Syllabus

ABOUT THIS CLASS

Editing is not just proofreading and changing misspelled words and punctuation. Being an editor, like being a teacher, requires a certain disposition, a certain attitude towards authors and texts and publishers—one that is often necessarily more generous and less gate-keeping than you might imagine. The basics of editing are about understanding the rhetorical situations in which a text is being published, and as this is a graduate class, we will focus on some rhetorical situations that are rather large in scope. Some of the questions we will address as part of this class include

  • What does it mean to BE an editor?
  • What is the work of an editor, and how does that work change over a career?
  • How are editorial actions impacted by genre, media, and technology?

This class centers on academic editing while veering into literary, scholarly, and trade editing/publishing. Infused in all of the editorial praxis we will complete this semester, we will study big-picture editorial “problems”:

  • print vs. and digital?
  • closed vs. open access?
  • print-like or media-rich?
  • peer review vs. editorial review vs. open review?
  • editing as collaboration, curation, or ghost-work?
  • and many other topics…

And, as any good editor knows, food is allowed and even encouraged.

About Me…

I’ve been working in editing and publishing for 25 years — across genres and media. I’ve edited scholarly, literary, and trade publications in print, digital, and multiple media. I currently edit the premier scholarly multimedia journal, Kairos. If I couldn’t be a publishing studies professor, I’d be a full-time editor, and I will regularly bring practical examples into the classroom. I recommend you read more about my teaching philosophy to get a sense of who I am as your instructor.

DIVERSITY, SPECIAL NEEDS, & ACCOMMODATIONS
Editing is a rhetorical act that requires an intimate understanding of audience. Audience is not one, homogenous thing. An audience might have nuances and differences based on culture, language, education, society, ethnicity, country of origin, sexual and gender identity, neurodiversity, and many other possible combinations—to which an editor must attend. Editors must be able to consider and work for readers and their needs as well as their editorial and technical staff.

Similarly, a teacher needs to be able to consider students’ needs. Editing has taught me to be a better teacher of all students, not just those with different needs or who require accommodations. I try my best in advance, but if I have failed to consider some difference and you can show me a solution or call to my attention my oversight, I will do my damnedest to correct myself. And I will do my damnedest not to spring anything on students that isn’t appropriate for diverse audiences.

In addition, any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Accessibility Services: http://accessibilityservices.wvu.edu/, Phone: 304-293-6700; Email: Access2@mail.wvu.edu. Also, let me know so I can change things in the interim.

Finally, NO COLOGNES OR PERFUMES OR BODY SPRAYS (etc.) are allowed in our classroom or my office.

WHAT I EXPECT and VALUE
I value how all aspects of your undergraduate education come together to form your learning and life experiences. In this class, you are editors-in-training and students, and I will treat you the same as I treat the editors who work for me at Kairos, as they are training to be better editors like you are.  I expect you to learn about and follow the social and cultural conventions of professional editorial behavior, which I will help you learn during the semester. (These behaviors aren’t specific to academic editors — this is just the context in which we will discuss them this semester.)

I expect you to

  • come to every class,
  • make time to read everything assigned and to understand it (with my and the class’s help),
  • make theoretical and practical connections to your previous work and class experiences,
  • complete your assignments on time and with great attention to the big and small pictures,
  • provide thoughtful discussion in and out of class,
  • be flexible and patient, especially when it comes to difference and to technology,
  • conduct yourself in ways suitable to your class colleagues and myself, and
  • do excellent work, because there are too many average students out there trying to get jobs for you to bother with anything less than excellence.

I value

  • thought-out (or at least informed from the readings) questions rather than off-the-cuff opinions or random anecdotes that do not proceed quickly or have a point,
  • your bringing connections to light between classroom discussions and your prior experiences and other classes,
  • your being considerate and respectful of class members, technology, and me,
  • risk and creativity and multidisciplinarity and self-learning and helpfulness, and
  • aha moments, which can turn into great discussions, projects, or (later) theses, internships, memorable moments, projects external to your classes, dissertations, or even jobs.

Overall, I expect you to push yourselves to learn, a process which can take many forms.

From me, you should expect

  • a mentoring, but exacting, pedagogical approach,
  • an understanding that your academic life as a whole student isn’t just in this class (but this does not equate to a free pass to not prioritize this class when you are in it),
  • a personalized approach and enthusiasm for teaching about editing, which includes theory, practice, history, and technology,
  • an ability to go with the flow and to create learning scenarios that may sometimes seem out of the blue, and
  • a desire to help you find what kind of editor you are (or aren’t).

