INTD 105 Writing Seminar
June 11, 2007
Dr. Susan Bailey, Dean of the College
Celia A. Easton, Chair
Critical Writing and Reading Core Committee
INTD 105 Writing Seminar (subtitle) has been a Critical Writing and Reading
Core requirement for SUNY Geneseo students since Fall 2000. The learning outcomes
for the course have been articulated from the start: 1) The ability to read significant texts
carefully and critically, recognizing and responding to argumentative positions; 2) The
ability to write sustained, coherent, and persuasive arguments on significant issues that
arise from the content at hand; and 3) The ability to write clearly, following the
conventions of Standard English.
INTD 105 was never intended as a remediation course. Its model is the Geneseo
Honors Program Critical Reading course (HONR 102) and it mirrors Cornell University's
writing seminars. From its beginnings, it has been a course taught by faculty across
disciplines. The pedagogical purpose of Writing Across Disciplines is to expose students
to the importance of writing in all areas of study, for the manner in which writers express
their ideas in Geography and Chemistry is as important as their composition competency
in English and History. In practical terms, the staffing of INTD 105 was brought about
by reassigning faculty who taught in the previous core area, Critical Reasoning, by
merging sections of undersubscribed Social Science core classes, and by requesting token
participation in the program by the School of Business and disciplines in the Natural
The premise of Writing Instruction Across the Curriculum is that all faculty are
writers and can model writing for students. Writing assessment in INTD 105 emphasizes
how well students can construct and defend an argument, logically and elegantly.
Although disciplinary conventions vary, all faculty members know how to discuss with
students the importance of supporting claims with assertions, the reason scholars cite
sources following conventional styles, and the necessity of thoughtful planning as well as
careful revision. As one faculty survey respondent noted with gentle cynicism, "Anyone
unable to teach 105 competently shouldn't be a faculty member in the first place." The
alternative to WIAC has traditionally been Writing Instruction in the English Department.
Although most English faculty teach writing as graduate students and enjoy talking about
writing because they are active writers themselves, there is currently no English
department faculty member who has scholarly training in Composition and Rhetoric.
There is no reason to assume that a Melville or Chaucer scholar is any better qualified to
teach writing than a Geography professor who studies weather events or a Biology
professor who studies flagella.
The reason students learn to polish their writing in college is not simply to be able
to write successful college papers but to be effective communicators in their own
personal and professional lives. For this reason, INTD 105 emphasizes both "invention"
and "revision." Students must complete six distinct assignments. At least four and at
most five must be unique topics—this is the "invention" part. At least one and at most
two must be "significant revisions"—thoughtful rethinking of essays, not just fixing
marked errors. Most sections include revision of some kind (often after peer-editing
sessions) for all papers. The specific "revision" assignment should emphasize distinct
ways of thinking about expressing ideas better with more precise research and greater
Throughout the years, program assessment has affirmed that Geneseo students are
competent writers who do not need writing remediation but do need exposure to the
expectations of college-level writing as they transition from high school essay writing to
independent critical thinking.
2007 ATTITUDES TOWARD STUDENT WRITING SKILLS AND INTD 105
In May 2007, fifty faculty members responded to a survey asking them to assist in
this review of INTD 105. Forty-one (82%) identified themselves as full-time faculty.
Twenty-four had taught the course; twenty-six had not. From a faculty perspective, most
Geneseo students write competently, but they do not understand disciplinary conventions,
they do not incorporate research well into their writing, and many still need significant
help with grammar and mechanics. Fewer than a third of the faculty agreed that students
read critically. Most disagreed that students demonstrated competent research skills in
their first and second years of study, but 54% claimed that students' research skills were
competent by their third and fourth years. It is important to note that the responders were
self-selected, some very eager to defend the importance of the course and some critical of
it. The responses to the survey may be found in the appendix to this report. The
summary statements in this narrative are paraphrased and condensed, except for those
that appear in quotation marks.
The following statements highlight the ways faculty who responded to the survey
believe INTD 105 contributes to Geneseo students' academic achievement:
1. INTD 105 emphasizes the importance of writing to students early in their career.
2. INTD 105 provides a place for ensuring that all students write competently or
receive needed help.
