From the ground up: building the first-year writing program at a post-secondary Christian institution, theoretical and practical considerations for higher English education

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University of Alabama Libraries

This project aims to theoretically and pragmatically examine religious, specifically Christian, composition curriculum and pedagogy decisions in a Christian post-secondary institution. This project proposes first-year writing curricula for a new Christian post-secondary institution (Highlands College). Although there is much discussion surrounding religion and composition studies, there is not a discussion regarding how to address the context of a Christian institution specifically. The research questions that drive this project are “What theoretical and practical recommendations can be made when considering Christian composition curricula?” “What existing curricular models already exist and how can that knowledge be used?” And finally, “What writing expectations do ministry professionals have for colleagues and how can these curricula consider these expectations?” By using the theory of pragmatism forwarded by Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, I argue that Christian writing topics should be encouraged in secular and religious composition courses based on educational and ethical benefits. Pragmatism can offer a view and framework that would benefit instructors in teaching and responding to student work. This project incorporates two sets of qualitative interviews. The first set of data is from composition instructors currently teaching in Christian institutions. The goal of these interviews was to uncover helpful knowledge and models in existing composition curricula. I then discuss the idea of ethics through a Christian lens as a discussion stemming from research data. The second set of interviews focuses on ministry professionals’ expectations for professional writing. Highlands College students are being trained for vocational ministry, so this institution’s goals include high relevance of assignments to future learning. I argue that workplace genres (like email, for example) may be used in composition for increased relevance and transfer efforts in student learning. I also argue that transferring knowledge to different contexts is possible with certain methods. Finally, the project proposes first-year writing curricula. The curricula include pedagogy goals, course philosophies, themes, assignments (instructions and rationales), textbook recommendations, and other course considerations. I hope this project will add to the curricular options for Christian institutions and urge non-religiously affiliated institutions to allow religious and academic discourse to cooperate productively.

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Pedagogy, Curriculum development, Religious education