Faculty propose new composition curriculum

The Rider University Composition Committee proposed a new composition curriculum to improve academic experince for students.  

By Stephen Neukam

A proposal to reform the composition curriculum at Rider is under review by the University Academic Policy Committee and a decision regarding the proposal is expected soon.

The proposal brought forward by the Rider University Composition Committee, features a number of fundamental changes to the current curriculum.

Perhaps the largest adjustment is the proposal to eliminate all CMP 115 introductory classes and consolidate the curriculum to CMP 120 and 125. In addition to this change, each class would have a maximum capacity of 16 students.

“We’ve been doing a lot of research and one of the things that [is most important] is improving the educational experience of our students,” said Megan Titus, English professor and composition coordinator in the Department of English.

To improve the curriculum, the committee, comprised of Titus, Vanita Neelakanta and Laurel Harris, also proposed an expanded network of student tutors in CMP classes.

The tutors would be involved in classes and hold weekly studio sessions to assist students in the course material. Students would be given the opportunity to choose whether they want to be in a class with a student tutor.

“I have found [student tutors] to be so helpful in a lot of different ways,” said Titus. “[They act] as a liaison between the students and the professor. They are models in terms of how to answer questions. They are models in terms of how to interact with the professor and how to interact with classmates.” 

Student tutors already have a presence within composition classes as well as in other disciplines around the university.

“Student tutors give students an opportunity to take extra steps toward success,” said sophomore elementary education major Veronica Elghazaly, who is a tutor in the Academic Success Center. “We help create a connection between students and their professors while also helping new students transition into college.”

The groundwork for the proposal dates back to 2013. In 2014, an external review of Rider’s composition courses was conducted by an English professor from Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey.

“This proposal, where it’s at now, goes back to six or seven years of research that we’ve done,” said Titus. “We’ve done pilot studies, we’ve done a lot of reading, we had [the review from Montclair State]. We’ve done a lot of work.”

With the removal of CMP 115 from the curriculum, CMP 120 and 125 would be reformed as well. In addition to smaller class sizes, the courses would take on different names and requirements. 

The proposal also features the inclusion of a First-Year Writing Symposium, which would be held each year in the fall semester. The symposium would feature research from students in CMP 125 and awards would be distributed for outstanding work. Additionally, a keynote speaker from the field of rhetoric and composition would highlight the event.

“The first-semester freshman who are taking [CMP 120 would attend] to see the kind of work that they will be doing,” said Titus. “The goal here is to think about composition as a field and as a discipline because that is what it is.”

While the proposal has been submitted, it still has administrative obstacles to clear. The timeline for its implementation is not completely clear.

“We’re hoping [to implement the proposal] in the fall,” said Titus. “Right now, we have an Academic Policy Committee, and it is currently being reviewed there. We’ll see what happens.”

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