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Exemplary Website - UG Writing Program

Program: English—Undergraduate Writing Program

Type: Large Undergraduate Program


UAWP Assessment Executive Summary
Since our last assessment report,1 the University of Arizona Writing Program (UAWP) founded a Curriculum & Assessment (C&A) Committee,2  which incudes writing teachers from all ranks in our program. The C&A’s charge aligns assessment practices and curricular revisions, and the committee’s formation is a result of findings in previous assessment activities as outlined in two reports: AY 13-14 UAWP 101 and 102 Assessment Report and the Second Language (L2) Writing Study, led by Dr. Tardy, Associate Director of the Writing Program.Together these reports identified two important needs in the program:

1) The AY13-14 assessment showed that evidence, a primary trait of academic writing, should be addressed more substantially in our first-year writing curricula.

2) The L2 Wrting Study demonstrated international L2 writers should be given more support in our curriculum.

In responses to these findings, the C&A is pursuing several projects: revised student learning outcomes (SLOs), revised mission statement, and revised curricula for English 101: First-year Composition and English 107: First-year Composition for L2 International Writers. This year’s assessment report includes the revised SLOs and provides an update on current curricular revisions to English 101 and 107. Finally, indirect or direct assessment measures for the new curriculum are identified with plans to implement these assessment activities during the AY 15-16 when the new English 101 and 107 curriculum is piloted by the UAWP. The revised mission statement will be uploaded in Fall 2015 after the C&A committee votes on its final version.

Current UAWP Mission Statement, with revision coming in Fall 2015 
The University of Arizona Writing Program (UAWP) offers first-year and advanced writing courses to help students become more capable writers for personal, civic, academic, and professional purposes. Our courses aim to develop students’ critical thinking,their writing, their audience awareness, and their ability to represent themselves and their ideas in language. Students practice strategies to generate ideas from experience and research and to engage effectively in a recursive process of writing and revision. The UAWP cultivates the skills necessary for multiple literacies, and we teach students to examine the ways in which writers compose to achieve social, political, economic,professional, and personal goals. In service of this mission, students who complete the composition sequence should be able to

• Assess the rhetorical strategies writers use to achieve their purposes with varied audiences and in a range of contexts.

• Use evidence and persuasive appeals that are effective with various audiences, situations, and purposes.

• Develop critical analyses of public, scholarly, and personal issues based on research, observations, and reflections from their own experiences.

• Revise in response to feedback from readers to improve drafts and offer useful feedback to other writers on how to revise their writing.

• Use the appropriate conventions of research and analysis, including the stylistic conventions of clear and convincing academic writing.

We pursue these learning goals in UAWP courses through 1) individual, small-group, and large-group activities and student and team writing conferences, 2) visits to campus sites as part of course assignments, 3) service-learning projects, 4) oral presentations and public performance of written works, 4) integration of online and digital technologies to produce multimodal texts, and 5) writing workshops. Students write and revise multiple drafts of their work, and they receive feedback from instructors, classroom peers, and other audiences in the case of public projects and service-learning opportunities. Students are also encouraged to visit the Writing Center and Writing Skills Improvement Program for tutoring.

1AY 13-14 UAWP 101 and 102 Assessment Report is included in file attachments section.

2 Curriculum & Assessment Committee charge is included in file attachments section.

3 Second Language (L2) Writing Study summary is incuded in the file attachments section.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

Writing Program Goals and SLOs for First-Year Writing Courses[1] 

The Writing Program defines five learning goals with specific SLOs for its first-year writing courses.

Goal 1: Assess the rhetorical strategies writers use to achieve their purposes with varied audiences and in a range of contexts.

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the First-Year Composition (FYC) sequence, students will be able to

  1. identify the purposes of, intended audiences for, and arguments in a text.
  2. analyze the ways in which a text’s purposes, audiences, and contexts influence an author’s rhetorical choices.
  3. identify the particular cultural, economic, political contexts of a text.
  4. analyze print, multi-modal, and electronic texts composed in various styles to create their own complex, well-supported argument.
  5. analyze how genres shape reading and writing.
  6. read in ways that improve writing, especially by demonstrating an ability to analyze the rhetorical strategies at work in texts.

Goal 2: Use evidence and persuasive appeals that are effective with various audiences, situations, and purposes.

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the FYC sequence, students will be able to

  1. develop evidence by employing a variety of research methods including primary and secondary research.
  2. make informed judgments about the quality and veracity of sources.
  3. synthesize research findings in support of an original argument.
  4. incorporate other writers’ interpretations into the analyses they write.
  5. draft, revise, and present original researched arguments about an issue.
  6. compose well-structured print and multimodal texts for various audiences and purposes.
  7. correctly incorporate quotations, summaries, paraphrases, and citations into their own writing.

