Writing Program Assessment Plan

Prepared by Jeanne Herman, Director of WAC, and the Writing Program Advisory Committee, 2009-2010
Committee members:  Aaron Banks, Carolyn Dobler, Becky Fremo, Sujay Rao, Kathy Tunheim

Writing Across the Curriculum– PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

WAC at Gustavus draws from "writing to learn" theories (WTL), which suggest that students write in order to think through challenging material, internalize what they know, and express themselves more effectively and fluently.  Our WAC program asserts that students can best learn the conventions of academic writing by taking writing intensive courses in many disciplines.  The WAC program demands shared responsibility for writing instruction across the campus, and faculty work together to help students learn to express themselves with clarity and precision in every course context.  In tandem, WRITI and WRITD courses teach students to express their ideas to both broad—in a cultural and disciplinary sense—and narrow audiences.  In WRITI courses, students learn to analyze purpose, audience, and context and respond to a variety of rhetorical situations.  In WRITD courses, students learn to communicate in the highly specialized languages of their disciplines.  Thus the WAC program enables true interdisciplinary participation for students, helping the College fulfill one of the most important areas of its Mission Statement: “The Gustavus Curriculum is designed to bring students to mastery of a particular area of study within a general framework that is both interdisciplinary and international in perspective.”

Writing Across the Curriculum-VISION STATEMENT

Liberally educated students should write well and use writing both to discover and construct new knowledge and to communicate their ideas to others. Writing is a complex activity; it is a form of creative expression and critical engagement that serves practical and intellectual purposes. Since writing shapes the views of others, courses that focus on writing should help students understand the effects of their own written language. Once students learn to make successful choices as writers, they can use written communication in order to engage more fully as citizens, both locally and globally.  In drawing its guidelines and principles from a rhetorical system, the Gustavus WAC program nods to the ancient art of rhetoric, the means by which citizens participated in the life of the polis, or community.   By enabling Gustavus students to fully participate as citizens after graduating, preparing them to write for audiences who may share different cultural and disciplinary values, the Writing Across the Curriculum program helps the College fulfill its mission:  “The purpose of a Gustavus education is to help its students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.” 

Criteria for Writing Across the Curriculum

  1. A WRITD course provides students with opportunities to read and analyze examples of discipline-specific writing.
  2. A WRITD course requires students to complete writing assignments that exemplify the structures, genres, and conventions of the disciplines.
  3. A WRITD course offers students opportunities to revise their work with the help of an instructor's feedback.


Writing Across the Curriculum- PROGRAM GOALS and LEARNER OUTCOMES 

Goal 1:  Develop rhetorical competency.  WAC seeks to enable all students to make consistent, appropriate choices regarding purpose, audience, context, form, and style when they write.  Such rhetorical competency enables full civic participation.

Learning Outcome
1A:  Students can make consistent, appropriate choices regarding purpose, context, form, and style when they write.  WRITD and WRITI

Goal 2:  Foster creativity and self expression. WAC encourages students to use writing as a means of self-expression, creative expression, and exploration, and provides opportunities for students to write informally as well as formally. Such creativity and self-expression helps Gustavus students develop their full potential as persons.
Learning Outcome

2A:Students have opportunities to use both formal and informal writing as a means of self-expression, creative expression, and exploration.  WRITI only

Goal 3:  Teach argumentation and critical thinking.  WAC courses teach students to analyze and create arguments and to use writing in order to explain, persuade, and communicate with diverse audiences.  Argumentative and critical thinking skills are hallmarks of academic excellence.
Learning Outcome

3A:  Students effectively use writing to analyze and create arguments, explain, persuade, and communicate with varied audiences.  WRITD and WRITI

Goal 4:  Enable fluency in disciplinary conventions.  In WRITD courses, students complete assignments that exemplify the structures, genres, and conventions of their discipline.  Mastery of disciplinary conventions enables students to understand the educational and theoretical innovations of their fields.
Learning Outcome

4A:  Through WRITD courses, students complete assignments that exemplify the structures, genre, and conventions within their discipline.  WRITD only

Goal 5: Develop the writing process.  All WAC courses help students to study their own writing practices, develop a writing process that is successful, and practice that process.  Both WRITI and WRITD courses provide opportunities for students to draft, revise, and edit their work.  As they develop their writing processes, students focus not only on how knowledge is communicated, but how one comes to know in the first place.
Learning Outcome

5A:  Students have opportunities to explore the writing process by writing drafts of papers, receiving peer and faculty comments, utilizing services within the Writing Center, and engaging in revision and editing of assignments.  WRITD and


Goal 6:  Negotiate meaning with diverse audiences.  WAC courses demonstrate that writing is always an act of negotiation, where readers and writers from different cultural or disciplinary contexts must help one another understand their beliefs, values, and habits.  Courses should expose students to multiple rhetorical contexts across the curriculum.  As they learn to negotiate meaning with diverse audiences, students are poised to become members of diverse communities and to participate fully within them.
Learning Outcome

6A:  Students demonstrate the ability to negotiate meaning for diverse audiences and explore multiple rhetorical and disciplinary contexts across the curriculum.  WRITD and WRITI

Goal 7:  Through completion of the three-course writing requirement, students will show overall improvement in quality of writing.   The overall goal of the WAC program should be improvement in student writing.  Although it is virtually impossible, according to the professional literature, to isolate variables that determine level of improvement in student writing (variables such as student motivation, impact of prior experience with writing, quality of prior instruction in writing), some attempt to measure impact of the WAC requirement on the evolution of student writing is a worthwhile goal.

Learning Outcome

7A: Upon completion of the WRITI and WRITD requirement at Gustavus, students show progress in meeting Learning Outcomes 1A-6A.  WRITD and WRITI