Early development of this site was made possible through the support of Frank Batten Jr., Greg Colomb, Jon D'Errico, the Jefferson Public Citizens Program, and the Scholars Lab at the University of Virginia.
Current development is supported by a grant from the Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the U.Va. Alumni Association.
GroundsForArgument.org is a digital learning environment for writers and editors. It is in development at the University of Virginia, based on the Little Red Schoolhouse materials first created at the University of Chicago.
This site guides writers through interactive lessons that introduce discrete principles of effective writing. Writers can use individual lessons for one–stop help on a specific issue, group lessons into a personal writing course, or follow a prescribed series as part of a writing class. Teachers can establish class accounts with customized curricula and class–specific exercises.
The site also provides several public forums for discussion, including a writers’ forum, a teachers’ forum, and individual class blogs.
The Schoolhouse library currently includes lessons on argument, problem framing, and style—all geared towards first-year college students. We are currently developing lessons on these issues for advanced writers, including versions for science writing and technical writing. For a complete list of existing and planned lessons, see the curriculum map.
The Little Red Schoolhouse (a.k.a. “LRS” or “the Schoolhouse”) began at the University of Chicago in 1980, as a series of lectures offered by Greg Colomb, Wayne Booth, Frank Kinahan, and Joe Williams. In 1981, it became a writing class for fourth–year undergraduates, based on lectures written by Colomb and Williams. Soon after, it added classes for MBA and law students. Now, there are many Schoolhouse–based classes for students ranging from first-year undergraduates to professional students and post–doctoral students. But the Schoolhouse has also evolved to become a wide–ranging approach to helping writers, one that is realized in a large body of materials, both for writers (lessons, guides, checklists, templates, and so on) and for teachers (class activities, handouts, assignments, responding guides, and so on)—materials too varied for any one class or even one writing program.
Grounds for Argument will make much of that material available, not in the manner of most online writing labs, by replicating handbook– and textbook–style printed pages, but as interactive lessons created specifically for the Web. For this beta version, the online Schoolhouse library is relatively small, but we expect it to grow steadily.
To find print-based versions of Schoolhouse materials, see the print archive.
For more on the Little Red Schoolhouse:
Grounds for Argument is designed to support a wide variety of teachers and teaching methods. It does presume the value of explicit teaching, but, after that, we try to get out of teachers’ way, supporting rather than constraining their efforts.
Here are a few of the ways that teachers have used the online Schoolhouse:
Grounds for Argument is so flexible and adaptable because its lessons are presented as discrete principles. Teachers can select and sequence lessons to suit their preferences and their students’ needs. But that flexibility also means that the Schoolhouse cannot perform some common functions. It does not offer a complete course in the manner of many textbooks: teachers must integrate the Schoolhouse into their own course design. It does not attempt to be “teacher proof” by controlling the curriculum of underprepared teachers. It does not offer a grand design that synthesizes all of its lessons—in fact, we doubt that such a synthesis is possible.
To help teachers make the decisions necessary for using the Schoolhouse, we offer a number of supports:
For more on teaching with Grounds for Argument:
If you have questions or comments about this site, contact the site administrators at