This class (and your classmates and I) should consider the following goals:

  • everyone contributes
  • find your way into the class to make it interesting for you
  • making connections to other classes/experiences you’ve taken
  • respecting others’ opinions
  • not interrupting other people, except to get us back on track
  • helping each other out
  • sharing relevant backgrounds/experiences when appropriate
  • respecting different learning levels (don’t get frustrated)
  • actually doing the work! (because it helps us all)
  • encouragement
  • …. WHAT ELSE??

GRADES
Because this class focuses a great deal on professional development, editing academic texts, working with academic authors, and publishing, my grading schema reflects that professionalism. Assigning letter or number grades does not improve your learning, just as telling an author that the journal rejects hir work for publication — without any explanation as to why — makes hir a better writer in the profession. I have set up this class so you can achieve excellence by providing structured and sequenced assignments that enhance your critical and creative thinking as an editor, and by offering informal and formal feedback on your in-progress work.

what is “feedback”?
Feedback often comes in the form of informal in-class discussions about your assignments and individual or group work. For instance, when I and your peers offer critiques of your assignments, we assume that you will implement those revision suggestions into your drafts. When you don’t, you should have a very good reason in relation to the purpose of the text for not doing so. (These purposes will become evident in your project style guide as well as in your editorial values statement, both of which we will revisit periodically throughout the semester.) I hope that this grading system will allow you the freedom and flexibility to take editorial leaps while also providing time for you to re-envision and revise those products into more usable, sophisticated, and polished texts.

how do I grade?
Your grade is based on 100% class participation. Everyone in this class starts with a B. How you participate changes that grade higher or lower. Because this is a graduate class, I expect everyone to earn an A, but YOU must EARN that grade. Students in previous sections of publishing-related classes have earned As (see Tips below), Bs (for mediocre participation in class and 1-2 absences), a few Cs (usually related to multiple absences and some incomplete work), and Fs (for failure to turn in a large number of assignments or skipping out altogether).

Participation includes

  • attendance: You are required to attend every class session unless the schedule specifically indicates that class is canceled that day. There are no such things as excused vs. unexcused absences—if you’re not here, I don’t much care why. Do not email me to ask “permission” to miss class; I’m not your mother. If your absence is caused by a funeral or similar extenuating circumstances, I will take that into consideration when I am tabulating your absences. If you miss two classes, you cannot get an A unless your work is otherwise flawless. Miss three weeks or more of class and you can only get a C or less. Attendance at out-of-class conferences with me is considered the same as class time. If you miss a conference, you will be counted absent.
  • timeliness: I expect you to treat this class like a job. If you show up late or leave early or fall asleep or need to walk your dog for 15 minutes in the middle of class, it will affect your participation. (I make exceptions for students who need certain accommodations.) Timeliness also refers to the time-sensitive nature of completing assignments. Late work is completely unacceptable, and neither I nor your classmates will give you feedback on it. If you miss two assignments or are not timely two or more times during the term, you cannot get an A. (All assignments are weighted equally in terms of participation.) If you miss three or more, you cannot get a B.
  • readiness: Readiness is different from timeliness in that it relates specifically to being prepared for class. You might show up late but still be prepared. All homework must be completed BEFORE class starts. For instance, printing of assignments or uploading of files after the class period has begun will result in a delay of class, which will negatively impact your grade. Being ready to discuss the readings is another factor that can impact your participation. This bullet also relates to any groupwork required, either in or out of class.
  • thoughtfulness: Thoughtfulness translates to critical awareness and participation in all manners of class activities. This may include activities such as having useful, productive questions or discussion items based on homework (readings, assignments, or peer-review work), collegial work completed with your co-editors, or thoughtful work demonstrated in the major assignments themselves. In addition (a note for those of you who like to talk a lot), thoughtfulness means that if you constantly need to share in class, but your sharing is largely off-topic, disruptive, or unhelpful, your participation may be more distracting than useful. I will probably talk to you about this before your grade suffers.

If you have questions AT ANY TIME about your grade potential, please make an appointment with me. If I believe that you are on a trajectory toward a B, C, D, or F, I will let you know by mid-term. If you’re participating in the basics of the class, then you’re probably passing and should only be concerned with your individual goals for earning a B or A, described in more detail below.

tips for earning an A
The grade of A is reserved for excellent work. Excellent work does not equate with showing up every day, participating once in a while, and turning in completed drafts on time or turning the final proof or portfolio. Those are the average requirements of any class setting, and average equates to a C in this academic setting.  Here are some ways to earn an A:

