"Proposal for a Writing Across the Curriculum Program at"
Proposal for a Writing Across the Curriculum Program at USF None of the available guidelines and forms for proposals at USF, most of which originate in departments and colleges, apply in all respects to this one, so we’re following requirements that apply and ignoring ones that don’t. We can cite as a precedent the Proposal for an Honors Program, which passed through governance in 2003. This proposal is based loosely on the Program and Course Approval Guidelines (USF Policy Handbook, Part V, pp. 19-26), and we are following the approval procedures and applying for the requisite signatures specified in Form O, "Program Proposal Form Requiring the Action of the President and Board of Trustees," again following the procedures that apply and ignoring the ones that don’t. Program Initiative At the end of the spring semester, 2003, at the behest of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, in support of strategic planning, faculty and administrators were invited to form summer work groups to devise plans for various academic initiatives. One of those work groups looked into possibilities for a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program for USF, and reported on its work at the Opening Workshop for the fall semester, Aug. 20, 2003. Several faculty expressed interest and a willingness to help out. That fall, meetings were held for interested faculty, administrators, and staff, at which the summer committee shared information about WAC and made a pitch for it. Other faculty, administrators, and staff presented WAC topics at well- attended Brown Bag lunches. Interest mounted, and an informal group of WAC advocates drew up a time-line for implementation of a WAC program. During the spring semester of 2004, the informal group was transformed by the Academic Vice President into a Task Force, including at least one member from each college and representatives from the Academic Resource Center and the Center for Instructional Delivery. During the summer of 2004, the task force chair presented a three-day WAC workshop attended by faculty, administrators, and staff, and the Opening Workshop for fall 2004 was presented by Toby Fullwiler, probably the best-known and most distinguished writer and teacher about WAC. The Task Force has had the benefit of Professor Fulwiler’s advice in private discussions and via e- mail. Towards the end of the semester the Task Force met to make sense of opinions and suggestions from various USF constituents about a prospective WAC program. The result of those discussions is this proposal. We have decided that a WAC program at USF should have two basic elements: first, ongoing faculty development in the teaching of writing; and second, requirements for graduation from each undergraduate college that students shall have satisfactorily passed two courses designated as Writing Intensive (WI). We propose further that a committee be formed to coordinate faculty development, through workshops, guest speakers, a website, and other venues, and to decide which courses should be designated WI. We also propose that the program be phased in, starting in the fall semester, 2005, with the committee deciding on proposals from faculty for the WI designation. Assuming that enough courses could be approved for the WI designation in the 2005-2006 academic year, the WI requirement would begin in the 2006-2007 academic year for students accepted that year as freshmen (the requirement would also apply to transfer students if there are enough WI courses available, or it could be postponed for them until there are). The committee would continue to decide on applications for WI designations in 2006-2007, as well as coordinating faculty development activities. At the end of the spring semester, 2007, the committee will decide whether or not it will continue as then constituted and make any other changes that seem called for after two years’ experience with the program. The Writing Across the Curriculum Committee: For the first two years, at least, the committee will be appointed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and it will consist of one member from each college, one member from ARC, one member from CID, appointed for a two-year term (if the committee retains its present structure after the first two years, appointments will be staggered), and a chair, who will be allowed one-course release per semester, or the equivalent stipend. The Committee, with the approval of the VPAA, will select a vice chair, who will temporarily function as chair if necessary, and who will follow as chair after two years. The committee will have a budget large enough to bring in at least one highly-qualified outside speaker or workshop leader every year, to provide modest stipends for home-grown talent who lead workshops or other development activities, and to buy instructional materials (mostly books, which can be kept in a WAC library). The committee’s primary duties will be to provide and coordinate faculty development and to decide on WI designations. The first committee will be appointed by the VPAA before the end of the spring, 2005 semester and will attend a workshop led by the chair in the summer of 2005 to prepare themselves for their tasks. Writing Intensive Courses: All WI courses will be capped at twenty students. One WI course must be in the major, at the 300 level or above, and one must be outside the major, exclusive of College Writing I, any Core course, and capstone courses, such as senior theses or senior research projects. WI credit will be granted to courses transferred and designated as writing