Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

ENGLISH 3CW3 Crtng Wrtng in/for/with Commun (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Daniel Coleman


Office: Chester New Hall 303

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23717


Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-5:00PM

Course Objectives:

Calendar copy: This creative writing inquiry class engages students in the staged development of a creative writing project in consultation with and on behalf of a community of their choice.


Course Description: This creative writing inquiry class encourages students to develop projects that engage with and respond to the interests and needs of a community of their choice. The nature of these communities will depend upon the student’s already existing involvements, so they may be official community groups such as neighbourhood associations; advocacy groups; environmental associations or arts societies; non-governmental organizations; cultural groups; organized clubs; or places of work, study, or worship. Or they may also be less officially designated groups such as book clubs; home-based gatherings; a music, cooking, or hiking group; or even the clientele of a coffee shop. Over the course of the semester, students will meet with members of the community with whom they are building a relationship, discern from them a creative project that this community would love to see realized, and then design and complete this project. The format of the project will depend on the interests and needs of the community: it may be a cycle of poems, a documentary film, a graphic novel or graphic newspaper, a blog commentary site, a short story, a hyper-texted community map, a sound or video recording of a poetry slam curated by the student. It may be a form we have not yet imagined. Students may develop coordinated group projects with a community partner. The class will begin with discussions of the ethics of community-engaged writing, move on to developing proposals for the inquiry project, include visits from artists who can offer helpful advice about various forms and formats, function as workshops at which students present and receive feedback on early sections or drafts of the project, and conclude with an exhibition/performance of their completed works.


The teaching team in this class will consist of the professor and a Project Support team of graduate teaching assistants each of whom will be matched up with a number of students (number depends on class size) to provide one-on-one consultation, guidance, mentorship, and practical assistance in designing and completing each student’s creative project. Class meetings will consist of the weekly two-hour workshop class with the professor, but rather than running separate tutorials, the Project Support teaching assistants will establish regular one-on-one meeting times with each of the students in order to work with the student on their developing project.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • Have developed and cultivated a respectful and productive relationship with a community of their choice
  • Have consulted with this community to invent a creative writing project that will bring benefits to the community
  • Have learned skills in working collaboratively, solving problems together, and inventing new forms of expression
  • Have created a high-quality writing project that puts their creativity in the service of a community who wants their stories, lives, way of being, or visions expressed to a wide public in a vivid, compelling way.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Method of Assessment:

Course Work and Grading:

5%       Initial Creative Project Concept Description (3 pages; due third week of class)

            Evaluation criteria: the Initial Creative Project Concept description names a community that will be consulted, explains why that community is chosen, describes how the consultation will be conducted to determine the community’s priorities and goals, hypothesizes what genre or format the project will take to achieve the community’s goals, explains how you will give it zip, make it compelling or attractive. The description itself is beautifully written and attractively presented.

10%     Critical Peer Commentaries on two other Initial Creative Project Concept descriptions (1 page each; 5% each; due fifth week of class)

            Evaluation criteria: You will bring your 2 commentaries to class for Workshop 2 in Week Five and use them to provide encouragement and constructive thought about how each project meets the template mentioned above. You will hand them in for grading after the Workshop.

20%     Formal Project Proposal Essay (5 pages; due sixth week of class)

Evaluation criteria: the Project Proposal Essay defines a compelling situation, problem, or question to be addressed in your community; explains how your method or approach addresses it uniquely and efficiently; gives your readers an “appetizer” so they can experience the project a little (and want more); anticipates what resources and arrangements you will need and explains how you’ll secure them; concludes with the urgency, relevance, creativity of your project.

10%     Critical peer commentaries on two other Proposal Essays (1 page each, 5% each; not the same class mates as in Initial Creative Project critical commentary; due seventh week of class)

Evaluation criteria: You will bring your 2 commentaries to class for Workshops 3 and 4 and use them to provide encouragement and constructive thought about how the project meets the template mentioned above. You will hand them in for grading after the Workshop.


15%     Participation

5%       Participation in class workshops

Evaluation criteria: You never miss class and when you’re in class, you are actively seeking to help classmates realize their own abilities and the best version of each project. You work to ensure the classroom is lively, welcoming, supportive, and engaging for everyone. You take other people’s suggestions and work with them to develop your own abilities and the best version possible of your project.

5%       Attendance at and preparation for meetings with Teaching Team.

Evaluation criteria: You never miss meetings and you’re always prepared with questions about elements you are finding challenging, samples of the work you’d like to discuss, ideas you are wondering about.

5%       based on community partner feedback on quality of student’s engagement with community partner

Evaluation template: Members of the community you worked with loved developing the project, felt their ideas carried weight with you, were delighted at the shape your project took, feel the project will have lasting significance.

10%     Presentation of draft section of project (submit minimum of four pages; due in 10th and 11th weeks of class)

Evaluation criteria: You are able to set the context for your project quickly and clearly; the passage you choose to present is compelling and gives your listeners a great sense of what the overall project is about. Your writing (presented orally) is easy to follow, attractive, memorable.

