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PBA Home > Institutional Research & Analysis > Outcomes Assessment > Unit Summaries > Program for Writing and Rhetoric > Plan for 2002-03

Program for Writing and Rhetoric
Assessment Activities Planned for 2002-03

October 23, 2002

Patricia Sullivan, Director, PWR
Rolf Norgaard, Interim Associate Director, PWR

Last academic year (2001-02), assessment activities in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric focused on student self-perception of progress in meeting first-year course objectives. Recommendations and action items that grew out of that assessment are already being implemented. Assessment activities during the current academic year (2002-03) will build on that work.

Our goal in the 2002-03 assessment is to study student readiness for and early progress in our first-year writing course (WRTG 1150). To meet this goal, we are conducting two related assessment activities.

Student Readiness and Progress

We are asking all instructors to submit copies of student writing from the fourth, seventh, and last student on their section rosters at two stages in the course. The first stage comes early in the course, and involves an assignment given in the first weeks of the course. For example, this writing sample may be in response to an assignment that calls for personal writing or that calls for a summary or summary/response to a reading. The second stage comes at roughly week ten or eleven of the course, when students are completing a longer academic essay. By comparing the two pieces of work by the same author, and by comparing writing across sections at the same time, we can gain valuable information about student readiness for the course and about student progress in the course. This information will enable us to make curricular and pedagogical adjustments that serve student learning.

Directed Self-Placement

The second facet of our assessment activities calls on data collected during late spring and summer, when incoming students in both the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and the College of Architecture and Planning responded to questions on a website about their prior writing preparation and experience, and their specific needs and preferences regarding a first-year writing course. This on-line instrument is a version of what is called Directed Self- Placement, and draws on current research in the field of rhetoric and composition.

Over 3,000 students responded to the website, yielding a rich data set about student readiness for and preferences regarding a first- year writing course. These data will give us a good profile of our first-year students, and will give us valuable planning information about the kinds of first-year writing courses they might find most useful. Responses will also help us fine-tune the questions asked of students on the website.

The Directed Self-Placement database is especially useful in that it can be cross-referenced with our study of student writing. That is, we can look at both actual student writing done in a normal classroom setting (not an artificial timed writing prompt) and that student's own placement information and preferences.


These two related assessment activities will help us make progress on four important initiatives:

  • Update course objectives and curriculum in the mainstream first-year course (WRTG 1150).
  • Develop a suite of first-year courses that address a range of student needs.
  • Improve the website for student Directed Self-Placement.
  • Establish, over time, a clearer relationship between first-year courses and upper-division courses.

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Last revision 11/15/02

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