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.

Please comment and then continue reading the plan ... Possible Assessment

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  • There is no definition of “staff.” This has long been an issue across campus and led to some debate among “staff” members. There are two types—the hourly and the staff some consider more professional. The details of this document trend more to the professional side of things. Hourly paid staff members do not go to conferences, much less are they encouraged to seek avenues to write for the general public. Since they are not presented with opportunities to travel or write, the question arises, how will this initiative ready and affect the hourly employees (including the environmental services and clerical workers)?

  • I am delighted that writing is our QEP focus. From my professional perspective, the inability to write effectively is career limiting, and conversely, it is always a delight to discover the writing prowess of a young employee. It can be a powerful door opener, yet critical thinking and thoughtful discernment that translates to the written word is a suffering skill set. Bravo, Elon for taking this on. <br/>I would offer that in four years, I have yet to teach a class with less than 31-33 students (x3=@99) and have been frustrated by the barriers those numbers pose to rich and challenging writing assignments that allow me to consistently assess writing skills and provide thoughtful feedback while managing other content requirements of the course. Consideration should be given to class caps where appropriate and/or where developmental writing and assessment are emphasized. <br/>Thanks so much to the QEP task force. <br/><br/>

  • I appreciate your hard work on this immense project. I'd just like to point out that the way scaffolding across years is presented here often assumes a discipline whose courses are allowed to have prerequisites and whose majors are fairly well ensconced in the programs in their first or second year at Elon. Since we know many disciplines, particularly those in the Humanities, are discouraged from curricular scaffolding for a variety of reasons, and because we know many students come to some majors later in their time at Elon and take their major classes in a "clump" rather than slowly over the full four years, we should make room in this plan for either alternative ways of thinking about these assessments across the four years or deemphasize the "years and sequenced courses" focus in this plan somehow. <br/><br/>Of course I'd prefer to be able to sequence all my courses without penalty if enrollment drops, so if that's a possibility, please let me know asap! :)

  • 1. Focal Actions for Academic Departments: Second Year. My comment here is about the possible need for clarification. As currently stated, it is possible to see this as a contradiction (or near-so) to guiding principle #2. This portion of the action plan sounds like it requires (or assumes) that there *is*, or if not, will have to be *created*, a specific sequence of specific courses in each department. Does it have to be specific courses in a sequence? Are there other possibilities building from what departments may have now? For example, could a department have a structure that doesn’t name specific courses, but rather categories of courses, like maybe saying “in 100-level courses in our discipline, we expect ____ to be the focus or goal for writing; in 200-level courses, we expect ____” or outlining the goals for writing development in terms of core courses, electives, capstones? Use of the current phrasing suggests to me a single model requiring specific courses in a specific order, which may or may not already be embedded in departments, and which may be interpreted as requiring adding new courses or requirements. It’d be nice to see this action step express more flexibility (but not elimination) to keep in clearer accord with the guiding principles. <br/><br/>2. Fourth year focal action for departments: “Each department will assess the writing abilities of its seniors and make specific plans for raising these abilities to an even higher level.” Just a quick clarification in the document sought here: This assessment is a baseline assessment to be used for comparison for the assessments in year 5+?<br/><br/>3. Action 6: Many Institutional Leaders and Units. Bottom-line, I like this action point, but I sense something is missing, but can't quite put my finger on it. I don’t yet have any kind of specific suggestions, but here are just the thoughts that reading this action point occasioned (as a form of feedback-for-whatever-worth, I suppose):<br/>a. “I feel like they are holding back from what they really want to say. I would have liked to be at the table during this conversation in case it was left there.”<br/>b. “I remember reading about possibilities like faculty writing fellows and department writing liaisons, etc. in the original QEP proposal. Where are those? Are those the kinds of things that would be part of this action step? Is this just not yet the time/place for those kinds of specific plans?” <br/>c. “What does this anticipated ‘culture of writing’ look like? How will we know if we have it?”<br/>

  • The QEP looks great. Really impressive work. Please pass along my thanks and gratitude to the whole group. I had just two quick thoughts that you can, of course, feel free to ignore. First, I see y’all addressing disciplinary writing in III:1, but I wonder why it’s not listed in Goal #1. You have professions and careers but not disciplines. To that point, we may want to look carefully at how those three terms are used throughout the document to ensure they are used consistently and are understood as distinct things (for a while there, I thought you might be thinking of disciplines and professions as synonyms but then they’re used together with an “and” suggesting you do see them as distinct. Second, the departmental process seems fairly worked out, but not so with GST and the other actions. Any reason they seem to have gotten short shrift? Perhaps it’s just because you have to start somewhere, but some degree of balance might be nice. Again, thanks so much for all your hard work on this. I’m very excited about where we are headed. All the best, Tom

  • I'd like to see opportunities for interested faculty to receive funding to work on aspects of the WEI (I'm thinking of Action 1, but maybe more broadly) during the summer(s).