3. Since the inception of INTD 105, there has been an increase in the ability of
students to write at an adequate level.
4. INTD 105 introduces students to library resources.
5. INTD 105 helps students improve their writing and grades in subsequent courses,
6. INTD 105 provides a good "first-year student experience."
7. Since the inception of INTD 105, more students understand what is expected from
a college-level paper.
The following statements highlight faculty misgivings about INTD 105's contributions to
Geneseo students' academic achievement:
1. INTD 105's success varies depending on the faculty teaching the course.
2. There isn't enough uniformity to provide a common experience.
3. First and second year students lack basic writing skills in both mechanics and
4. There has been no significant change in students' writing skills since the inception
of INTD 105.
5. The course should be more focused on writing than on content.
6. Some students fall through the cracks.
7. I've been disappointed with upper-level students' critical writing, grammar,
citations, etc., and I'm often thinking, "Didn't you at least learn this in INTD
SUGGESTIONS FOR SUSTAINING THE LEARNING OUTCOMES
The survey asked faculty to respond to INTD 105's learning outcomes with
suggestions for changes to the course that would contribute to the outcomes. The
following statements summarize the faculty observations:
1. Keep enrollments as low as possible.
2. Increase consistency across sections.
3. Teach editing and revision, including an emphasis on grammar and mechanics.
4. Work closely with adjunct faculty.
5. Make sure the assigned reading texts are "significant."
6. Screen students and exempt well prepared students from the course.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
The survey asked faculty about the importance of faculty workshops, training, and
additional support for course development. Faculty responded with the following
1. Direct faculty to a single "Writing Resources" site such as Dr. Schacht's Writing
2. Continue to give workshops—at least three days long.
3. In addition to training, demand that all faculty make a commitment to the
intended rigor of the course.
4. Have new faculty attend "debriefing" sessions with experienced faculty.
5. Have the English department teach all sections of INTD 105.
6. Create a common core of assignments and rubrics within the course.
7. Give faculty more autonomy.
8. Teach grammar to faculty.
9. Expose faculty to recent theories on the teaching of writing.
10. If it is necessary to hire adjuncts to teach INTD 105, make a long-term
commitment to the adjuncts at "reasonable salaries" to raise the status of INTD
In the "additional comments" section of the survey, faculty made the following
observations about staffing the course. Most of the staffing concerns reflect issues raised
during Senate discussions when INTD 105 was initially instituted: some faculty disagree
with the premises of "Writing Instruction Across the Curriculum," and some faculty are
concerned that their resources have been diverted from serving their majors.
1. INTD 105 is very challenging to teach, especially for faculty who did not
previously participate in the Critical Reasoning core.
2. It is unfair to staff the course with adjuncts. We need to devote more full-time
resources to the course.
3. The course is a hardship for departments with large numbers of majors. "We are
forced to supply instructors for the course, and (because we are not in the
Humanities) we see little benefit for our majors. As a result it is harder to staff
courses in the major."
4. "Departments already have too many demands on their time to teach this course.
The faculty time used for these courses is better used teaching courses in their
5. "While I appreciate the idea behind INTD 105, it troubles me greatly that we have
what is essentially a comp course (based on the learning outcomes) taught (in
many cases) by non-English faculty.
6. "INTD 105 instructors should come from a representative cross-section of
disciplines and interests. This will ensure not only a breadth of expertise in
professional writing, but also signal to the students the importance the College
places on the course."
General recommendations from faculty addressed class size, course consistency,
and library resources.
1. INTD 105 will be more effective if it is kept to seminar size (several suggestions
of fifteen students, or twenty maximum).
2. INTD 105 is a great course but it lacks homogeneity. Faculty are surprised when
some seniors demonstrate poor writing skills.
3. Transfer students have the most difficulty with writing at Geneseo and their needs
may not be addressed by INTD 105.
4. The course needs to emphasize source citation more carefully and consistently.
5. Milne 105 (the dedicated classroom for some sections of INTD 105) is an
excellent space for teaching this course.
6. Sessions offered by the Milne librarians on library resources, research skills, and
plagiarism make significant contributions to INTD 105.
