SA committee to review University Writing Program

The Student Association plans to evaluate the University Writing Program based on student concern that the program does not consistently benefit students’ educational experiences.

“The main issue with UW is its inconsistencies that can make or break a student’s experience,” said Tim Little, vice president of academic affairs for the SA. “The numerous different sections with varied topics mean that some classes place more emphasis on certain aspects of the writing process than others.”

Little said he hopes the SA’s committee will give a student voice to ongoing administration and faculty deliberations about the program and its Writing in the Disciplines course requirements. The committee plans to review general student concerns with the program, how well the program prepares students for more advanced courses, inconsistencies among different sections and the importance of topics when selecting a UW course.

The SA has no actual power to enact change in reviewing courses or academic requirements. The extent of this review would result in a recommendation from student leaders to the administration.

“The purpose of the committee is to gain a greater campus-wide understanding of students’ impressions of the UW program and its impact on future course work,” he said. “In essence, the advisory committee is simply a way to compile student thoughts and experiences and present them to UW as further changes are made to the program.”

The University has already completed extensive studies on UW courses, WID courses and the University Writing Center and is constantly evaluating whether or not these programs are achieving their goals.

The most in-depth study of the program was the Big Read evaluations, held during the summers of 2006 and 2007. During these two conferences, a panel of 16 faculty members evaluated 172 UW papers using normal scoring rubrics to determine whether or not students had achieved goals the course was designed to meet.

“In the summer of 2006, faculty looked at whether students gained a functional grasp of rhetorical principles and whether they demonstrated habits of editing and proofreading,” said Donald Lehman, the executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “In the summer of 2007, they looked at whether students had achieved the ability to read, think, and write critically and analytically, and whether they could explore, use, and analyze information resources to meet research objectives.”

Some changes have already been made to improve the University Writing Program. A Big Read program is being formulated to evaluate WID courses. In addition, University administrators are considering creating a more detailed workshop for faculty who are teaching UW20.

“We need to work with the faculty to make sure they appreciate and follow the template created by the University,” Lehman said.

Lydia Thomas, a member of the Board of Trustees and chairwoman of the academic affairs committee, said she agreed with Little on the importance of equal standards.

“Students voiced their issues; the biggest complaint was that (the UW20 classes) are not consistent across the board,” she said. “(UW) is an important program to the University, and students should be receiving the benefits.”

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