GW may add writing requirement

An initiative in the works will replace English 10 and 11 next fall with freshman writing workshops and will add “writing intensive” courses for upperclassmen, officials said. Administrators said the new curriculum will give freshmen with different skill levels the same “base knowledge” and get them more interested in learning.

Neither requirement would affect current students.

The freshman workshop would be similar to English 10 and 11 but last only one semester and focus more closely on one field of study, officials said. Upperclassmen would also be required to take two courses that include a regular three-credit course and a two-credit writing development workshop.

“Writing is a way to get students more actively engaged,” said English professor and director for the Major Advising Program Linda Salamon, who served on the writing program task force.

For example, psychology majors could choose to take their writing intensive course in the psychology department; they would learn writing skills and research methods applicable to psychology.

The proposed program would also include a “capstone writing experience” in the student’s major similar to a senior thesis.

All students would have a portfolio of their work at the end of their college years, said Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman, who chaired the initiative.

Lehman announced the program, which officials said will hopefully be ready for a small portion of incoming freshmen, last May.

Lehman said he plans to randomly assign one-third of next year’s incoming freshmen to the seminars instead of English 10 and 11 so the University can test the program. Students will also participate in writing development workshops.

He said administrators will “constantly (be) assessing the program.”

The committee, which is broken down into subcommittees for upperclassmen “writing across the board” curriculum and freshman writing, had its first official meeting last month.

“We are very much in the preliminary stages,” Salamon said.

She also said that while English 10 and 11 have been satisfactory according to student surveys, the new writing program will get students more engaged.

“There was a famous test done (that showed that) a high percentage of students do worse in writing in later years of college,” Salamon said. “That kind of study (shows us) that if we do more writing throughout the years, things are bound to get better.”

Students “have a very mixed experience in writing,” and the initiative should help all students to be on a similar level, Salamon said.

The committee working on the proposal for the new writing program includes representatives from all schools and a variety of programs, a member of the board of trustees and an outside specialist.

Some students said they will benefit from the new program because English 10 and 11 were not helpful for their academic careers.

“We mostly just read books and turned in one paper (in English 11),” junior Cindy Campbell said. “I don’t necessarily feel I became a better writer.”

Campbell, who is in the business school, said most of her classes are “number focused” and she has not written a paper since freshman year.

“A lot of students underestimate writing and how important it is,” said senior criminal justice major Ahmadu Garba. “(The new program) is a great idea. I would definitely take those classes.”

Others said they find the new program unnecessary because it would add extra classes to already full schedules.

“I already do enough reading and writing,” said senior American Studies major Nathan Matlin. “I don’t think additional courses are necessarily the answer.”

The writing requirement for upperclassmen should depend on major, said senior Juliana Mascelli, an English major who said she does a substantial amount of writing in her courses.

The task force will continue to work on the initiative throughout the semester and officials said they hope to see it go into effect next fall.

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