WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Writing about Writing: A Synthesis & Reflective Essay

Let’s begin with a claim: learning & teaching without reflecting on how, what, and why we are learning & teaching is meaningless. In First Year Writing, we believe that a digital writing portfolio is the best platform — like a dot-connecting mechanism — for supporting your reflections.

For our WRD104 portfolios, our emphasis will be on critical thinking, and how you’ve used it — how you’ve challenged yourself and really stretched yourself — in your writing. 

Length: 1250-1500 words, with hyperlinks and supporting quotations from your work
Audience: Instructor, classmates, WRD/FYW administrators, university assessment committees

Revisit my claim from the first day in class, when I tried to argue that “good writing” is not merely “correct,” spell-checked, and mechanically sound writing, but the result of rigorous, ongoing, reflective and critical thinking in collaboration with me and with your classmates. In terms of  your rhetorical situation, portfolio readers will be especially interested to read about how, when, and where you challenged yourself: how, when, and where, for example, did you reflect on your values, ideologies, and biases in class discussions, in readings, in office hours, while out walking around, or in your writing? How do your values, ideologies, and biases affect your ability to engage in truth-seeking behavior?

Use the real, actual, genuine writing & critical thinking vocabulary that we’ve been using in class and in our conferences:

  • * Critical thinking: use the language and key terms from critical thinking when reflecting on your critical thinking, and provide very specific examples. Don’t generalize here: show, don’t tell.
  • * How many of the opportunities have you taken in this class to probe, explore, and challenge your own values? How did that go? How has it affected your writing? Sometimes we use the phrase getting critical distance from what you’re reading, doing, thinking, and arguing, so this, too, is related to critical thinking.
  • * Can you perceive reading as an act of composition? Can you think of reading as meaning-making?
  • Are you a bullshitter?
  • Are you a good listener?
  • Ideology
  • Rhetoric
  • Emotion
  • Empathy
  • Bias
  • Stasis
  • Being right vs. seeking the truth
  • Open-mindedness
  • Dealing with complexity: how well do you avoid the pro/con, good/bad, yes/no, black/white trap?
  • Analysis
  • Research
  • Reflection

A Note on Reflection

Reflection refers to the iterative process that we engage in when we want to look back at some activity or decision we’ve made, to think about what we’ve learned from it, and how we might use it in the future. Reflection is a powerful tool in teaching and learning, and outside of academics, reflecting is a common tool among professionals and organizations as a way to establish values, goals, and future actions:

    •    What did I do? What is significant about it?
    •    Did I meet my goals?
    •    When have I done this kind of work before? Where could I use this again?
    •    Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did?
    •    How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?
    •    What should I do next? What’s my plan? 

Planning notes