Goal 3: Develop critical analyses of public, scholarly, and personal issues based on research, observations, and reflections from their own experiences.

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the FYC sequence, students will be able to

  1. analyze texts from multiple points of view.
  2. use writing for purposes of reflection, action, and participation in conversations within and across different communities.
  3. compose a contextual analysis in which they combine information and perspectives from at least two secondary sources to support their interpretation of a primary source.
  4. demonstrate the ability to conduct research that is purposeful, ethical, and balanced.
  5. evaluate sources for credibility, appropriateness, and quality.
  6. support ideas or positions with well-structured discussion of evidence from multiple sources.
  7. develop ideas with observations and reflections on students’ own experiences.

Goal 4: Revise in response to feedback from readers to improve drafts, and offer useful feedback to other writers on how to revise their writing.

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the FYC sequence, students will be able to        

  1. create multiple, meaningful revisions on global and local levels to improve their own texts.
  2. suggest useful revisions to other writers on global and local levels.
  3. work with peers in a variety of configurations (large group, small group, pairs) and mediums (in person, electronically, and on paper) in all stages of the writing process.
  4. evaluate and incorporate peer and instructor feedback to revise their texts.
  5. reflect on their progress as academic writers.

Goal 5: Use the appropriate conventions of research and analysis, including the stylistic conventions of clear and convincing academic writing.

Student Learning Outcomes: At the end of the FYC sequence, students will be able to

  1. use the conventions of scholarly research and documentation.
  2. consistently introduce borrowed information with appropriate signal phrases that establish authority by including the source’s credentials.
  3. understand diction, usage, voice, and style, including standard edited English, as conventional and rhetorical features of writing.
  4. edit/proofread their own writing for clarity and style.
  5. demonstrate the ability to write well-organized prose with varied sentence structure.
  6. demonstrate the ability to write with few mechanical errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization).
  7.  write in a tone appropriate to a specific subject, purpose, and audience.

[1]   For English 101A, 101, 102, 107A, 107, 108, 109H

Assessment Activities: 

Assessment Activities: The Writing Program does an excellent job using findings to create new assessment activities. It also strengthens their use of assessment activities in future projects. They discuss, in detail, the faculty involvement, list the questions that need answering, and design the appropriate activities to gather the necessary data in order to continue improving their program.

The UAWP conducted a large-scale assessment of a representative sample of 292 student pre-English 101 and post-English 102 writing responses. This 13-14 UAWP 101 and 102 Assessment Report can be found in full as an attachment on this site. In brief, the direct and indirect assessments found that of the four traits measured (summary, thesis, evidence, style/conventions) the most statistically significant improvement was in summary, followed by thesis, and then style/conventions. Also, when we examined the four traits, summary showed the most improvement while evidence showed the least. Students who scored lower on all traits in their fall semester English 101 responses made the most gains in their spring semester English 102 scores. That is, on average, students demonstrated statistically significant gains in three of four traits measured, suggesting improvement in these traits over time.

The 13-14 UAWP 101 and 102 Assessment Report provided the context for us to make immediate changes by adding more teacher development support to discuss the use of evidence, but it also prompted the program to revisit the curriculum of English 101 and 102 to look for improvements. Because English 101 and English 102 have parallel versions for international students who are writing in their L2 (English 107 and English 108) and given that students in English 107 and 108 students were not part of the 13-14 programmatic assessment, the UAWP launched the L2 Writing Study to understand international L2 writers’ needs as part of our curricular revisions.

This year-long study was led by Dr. Tardy, Associate Director of the UAWP, L2 writing scholar, and Associate Professor in the department’s English Language and Linguistics (ELL) program. Lending support were two senior lecturers, both with PhDs and research expertise in second language writing, and GATs who teach in the writing program and are currently studying in the ELL or Second Language Acquisition Teaching (SLAT) graduate programs. Further support was provided by UAWP’s Transfer and Placement Coordinator, who has a master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language. The team included membership of tenured faculty, lecturers, graduate students, and staff, who all share extensive knowledge of and teaching experiences with international L2 writers.

Through a systematic data analysis, the study examined the following questions:

1. What are the Writing Program’s current practices for supporting international second language (L2) writers?

2. What is the program doing well?

3. What could the program be doing better?

4. What are the challenges and obstacles the program faces in offering the best possible support to international L2 writers?

The data analysis included: 107A, 107, and 108 course syllabi, discussions with International Admissions, the International Student Office, and the THINKTANK, numerical program data (enrollment, placement, sections, TOEFL, and course grades), placement report from Fall 2013, survey of 15 fall L2 writing teachers, survey of 132 fall L2 writing students, and comparison of ABOR peer and other writing programs with L2 writing support.

