Welcome to Grounds for Argument

A learning and reference tool for writers, editors, and their teachers


  • Dozens of interactive lessons on discrete principles that help writers anticipate and meet their readers’ needs
  • Models that enhance a writer’s repertoire for realizing those principles in a text
  • Editorial strategies for recognizing where—and why—a text might prove unnecessarily difficult for readers
  • Revision strategies for making a text better suit its writer’s intentions and its readers’ needs
  • Classroom tools for selecting and grouping individual lessons into a coherent curriculum
  • Public forums for discussing individual lessons and principles, classroom assignments, and the Schoolhouse approach

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.

About This Site

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia originally served as a library, classroom space, and a forum for public gatherings and student–teacher interactions.

GroundsForArgument.org is a digital learning environment for writers and editors. Based on the Little Red Schoolhouse approach first created at the University of Chicago, groundsforargument.org is in active development at the University of Virginia.

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 Grounds For Argument 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.

About the Little Red Schoolhouse

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 approach available as interactive online lessons. For this beta version, the online lessons archive is relatively small, but growing steadily.

To find print-based versions of Schoolhouse materials, see the print archive.

For more on the Little Red Schoolhouse:

Origins|History|Teaching Philosophy|Books|Print Archive

About Teaching with Grounds for Argument

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 GFA materials:

  • as the backbone of first–year writing classes
  • as supplemental lessons for advanced writing classes
  • as complementary or auxiliary lessons in first–year argument classes also emphasizing expressivist or inquiry-based pedagogy
  • as supplemental lessons in classes on legal writing and research
  • as supplemental lessons in WAC (Writing across the Curriculum) and WID (Writing in the Disciplines) classes (fourth–year seminars in history, biology labs, introduction to psychology courses, art history surveys, and so on)
  • as a curricular foundation for a writing program offering a variety of approaches across a range of undergraduate classes

Grounds for Argument is 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 support:

  • within units, lessons are presented in what can be used as a default sequence
  • each unit includes “Bigger Picture” lessons that synthesize related principles and point out larger themes (such as the importance of “imageability” for style and of beginnings at all levels)
  • the teacher’s pages offer examples of successful syllabi, along with assignments and classroom activities that use the Schoolhouse lessons
  • the teacher’s pages discuss what has worked for other teachers

For more on teaching with Grounds for Argument:

Curriculum Map|Get Started by Creating an Account

Writing in the Disciplines

Writing in Intro to Literature Classes

If you'd like field-specific lessons for your class, please contact us.

People

Contacts

If you have questions or comments about this site, contact the site administrators at
groundsforargument-feedback@virginia.edu.

Project Administrators

Our Current Staff

Directors, Left: Greg Colomb, Right: Jon D'Errico
  • Kirsten Andersen
  • Katie Bray
  • Michael Chen
  • Dorothy Couchman
  • Andrew Ferguson
  • Catherine Fleming
  • Jean Franzino
  • Laura Goldblatt

Our Past Staff

  • Laura All
  • Jessica Barrett
  • Jenny Braun
  • Steph Brown (Project Manager, 2010-2011)
  • Sara Bryant (Lead Writer, 2010-2011)
  • Shaun Cullen (Lead Web Developer, 2010-2011)
  • Claire Eager
  • Ryan Cordell (Project Manager, 2009-2010)
  • Tim Duffy
  • Patrick Fleming
  • Zachary Fisher
  • Chris Forster
  • Jenny Foy
  • Gabriel Hankins
  • Lauren Hauser
  • Megan Haury
  • Walt Hunter
  • Bethany Maybee
  • Chris McFarland
  • Angela Nemecek, (Project Manager, 2011-2013; Lead Writer, 2011)
  • Lindsay O'Connor
  • Nick Rego
  • Eric Rettberg (Project Manager, 2010)
  • Drew Scheler
  • Scott Selisker (Lead Web Developer, 2009-2010)
  • Maggie Solberg
  • Rob Stilling
  • Brandon Walsh
  • Kevin Welcher
  • Melissa White
  • Lindsay Wright