Syllabus Analysis Project

Professor Molly Brodak

I interviewed Professor Molly Brodak, instructor of 1101 and 1102 (face-to-face classes on Marietta campus), for my syllabus analysis project.  She provided a copy of her teaching philosophy along with copies of the syllabus, schedule of work, and a scaffolded assignment for her Fall 2018 ENGL 1101 Composition 1 class.

I learned valuable lessons by reviewing and utilizing Dr. Brodak’s course materials to complete my assigned syllabus analysis project.  Her teaching style and incorporation of multimodal components into the syllabus and scaffolded assignment have influenced my approach to designing my upcoming argument assignment.

I gave a PowerPoint presentation of my syllabus analysis in class.  Discussion, comments, and questions on Dr. Brodak’s philosophy rounded out the presentation.  Documents for my syllabus analysis project may be viewed at the following links:

Professor Brodak’s Teaching Philosophy

I teach writing. The process of writing—exploring, discovering, struggling, drafting, crossing out, starting again, revising, reading, editing, peer response—all of which is very similar to my process of teaching. It is a process of learning.

I am dedicated to teaching writing in college, everything from creative to technical writing, because I know that one good writing class can teach students (even the writing-phobic) how to think—and thereby, how to succeed in college. Nowhere is learning made more visible than in the process of writing. It is, unlike rote memorization or formula applications, a true process, a collaboration between a student’s previous knowledge and the skills yet to be mastered. Not only do the students collaborate with themselves, they collaborate with each other in my classroom, and with me. Collaboration—literally “co-laboring” is how students grow into great writers.

What this emphasis on collaboration looks like in my classroom is a process of pulling apart good writing, exploring it, questioning it, modeling it, then revising it. Whether in poetry workshop or Comp I, we start by “reverse engineering” a piece of good writing in the same way engineering students pull apart a toaster in order to learn how to make one. We sort and label sentences to learn what they’re “doing,” and how each sentence carries its content. Then we ask questions—why was it done this way, and is there a better way to do it? Equipped with all of these ideas, students set about modeling the techniques of the good writing in their own style. We discuss managing tone and how to move from a conversational tone to a formal writing tone—how exactly that is done, with vocabulary, syntax, audience awareness and variety. Finally, the students collaborate with each other in revision, opening up the process once again.

Sometimes students in required composition courses are not the most enthusiastic learners. Many come to class with negative experiences with English classes or reading and writing in general. Many associate writing with evaluation, judgment, obligation, and hazy grading practices. I use a variety of techniques to approach this challenge so that students see English courses as “keys” to college, where they will learn communication skills that will assist them in every single following course, where they will learn the tools to move fluidly through any genres of writing they will be required to submit, and where they will learn to trust and value their own voices on the page.

I provide solid guidelines and rubrics for assessment in my writing classrooms. With each assignment sheet comes a very specific rubric that details precisely how the assignment will be graded. Examples of good and bad writing, detailed descriptions of grading practices, and steps for achieving goals are very important to students in composition courses, I have found, and so I eliminate the guesswork for students in terms of what makes successful writing. Most of all, I praise good writing. I show students how powerful the written word can be when it is functioning at its highest, and they never fail to strive for that same praise.

As a learner, I listen to them as well. I believe in fairness in the classroom, but at the same time I know a classroom environment is not “fair.” Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and skill levels, and different students need different approaches to all reach the same level of competency. This is why I meet with each and every student in my office at midterm for an individual conference. While instructors often think of their students as a “class,” students think of themselves individually, and I recognize that as an instructor. My job as an instructor is to understand how to reach everyone, and I take that responsibility seriously, and with great dedication. The wide range of writing courses I have taught has organized itself into a kind of tree in my mind, with composition at the solid roots and poetry and fiction up in the lofty branches. The varieties of subjects are all rooted in a basic need for understanding, and I honor all of them.

In a world where YouTube videos, TED talks, Skype sessions, and remote instruction hollows out and impersonalizes the classroom, I believe the last, and greatest weapon universities have for teaching and retaining students is an enthusiastic expert. There’s just no substitute for the quick thinking, flexible adaptation, and deep connection that can be provided by professional in her field who is dedicated to teaching.

Professor Brodak’s Syllabus/Schedule of Work/Scaffolded Assignment 

MBrodak ENG 1101 Syllabus

MBrodak ENG 1101 Schedule of Work Fall 18

MBrodak Scaffolded Argument Analysis Assignment


My Analysis Project Documents

Annotated Syllabus

PowerPoint Presentation

Written Analysis