Comp @ CSULA

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Department of English

Engineering & Technology A604
Contact us: (323) 343-4140

Comp @ CSULA

Overview of Instructional Practices

Preparing a Syllabus

Selecting Textbooks

Student Attendance Policy

The University Writing Center

Assessing Students' Writing Skills Early

Scheduling Office Hours

Managing Student Enrollment

Recommended Policies on Student Papers

Duplicating Instructional Materials

Using Other Departmental Resources

Canceling Classes

Avoiding Plagiarism

Students' Evaluation of Teaching


Faculty Meetings

Overview of Instructional Practices (back to top)

All courses in the writing program ask students to develop thinking and reasoning abilities and to learn rhetorical strategies for communicating effectively in writing. The curriculum offers a developmental sequence that moves from reflection to analysis and interpretation and from topics drawn from personal experience or observation to ideas and issues drawn from texts and a world outside students' immediate experience. Although not all students take all four composition courses offered by the department, many do, because of the requirements of EO 665.

Classes are based on the premise that writing is a craft that can be taught and are structured around the principle that the best writing evolves over time, developing through careful consideration of a topic, formal or informal collaboration during the writing process, and multiple drafts which are revised in response to various types of feedback. In all courses, the program's instructional practices are highly interactive, with both students and instructors actively engaged throughout the entire writing process: discovering a thesis; critically reading and discussing texts; and drafting, revising, and editing essays. Frequent use of small groups for prewriting activities and peer evaluation helps engage students actively in the learning process.


Research indicates that students who read extensively have a more extensive vocabulary, use more varied sentence structures, and have a better grasp of the conventions and genres of written language than students who have read very little. Since most Cal State LA students have not read widely or regularly, whatever we do to encourage them to read regularly will assist them in their academic and intellectual development. In addition, college-level writing almost always requires that students respond critically to texts, so composition instruction needs to help students learn strategies for reading and responding to texts.

In English 095, texts are used to help students generate ideas for writing and to help them find events in their personal experience or observations that they can relate to and reflect on. In addition, students are introduced to strategies for critically reading texts. In English 096, the emphasis on critical reading is increased, and students must specifically relate texts to their personal experience and analyze their experience with reference to a text. Some 095 and 096 instructors also require students to read one full-length book as a way of encouraging more extensive reading. In both English 101 and 102, students "read to write," and assignments ask them to interpret and analyze texts. English 102 students read more challenging texts than 101 students, write analytic essays using several texts related to a topic or theme, and engage in individual research to find their own sources on a topic.

Invention and revision are key elements of the writing process, and Cal State LA students need extensive help and guidance during these phases of writing. They benefit from prewriting activities and discussions that help them read critically, identify issues, discuss alternative points of view, and establish or formulate a thesis. They also need to learn to revise at the global level (content, development, and organization) as well as at the sentence level in response to feedback from instructors and peers. Given the time constraints of the quarter system, students may be completing final revisions on one paper while engaged in prewriting/invention activities for the next essay.

Selecting Textbooks (back to top)

The Composition Committee maintains a list of recommended texts. (The list of recommended texts is included on the resources page for each composition course.) Copies of books on the recommended list are usually available for examination in the department office. If not, it is possible to review a book's table of contents on publishers' websites. 

The list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but instead suggests titles that have an appropriate content and approach for the curriculum of each course. Faculty are asked to choose their texts from the list of recommended texts. Faculty who would like to use a text that is not listed are asked to submit with their book orders a description of the text(s) they would like to use along with a brief rationale for their choices. 

Those who wish to create course readers can do so through the CSULA Book Store or one of the commercial publishers who offer such services. In addition, it is now possible to put articles on electronic reserve in the library. Students can access, download, and print electronic reserve articles using campus or their home computers: this method is usually the most economical for students since they can avoid having to pay copyright fees and copying fees associated with course readers.


Textbook order forms are available from Yolanda Galvan, the department secretary. Instructors should select texts as early as possible to ensure their arrival in the bookstore. In cases where instructors are hired too late to order texts, the Composition Coordinator in consultation with the Composition Committee may select texts for those sections.

As textbook costs can be a considerable burden for students, instructors are encouraged to choose texts that are reasonably priced. Many popular readers, rhetorics, and grammar guides are also available in lower-cost concise or compact editions that may be just as useful to students. Instructors are also encouraged to consider using the library's electronic reserve system as an alternative to course packets.

Desk Copies

Instructors can obtain desk copies by contacting the publisher's representative. Generally, instructors will be asked to mail or fax a request on department letterhead with appropriate course information and have the text sent to the school. Telephone numbers of major publishers are available in the department office. Instructors who do not receive their desk copies before classes begin can buy a copy of their text at the Cal State LA Book Store and return it for full credit once the desk copy arrives. Be sure to keep your receipt and ask the cashier to write "desk copy" on the receipt at the time you purchase the book.

Preparing a Syllabus (back to top)

University policy requires all faculty to provide students with a written syllabus that contains all of the information listed below and to turn in a file copy of the syllabus to the department office. Students must receive this syllabus no later than the second class meeting. However, we strongly encourage all composition instructors to have their written syllabus ready for the first class meeting.