Assessment Findings: 

As noted, the 13-14 UAWP 101 and 102 Assessment Report found the need for the first-year writing sequence (English 101 and 102) to emphasize student use of evidence, and the revision of our SLOs included attention to rhetorical and genre approaches that allow students to better understand different forms of evidence for specific writing purposes.Assessment Findings: The findings clearly report what the program learned from the assessment activities. Note that the data was attached, rather than incorporated into the page itself. This makes it much easier for the reader to get the major points, but still have the detailed results available. The findings align with the expected outcomes as did previous assessment activities, but for a different population. The Writing Program did a remarkable job breaking down the activities into two populations; however, they bring the findings back to evaluate the whole program.

The L2 Writing Study found some of the greatest challenges to be the lack of any developmental writing or language courses for international students. As the report explains, the lack of any developmental writing or language courses for matriculated international students poses a significant challenge to many L2 writing students and instructors, and the current model that attempts to maintain identical curriculum for English 101 and English 107 does not adequately address international L2 writers’ distinct language learning needs.

Need for Development Writing for International L2 Writers
As the study demonstrated, in fall 2013, more than 60% of 107A/107 students had a TOEFL iBT score below 80, the minimum admission requirement at our ABOR peer institutions.

One‐third of the English 107A and English 107 students (n=108) scored below 75. There is a clear need for language and developmental writing support for our undergraduate international students, yet we currently have no such options available.

As a comparison, many of our ABOR peers offer developmental L2 writing courses, despite having TOEFL minimums of at least 79. UC Davis, for example, requires a TOEFL minimum of 80 and also offers a sequence of four developmental writing courses for L2 writers; their WP administrators are advocating to raise the TOEFL minimum to 100 because so many of their admitted L2 students struggle.

While standardized test scores cannot provide a complete picture of students’ language profiles, they can indicate general levels of language proficiency. Because many of our students’ TOEFL sub-scores indicate “limited” proficiency levels (as described by TOEFL’s descriptors), they will likely need additional support in order to succeed in their courses, including their writing courses. Given the complexities involved in L2 writing and L2 writing development (already well documented in research), it is unrealistic to expect many of our students to meet the writing goals of English 107A or 107 within a single semester-long course.

Need for Revised English 107 Curriculum to be Parallel
In addition, L2 Writing Study allowed us to assess the curricula of English 101/107 and English 102/108. At present, the courses attempt to be identical, which creates substantive challenges for international L2 writing students and teachers. As teachers in the study explained, L2 international writers have different needs that are not currently addressed in the course. In particular, international students have different rhetorical and linguistic concerns from domestic L1 students, need more individualized instructional support, and often lack familiarity with US academic culture and classroom practices.

While the UAWP is aware that grammatical concerns, reading practices, and modified assignments are necessary to achieve the SLOs for students enrolled in English 107 and English 108, those practices are not well-represented in the current syllabi. In fact, English 107 and 108 are built to be exactly like English 101 and English 102 without the necessary adaptations to work with students with different writing needs. The goals need not be changed, but the readings, content, context, and pacing of the courses must address, more adequately, the needs of international L2 writers, making the courses parallel but not identical.

Change in Response to Findings: 

These two studies have provided the program the opportunity to evaluate curriculum from the dual lens of English Change in Response to Findings: The reported findings are linked to specific programmatic changes, including a curriculum redesign (parallel but subtly different changes for each of the assessed populations), and the findings are clearly driving those changes. Note that they also include, based on findings, the next steps in their assessment plan.101 and 107 student needs. To this end, the C&A committee determined that the curriculum of English 101 and 107 needed to better integrate evidence, rhetorical knowledge, and genre approaches to writing development. Thus, the C&A committee committed to curricular revision of English 101 and 107 as parallel (but distinct) courses in the sequence and as the foundation for students’ continued development as writers at the University of Arizona.

The L2 Writing Study also has prompted changes to placement practices for international students by providing the reading in advance, giving the students better conditions for the exam (i.e., not within the first 24 hours of their arrival to the US), and examining current placement practices with TOEFL scores and sub-scores. All of these efforts, however, including the curricular changes to English 101 and 107, do not yet address the concern that many international students are admitted with neither the range of nor appropriately paced to writing courses that would allow them to develop their writing.

Next steps for the program include: 1) implementing the English 101 and 107 curricular revisions that are underway (summer development with pilot in Fall 2015), 2) completing and approving the revised mission statement, 3) exploring the development of a stretch course for international L2 writers that have low TOEFL scores, and 4) deploying a direct measure assessment of student writing in the pilot sections of English 101 and 107. The C&A committee intends to measure evidence as one of the primary traits, and representative student samples will be collected to be assessed by members of the C&A in Spring 2016.