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Department Programs

Spanish Department Rhetoric Program

The Spanish Department is committed to the goals set out by the college’s Rhetoric Across the Curriculum program in concert with those of Information Literacy: to improve the quality and effectiveness of students’ participation in rhetorical activities in general; to enhance their ability to gain in knowledge, skill and virtue through rhetorical practice; and to make them familiar with the research skills and rhetorical practices that are suitable to given levels of engagement with the disciplines our department features.
The Spanish Department also affirms its commitment to using oral, written and visual rhetoric to foster language acquisition on many different levels, in concert with these goals. Therefore, incrementally, rhetorical projects that foster acquisition goals give way to assignments and activities that focus more sustainedly on objectives we share with other humanities departments. Nevertheless, given our necessary emphasis on language acquisition throughout the major, and the known efficacy of certain practices, this document showcases written and oral rhetoric over other modes, providing illustrative benchmarks for new faculty and students.

The following standards are laid out with the understanding that individual instructors may enhance them according to their judgement and pedagogical preferences. The challenge of helping individual students to grow must always be considered with this in mind: the multiple efficacies of rhetoric as a learning tool and the superior preparedness of the graduating student who has learned to use it well.

General Guidelines

The department’s Student Learning Outcomes Overview indicates that students will reach “appropriate levels in speaking, reading and writing Spanish,” and that they will gain those by engaging thoughtfully and ethically with the Hispanic World. Rhetorical practices in the department provide students with the opportunity to participate ever more creatively and dialogically with both language and knowledge, and the practices of information literacy that each level affords should keep pace with enhanced rhetorical strategies. To that end,

  1. All courses in the department feature rhetorical assignments that contribute significantly to final grades.
  2. All courses include a variety of exercises that enhance students’ general rhetorical growth on all levels. These include informal and formal writing activities and assignments, informal and formal oral activities and assignments, and intentional and integrated use of aural (hearing) and visual rhetoric.
  3. All courses endeavor to feature rhetorical strategies and evaluative tools that enhance student’s growth in knowledge and ethics, and engage their individual growth as human beings and vocational agents.
  4. Examinations include appropriate rhetorical components. Special attention is given to creating examinations which feature appropriately complex written rhetoric that progressively incorporates analytical and critical components.
  5. Professors (informally) consider throughout the semester whether their use of rhetorical strategies is effective and thorough, and make adjustments as necessary.
  6. Professors ensure that students understand the rationale and goals of the departmental RAC program.
  7. Rhetorical strategies and assessment activities build intentionally on those employed in prerequisite coursework.
  8. The department uses common assessment strategies at strategic points to evaluate the development of all students in critical areas.

Guidelines for Core Courses

101-102: In these basic courses, students practice both oral and written rhetoric. Beyond informal exercises, students participate in weekly communication groups and write at the paragraph level.

121-203: Beyond informal exercises, students participate in weekly communication groups, are given oral exams, and sometimes give presentations in Spanish. Students produce paragraph-length discourse. Formal writing assignments (three 250-400-word essays) feature rewrites with significant professorial feedback on content (see link for sample rubric). Aspects of oral and visual rhetoric are regularly featured to enhance linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Guidelines for On-campus 300-level Courses

301-302: All rhetorical exercises of these “bridge” courses, and especially writing, advance students from describing in the present and simple past tense to arguing, hypothesizing and developing and demonstrating good critical thinking in Spanish. The writing projects in 301 and 302 also prepare students for the rigorous “process” writing that they do in every advanced-level class in the Spanish department. Since students are readying themselves to produce written rhetoric that is like what they do in humanities courses in English, formal writing assignments in 301 and 302 are designed to teach students how to write several different types of narrative prose. Students write three to five two-page compositions per semester, some of which contain a peer evaluation component and a professorial evaluation of the first and second drafts. Instructor feedback for both drafts includes commentary on content, organization, expression and grammar, and students learn to contribute interesting and culturally relevant information effectively and logically using the writing style in question. Informal written assignments include reflection papers, which allow students to express themselves more personally in the target language.  Aside from in-class work, oral production includes up to one-hour weekly oral communication groups with native speakers. Students demonstrate their oral ability in up to two exams each semester. Aspects of visual and oral rhetoric are regularly featured to enhance language and cultural knowledge.

