Possible Guiding Principles
In pursuit of these goals, the Writing Excellence Initiative will build on, extend, and enhance the many existing strengths of an Elon education. Achieving these goals will also require changes throughout the university. Mindful of the importance of using university resources, including faculty, staff, and student time, effectively and efficiently, the initiative will be guided by the following principles.
- Conduct open, community-wide discussions of its goals, methods, and progress throughout the next first five years and beyond.
These discussions began in 2010, when the entire university participated in selecting writing excellence as the focus of the Quality Enhancement Project required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. They continue now as you and all members of the Elon community are urged to respond to the initiative’s tentative framework that you are now reading. These discussions will continue throughout the five years during which this project unfolds. Every aspect of the project will become stronger through our collective wisdom.
- Build on existing policies, practices, and structures of the university whenever possible.
For example, the initiative will not require academic departments to add courses to their majors, minors, or concentrations. It will not require the General Studies Program to impose a new course requirement for graduation. Similarly, it will work within the current co-curricular programs rather than establishing new ones. Its assessment and reporting will be fully integrated with other assessment and reporting practices and timetables.
- Help the university and its units work with student writing in ways that enable them to more effectively achieve their own goals.
The initiative’s aim is not to add a new burden on any department or group but to seek ways to help them better achieve the outcomes for students to which they have already devoted themselves. The central question to be asked of each academic, Student Life, student or other unit or group will be, “How can the ideas, assistance, and resources of the Writing Excellence Initiative help you be even more effective at advancing student learning and development?”
- Entrust implementation with the units best able to design effective strategies.
While general guidelines for all units will be established centrally, each unit will define its own goals, develop its own plan for achieving them, establish its own criteria for evaluating achievement, and develop its own plan for using the results to do an even better job in the future. In Academic Affairs and Student Life, these units will be individual departments. Other components of the university, such as the Office of Athletics, will identify similarly appropriate units.
- Help the university and its units develop efficient ways of achieving their goals.
For example, the initiative will help faculty assign, support, and evaluate student writing in their courses without becoming overwhelmed by the work. Similarly, the initiative will work with the Provost’s Office to review current assessment requirements for departments and General Studies. Is it possible that once assessment of student writing outcomes is integrated that a slower, more deliberate assessment cycle (say one lasting two years rather than one) might produce better results?
- Provide the assistance and resources needed to implement new strategies.
The primary source of assistance and support will be the new Elon Center for Writing Excellence. As explained below, it will combine and greatly expand the current Student Writing Center and the Writing Across the University program.
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