ENGL 640: Sociopolitical Contexts of Writing Instruction
Professor: Todd Ruecker
Over the past few decades, political decisions at the state and federal levels in the form of
federal mandates like No Child Left Behind and the recent adoption of the Common Core
have increasingly impacted writing instruction in K-12 English Arts classrooms. With
encouragement of influential lobbying organizations, state and federal legislators are
increasingly turning their attention to bringing an accountability system to colleges and
universities. This class is based on the realization that what goes on in a writing class,
whether in elementary school, high school, or college, is situated in a larger sociopolitical
The course will begin with readings from selected critical theorists such as Bourdieu and
Foucault in order to build a theoretical framework with which to approach the readings
and discussions throughout the semester. We will then read and discuss research
conducted by scholars in education and rhetoric and composition along with looking at
government and foundation policy statements to gain a better understanding of how
writing instruction in both the U.S. and abroad is situated in larger contexts and how we
as educators may respond to these discourses. Alongside these readings, we will explore
how broader societal factors such as poverty rates, access to health care, and immigration
policies affect students’ abilities to be successful in writing classrooms.
Since this is a doctoral seminar, the reading load will be demanding, averaging the
equivalent of 4-5 academic articles weekly. Unless otherwise stated, all readings will be
provided in electronic form. We will look at additional sources, such as news reports and
U.S. Census data, not listed here.
Required Books (I did not order these through the bookstore so expect to find them
• Grenfell, M. (Ed.). (2008). Pierre Bourdieu: key concepts. Stocksfield: Acumen.
• Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. New York,
NY: Pantheon Books.
20% - Participation: As this is a seminar, participation in weekly in class and online
discussions is a vital component of the course.
20% - Weekly Responses: These 2+ page weekly assignments will ask you to synthesize
and respond to the readings of the day, geared to preparing you to discuss them in class.
15% - Book Review: This will involving reading a book relevant to the course topic,
targeting a specific journal that might publish this review, and write a 1000-1500 word
review based on the expectations of your target journal. This should be submitted to the
selected journal by the end of the semester.
15% - Policy Analysis: For this paper (6-10 pages), you will select some kind of state or
national government policy, which may or may not be explicitly connected to education,
and analyze its impact on students in writing classrooms at the K-12 or postsecondary
30% - Seminar Paper/Project Proposal: Outside of weekly readings, this will be the
largest assignment of the semester. You’ll be expected to focus on a topic related to the
course, producing a 15-20 page paper that approaches publishable quality. We’ll have
smaller projects throughout the semester connected with this larger paper, such as an
annotated bibliography. This will also include a presentation.
• This schedule is tentative and subject to change.
• Except for those from Grenfell and Foucault, all readings will be provided
electronically. Also, I will be supplementing some of the readings here with
online articles and websites.
Week 1 – 1/23
Introduction to Course/Overview of Topic
Casanave, C.P. (2003). Looking ahead to more sociopolitically-oriented case study
research in L2 writing scholarship. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 85-
Grenfell, M. (Ed.). (2008). Pierre Bourdieu: key concepts. Stocksfield: Acumen –
Week 2 – 1/30
Read Grenfell Chapters 3, 4, 6
Read Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press. – Chapter 4
Week 3 – 2/6
Ambrosio, J. (2004). No Child Left Behind: The case of Roosevelt High School. The
Phi Delta Kappan, 85(9), 709-712.
Booher-Jennings, J. (2005). Below the bubble: “Educational Triage” and the Texas
accountability system. American Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 231-268.
Enright, K. A. & Gilliland, B. (2011). Multilingual writing in an age of accountability:
From policy to practice in U.S. high school classrooms. Journal of Second
Language Writing 20, 182-95.
McCarthey, S.J. (2008). The impact of No Child Left Behind on teachers’ writing
instruction. Written Communication, 25, 462-505.