  1. Instructor's name, office location, telephone extension, and office hours

  2. General course description including course prerequisites, if any

  3. Course objectives

  4. Requirements: policies and procedures (attendance, assignments, readings) and basis for evaluation (number of essays, portfolios, homework assignments, reading assignments, class participation, etc.)

  5. Grading system and its relation to achievement of the requirements in (4)

  6. Topical outline of course (due dates of essays, assigned readings, etc.)

  7. Date and time of final examination (English 095 and 096 instructors should list the due date of the portfolio and the date of the final in-class essay. English 102 instructors should list the date of the final essay or portfolio, if assigned.)

Click on the links below to view sample syllabi for composition courses.

ENGL 095 Sample Syllabus

ENGL 096 Sample Syllabus

ENGL 101 Sample Syllabus

ENGL 102 Sample Syllabus

Student Attendance Policy (back to top)

The English Department's attendance policy states that any student who misses 20% of the scheduled class sessions may fail the course. In a 10-week quarter, there are 20 class sessions; this means that students are in danger of failing once they have missed four classes. This attendance requirement should be stated clearly in your syllabus. Although you may not enforce it rigorously in cases where there are extenuating circumstances, it demonstrates the importance of regular attendance and gives you the option of giving students a grade of No Credit if they miss a significant number of classes.

University Writing Center (back to top)

Cal State LA provides tutorial help for students free of charge at the University Writing Center, Library South, Room 2098. The center is open Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Friday from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Any Cal State LA student can use this valuable resource, but composition students are particularly encouraged to take advantage of the assistance available.

The Writing Center is particularly helpful for students who would benefit from greater individualized assistance than can be offered in a classroom setting. Instructors should try to identify such students early in the quarter and encourage them to work regularly with a tutor throughout the quarter.

Students whose EPT score is only a few points below the cutoff for English 101 are allowed to enroll in 101 rather than 096 if they enroll concurrently in English 100 (Supplemental Writing Practice), a one-unit adjunct course taught through the Writing Center. In English 100, groups of 5-8 students will meet weekly with a Writing Center tutor for a 75-minute session that provides supplemental instruction.

Assessing Students' Writing Skills Early (back to top)

Assessing students' writing skills at the beginning of the quarter provides a rough idea of the strengths and weaknesses of individual students as well as of a class as a whole. Instructors are encouraged to assign a brief diagnostic essay—for example, a 30-minute in-class or take-home essay in response to a prompt—during the first or second class meeting. Many faculty feel that these essays allow them to get to know their students, fine-tune their teaching according to the needs of a particular class, and identify students who might benefit from extra assistance in the Writing Center.

Scheduling Office Hours (back to top)

According to university policy, faculty must schedule 1 hour and 20 minutes of office hours weekly for each course they teach. Instructors who teach two classes, therefore, would need to schedule 2 hours and 40 minutes of office hours, and instructors who teach three classes would need to schedule 4 hours.

Faculty should schedule office hours at times convenient to themselves, their students, and their department. Faculty should make every attempt to hold office hours in their assigned offices.

Managing Student Enrollment (back to top)

Drop/Add Procedures

To control the number of students in each composition section, the English Department has developed a set of specific registration procedures for the Drop/Add period. You will receive detailed instructions on these procedures prior to the first day of classes. Please follow them carefully so that we can accommodate as many students as possible while maintaining class sizes appropriate for writing instruction.

The English Department sets pre-enrollment in English 095 and 096 at 20 students and at 27 students in English 101 and 102. The target enrollment is 20 for 095 and 096 and 25 for 101 and 102. Instructors should refuse to add students above 20 in English 095 and 096 and above 27 in 101 and 102 because to do so will compromise the quality of instruction for the students already enrolled.

Instructors need to take an active role in ensuring that students who are added during the Drop/Add period officially enroll through STAR (Student Telephone Assisted Registration) or online through GET (Golden Eagle Territory) after they have given students permission to add the course. Especially in the fall quarter, students are inexperienced in dealing with university procedures and may not understand that they must enroll through STAR or GET to be officially added to your class. You will receive updated class rosters after the first week of classes to assist you in monitoring enrollment. It is essential that you identify non-enrolled students and make sure they are officially enrolled. Please follow instructions included with the registration procedures.

Recommended Policies on Student Papers (back to top)

Faculty are encouraged to develop their own policies on late papers and their own procedures for returning papers, subject to the considerations listed below.

Late Papers

Students who are absent on the day that assigned papers are due may turn the paper in to your mailbox in the department office. Staff members will not stamp papers to indicate the time or date when papers are turned in. Unless you are ill on a day when a paper is due, do not ask an entire class to turn in a set of papers to your box in the department office. It creates too much traffic, confusion, and work for the staff.

Returning Papers

Return all papers to students during class sessions. Students who are absent must pick their papers up in class after they return or during your office hours. Please do not leave papers for students to pick up outside your office or in the department office.

