Committee to review University Writing classes

The University Writing Program faculty responded last month to concerns about consistency among its introductory course curricula and subject matter by creating a committee to review each section’s syllabus and assignments.

“The faculty serving on this committee will be able to mentor faculty from across the program to continue to develop even stronger and better syllabi and assignments,” wrote Carol Hayes, director of First-Year Writing, in an e-mail to The Hatchet.

Hayes said development of the curriculum committee to examine UW-20 also comes in response to student writing assessments that showed many students who took the course still had poor writing skills. Overall the student writing assessed was weakest in terms of audience expectations, structure and tone, Hayes said.

In 2006, the University assessed the UW program in terms of grade inflation and student writing and found similar problems with the quality of student writing. Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the outcome of the 2006 report and the University’s need to create a curriculum committee show that “we need to strengthen the UW course requirements.”

Lehman said the University could accomplish this goal by returning to the original UW template that specifies aspects of the course such as the number of pages of writing a student must produce in the semester-long class.

Hayes said student evaluations of UW courses were most critical of a student’s inability to place out of the course after taking an Advanced Placement English exam.

Students were also critical about the topics of UW classes, many of which students described as boring. Some topics students identified this way include “On the Lyric Essay,” “Trash Talk: The Meaning of Garbage,” “Homeless Chic? Poverty, Privilege, & Identity in Contemporary America,” and “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano: The Role Of Athletics In College Life.”

“We’re very aware of this problem and the effect it’s having on student morale regarding UW-20,” Hayes said, adding that program faculty members are looking into ways to alter the course topics.

In previous years, students registered for UW-20 courses without realizing the section’s topic, Hayes said. When students register for UW20 course sections this year, links to course descriptions will be easily accessible while registering.

“I loved (my UW-20 class), but that was due to the specific topic and the professor teaching it,” sophomore Samuel Kaminsky said. “It was worth it in the sense that I loved the class but I learned no new skills, and kids who take AP or (who) are in honors should not have to take it.”

Sophomore Daniel Borowski said he did not enjoy his UW course, but he saw value in it nonetheless.

“My UW course seemed a bit childish and elementary,” Borkowski said. “That being said, I think it is a necessary evil. College writing is different than high school writing.”

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