Lee, J. & Wong, K.K. (2004). The impact of accountability on racial and socioeconomic
equity: Considering both school resources and achievement outcomes. American
Educational Research Journal, 41(4), 797-832.
Abedi, J. (2004). The no child left behind act and English language learners: Assessment
and accountability issues. Educational Researcher, 33(1), 4-14.
Week 4 – 2/13
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. New York, NY:
Week 5 – 2/20
Allison, H. (2009). High school academic literacy instruction and the transition to
college writing. In M. Roberge, M. Siegal, & L. Harklau (Eds.), Generation 1.5
in college composition: Teaching academic writing to U.S. educated learners of
ESL (pp. 75-90). New York, NY: Routledge.
Common Core State Standards Initiative (2012). In the states. Retrieved from
Goldstein, D. (2012). The schoolmaster. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
Johnson, Kristine. 2013. “Beyond Standards: Disciplinary and National Perspectives on
Habits of Mind.” College Composition and Communication 64(3): 517-541.
Additional Websites (to be provided)
Week 6 – 2/27
Kirst, M., & Venezia, A. (2001). Bridging the great divide between secondary schools
and postsecondary education. The Phi Delta Kappan, 83(1), 92-97.
Addison, J. & McGee, S. J. (2010). Writing in high school/Writing in college: Research
trends and future directions. College Composition and Communication, 62(1),
Adler-Kassner, L. (2012a). The companies we week or the companies we would like to
try to keep: strategies and tactics in challenging times. WPA: Writing Program
Administration, 36(1), 119-140.
Horn, L., Cataldi, E. F., & Sikora (2005). Waiting to attend college: Undergraduates
who delay their postsecondary enrollment. Washington, D.C.: National Center
for Education Statistics.
Kurlaender, M. (2006). Choosing community college: Factors affecting Latino college
choice. In C. L. Horn, S. M. Flores, & G. Orfield (Eds.), Latino educational
opportunity (pp. 7-16). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Achieve (2013). The college- and career-ready agenda. Retrieved from
Week 7 – 3/6
Harklau, L. & McClanahan, S. (2012). How Paola made it to college: A linguistic
minority students’ unlikely success story. In Y. Kanno & L. Harklau (Eds.)
Linguistic minority students go to college: Preparation, access, and persistence
(pp. 74-90). New York, NY: Routledge.
Astin, A. W. (1997). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San
Lay, N. D. S., Carro, G., Tien, S., Niemann, T. C., & Leong, S. (1999). Connections:
High school to college. In. L. Harklau, K. M. Losey, & M. Siegal (Eds.)
Generation 1.5 meetscollege composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to
U.S.-educated learners of ESL. (p. 175-190). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Kanno, Y. & Varghese, M. M. (2010). Immigrant and refugee ESL students’ challenges
to accessing four-year college education: From language policy to educational
policy. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 9(5), 310-328.
Week 8 – 3/13
U.S. Department of Education (2006). A test of leadership: Charting the future of U.S.
higher education. Washington, D.C.
TYCA (2006). Guidelines for academic preparation of English faculty at two-year
colleges. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 7-19.
Myers, J. C. & Kircher, C. (2007). Teaching without license: Outsider perspectives on
first-year writing. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 396-404.
Olendzenski, M. (2008). CONNECT: Breaking down barriers in public higher education.
Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 186-190.
Klausman, J. (2010). Not just a matter of fairness: Adjunct faculty and writing programs
in two-year colleges. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 363-371.
Sullivan, P. (2005). Cultural narratives about success and the material conditions of class
at the community college. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 142-160.
Week 9 3/20 – Spring Break
Week 10 – 3/27 – Away for conferences – online work
**Policy Papers Due**
[Selection TBA] Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on
college campuses. University of Chicago Press.
Friedman, T. L. (15 May 2012). Come the revolution. The New York Times. Retrieved
Friedman, T. L. (26 Jan. 2013). Revolution hits the universities. The New York Times.
Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/friedman-
Horner, B., & Trimbur, J. (2002). English only and U.S. college composition. College
Composition and Communication, 53(4), 594-630.
Stuart, R. (2010). Influential Lumina Foundation drives higher education change,
innovation. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved from
Powell, P. R. (2009). Retention and writing instruction: Implications for access and
pedagogy. College Composition and Communication, 60(4), 664-682.
Additional Websites (to be provided)
Week 11 – 4/3
Students’ Extracurricular Lives
Ishler, J. L. C. (2005). Today’s first-year students. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B.
O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first-year student: A
handbook for improving the first year of college (pp. 15-26). San Francisco, CA:
Antrop-González, R., Vélez, W., & Garrett, T. (2008). Examining familial-based
academic success factors in urban high school students: The case of Puerto Rican
female high achievers. Marriage and Family Review, 43(1/2), 140-163.
Torres, V. (2004). Familia influences on the identity development of Latino first-year
students. Journal of College Student Development, 45(4), 457-469.
Cabrera, A. F., Nora, A., & Castaneda, M. B. (1993). College persistence: Structural
equations modeling test of an integrated model of student retention. The Journal
of Higher Education 64(2), 123-29.
Cabrera, A. F., Stampen, J. O., & Hansen, W. L. (1990). Exploring the effects of ability
to pay on persistence in college. The Review of Higher Education 13(3), 303-336.
Week 12 – 4/10
Students’ Extracurricular Lives
**Book Review Drafts Due**
[Selection] Hossler, D., Schmit, J., & Vesper, N. (1999). Going to college: how social,
economic, and educational factors influence the decisions students make.
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Ruecker, T. (forthcoming). Difficult but successful transitions. High School to College:
The Journeys of Latinas and Latinos Writing Across Institutions. Logan: Utah
State University Press.
Sternglass, M. (1997). “Effects of complex social histories on academic performance.”
Time to know them. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Wiley, D. & Wilson, D. (2009). Just say don’t know: Sexuality education in Texas
public schools. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Retrieved December
19, 2011 from http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/SexEdRort09_web.pdf
Week 13 – 4/17
Global Sociopolitical Contexts
Cummins, J. (1997). Minority status and schooling in Canada. Anthropology &
Education Quarterly, 28(3), 411-430.
Kubota, R. (2001). Discursive construction of the images of US classrooms. TESOL
Quarterly, 35(1), 9-38.
Al-Jarrah, R. S., & Al-Ahmad, S. (2013). Writing instruction in Jordan: Past, present, and
future trends. System 41(1), 84-94.
Cheng, L., Rogers, T., & Hu, H. (2004). ESL/EFL instructors’ classroom assessment
practices: purposes, methods, and procedures. Language Testing, 21(3), 360-389.
[Selection] You, X. (2010). Writing in the devil's tongue: A history of English
composition in China. SIU Press.
Week 14 – 4/24
Global Sociopolitical Contexts
Norton, B., & Syed, Z.. (2003). TESOL in the Gulf: The sociocultural context of English
language teaching in the Gulf. TESOL Quarterly, 37(2), 337-341.
Muchiri, M.N., Mulamba, N.G., Myers, G., & Ndoli, D.B. (1995). Importing
composition: teaching and researching academic writing beyond North America.
College Composition and Communication, 46, 175-198.
Reichelt, M. (2005). English-language writing instruction in Poland. Journal of Second
Language Writing, 14, 215-232.
Leki, I. (2001). Material, educational, and ideological challenges of teaching EFL writing
at the turn of the century. IJES, International Journal of English Studies, 1(2),
Week 15 – 5/1
Porter, J.E., Sullivan, P., Blythe, S., Grabill, J. T., & Miles, L. (2000). Institutional
critique: A rhetorical methodology for change. College Composition and
Communication, 51(4), 610-642.
Week 16 - 5/8
**Seminar Paper Drafts Due**
Seminar papers and final book reviews to be submitted by the end of exam week.