About the Composition Program

Composition courses are part of the Mason Core curriculum, which offers students a signature opportunity to develop writing competencies across their educational experiences that prepares them to participate in a variety of academic, professional, and civic communities. It does so in part by providing students with a “vertical” writing curriculum: a carefully sequenced series of Composition and Writing Intensive courses designed to facilitate the long-term growth of writers as they develop expertise in communicating knowledge, particularly disciplinary knowledge, across a range of contexts and audiences. Very few institutions in the nation offer students this type of vertical writing curriculum, which acknowledges the ongoing nature of writing development and the central importance of written communication to solving challenging issues facing our global society. It also recognizes the unique needs of Mason’s students, including the many transfer students who become Mason graduates.

Faculty teaching each course in the vertical writing curriculum facilitate the development of students’ written communication skills and their personal and professional identities. Composition faculty--as rhetoric and writing experts--help students develop frameworks through which to analyze the audiences, purposes, genres, and contexts in which they write and how to to engage in effective research and writing processes and make informed linguistic choices in a variety of writing situations. Writing Intensive faculty--as disciplinary experts--build on this foundation to further enable students’ abilities to create and communicate disciplinary knowledge across academic, public, and professional contexts. Taken as a whole, this curriculum contributes to the development of Mason’s students as engaged citizens and well-rounded scholars who are prepared to use writing to accomplish change in the world. 

Written Communication Lower Level (English 100/101) as the first course in Mason’s vertical writing curriculum provides student writers with the skills and mindsets needed to effectively respond to a range of academic and public writing situations through particular attention to rhetorical flexibility and inquiry-based research. Students learn to engage in a process of discovery and consider diverse perspectives before making a judgment, taking a stance, or proposing a solution. Students learn to analyze and respond to a range of rhetorical situations (writing in various genres for different audiences and purposes); develop strategies to critically read a range of non-fiction genres; engage in in-depth inquiry and writing processes; locate, evaluate, and synthesize source material to discover and answer complex questions; and reflect on what they are learning and how they are applying new knowledge, as well as on their research and writing processes.

Written Communication Upper Level (English 302) as the second course in Mason’s vertical writing curriculum builds on student learning in Written Communication Lower Level through advanced rhetorical analysis, inquiry-based research into a variety of scholarly and public perspectives, and writing oriented toward investigating, engaging with, and responding to meaningful disciplinary questions in a variety of academic and non-academic contexts. Across the Lower and Upper Level Written Communication courses, students learn to use writing to explore, construct, and communicate knowledge. These skills are built upon in Writing Intensive courses where students engage with increasingly complex rhetorical and field-specific problems, issues, or areas of inquiry and creativity.  

In addition to these course offerings, the composition program partners with INTO Mason to offer writing instruction to our undergraduate and graduate international students participating in the Pathways program. The ENGH 100 course offers a co-taught approach for undergraduate international students working on developing and refining academic writing skills based on current composition and rhetoric and linguistics scholarship.