30%     Final Project for Exhibition/Performance, handed in to the teaching team at the Gala event in Week Twelve)

Evaluation criteria: The project is beautiful and/or compelling in form, a genre appropriate to its purpose, unblemished by glitches of presentation, mechanics, or grammar. It’s consistent with itself; its methods stay true to its central concerns. It is based on solid content, research, and/or reasoning. It presents the community powerfully and winsomely, clearly realizing the community’s hopes for this project. It is unique, makes the most of your particular set of talents and interests, and uses these to elevate the community’s interests in a distinctive and convincing way.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

  • Late assignment policy: All assignments must be given to the instruction team in class. Because others depend on your handing in your work on time, .5% of a percentage point will be deducted for each day an assignment is late. (For example, if the peer evaluation is graded out of 10, an A- (8/10) evaluation submitted late by one day will receive 7.5; two days late will receive 7. Term work will not be received or reconsidered after the final day of this class. Since the end of term is a very busy time, you are strongly advised not to leave the completion of your project till this time. To be on the safe side, please discuss any concerns about term-work grades with your seminar tutor or me before the last day of classes.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Class Schedule

Week One (Jan 7):

  • Introduction and discussion of community-based education and writing; the important question of ethics in community-based work.
  • Discussion of Carl Glickman’s “Whatever happened to Foxfire?” (2016)
  • Brainstorming Initial Creative Project descriptions (3 pages) due January 21 – Should address these questions: which community will you write with? How will you find out what they want written? What genre, method, and format do you think will be appropriate? What is creative about this project—how will you give it zip, make it compelling or attractive? Who is the audience? How will you publish your work? How will the community benefit?

Week Two (Jan 14):

  • Discussion of Daniel Coleman and Lorraine York’s article, “Dancing with the Inductive”: on following the community’s lead
  • The Genre of Proposal writing (towards preparing 5-page proposals for Feb 6): defining a compelling situation, problem, or question to be addressed; explaining how your method or approach addresses it uniquely and efficiently; giving your readers an “appetizer” so they can experience the project a little (and want more); anticipating what resources and arrangements you need and explaining how you’ll secure them; concluding with the urgency, relevance, creativity of your project.

Week Three (Jan 21):

  • Initial Creative Project concept description (3 pages) are due today: please post them on Avenue – Descriptions will be read by class mates for peer review, they will also be downloaded for grading by the teaching team
  • Class will meet at the Local History Archives at the Central Library of the Hamilton Public Library, (, 3rd floor, 55 York Blvd, Hamilton, ON L8N 4E4).  Students will need to arrange to meet at the Archives during our regular class time. City buses travel regularly between the university and Jackson Square downtown where the HPL is located.

Week Four (Jan 28):

  • For today, you should have read two classmate’s Initial Creative Project descriptions and be prepared to ask constructive questions about them.

Workshop 1 – interviews with peers about project ideas, conducted in small groups, facilitated by teaching team: addressing the challenges of community identification, genre and formats of project ideas

Week Five (Feb 4):

  • Two critical peer commentaries (1 page each), developed after getting a clear understanding of your two partners’ Initial Creative Project concept descriptions, are due in class today

Workshop 2 - peer review of class’s project ideas via critical peer commentaries facilitated by teaching team: addressing the challenges of community identification, genre and formats of project ideas

Week Six (Feb 11):

  • Formal Project Proposal Essay (5 pages) due today- posted on Avenue for peer review and also grading by teaching team
  • Visit from artists

Feb 18-22, Mid-term Recess

Week Seven (Feb 25):

  • Critical peer commentaries on two other Proposal Essays (1 page each) brought to class today to inform today’s workshop. These Critical Peer Commentaries will be handed to the teaching team for grading.

Workshop 3 - peer review of Project Proposal Essays facilitated by teaching team

Week Eight (March 4):

Workshop 4 - peer review of Project Proposal Essays facilitated by teaching team

Week Nine (March 11):

  • Visit from artists

Week Ten (March 18):

  • Presentations and discussion of draft sections (4 pages) of the Final Project: This time, you do not need to post this assignment to the Avenue site.
  • Instead, you are asked to prepare a presentation for the class in which you read and discuss four pages of your Final Project. The presentation should provide a context and rationale for the project (which community? Why this genre? Why did you select this part of the final project to present today? etc.).
  • The purpose of the presentation is to 1) ensure that the final project is not generated the night before it’s due, 2) highlight a concrete sense of audience for your work, and 3) give you practice in giving a one-minute introduction to your project followed by a brief sampling of what it’s like. We will sign up for presentation spots during the class time of these Week Ten and Week Eleven.

Week Eleven (March 25):

  • Presentations and discussion of draft sections of the Final Project

Week Twelve (April 1):

  • Gala event: exhibition and performance of final projects
  • We can decide as a class what kind of a “gala” we wish to prepare, but the idea here is to present what we’ve done to a wider public than our own classmates. Possible audiences could be members of the communities we have been writing with, students and university community members outside our class, friends and family.

End of Class Outline