Learning Outcomes for English MFA
PLO 1. Studio Arts Model of Training
Writers accepted into the Programs In Writing are accepted on the strength of their already accomplished poetry or fiction. Writers work and submit work to their six workshops, spread out over two years, one workshop a quarter, conducted or facilitated by core faculty and visiting writers. The primary work of the writer while in the Programs In Writing is the generation of their own poetry or fiction, and an ever increasing ability to read the work of others, both their peers and the literature at large, whether canonical, or popular, no matter good, bad or indifferent. All writing is their study, all writing writers go to school on.
Roughly, fiction writers submit anywhere from 50 to 60 pages per workshop, and poets submit several poems over the course of a quarter.
All work is responded to in writing, and often responded to copiously.
This work is in constant deliberation, whether in workshop or being presented, even performed, by its author in the MFA Reading Series. Being read, certainly a kind of scrutiny, is a constant, but because the cohorts tend to be harmonious, all writers supported equally, the focus remains on a writer’s work, its individuality, what it wants to be on its own terms.
The Programs In Writing at UC Irvine is distinct from other writing programs around the country because we do not operate on the star system. Our selection is careful, and each writer arrives dedicated to work we find to be the emanation of an individual; in turn, we are dedicated to that work, its progress, and we do not elevate one writer above another, but find them equally promising in their accomplishments on the page.
Writers usually arrive already embarked on a project. Much of our work as core writing faculty is mentoring. This is quite distinct from what happens in workshop; mentoring takes whatever shape it needs to take in order to respond to the individual writer, and the individual project’s needs.
PLO 2. Disciplinary Knowledge
Writers admitted to the Programs In Writing are required to take 5 seminars over the course of two years. Their first seminar is in pedagogy, taken their first quarter to aid in their teaching of composition. Students teach composition for their first year for three quarters. The other four seminars are chosen from graduate course offerings with the Departments of English and Comparative Literature. Occasionally a writer takes courses in other departments, particularly when the material for their original work warrants this. For example, a novel being written that takes place in the Jerusalem–its author may wish to study Arabic, or Palestinian Literature.
Students should be able to take graduate seminars in craft, but that has been prevented for the last ten years, not by the Program, but by department chairs.
PLO 3. Teaching
Students learn to develop expertise as classroom teachers, to engage students in person, and to see learning as a developmental process. Teaching is not only about the delivery of information or content, but rather connects learning with personal engagement and develops ways of thinking, asking questions, and interacting with others. Students learn this work in their own graduate classes and workshops where they participate weekly and show their own work, and are critiqued, or read carefully. Students often give presentations and are constitutive of classroom discussion. They also take the required pedagogy course E398 in English, where they attend regular staff meetings during the teaching of composition.
Our students will be able to:
- Design courses at the appropriate learning level and develop syllabi for the quarter;
- Select course materials;
- Shape writing assignments;
- Guide students in argumentative writing, teaching them to develop a thesis and to conduct research to support their work;
- Lecture in class and lead group discussion;
- Comment on student papers in a way that encourages student to learn and revise;
- Hold office hours on course content and writing assignments;
- Grade papers and exams constructively and consistently, and
- Direct underperforming and/or troubled students to UCI support resources including academic and personal counseling.
Students learn and develop these skills in their own classroom experience, through teaching in the composition series, 39A, 39B or 39C, and conducting their own poetry or fiction workshops, Writing 30 or Writing 31. Third-year writers often teach poetry or fiction workshops at the intermediate level.
PLO 4. Accreditation
For all intents and purposes, 100 percent of the students admitted to the Programs In Writing submit a thesis and obtain their MFA degree. What has been achieved is the sustained work of composing a novel or a collection of short stories or a collection of poems. A writer cannot really be credentialized, which is why not one penny has ever been spent at UC Irvine on advertising for the Programs In Writing. Advertising would suggest that a program could make a writer, or could credentialize a writer; it cannot legitimately do such a thing. What the Programs In Writing provides is time for a writer to become more intensely their own standard; this is achieved solely by the writer, and is solely recognized in the quality of the work the writer produces. We have a solid publication record to illustrate this result, this standard at work.
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