7. Students could use technology like wikis to do peer review of each other's work.
8. INTD 105 might be offered with subject-interest topics for students in particular
INFORMATION ON FULL TIME AND PART TIME INSTRUCTION
One member of the Critical Writing and Reading Core Committee constructed the
following table, indicating the number of adjunct instructors teaching INTD 105 since
Fall 2000. These numbers are based on published Master Schedules and may not be
completely accurate since sections are sometimes added and staffing may change after
Master Schedules are published. Fluctuation in the percentage of sections of INTD 105
taught by adjuncts may reflect increases in adjuncts in individual departments because of
unfilled lines after faculty retire, adjuncts replacing full time positions during sabbaticals,
and adjuncts replacing full time faculty fulfilling administrative duties or teaching
courses in Women's Studies, American Studies, College Honors, etc. Nevertheless, as
the number approaches 50%, the College must consider these consequences of adjuncts
teaching INTD 105:
1. Frequent turnover of instructors and inconsistent preparation for teaching the
course. This also affects students whose INTD 105 section is their only "small
class"; they may find their instructor gone when they want recommendations or
even conversation in subsequent years.
2. Infrequent office hours (an adjunct teaching one three-hour course might be
available only one hour a week to see students).
3. Lack of familiarity with the wider Geneseo curriculum.
4. The potential "ghettoization" of writing instruction.
Semester Ratio of Adjunct/Total # of Percentage Adjuncts
Fall 2000 1/27 3.7%
Spring 2001 4/30 13.33%
Fall 2001 4/31 12.9%
Spring 2002 6/23 26.1%
Fall 2002 5/26 19.23%
Spring 2003 9/23 39.13%
Fall 2003 5/25 20%
Spring 2004 7/22 31.8%
Fall 2004 5/22 22.7%
Spring 2005 9/25 36.%
Fall 2005 6/25 24%
Spring 2006 8/25 32%
Fall 2006 9/25 36%
Spring 2007 12/27 44.44%
Fall 2007 12/26 46.15%
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE CHAIR OF THE CRITICAL
WRITING AND READING CORE COMMITTEE
Although there is a general consensus that INTD 105 Writing Seminar (subtitle) is
an important part of Geneseo's General Education Core, the contradictory observations and
suggestions expressed in the May 2007 faculty survey indicate that the College does not
speak in one voice about the Critical Writing and Reading Core. While it would be easy
for the members of the Critical Writing and Reading Core Committee to dismiss remarks
that question Writing Instruction Across the Curriculum, such comments can be instructive.
We must also be cautious about generating antagonism lest faculty who disapprove of the
Core area (as we have seen with Humanities) treat it derisively in advising sessions with
Questions about WIAC suggest that we need to expand conversations throughout
the College about what it means to expect students to write well: it is not about grammar,
mechanics, and citation styles, although those surface concerns do affect readers' responses
to essays. Instead, good writing reflects critical and logical thinking about significant
topics, well considered expression, and the thoughtful inclusion of evidence. When non-
INTD 105 instructors describe the writing of upper-level students, they should be thinking
in these terms, as well.
The faculty comment that called for more commitment to the course by both full
time and part time faculty is important, but this will not occur if the course is considered
too burdensome. During the initial Senate discussions, I described the trade-off in time
offered by INTD 105: instructors have a heavier grading and responding responsibility than
most courses require, but the prep time is much lighter, especially after instructors have
taught the course at least once. Smaller class sizes benefit students because they receive
more attention, but they also decrease professors' grading burdens. In recent years, class
size has been kept to 22 (below the "legal" limit of 25). While many colleges offer writing
seminars with enrollments of 15-18, this does not seem immediately practical for Geneseo.
Nevertheless, we might reasonably begin to aim for INTD 105 enrollments to cap at 20.