  • Produce excellent assignments. What constitutes excellence? Doing more than simply completing the terms of the assignment. Having flawless and thoughtful products. An excellent assignment may meet any number of qualities, depending on its purpose and genre but it will always consider how the details relate to the big picture and will implement that vision flawlessly in your work.
  • Participate excellently in class. Excellence in class participation means not simply speaking frequently, but all of the ways I mention in the class participation section above. As some examples, you should contribute in an active and generous way to the work of the class as a whole by having read and processed the chapters, asking questions, offering interpretations, politely challenging your classmates, graciously accepting challenges in return, and being a productive group member in discussions. Again, relating details, quotes, or concepts from the reading to the “big picture” of editing and editorial processes counts as excellence in participation.
  • Be an excellent citizen-scholar. Specifically, be able to demonstrate to me (through discussions, group work, and assignment that you (a) understand and can reflect on the content of this class and show continual progress toward that knowledge in your assignments; (b) reason logically, critically, creatively, independently and consensually, and are able to address editorial issues in both broad and detailed, as well as constantly shifting, contexts; (c) recognize and implement flawless and generous ways of thinking about and handling writers and texts in a variety of media; (d) understand diversity in value systems and cultures in an interdependent publishing world; and (e) develop a capacity for self-assessment and transferable learning.

actions that will positively affect my evaluation of you as an excellent student

  • having a collegial attitude
  • waiting for me to get settled when I walk into class by holding all questions until I am ready
  • bringing your materials to class every day
  • asking for help well in advance of a deadline
  • accepting responsibility for late or incomplete assignments
  • asking your classmates for missed content if you are absent
  • being attentive in class so that we avoid needless repetition
  • providing me assignments on time and in the medium I ask
  • asking your classmates (or Google) for help during open-lab sessions, then…
  • …if stumped, raising your hand, calling me, and waiting patiently for help
  • using email, appointments, or some other agreed-upon conferencing medium for private or involved questions
  • accepting that I usually respond to emails quickly, except after 5pm or on weekends
  • understanding that strategic (and sometimes maximum) effort results in excellent work, but can sometimes only result in above-average work

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS

John Willinsky. The Access Principle. MIT Press. 2006. (Download for free on this page.)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick. Planned Obsolescence. NYU Press. 2011. (You can read the pre-printed version here.)

12 thoughts on “Syllabus”

  1. I’m excited about this class and the goals we should consider. I’d like to add an additional goal for consideration, related to the ‘Participate excellently in class’ paragraph. May we consider pushing each other toward deeper learning (a la gracious challenges) as a potential goal for the semester? This potential goal also relates to respecting differing opinions, but perhaps goes beyond respect to encourage exploration of differing viewpoints in an open dialogue. I’m looking forward to learning from you all! -sara g.

  2. After the first class and reading over the syllabus more in-depth, I am very excited for this class. I’m interesting in working in editing and/or publishing, as I know some other classmates are as well, so I think it could be a helpful addition to discuss how/where to find these jobs (at intership and post-graduation levels).

  3. Hi Cheryl,

    After reading through the syllabus, I have a better understanding of the way the class will work. I think a good class goal is to always ask questions when you aren’t entirely sure of what is going on in discussion. I know from experience that if you fall behind in the conversation because you don’t understand something, you typically just check out of the conversation in its entirety. If we keep each other accountable and keep ourselves accountable in this area, I think we all can get the best out of our class discussions.

    P.S. The website I listed above is very much under construction, but I put it there because, shoot, I have a website! 🙂

  4. Are we going to be creating our own project style guides and individual editorial values statements, or are those documents that you’ll provide for us to work from?

    You use “hir,” which seems an elegant solution to avoid the clunky “him or her/his or her” phrases. Is that something we can/should use? Is it recognizable, or becoming so?

  5. After reading through the syllabus, I have only one question (or curiosity, rather, since I know we’ll cover this in class). What is the nature of an editorial values statement? Is this something like a teaching philosophy or an artist’s statement?

  6. I believe it is important for our class to support each other throughout the entire processes of our projects, as well as in other academic and professional areas.

  7. One of my goals for the class is to take advantage of the “behind the scenes” aspect of this course, especially during the first project. I foresee learning a lot about editing, publishing, and research in this course that I couldn’t learn from a textbook or in a traditional editing class. That connects to the 3rd and 7th bullets under the class goals as bringing diverse experiences into our classroom conversations will also bring new perspectives.

  8. Cheryl,
    Thank you for all of the course information! I suppose the only question I have (and we have plenty of time until the copyediting unit, I know) is whether or not you recommend we get any new software on our own laptops for this course, and/or how much technology-related work we can expect to be doing out of class. Thanks!

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  10. This all looks good to me. I know you’d like us to leave a question or comment, but I don’t have any concerns at this time. I did notice that we’ll be offering critiques of each other’s work. Maybe when we get to that point, we can clearly establish what is expected in terms of the type and amount of feedback. This is often helpful in the creative writing classroom to make sure everyone’s work is being respectfully considered.

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