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HONORS 205 A: What We Know And How We Know IT

What We Know and How We Know It

Honors Arts and Sciences 205A

Autumn 2016

5 Credits, C (Freshman English Composition) credit

MW 9:30-11:20

Mary Gates 284

Frances McCue, M.F.A, Ed.D. Senior Lecturer in English, Integrated Social Sciences and University

Please contact me via Canvas.

Office Hours: Tuesdays 12:00 - 2:00 in MGH 297.

The Course assignments are available on CANVAS, the UW Online Interactive Platform.

Course Description:

WHAT WE KNOW has a long history in the Honors Program. Eleven years ago, when I created it
with Professor Gene Edgar, we wanted to invent a course to introduce knowledge-gathering
methods of writing, thinking, interacting and reading while showcasing some of the practices of
some of our great UW faculty from different disciplines. We wanted to hear stories about how some
of our colleagues came into their fields and we wanted to encourage our students to engage with
them. Over the years, the aspirations have remained intact while the structure has shifted to take in
new materials and approaches to learning.

WHAT WE KNOW is open only to incoming Honors Freshmen. It is one of the and it is an
opportunity for you to expand your writing repertoire across disciplines, meet new classmates and
form friendships, read challenging and engaging materials and see how UW faculty interact with
their research and within their fields. Think of it as a class in which you write a lot, speak a lot, read
a lot and collaborate often.

Since academic disciplines are bound by their respective ways of knowing, and because other
ways of knowing are empirical and creative, this course will present different ways of coming to
knowledge. Through reading, lectures, dialogue, persuasive writing, journalistic writing, academic
research writing, and through writing poems, short stories and memoir pieces, students will
develop a repertoire of strategies to understanding their ways of knowing. Through critical reading
of texts, dialogue, and reflective writing, we'll explore some of the metacognitive aspects of
understanding knowledge and knowledge production across disciplinary fields.
The outcomes of this class will be enhanced learning and skills across a few disciplinary
discourses, varied writing practices and a heightened awareness of ones roles within a learning

This course is a writing course and is eligible to fulfill the University of Washingtons composition
(C) requirement. Well employ a range of writing strategies and approach writing as a method of
inquiry. This means that writing is less a way to package pre-conceived thoughts and more a way
to open thinking and expression to garner more sophisticated insights. You will write a lot in this

Our goals include:

learning how to negotiate and navigate with different ways of knowing;

developing empathic and creative imagination;
enhancing and expanding your writing;
creating models for civic dialogue
and articulating your individual learning.

Expectations for Students

You must attend all classes and come with all of the assigned readings completed. Well expect
you to be curious about how others view knowing and how you can open up your own
perspectives to accommodate others' expanding notions of knowledge. You should critically
consider your belief systems along with the belief systems of others, but should do so in a
respectful and humble manner and be willing to experiment in your writing and be an active,
questioning learner.

Group Work

Much of class time will be spent in small group work. For each session, we may assign group roles
of: reporter, recorder, timekeeper/taskmaster, encourager, and supplies/techmaster/cleanup. These
roles should change for each session so everyone has assumed all the roles, several times.

Reporter: reports key points into the larger group.

Recorder: Takes notes and summarizes key points.

Timekeeper and taskmaster: Keeps the timeline on track and the duties transparent and

Encourager: Facilitates and encourages everyone to speak and encourages some to speak less

Supplies/ Tech/ Cleanup: Assures a tidy workspace, meets tech and supplies needs.

A big part of this class is about being a good group member-- by being a leader and by making
your group a better learning community. Use this opportunity to practice these skills:

Try to be an active, deep listener.

Be curious about what others think about a topic.

Support each other emotionally and academicallyhave each others back.

Have out of class meetings either face to face or electronically.

Mind the edges. Work toward each member being part of the group. Think about forming affection
bondsmaking friends. Bring and share food. Peer-edit each others writing.


Most readings are available on CANVAS or linked to outside sources. EVERYONE should read ALL
of the readings.

One of the readings, for the visiting scientist, must be ordered on line. Here are the instructions:
Use Owen Curtsinger's etsy shop.
( OR the new shop on his
website ( You can get a discount on the order if
you use the coupon code STUDENT at the checkout with either website.


We will have guest speakers. I will need volunteers to introduce each speaker (this entails
researching our guests and maybe talking with them or emailing them before they speak). I also will
need these volunteers to organize a formal thank you for each speaker (perhaps a card with notes
from the students or some such thing).

For each speaker, one person per group (the reporter for that day) should organize 2-3 questions
for the speaker based on the readings. After each lecture we will have an open question and
answer session but if (when) there is a big pause in questions the reporter should ask the speaker
one of the pre-determined questions.

