First Year Composition (FYC)

First Year Composition courses prepare students to meet communications challenges across the curriculum by guiding their practice of multiform, recursive processes of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking. By embedding this practice within challenging, relevant scholarly materials that represent multiple disciplinary perspectives, FYC encourages students to see themselves as what the Harvard scholar Nancy Sommers calls “apprentice scholars,” students whose close partnerships with faculty enable them to author increasingly substantive contributions to vital academic and professional conversations.

In FYC at West Point, a culture of writing and active learning is pervasive. Cadets craft academic papers of varying lengths and purposes, including a multi-source research essay, and they learn to adapt their composing process to diverse modes, technologies, and audiences. Scaffolded writing assignments require cadets to develop and revise their work in response to detailed, original feedback from teachers as well as peers. The writing cadets do outside of class is supported in the classroom: faculty offer explicit instruction on key elements of academic and argumentative writing, and cadets regularly conduct prewriting activities and other writing-to-learn exercises. FYC courses frequently facilitate peer workshopping and critique, and require multiple individual or small group conferences with instructors. Ultimately, FYC courses do much more than simply assign a lot of writing: they fully explore the writing process and make the guided practice of writing central to the course itself.

Currently, EN101: Composition and EN151: Advanced Composition are the only courses that fulfill the FYC requirement for all cadets. Taught by the Department of English and Philosophy, topic-based sections of EN101/151 challenge all cadets to grow as thoughtful collegiate writers who are capable of contributing intelligently and responsibly to complex conversations in a variety of compositional modes and rhetorical situations. Such skills are necessary not only for further academic success and professional success as an Army officer but also for informed citizenship.

While most cadets complete EN101 or EN151 in their first semester, others do so in their second or third semester. Such cadets usually first complete a yearlong course sequence offered by the Department of Foreign Languages, "Academic Reading and Writing for International Cadets" (LE101 + LE102), depending on placement examinations administered in the summer before their plebe year begins.

First Year Composition (FYC) Curricular Standards

  1. Completed by all cadets, most often in the first semester. Passage of EN101 or EN151 fulfills the FYC requirement regardless of whether a cadet exhibits proficiency on the SWE.
  2. Section sizes are limited to 15; overall instructor loads are capped at 60 cadets/instructor. Small sections and manageable grading loads are essential to comprehensive implementation of the WPWP Pedagogical Model and the multiple conferences that FYC faculty are required to conduct with all cadets (CS#6, below).
  3. Syllabus includes statements that explain the importance of a) writing as a student learning outcome for the course and b) further learning resources available to cadets (including the Mounger Writing Center). Item a references USMA Academic Program Goals and is authored by the Program or Course Director, as appropriate; item b is supplied by the WPWP.
  4. Writing is an integral and essential component of classroom instruction. The WPWP Pedagogical Model is employed comprehensively (7/7 enumerated approaches). Course Directors and faculty determine how to meet the intent of these approaches and how often these approaches occur.
  5. Multiple major assignments require a recursive writing process. Graded writing assignments are distributed throughout the term to enable cadets to build rhetorical knowledge incrementally; they are designed to encourage iterative drafting and substantive revision in response to instructor and peer feedback.
  6. Faculty conduct multiple individual or small group conferences with all cadets. They respond to cadet writing with timely, detailed, and personalized feedback. The usage of rubrics devoid of comments tailored to individual writers does not constitute appropriate feedback.
  7. Cadets must individually author at least 5,000 words of finished academic writing, including prepared or timed writing and writing for oral argument or presentation. Ungraded prewriting and drafting tasks, while valuable to the writing process, do not count as ‘finished’ writing.
  8. A minimum of 75% of the final course grade derives from individually-authored writing assignments. The culminating essay of the course is collected as an SWE.