidelines will solidify as courses are taught and we assess the results, and are already reflected in the History190 Guidelines):

Difference between Hist190 and a W course: the relative weight of writing vs. content should be flipped. So, if a W course might be approx. 70-80% history content and 20-30% writing instruction/workshopping, Hist190 would be 20-30% history content and 70-80% writing instruction/workshopping.

The course should be organized around writing goals, not content goals. So, in other words, class meetings would not be divided up by coverage of given historical themes or periods. Instead class meetings would be focused on, say, interpreting primary sources, reading for argument, etc.

Graded writing assignments should be preceded by smaller-stakes assignments or exercises. Students should be writing every day, in and out of class.

New instructors of CW2 courses should sign up for a training workshop (provided by WaQ). There is also a booklet of explanations and ideas that you will be given at the training workshop. Basic principles of composition instruction (based on decades of research and scholarly literature) center on techniques known as goal-oriented course design (starting from a concrete goal and designing assignments and exercises from there), scaffolding (building up sequences of tasks toward higher-stakes assignments), and micro-lesson planning (structuring class time as sequences of short interactive tasks and exercises).

CW2 courses are encouraged to use a defined, shared vocabulary for writing moves and elements that is as concrete as possible (WaQ provides some basic terms that are used in Eng110 and thus already familiar to students in CW2s). Alternate terms that are common in a given discipline, and supplementary terms specific to the discipline, can of course also be used, but the vocabulary of writing used in the course should be consistent, explicitly defined to the students, and if it varies from the terms used in Eng110, it would be helpful to remind students of these synonyms.

Course readings should ideally serve as writing models in addition to providing necessary content knowledge. They don’t all have to be good models! – but it is helpful to select, for example, a secondary source that has what you judge to be a well-structured and clearly articulated introduction, as you want to see from your students, and you assign that reading when you are also discussing introductions for their own work. This may not always be possible for every reading, of course, but it should be the aim.

The form assignments take and the nature of assigned readings should be disciplinary.

The CW2 course should build on the course students are required to take before it, Eng110, which is an interdisciplinary freshman composition course (details on what Eng110 does and how are available on the WaQ website).

History Department learning goals (for our curriculum as a whole) have been established as the following:

Learning goals for all history courses:

Students will gain the ability to identify the argument or thesis in a work of historical scholarship.

Students will learn to analyze primary sources by correctly identifying the type of source, from when and where it originated, its intended audience, the probable motives of the author, and author’s assumptions or biases.

Students will gain the ability to articulate a substantive, contestable, and specific thesis, argument, or main claim in their papers and defend it with evidence.

Learning goals for history majors and MA students:

Students will gain the ability to understand the nature of historical interpretation—that all historical texts are shaped by context, method, and bias; that texts may be internally contradictory and irreducible to a single interpretation; and that the historian’s craft includes asking: “what isn’t here?” “what is/was the author’s agenda(s)?” and “does my point of view inform my reading?”

Students will learn to understand and do historiography by comparing and contrasting different interpretations of a shared problem or event, and to situate those interpretations in their own historical time period and intellectual context.

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