Student Work and Assessment

Participation matters to everyone. Because were involved in intense small and large group
discussions and writing labs, active participation is crucial. Read all materials BEFORE the due
date, take substantial notes in class, jot ideas outside of class, talk to your classmates, work
well in a group. This will be assessed by attendance, presence in groups, the collective low
stakes in class activities. There is not a rubric. I will do this by observation and by my own note
taking. 20 points
Keep a notebook for in class notes and reflections upon reading and learning outside of class.
(There will be time set aside for reflections during many of the class sessions). Show evidence
of drafts, outlines, notes for papers. Small writing assignments: in and out of class. Tour me
through this at one time near the end of the term. 10 points

Three inquiry papers with rewrites (10 points each) 30 points

Reflection paper (5-6 pages) on how you come to knowledge and learning. Use quotes from
class and from reading. 10 points

Final group project. 30 points


This class will generate materials that you must keep in your Honors learning portfolio. The
Honors electronic learning portfolios span students undergraduate years and are best used as an
ongoing, dynamic forum for the integration of knowledge. (If you don't want your course
materials publicly available, you can limit visibility to that particular section of your portfolio.)
Readings, lecture notes, visual and audio materials, syllabi, tests, papers etc, are all useful to
archive. In addition to posting and storing items, you should take the time to describe the
significance of the materials. Also documenting how what you learned in the course contributed to
your larger experiences, goals, and thoughts about education and learning will be really helpful in
the long run. (In the short term, these observations will feed right into your Reflection Paper.)

At the end of the course, you will provide a link to your portfolio. The tab for this class should
contain all of your work for the term.

Your portfolio is also a major source of evidence of your participation in the course.

Scoring Guidelines for Papers

Definition of an Inquiry Paper: A paper that has, at its core, an essential question. This should not
be a question that is easily answered with facts or polarized opinions. An inquiry paper seeks to
explore an issue, event, philosophical claim or idea. The papers will each have particular guidelines.
Qualities of excellent papers:

Neatly typed, no spelling or grammatical errors. MLA style.

Each paper should be edited by at least one other person and re-written based on these edits.
Uploaded onto canvas.
Paper takes risks and does not simply resort to a five-paragraph essay model.
Paper uses forms and strategies assigned.

Inquiry Paper 1

Philosophy, paper. 10 points

1500 word limit

Write a philosophy paper according to the methods outlined in the Philosophy Department

Inquiry Paper 2

Write a short nonfiction book for Middle Readers. 10 points.

3000 word limit.

Write a nonfiction book for Middle Readers (target audience 9-12 year olds) that explains an issue
or scientific process that you are studying in this class or others. Do not use a moral lesson. Rather,
you should try to take a sophisticated concept and convey it through clear prose that explains the
process or concept.

Inquiry Paper 3

First Person Inquiry into Artistic and/or Religious/Cultural Issue. 10 points

1500 word limit.

Write an exploration based on a question you are thinking about, relating to Artistic and/or
Religious/ Cultural matters. It's often a good idea to start with a small thing and move into larger

Reflection on learning paper. Due . 10 points.

1500 word limit.

CREATE A NARRATIVE (follow thought process throughout time)

After considering Crispins journey, how would you describe some element of your own quest for
knowledge? Consider what events and values led you to where you are today. Do not use on your
personal statements for college applications.

Reflect on what you learned about how you learn. Comment on the skills you gained (or did not
gain) in listening to others, reading texts, sharing your ideas with others, being part of group
dialogue, writing your ideas so others could understand them, and writing as a process for learning
new knowledge.

Group Project. Due 30 points.

Create, as a group, a collection of 1500 word papers that you each write. Find your common
interests across disciplines and create a common statement about how the papers connect. Your
work should showcase methods and concepts that we discussed in class.

On the last day of class You will, as a group, give a brief presentation of your collective statement
and the titles and descriptions of the individual papers.

All materials should be submitted as a link to your honors portfolio. You send me the link as your

Please note this statement from HONORS re: portfolios:

"Students are encouraged to archive items from this course in their Honors portfolios. Readings,
lecture notes, visual materials, music, poems, syllabi, tests, papers, etc, are examples of items that
might assist with reflection on learning and ways of thinking within and across disciplines. The
Honors portfolios span students undergraduate years and are best used as an ongoing, dynamic
forum for the integration of knowledge. In addition to archiving items, students are also asked to
take a few minutes to write-up a paragraph or two describing the significance of the archived items
and how what they learned in the course contributed to their larger experiences, goals, and
thoughts about education and learning."

96+ = 4.0

91-95 = 3.8

85- 90 = 3.2

80-84 = 3.0

75-79 = 2.0

less than 75 = 0