Writing Center

Assessment Plan

Just as instruction in writing is shared across the CLA campus, so are a variety of assessment measures. Faculty, the Writing Program Advisory Committee (WPAC), and the Director of the Writing Center share formal responsibilities for assessment, and students participate in many informal and formal ways as well.

Faculty offer courses which are approved as writing-centered because they concur with the Writing Program's two central goals--"the use of writing to develop understanding of course content across the disciplines, and the progressive development of fluency in writing for a variety of audiences." Writing-centered courses meet these criteria:

  • In writing-centered courses, writing is central to learning the subject matter;
  • Students are frequently asked to do informal writing as a means of learning and exploring the subject matter, and of reflecting on what they have learned;
  • Students are asked to produce formal papers in drafts;
  • Students are asked to respond to the writing of their peers;
  • Students are asked to incorporate feedback from peers and instructor in revising drafts.

Faculty in writing-centered courses evaluate a student's written work, paper by paper, and as part of the student's overall performance in the course.

Faculty also assist in assessment by providing copies of syllabi and assignments, and by responding to a brief questionnaire as requested according to the five-year rotation described below.

Faculty may also choose to participate in additional college-wide assessment activities at the invitation of the WPAC. In many cases, they will receive a modest honorarium for their participation.

The Writing Program Advisory Committee (WPAC) reviews courses proposed to be writing-centered and recommends that the Academic Programs Committee and then the faculty accept them based on their concurrence with the Writing Program mission.

Beginning 2002-2003, on a five-year rotation, WPAC will oversee the review of segments of the writing-centered curriculum and student writing.

Year 1 (2002/3): Freshman Seminar
Year 2 (2003/4): Senior seminars, senior theses
Year 3 (2004/5): Other gen ed/pre-major (100 and 200-level) writing-centered courses
Year 4 (2005/6): Courses at 300 and 400 level (excluding senior seminars and theses)
Year 5 (2006/7): Individual portfolios of students entering 2001 (see below)

Oversight includes 1) seeing that the scheduled review takes place each year, 2) communicating requests for syllabi and assignments to the appropriate faculty, 3) advising the Director of the Writing Center on the number of writing samples to collect, should the longitudinal study group described below not provide an adequate sample, 4) assisting her in the development of a plan for analyzing writing samples, and 5) reviewing any summary documents produced.

The Director of the Writing Center will be responsible for organizing a review of the writing samples collected each year: 1) developing a rubric for measuring the samples against the desired outcomes, 2) recruiting a diverse group of faculty members to read and rate the samples, 3) making arrangements for reading the samples (training materials, refreshments, stipends, etc.), 4) collating, analyzing, and reporting to the faculty on the results.

The Director of the Writing Center will also report on the match between program goals and curricular offerings in each of the course categories, Year 1-4 in the review rotation. This will NOT be a review of each individual course, but rather an assessment of how well-distributed, and widely, writing-centered course offerings are and how varied is the nature of writing assignments in them. These results will also be communicated to the faculty.

In Fall, 2002 (and again in Fall 2007, etc.), the Director of the Writing Center will identify a random sampling of 50 entering students to participate in a longitudinal portfolio study of their development as writers. These students will be asked to save clean copies (probably electronically) of their writing, identified by course/instructor/ date, for each writing-centered course they take. They will be invited to submit to their portfolio papers from other courses as well. The Writing Center director will monitor their enrollment in writing-centered courses and remind them to submit copies. Near the end of each semester, those in writing-centered courses will be asked to write a brief reflective piece about their achievements and challenges as writers, and this piece will remain in their portfolios. In the semester before they graduate (i.e., spring of the fourth year) the WPAC will invite them to come together and discuss their overall progress as writers and how they believe the Writing Program contributed to their achievements.

The Director of the Writing Center will encourage student participants in the longitudinal study to understand the value of their contribution through, for example, regular communications, PR (e.g., public notice in a freshman convocation), occasional gatherings, and small material tokens of appreciation (note-pads, pens, beverage cups, etc. identifying them as the Willamette Writing Study Group, for example).

The Director of the Writing Center will organize a review of their portfolios in the fifth year of the review cycle, report to the faculty, and then identify 50 new participants at the beginning of the sixth year (i.e., first year of second review cycle).

The Director of the Writing Center, with the advice and assistance of the WPAC, also communicates with new faculty about the mission, goals, philosophy, and pedagogical underpinnings of the Writing Program at Willamette University. The five-year cycle of review offers numerous opportunities for faculty to renew and deepen their understanding of how students develop as writers; it will be the Director's responsibility to exploit these opportunities.

Writing Program Goals
(approved 13 November 2001, with new Writing Program Assessment Plan)

The Writing Program for undergraduates at Willamette University aims to provide a culture of writing so that, when students graduate, they will be prepared to use writing as an instrument of their continued learning, in the career paths they follow, and in participation in social and civic life. Toward those ends, the Writing Program offers them multiple opportunities to study and practice writing, throughout their undergraduate careers and in a variety of disciplines.

Specifically, the faculty have required that students take four writing-centered courses before graduating: the first-year seminar (or its equivalent for transfer students), a course in the student's major, a course not in the student's major, and a fourth course (for students with two majors, this course is in the second major). At least one of these courses must be taken at the 300 level or higher. Courses in different disciplines and at different levels will challenge them to expand their repertoire of writing abilities in several observable ways:

1) Students understand that diverse purposes call on diverse processes for writing and become flexible in choosing processes appropriate to the purpose. They recognize a variety of purposes for writing:

  • as a means of learning and discovery,
  • as a means of communicating what one has learned and discovered,
  • as a means of expression and artistic creation.

2) Students recognize the demands of a variety of readers and develop ways to adapt their writing to meet the needs and expectations of diverse readers. They learn to accommodate the needs of readers:

  • to address readers at a level appropriate to their expertise,
  • to respect disciplinary conventions, oto explain their reasoning, and
  • to provide transitions between sentences and other units of discourse, for example.

3) Students gain comfort and facility in writing in a variety of forms. They learn that organizational patterns vary with purpose, readers, and materials, that some forms are clear and relatively inflexible while others are quite loose.

4) Students respect their readers' expectations for evidence, explanation, and argumentation:

  • they support their claims in writing with appropriate data;
  • they employ logic and good reasoning;
  • especially in writing for academic readers, they acknowledge the larger conversations to which they contribute by documenting their work.

5) Students write in fluent, precise, competent, English in their formal writing; when writing in a foreign language class, they learn the conventions and standards for writing in that language:

  • they observe the conventions of standard edited English (or other language) in grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics;
  • they develop a sense of their own writing voice, or voices,
  • they appreciate the variety of English (or other language) prose styles,
  • they identify styles that they admire,
  • they match their own style to purpose and readers.