CO150--College Composition--is a common experience for most CSU students. The course or its equivalent is required by the All-University Core Curriculum to satisfy Basic Competency in Written Communication (see this description). In addition to meeting this CSU core requirement, CO150 credit will satisfy a core requirement for communication at any Colorado public higher education college or university. That's due to its inclusion in the state's guaranteed transfer (gtPathways) program (see this description, Written Communication).
As we work toward these objectives, we rely on the metaphor of writing as a conversation. Like a conversation, writing involves exchanges of ideas that help us shape our own ideas and opinions. Students realize that they would be foolish to open their mouths the moment they join a group of people engaged in conversation—instead, they’d listen for a few moments to understand what’s being discussed. Then, if they found they had something to offer, they would wait until an appropriate moment to contribute. Our students understand what happens to people who make off-topic, insensitive, inappropriate or otherwise ill-considered remarks in a conversation. In CO150, we build on this understanding by suggesting that, prior to contributing to the debate about an issue, they should read, discuss, and inquire further about what other writers have written about it. Then, when they’ve gained an understanding of the conversation, they can offer their own contribution to it. By using this metaphor, we can help students build on their understanding of discourse as situated within larger social and cultural contexts.
With that notion in mind, we've structured the course in three phases. In Phase 1, students hone critical reading skills as they listen to the conversation on this question-at-issue: what should we eat? In Phase 2, students inquire into questions raised during the first phase, then add their voices to the conversation by writing an argument. In Phase 3, we begin new conversations about local sites of interest to new CSU students by investigating campus and community resources and writing an argument for a public audience about one. Each phase builds on the previous one to further develop the inquiry and composing competencies needed to achieve the course goals.
There are many approaches to teaching first-year writing. You may have experienced one of these other approaches as a student or as a teacher. Therefore, it may be helpful to consider what CO150 is not. It does not focus on writing about literature, creative writing or personal narratives. Nor is CO150 a course that teaches students how to write particular modes of discourse such as description, narration, or term papers. And while the course attends to editing and style concerns in the context of students' writing, it is not a grammar course. Rather, CO150 gives students experience with responding to various writing situations, making choices to address a variety of purposes and audiences, and developing strategies for successful communication.