308-309: These courses advance both students’ communication skills and the level of critical expression that they are able to sustain in Spanish.  Assignments are thus longer and more complex than in 301 and 302, and prepare students for even longer and more complex rhetorical engagement in our most advanced classes. Whereas rhetoric is used more or less equally as a means of language acquisition and gaining in cultural competency in the lower levels, in 308 and 309 the emphasis is more on acquiring knowledge and improving more advanced rhetorical skills within the context of ethical information sharing. Analysis of visual rhetoric can appear on exams or be featured in papers. Oral rhetoric exercises include a formal oral presentation. Feedback on the oral presentation relates to language use, content, critical analysis and the connections students make with themes and content present in the rest of the course. Written rhetoric forms a more significant part of the class. Students regularly submit homework comprising short-paragraph responses; more formal written assignments include essay-length answers on exams. A final 5 to7-page written assignment marks the most formal written assignment. Students complete this assignment in stages, submitting first a proposal, then a revised proposal and annotated bibliography followed by a first and second version of the paper itself.  This assignment allows students to learn the process of academic writing in the fields of culture, history and literature, with frequent professorial feedback and suggestions. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to research and write a critical piece on an aspect of history or literature using both primary and secondary sources, and prepares them for similar work in more advanced courses in the department.

310: This course features informal exercises and oral and visual rhetoric in similar ways to 308 and 309.  Likewise, writing projects are of similar length and have similar motivations. Students in 310 complete observation and reflection journals, write summaries and reviews of scholarly articles, and prepare a final research project which requires an oral interview with a native Spanish speaker as well as traditional academic research.

340-341: Although the focus is linguistics, these courses feature informal exercises and oral and written rhetoric in similar ways to 308-310. In 340, students must complete two to three linguistic analyses, which include essay-format responses. Spanish 341 students write a research paper, which requires them to engage experimental studies in Spanish linguistics, review previous research, and provide their own original results.

370s: These topics courses are interdisciplinary in nature, but usually feature a linguistics or humanities orientation. Rhetorically, they build on appropriate intermediate courses. Regardless of focus, they all aim to include: longer and more frequent formal oral work, regular informal writing assignments, and a longer final research paper, than 308-341. Through oral and written discourse, students are expected to demonstrate sophisticated levels of information literacy, having learned to use primary and secondary sources intelligently and ethically, and having learned how to contribute their own knowledge to a dialogue.

395: The capstone course is the most rhetorically rigorous class in the major. It features the same kinds of rhetorical activities and assignments as the 370 classes do, but with more frequent formal oral assignments and two major writing assignments. Both of these feature more analytically rigorous work and original thought, and at least one requires original research. As students prepare themselves in this course to engage rhetorically in their professions and post-collegiate life, the rhetorical work takes on necessarily self-reflective and vocational considerations, but in a way that interweaves advanced critical thinking skills and sophisticated expression of topics involving both knowledge and Christian ethics.

Faculty Development and Awareness

The following measures will be maintained or implemented:

  1. The department chair and/or new-faculty mentor will ensure that newly hired members of the department become versed in its writing policies and expectations.
  2. All members of the department will continue to show commitment to our common goals, adapting when necessary.
  3. Faculty will continue to discuss the implementation of the RAC program at given levels, and course coordinators will ensure consistency, for example through shared rubrics and discussion of strategies and assignments.
  4. Assigned members of the department will oversee the development of departmental participation in the Information Literacy across the Curriculum program and ensure its development within RAC.
  5. In line with ILAC goals, the Spanish Department will continue to build its connections with library liaisons, and when appropriate to solicit their help in teaching information literacy to students.


The department will continue with the practices outlined above, improving upon them when necessary. Additionally, this year, the departmental Curriculum Committee consider the more intentional inclusion of RAC (and ILAC) goals in course and program SLOs, and from there in assignment descriptions and evaluative rubrics.  

Updated December 2015.