Possible Focal Actions

Although every element of the university will participate in the Writing Excellence Initiative, we will devote special attention to the following actions. For each, we identify the lead (but not the only) actor.

Action 1: Academic Departments

Each academic department will define and implement ways of helping its students achieve writing goals that prepare them to contribute effectively to their disciplines and professions and to use their disciplinary or professional expertise when participating in public discourse on local, regional, and global issues (Student Learning Outcomes 1, 2, and 3). This action applies to all undergraduate and graduate programs. To assure that departments have sufficient time to develop and implement substantive and sustainable goals and plans, we have established a five-year plan for systematically building their capacities with regard to student writing. Individual departments may proceed at a faster pace. Departments will receive the required assistance and, where necessary, financial or other resources.

  • First year: Each department will define the writing abilities that students earning a degree in its program will possess at the point of graduation. These will include writing abilities for communicating to other specialists and also writing abilities for communicating to general readers about their specialty. Departments will also develop plans for assessment of their effectiveness at providing their students with these abilities; the assessment will be of students’ writing just before graduation (e.g., in their senior year for undergraduates) in order to capture the cumulative impact of each department’s strategies for developing students’ writing expertise throughout their studies. Finally, departments will audit the writing instructions and practice they currently provide their students.
  • Second year: Each department will design the sequence of its courses through which it will progressively develop its students’ writing abilities over the time they are studying at Elon. For each course in the sequence, the department will identify specific writing outcomes and the kinds of writing instruction and assignments to be provided in them. Each department will also develop a baseline assessment of a selected set of their seniors’ writing abilities—for example, a natural science department might assess their seniors’ ability to write (at an apprentice level) the kind of research or review papers that are published in their field or they might assess their seniors’ ability to write an article for a newspaper that discusses a topic in their field that is of general interest or importance.
  • Third year: Department faculty teaching the courses in the sequence will include the appropriate instruction and assignments in these classes.
  • Fourth year: Each department will assess the writing abilities of its seniors and make specific plans for raising these abilities to an even higher level. Departments will also define writing outcomes for courses that are not part of the writing sequence for their majors.
  • Fifth year and beyond: Departments will engage in regularly scheduled assessments that enable them to refine their writing outcomes, instructional practices, and assessment strategies.

Action 2: General Studies Program

The General Studies Program will determine how best to align its offerings with the Writing Excellence Initiative’s Student Learning Outcomes 2 and 3. Where feasible, it will follow the same overall process as academic departments. However, the process will be modified to suit the unique character of the General Studies program, which consists of courses taught by academic departments throughout the university and interdisciplinary GST courses. The diversity of departments responsible for implementing the General Studies program and the fact that the program involves every Elon undergraduate create special opportunities and challenges for the direct assessment of student writing. We will explore effective ways of addressing these opportunities and challenges.

Action 3: Experiential Education Oversight Committee

The Experiential Education Oversight Committee will develop ways that each of the “Elon Experiences” and the Experiential Learning Requirement (a central component of the General Studies Program) can be refined to advance undergraduate students’ abilities to participate in public discourse at the local, regional, and global level (Student Learning Outcome 3). The Committee includes representatives from Academic Affairs and Student Life.

Action 4: Student Life

The Division of Student Life will define, act on, and assess writing goals that can be developed through its co-curricular programs. It will begin by focusing on programs that already include student writing (e.g., student employment positions that involve writing) and on programs to which attention to student writing could most readily be introduced. In later years, it will involve additional programs.

Action 5: Elon Center for Writing Excellence

Elon will create the Elon Center for Writing Excellence, which will combine and greatly expand the programming currently offered by our Writing Center and our Writing Across the University Program. For students, it will greatly expand the number of consultations offered and extend its ability to help all undergraduate and graduate students regardless of major, including those who are already very accomplished writers. It will also support students and faculty working with the plethora of digital and multimodal forms of twenty-first-century writing. For faculty and staff, the Center will offer workshops, individual consultations, support for travel to conferences on student writing, and grants for innovative teaching and research projects focused on increasing students’ writing expertise. It will also help faculty and staff who want assistance with their own writing projects, thereby increasing their publication success and their ability to serve as role models for students. In these and other ways, the Center will provide the assistance and resources required for the success of the Writing Excellence Initiative.

Action 6: Many Institutional Leaders and Units

Elon will foster an institutional culture in which writing and its teaching are seen as essential, enjoyed, revered, and honored activities. Achievement of the ambitious goals of the Writing Excellence Initiative will require changes in perceptions and attitudes as well as in our programs and pedagogy. In the writing culture we seek to establish, all undergraduate and graduate Elon students will welcome the writing instruction they receive in their courses, embrace the writing opportunities they have outside of institutional requirements, and appreciate writing’s value to them as students and in their post-commencement lives. Similarly, all faculty and staff will feel that their attention to writing instruction provides professionally satisfying results and that the institution values it. Toward these ends, the president, provost, deans, and other university leaders will emphasize the centrality of writing to an Elon education and highlight the accomplishments of faculty, staff, and students with respect to writing and its teaching. The Elon Center for Writing Excellence and many other units will also create programs and activities that foster development of a culture of writing at Elon.

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