intensive, or the equivalent, from another accredited college or university. WI credit for non-academic experience will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The WAC Committee will decide whether a course may be designated WI based on the following criteria: · The course will involve “writing to learn,” informal writing, usually not graded, such as journals, spontaneous responses to questions, letters, learning logs, etc., integrated with most assigned reading, lecture, and discussion. · The course will have at least one major writing assignment including instruction that leads students through a step-by-step process (involving such techniques as conferences with the instructor, peer group work, the assistance of ARC tutors, etc.) culminating in a piece of writing, such as a report on research, appropriate to the discipline. Rationale Although it's impossible to specify, we believe that most faculty believe that writing at USF could be better, as a student skill (or set of skills, really), and as a method of learning. Any program that reliably claims to bring about improvements in writing instruction, then, would be welcome, and a model for such a program exists, in several variations and many places. It's called Writing Across the Curriculum. WAC is a well-established movement to increase and improve writing instruction in higher education. It grew out of new thinking about writing instruction in the 60's and 70's (the so-called "New Rhetoric" or "process revolution") in order to expand writing instruction from freshman composition to courses in virtually all academic disciplines. WAC is a pedagogical reform movement, associated with a constructivist epistemology, student-centered learning, and an emphasis on critical thinking. It isn’t, then, about writing as an end in itself. It assumes, on the basis of a significant body of research, that writing is a crucial mode of learning and that students need to learn, at least as novices, to understand and use relevant genres of writing in the disciplines, especially the major. An important corollary to the second assumption is that professors within the discipline, who teach in the major, are best qualified to teach those genres. Writing to learn, furthermore, is appropriate to any course, especially when students are encouraged to write informally, as in journal responses to assigned reading, to articulate what they know and to work through problems in understanding, under conditions that encourage risk-taking and self-confidence (in other words, writing that is responded to but not graded). Since the 1970's, WAC programs have enjoyed considerable success in many colleges and universities in Great Britain and the United States, and the movement still produces new programs, as well as a large body of research and theory. WAC is a practical step towards fulfilling recent initiatives for teaching excellence at USF. Goals and Objectives The primary goal of any WAC program is to improve the quality of student learning through teaching writing as an integral part of instruction in all subject areas. A WAC program at USF would contribute to achieving the Undergraduate University-Wide Learning Goals as recently established by the Greater Expectations Group, particularly the following: "The process of a liberal education focuses on student learning to: · shape his or her mind as a coherent, flexible structure of reasoned belief, · communicate effectively through multiple media, · develop effective problem-solving skills, · demonstrate critical thinking from varied perspectives." And more specifically to promote the following outcomes: "clear understanding of key ideas, concepts, and theories of the chosen discipline; and proficiency in skills and methodology," and "ability to communicate complex ideas in written and oral form in various situations and with diverse audiences." The objectives are quite simple, to have a WAC program begun by fall 2005, with a WAC committee in operation to promote faculty development in using writing to teach in their disciplines and to approve WI courses, and fully in place by fall semester 2006, with two WI courses required for graduation in all undergraduate colleges. Assessment In the spring semester of 2007, the WAC Committee will review the first two years of the WAC program, using the sorts of data that will be available by then, such as the number of WI courses approved, evaluations by students and faculty, collections of student writing (to be used as the "before" in future before-and-after comparison), and its own experience of shepherding the program. Then the committee will make recommendations about the future of the program, including its own role and constitution. In its assessment efforts the WAC Committtee will work with the Assessment Council, in regard to portfolio assessment and other projects. Student learning and writing abilities will be assessed when the program has had time to have had some effect. Resources The key to any successful WAC program is a well-informed and dedicated faculty. The faculty at USF has shown significant interest in WAC, as demonstrated by excellent attendance at Brown Bag presentations and workshops, including the participation of more than twenty faculty at a three-day summer workshop. Several faculty have reported that they have already tried new ways of using writing suggested by Toby Fullwiler in his workshop last fall. Additionally, the Academic Resource Center, especially the Writing Center, will be an important resource for tutoring writing, and the Center for Instructional Delivery will help with a web site and other technological assistance.