If English 101 or 102 students want to pick up papers turned in at the end of the quarter, they will need to see their instructors during office hours sometime the next quarter. As an alternative, students can give instructors a self-addressed, stamped manila envelope at the end of the quarter, and their final papers can be mailed.

English 095 and 096 portfolios are not returned to students but are kept on file in the department for one year and stored in file cabinets in the department storage room.

Duplicating Instructional Materials (back to top)

The department has two copy machines, a Canon copier and a risograph machine, to support instruction. They may be used to copy class handouts, activities, short supplementary readings, etc. They should not be used to create classroom sets of readings that, in effect, constitute a course packet of readings. Not only have recent court decisions ruled that such packets are illegal unless instructors obtain permission from copyright holders, but the department budget will not cover such copying. To encourage balanced usage and keep copying costs to a minimum, the department has established the following copying guidelines:

Canon Copier: Use the Canon copier when you have 10 or fewer pages to copy. Ask one of the office staff if you need help in using it. Each faculty member is assigned an individual copy code and allocated a set number of copies per quarter, depending upon their total enrollment. You must key in your personal code number before copying, and the machine records an ongoing tally of your usage.

Risograph Machine: The risograph is a fast and efficient machine and more cost-effective than the copier. Use it when you need to make 10 copies or more of each page you are copying. Jeanne Gee or the Composition Coordinator will provide instruction in using the risograph.

Drop-Off Copying: Faculty should expect to do most of their own copying. However, at certain times the staff can do copying if they are given several days. There is no drop-off copying service until the end of the Drop/Add period each quarter because of the many other demands on staff time during Drop/Add.

Using Other Departmental Resources (back to top)

VCR: A number of rooms in King Hall are equipped with VCRs and DVD players. In addition, the English Department has two VCRs, both stored in the department. To use one for your class, sign up in advance with Yolanda Galvan. Instructors are responsible for transporting the VCR to their classroom and for returning it to the appropriate location. However, students are usually willing to assist in this task if you need assistance.

Computer Lab: The English Department Computer Lab is located in KHB 3007. It was upgraded in Spring 2005 and has 30 Dell (IBM compatible) computers. Microsoft Word is available on all machines, and there is access to all library databases and the Internet. Sign up with Yolanda Galvan to reserve the room for use with your class.

Information Literacy: The Library offers instructors training sessions for their students in conducting research online, using electronic databases, and evaluating information found on the web; staff are eager to work with composition faculty. Contact Catherine Haras, Information Literacy Coordinator, at 343-5168 or [email protected] for further information.

Changing Classrooms (back to top)

Temporary or One-Time Change of Location: If your class is meeting somewhere other than your regularly assigned room for any reason, please notify the departmental office. Some students will not remember where they are supposed to be and will come to the department asking for help. It's also a good idea to post a notice of the temporary location on your classroom door to guide students.

Permanent Change of Classroom: If your class is scheduled in a "problem" classroom and you would like to change to a different room, ask Yolanda Galvan to request another classroom. Sometimes classes are canceled, and rooms become available at the beginning of the quarter. Be aware, however, that there may be no other space available at the time your class meets. In this case, you will have to remain in the room for the remainder of the quarter.

Canceling Classes (back to top)

If you are ill and cannot attend class, call the department office so that we can notify the students of your absence. If you cancel a class to substitute an alternative activity (i.e., library research, individual conferences for the entire class, etc.), you should also notify the office so they can inform lost or confused students.

Avoiding Plagiarism (back to top)

Even the best instructor will occasionally find that a student has plagiarized a paper. While student plagiarism cannot be completely avoided, instructors can reduce its occurrence by explaining the university's academic honesty policy, instructing students in the difference between acceptable paraphrasing and plagiarism, and by carefully choosing assignment topics. For further resources, contact Lise Buranen in the University Writing Center, and consult the following:

Click here to view the definition of plagiarism found in the Faculty Handbook.

Click here to view the university's academic honesty policy.

Click here to view a PDF version of the university's academic honesty policy.


Students' Evaluation of Teaching (back to top)

University policy requires all lecturers to administer Student Opinion Surveys in all their classes every quarter that they teach. These are part of each lecturer's permanent file and must be considered in the yearly evaluation of lecturers. Be sure to set aside 20 minutes during the ninth or tenth week to administer the questionnaires. Follow the directions provided.

Grades (back to top)

Online Grading

All grades are submitted online using the Cal State LA student information system known as GET (Golden Eagle Territory). All continuing instructors have already received an ID number and instructions for grading online. New instructors will receive their ID and instructions during their first quarter of employment. After completing the grade roster and before submitting the grades, instructors must make a copy of their grade roster for the department. Turn copies in to Jeanne Gee.

Notifying Students

It is against university policy to post grades even if students' CIN or some other means of anonymous identification is used. If students want to know their grade before it is available on the university system, they must give instructors a self-addressed post card.

Faculty Meetings (back to top)

There is one general meeting for all composition faculty each year. This is held during the fall quarter on the first or second Friday after classes begin. It is usually scheduled to meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the conclusion of the meeting, the chair meets with the composition faculty to review the university's evaluation procedures for part-time lecturers.