Staff Editorial: Incrementalism is the key to 4×4 success

As GW’s academic departments near the full implementation of the University Writing program, students and faculty have mixed feelings about these initiatives. The actual phasing in of the new writing curriculum, however, provides a strong model for the implementation of future academic programs, most specifically the move to a four-class, four-credit semester.

The University Writing program, a pioneering program to ensure that all students achieve improved writing ability, involves writing-intensive classes at the freshman and upper levels. While this class structure change was a major departure from the standard writing curriculum, administrators made sure that the program was gradually implemented.

In addition to a gradual approach to introducing students to the new classes, program officials have been constantly evaluating student writing samples, class feedback and overall success. With administrators pushing a four-by-four curricular structure, this incremental strategy could prove invaluable for this and other new initiatives.

The move to a four-class, four-credit system would likely have more impact than any discipline-specific program, however the lessons from the University Writing program are extremely pertinent. Certain staff and faculty are reluctant to move forward with four-by-four because they are not certain of the program’s merits. A gradual phasing in and constant evaluation of the program may help assure skeptics by ensuring the best program possible, including the opportunity for feedback from University stakeholders.

The University Honors Program has already moved toward a system similar to four-by-four, and that department’s experience could serve as a test for a larger program. Furthermore, the new structure could be first introduced in certain schools that have rigid course requirements and later expanded to other areas of GW.

While students have not had that much say in the four-by-four formulation process thus far, they would be given an opportunity for commenting through course evaluations and interviews. This valuable feedback is what helped build up the University Writing program, and it has the potential to ensure a successful transition to four-by-four.

The specific implementation of the University Writing program may not be the exact formula for four-by-four. The general spirit of incremental change and subsequent evaluation, however, is what administrators should keep in mind while going forward with a new curricular plan. While any major change may have its critics, a careful introduction ensures a chance for input and the potential for the best program possible.

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