Writing Excellence Initiative
Elon’s Writing Excellence Initiative is a university-wide project that whose goal is to make writing a signature experience of every student’s Elon education.
Developed over a three-year period with extensive participation by Elon’s students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae and friends, this extensive project, builds on many of our strengths and our shared mission of integrating learning across the disciplines, putting knowledge into practice, and preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good. We presented the result in an 81-page report to our accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), as our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).
Through the Writing Excellence Initiative, we aspire to prepare every Elon student, undergraduate and graduate, in every major, to be an excellent writer.
We have chosen to focus particularly on developing students’ abilities related to three kinds of writing that are aligned with the Elon Commitment’s goal of educating “engaged minds, inspiring leaders, and global citizens.”
- Writing to learn: We will prepare every Elon graduate to use writing to understand new content and perspectives, analyze information and problems, and generate knowledge.
- Writing in a discipline: We will prepare every Elon graduate to develop and communicate ideas effectively to readers, for purposes and in contexts that are appropriate for his or her field of study.
- Writing as a citizen: We will prepare every Elon graduate to communicate effectively with other members of his or her communities on issues of local, regional, or global significance.
Every element of the university contributes
Every element of the university plays an important role in developing students’ writing abilities.
- Academic departments will enhance the writing instruction and support they provide for their majors. They will create or refine existing writing outcomes for their majors, and they will refine sets of courses to progressively build their students’ abilities toward these outcomes.
- The General Studies Program will refine its courses to provide additional instruction and support for steadily developing undergraduate students’ abilities to write as citizens. So that students can receive more instruction in writing in The Global Experience (GST110), we will reduce class sizes over the next five years.
- The Division of Student Life will enhance the instruction and support for the writing students do in its programs as well as the guidance and feedback it gives its student employees who write as part of their jobs.
Center for Writing Excellence
To help achieve these aims, we created the Center for Writing Excellence, which integrates and greatly expands the services and capabilities of the formerly separate Writing Center and Writing Across the University Program. The Center serves as a focal point and unified source of support, collaboration, and inspiration for the Writing Excellence Initiative.
The Writing Excellence Initiative is unfolding over the next five years, with each department and program adopting strategies and proceeding at a pace that is suited to its specific aspirations and circumstances. All are learning from and refining their strategies based on their own experiences and those of others. In each area, major changes are pilot tested before full implementation. For 2013-2014, eight academic departments and four Student Life programs joined the First Flight, through which they will pilot test many of the early phases of our four-phase process.
Phase 1: Evaluate Current Practice
Set aspirational outcomes. While all actions will be aligned directly or indirectly with one or more of the QEP’s three SLOs, each program articulates its own, context-specific outcomes in assessable form.
Describe current practices. Programs describe in detail what they are currently doing to help students achieve each outcome.
Assess the effectiveness of current practices. Programs evaluate the success of the current practices at achieving their aspirational outcomes.
Phase 2: Plan
Identify the specific actions to be taken. Using assessment of current instruction and research related to their goals, programs identify promising practices for pilot testing.
Define the forms of assistance needed for these actions to succeed. Most of this assistance is provided by the Center for Writing Excellence.
Develop an assessment plan. Plans involve varying degrees of formality, depending on the situation.
Phase 3: Pilot
Test the plans on a small scale. Programs pilot test their plans in the contexts that would be encountered in full implementation.
Assess the results. With assistance from the Center for Writing Excellence, programs gather and analyze relevant data concerning their pilot tests as well as the support they received.
Refine the plans. Using the insights gathered through their pilots, programs refine their plans for broader implementation.
Phase 4: Implement
Implement the actions. Programs set a pace for implementation that assures success, rapid in some cases and gradual in others.
Monitor implementation. Programs monitor implementation so they can quickly identify and address unanticipated problems and take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
Assess and continue to refine. After initial implementation, programs employ ongoing assessment in pursuit of continuous improvement.
Six other academic departments are participating in the Ignition Program, which enables them to identify and address their specific writing issues as they wait to begin the four-phase process in the future.