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Freshman Year Reflection Essay English

Statement of Mission and Course Goals

Recent research into the role of first-year writing reveals that first-year writing courses are best used to encourage meta-awareness of the genres, contexts, and audiences that writers encounter in college (see Anne Beaufort, Writing in College and Beyond). English 101, which the great majority of incoming students take their first or second semester in college, serves as an important introduction to the culture of the academy—its habits of mind, conventions, and responsibilities. Its central purpose is to immerse students in the writing, reading, and thinking practices of their most immediate community: the university. Students explore how literacy works, both within the academic and without, through extensive inquiry-based writing.

English 101 focuses on engaging students as writers and building the reflective awareness needed for success in a wide range of writing experiences within the university. In English 101, students write consistently, receive feedback on their writing and give feedback to others, are introduced to academic writing conventions (including using the library, integrating sources, and using a citation system), engage with challenging readings, and begin putting others’ ideas in conversation with their own. Because writing in the 21st century means composing in a wide variety of print-based and digital environments, the 101 curriculum encourages students and instructors to work in online environments as is appropriate.

The overall goals, outcomes, and curricular components for English 101 and 102 have been developed locally through discussion and collaboration among instructors in the First-Year Writing Program. They are directly informed by our annual student assessment process, and they have been written within the framework of nationally accepted outcomes for first-year composition. The yearly assessment reports are available at the First-Year Writing Program website; the Council of Writing Program Administrators Outcomes for First-Year Writing are available at their site.

What You Should Know about This Course

Rhetorical Knowledge

Writing effectively involves making a multitude of choices. Many of these choices are determined by the rhetorical situation—the writer’s purpose, the writer’s audience, the nature of the writer’s subject matter, and the writer’s relationship to the subject. English 101 is intended to increase students’ awareness of rhetorical situations—within each writing project at the university, and beyond. Students learn that language has consequences and writers must take responsibility for what they write.

In English 101, students to take responsibility for the ideas they discover as writers—ideas that occur through engaging with a range of materials in independent research and considering how one’s own perspectives add to those of an ongoing conversation. The course frequently puts students at the center of their own discourse, challenging them to discover and express their own ideas and to make their ideas convincing or compelling to others.

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

In English 101, students work with readings that stretch them intellectually; readings may be challenging, or may be in genres with which they are less familiar. Generally, readings in English 101 center on intellectual challenges and questions—that is, they are written to respond to and extend the conversations in academic communities of various kinds. However, instructors sometimes also provide a wider range of nonfiction texts as they guide students toward becoming more flexible readers. While English 101 is a primarily a writing course, it is also a course in rhetorical reading. Students learn how to engage with a variety of texts, how to understand a writer’s argument, and how to actively critique and respond to the ideas of others.

Knowledge of Process and Conventions

Part of helping students to embrace writing as a lifelong practice is to emphasize that writing itself is a kind of inquiry, a way to think and learn. It is not simply a means of recording what one already knows. English 101 creates the conditions that allow students to gain confidence as they discover what they think through writing, helping them see that this process can be used in any subject, any discipline, and almost any situation that demands thought.

How students view themselves as learners and what motivates them to acquire a particular body of knowledge strongly influences students’ learning. As instructors of an entry-level writing course, we believe that students’ experience with language and language use in the course should be a positive one, and this will provide the basis for the development of writing strategies and practices. As a consequence, English 101 focuses, in part, on the affective dimension of writing and thinking processes; the course encourages students to believe that reading and writing are meaning-making activities that are relevant to their lives, within school and without.

A Final Note about the Activity of Writing

In English 101 students work within a community of writers in which they understand that membership implies engagement with each others’ struggles to make meaning. They experience writing as a social interaction for a particular purpose, for knowledge is not created in isolation but through dialogue and writing shared with a real audience. The writing classroom functions as an intellectual community in which students are encouraged to think freely and deeply, where difference is not only accepted but is also seen as an opportunity for learning.

English 101 Student Outcomes

By the end of English 101, students will be able to

  • apply strategies for generating ideas for writing, for planning and organizing material, for identifying purpose and audience, and for revising intentionally;
  • produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres appropriate to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
  • integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research into their own writing in a way that begins to complicate their own understanding;
  • use a variety of strategies for reading and engaging with a range of material;
  • use an academic documentation style, even though they may not show mastery;
  • revise to extend their thinking about a topic, not just to rearrange material or “fix” mechanical errors;
  • articulate the rhetorical choices they have made, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience;
  • provide appropriate, engaged feedback to peers throughout the writing process;
  • produce prose without surface-level convention errors that distract readers from attending to the meaning and purpose of the writing.

Curricular Components

The curricular components listed here only begin to capture the energy and commitment necessary for student success in a first-year writing course. Individual instructors work within these outcomes and curricular expectations in a variety of ways.