The multiple faculty comments about inconsistency across sections of the course
identify the aspect of INTD 105 that the College must try to address right away. These
comments are complemented by anecdotes from students, who compare their classes and
their course requirements. During the Spring 2007 semester, I asked one of my graduating
seniors who also worked as a tutor in the Writing Learning Center about her experiences
taking INTD 105 and tutoring INTD 105 students. Her INTD 105 course was taught by a
social scientist, and while she enjoyed the content, she felt there was a paucity of writing
instruction. She thought students would benefit more from emphasis on editing and
It is nearly impossible to ensure that the Guidelines for INTD 105 are met
consistently. The last Guideline makes this the responsibility of department chairs and the
Dean of the College's office, but department chairs have never questioned syllabi or
reported on the seriousness of writing instruction in INTD 105 courses. This College
respects professorial autonomy and should continue to do so, but we must also face the
truth that students are not receiving the same benefit from INTD 105 in every section of the
One approach to coordinating the curriculum and emphasizing editing and revision
would be to establish a writing instruction "skeleton" on the Angel Learning Management
System to be shared by all sections of INTD 105. Instructors would continue to choose the
reading texts and topics for individual sections of the course, but would agree to follow a
coordinated writing curriculum that reviewed organization, argumentation, research,
editing, style, citations, plagiarism, etc. The disadvantage of such a curriculum is that it
can become reductive ("Okay, let's get through this") and it can cut into instructor
autonomy. But it might be welcomed by faculty who are eager to interact with first-year
students on interesting topics but lack confidence in their knowledge of composition
pedagogy. It would also help to coordinate sections of the course taught by adjuncts and
new faculty who do not participate in the faculty workshop.
Another variation on INTD 105 that might appeal to some faculty would allow
some sections of INTD 105 to be attached to other courses routinely taken by first year
students. So, for example, twenty students enrolled in ANTH 100, SOCL 103, or CHEM
103 would also enroll in a section of INTD 105 whose writing assignments and additional
readings complemented the readings students were doing in those courses. The INTD 105
instructor might be the ANTH 100 instructor, or another instructor might attend the ANTH
100 lectures with the students and extend the conversations from that course into the INTD
105 seminar. If adjuncts were employed for such sections, they would benefit from a
greater understanding of the Geneseo curriculum and other contexts in which students
write; they'd be able to make connections with another faculty member, something adjuncts
often cannot do; and an argument could be made that their extra contact hours entitled them
to an increase in adjunct wages, making the course more attractive to teach more than once.
As part of the General Education curriculum, INTD 105 regularly reports program
assessment results to the College Assessment Committee. During the 2006-07 academic
year, the assessment procedure was changed, asking faculty to select four papers with
revisions from their class sets and to turn in rubric scores and papers to the Chair of the
Critical Writing and Reading Core Committee. This replaced the assessment method used
for six years in which faculty turned in complete sets of papers and the Chair of CWRC
randomly selected papers from each section and organized volunteers to score them with a
rubric. Although the new method is more efficient, the response rate each semester is poor:
only about fifty percent of the instructors select papers/revisions and turn in their
Even though the assessment rubric has changed—we now use the SUNY General
Education rubric, which includes scores for revision—program assessment has consistently
shown that Geneseo students are competent writers. Most students meet or exceed
expectations for critical reading, critical writing, coherence, and revision. Given concerns
about students carrying these skills over to coursework later in their academic careers, we
need to continue to convey to students our expectations for high standards in critical
writing and reading across the curriculum. Perhaps it is time for a discussion about how
INTD 105 intersects with the College's "upper-level writing requirement."
THE CRITICAL WRITING AND READING CORE COMMITTEE CHAIR
The responsibilities of the Chair of Critical Writing and Reading Core have
included organizing faculty training workshops, meeting with individual faculty who have
questions about the course, sending out a memo each semester reminding faculty teaching
the course about the course requirements (including library sessions and assessment),
meeting with students who request waivers for INTD 105, requesting proposals for new
courses, distributing proposals to the CWRC Committee and returning the committee's
feedback to the instructor, collecting and reviewing syllabi each semester, running the
assessment program and writing the assessment reports. These responsibilities exceed the
responsibilities of other Core area Chairs.
The next CWRC Chair should find a way to share some of these tasks with other
Core Committee members and with the Office of the Dean of the College. New General
Education Committee rules require that the terms of Core area Chairs last two years. I
recommend that the new Chair work with Dr. Schacht, director of the General Education
Committee, to sort out the Chair's workload and duties.