Why do ENWR courses have themes?
Themes and themed readings provide the class with shared knowledge and questions,
and allow them to write and to common on one another's work with some authority.
All writing assignments impose upon students a range of cognitive stresses, including
the stress of simply mastering the material. Themes let students build and refine
their knowledge over a series of assignments, so that the overall strain of grappling
with new material decreases.
One of the primary goals of ENWR courses is to introduce first-years to academic
problem solving. Different discourse communities approach problems in different
ways; behavior psychologists, for example, make different kinds of claims about
childhood and use different kinds of evidence quite different from those of literary
critics. Themes turn our classrooms into miniature discourse communities, where
students become more and more familiar not just with the thematic content, but
with the conventions of the field.
here for the characteristics of a good theme.
here for a list of recent ENWR themes.