Writing seminars in the Humanities Common Core
The University of Chicago has no separate composition requirement for undergraduates, but does help all first-year students tackle the challenges of advanced writing and argumentation at the University level by providing Writing Interns who work with students in the context of their Humanities Common Core course.
Unlike TAs in other College courses, Writing Interns are specifically charged to teach advanced academic writing, including college-level argumentation, techniques for structuring complex information, and techniques for establishing the significance of an academic argument. Interns attend and participate in their Core section's regular class meetings, so that they're fully aware of ongoing class discussions. They also meet with students outside of regular class times to work on writing, both in small group seminars and in one-on-one meetings with students.
How and when does a Writing Intern meet with students? In Autumn quarter, the College requires students to meet with their Intern in Humanities writing seminars at least 3 times. To combine the advantages of group feedback with individualized instruction, seminars are limited to six or seven students. The seminar sequence satisfies the College requirement of HUMA 19100-02, for which students receive credit. Credit for HUMA 19100 (Autumn Quarter) is required for graduation.
The Autumn quarter writing seminars may be pre-writing, draft, or post-writing seminars:
- In pre-writing seminars, Interns introduce techniques for analyzing and revising advanced academic arguments.
- In draft seminars, students exchange drafts and work on techniques that will improve the drafts' argument or structure.
- In post-writing seminars, students exchange and discuss completed papers in a process comparable to graduate-level writing workshops. They learn how readers respond to their polished work -- a process that can be nerve-wracking, but that is crucial to a writer's advanced development. They learn how to address in future papers any systemic writing problems that readers may identify in their work.
After Autumn quarter, Writing Interns continue to hold writing seminars in combination with one-on-one meetings. Students continue to receive credit for the seminar sequences, and seminar participation is mandatory to complete the student's HUM Core sequence.
Throughout the academic year, Writing Interns also assist faculty in their assigned Core course by providing extensive written feedback on student papers that focuses specifically on advanced writing issues such as argument, organization, and problem construction.