Writing

  • Students in writing classes continuously produce written work. This includes evaluated work, such as formal assignments and subsequent revisions, as well as informal and non-evaluated work, such as research blog entries, annotated bibliographies, collaborative wikis, in-class writing exercises, reflective logs and memos, rough drafts, and peer responses. Students can expect to write a considerable amount of informal and non-evaluated work from which their formal, evaluated work may grow.
  • Instructors generally assign four projects, at least two of which encourage students to integrate outside sources and perspectives to inform, complicate, and/or extend their perspectives. Instructors will encourage student writers to draw purposefully on a range of sources, including (but not limited to) personal experience, observation, interviews, field work, and text-based sources—both online and in print—in a wide variety of ways.
  • Students produce the equivalent of 20 or more pages’ worth of “final draft” material. As students work in digital spaces, the writing produced should be appropriate for those genres and media.
  • English 101 is a revision-based writing course. At the end of the semester, students select at least two “final draft” projects to substantially revise and also write an extensive portfolio cover letter. Taken as a whole, the revisions and reflection demonstrate how students have met or exceeded the assessment scoring guide for English 101. The final portfolio generally accounts for a significant portion of students’ final grades.

Reading and Research

  • Instructors encourage students to engage with readings through a variety of critical reading strategies. These may take the form of informal, in-class work as well as annotated bibliographies, source reports, double-entry journals, and reading workshops of various kinds.
  • Instructors will provide an introduction to library references and methods of citing sources.

Course Community

  • Writing courses are highly interactive and depend on frequent feedback, discussions, and in-class workshops. Attendance, in-class participation, and respect for submission deadlines are expected in writing classes.

Below we offer an example of a thoughtful reflective essay that effectively and substantively capture the author's growth over time at California State University Channel Islands (CI). We suggest that you write your own essay before reading either of these models-then, having completed your first draft, read these over to consider areas in your own background that you have not yet addressed and which may be relevant to your growth as a reader, writer, or thinker.

Any reference to either of these essays must be correctly cited and attributed; failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a failing grade on the portfolio and possible other serious consequences as stated in the CI Code of Conduct.

Scroll down for more examples!

Sample Reflective Essay #2

Author: Nekisa Mahzad

I have been a student at California State University Channel Islands (CI) for 5 semesters, and over the course of my stay I have grown and learned more that I thought possible. I came to this school from Moorpark Community College already knowing that I wanted to be an English teacher; I had taken numerous English courses and though I knew exactly what I was headed for-was I ever wrong. Going through the English program has taught me so much more than stuff about literature and language, it has taught me how to be me. I have learned here how to write and express myself, how to think for myself, and how to find the answers to the things that I don't know. Most importantly I have learned how important literature and language are.

When I started at CI, I thought I was going to spend the next 3 years reading classics, discussing them and then writing about them. That was what I did in community college English courses, so I didn't think it would be much different here. On the surface, to an outsider, I am sure that this is what it appears that C.I. English majors do. In most all my classes I did read, discuss, and write papers; however, I quickly found out that that there was so much more to it. One specific experience I had while at C.I. really shows how integrated this learning is. Instead of writing a paper for my final project in Perspectives of Multicultural Literature (ENGL 449), I decided with a friend to venture to an Indian reservation and compare it to a book we read by Sherman Alexie. We had a great time and we learned so much more that we ever could have done from writing a paper. The opportunity to do that showed me that there are so many ways that one can learn that are both fun and educational.

The English courses also taught me how powerful the written word and language can be. Words tell so much more than a story. Stories tell about life and the human condition, they bring up the past and people and cultures that are long gone. Literature teaches about the self and the world surrounding the self. From these classes I learned about the world, its people and its history; through literature I learned how we as humans are all related. By writing about what we learn and/or what we believe, we are learning how to express ourselves.

I know that my ability to write and express my ideas, thoughts and knowledge has grown stronger each semester. I have always struggled to put my thoughts on paper in a manner that is coherent and correct according to assignments. I can remember being told numerous times in community college to "organize your thoughts" or "provide more support and examples". These are the things that I have worked on and improved over the past couple of years and I feel that my work shows this. The papers I wrote when I first started here at C.I. were bland and short. In these early papers, I would just restate what we learned in class and what I had found in my research. I did not formulate my own ideas and support them with the works of others. The classes I have taken the past couple semesters have really help me shed that bad habit and write better papers with better ideas. I have learned how to write various styles of papers in different forms and different fields. I feel confident that I could write a paper about most anything and know how to cite and format it properly.

There are a couple of things that I do feel I lack the confidence and skill to perform, and that is what I hope to gain from participating in Capstone. I am scared to teach because I don't know how to share my knowledge with others-students who may have no idea what I am talking about. I hope to learn more about how teachers share their knowledge as part of my Capstone project.

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View sample reflective essay #1

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Careers in English and Writing

The English program at California State University Channel Islands prepares students for a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers, including:

  • English teacher
  • Social media strategist
  • Media production (film, TV, internet)
  • Print and digital publishing
  • Law
  • Corporate communications
  • Foreign service
  • Human resources
  • Foundations/non-profit management

Learn more about CI's English Program