Writing program readies for full implementation

On the first day of class, professor Dennis Schell handed out two different syllabi to students in his abnormal psychology class. Half of the students received a syllabus requiring them to do more writing assignments than their classmates.

Several classes this year are part of the Writing in the Discipline program, the second component of the University Writing 20 Program.

The UW20 program, implemented last year, requires students to take a composition course their freshman year and a WID course their sophomore and junior years. The WID courses integrate an intensive writing component into specific disciplines. These courses are also available for non-WID students to take.

The goals of the WID courses are to help students write to a variety of audiences and in multiple forms, using writing for both research and analysis. Students do extensive peer editing and learn different writing techniques for various disciplines, such as political science, American studies and mathematics. This marks the first year that WID courses are in place.

Last year, the University randomly chose 700 freshmen to participate in the UW20 program. This year, 1,600 freshmen are enrolled in the program and by fall 2005, all freshmen will take UW20 classes instead of English 10 and 11, the former English requirements for freshmen.

During the fall, there were 700 spots for students in WID courses, which normally have 15 to 20 students. Professors can choose to give separate assignments for WID students or require all students to complete several writing assignments.

Director of the WID program Chris Sten said he expects there to be more than twice as many WID classes next fall.

Sten added that while students taking the classes for WID credit may have different assignments, they should be learning the same material as non-WID students.

Bonnie Morris, who is teaching Introduction to Women’s Studies, called the combination of WID students and non-WID students in her 20-person class “unusual,” but said it is a “congenial atmosphere.”

Morris, who uses the same syllabus for all of her students, said she thinks WID courses are very useful.

“There are a lot of incredibly bright students who don’t get the A grade because they can’t write,” Morris said.

The Office of Academic Planning and Assessment is gauging the effectiveness of WID courses throughout the year.

Sten said, “We are running continuous assessments of performance of students in the WID courses … the general assessment is showing student writing improving so far.”

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