Writing Subcommittee Minutes, 4/20/09

Members Present: J. Carter N. Hinman, K. Kuipers, M. Semanoff, S. Smillie, K. Zoellner

Members Excused/Absent: H. Bruce, M. Medvetz,

Ex-Officio Present:  K. Peterson, K. Ryan

 Chair Hinman called the meeting to order at 2:12 p.m. 

 The minutes from 4/6/09 were approved.


  • Chair Hinman requests that the workgroup chairs send comments regarding the review.  She will be providing feedback to department chairs on the process and identifying areas of strengths and challenges.  She also requests the workgroups to identify sample forms so that instructors can be contacted for permission to post their course as an example for the next review.
  • The Writing Courses, Revisions to the Writing Course Guidelines, and the Transition Year Request were approved by the Faculty Senate at the April 9th meeting.
  • Associate Provost Walker-Andrews sent a communication thanking the Committee for its Transition year request.  It will be used as an example of how the University meets accreditation standard 2.A.12: "In the event of program elimination or significant change in requirements, institutional policy requires appropriate arrangements to be made for enrolled students to complete their program in a timely manner and with a minimum of disruption."
  • The instructor of ENLT 333 Modern Poetry withdrew the request for upper-division writing course.
  • COMM 410 was mistakenly submitted as a writing course rather than an upper- division writing course.  The department would like it to be included in the transition courses and will reapply next year for the upper-division writing course designation.


Business Items:

  • MAR 450 was approved this fall as an upper-division writing course. Professor Murphy is currently teaching the courses with the approved syllabus to senior students who need the course to fulfill the upper-division writing requirement in the major in order to graduate.   The Committee unanimously approved the course to meet the requirement this spring.    
  • Writing Center Director Peterson distributed a handout.  It included the criteria for the Upper-division Writing Proficiency Assessment texts and prompts, scoring criteria, a summary of performance on the UDWPA from Autumn 2005-Spring 2009, and the instructions from the last exam.  The Committee should evaluate the validity of the exam.  It was designed to assess students' preparedness for upper-division writing courses, but many students do not take the exam when intended and there is not a clear definition of preparedness for upper-division writing courses.    The faculty need to be clear about the function of the exam and whether it is making a deference.

    The exam is very costly to administer. It cost between $5-6,000 each year to use computer rooms and approximately $10,000 to hire proctors and scorers.  It takes three days to score each exam. 

    The scoring procedure logic is questionable.  Scorers are instructed to give a test that is obviously passing a 3/3 score.  If tests are scored higher or lower than a 3/3 they are reviewed by a second scorer.  This is opposite of the customary practice of a second review on the middle group rather than the high and low.  Ideally each exam should be evaluated by two scorers.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate for the exam to be graded pass / fail.   The scoring criteria are prioritized.  The exam assesses the students' ability to respond to the prompt, make a logical argument, organization, and writing structure and mechanics.

    The passing rates went up at the same time the former director left.  This was also when the changes to the scoring procedures went into effect and the criteria for selecting texts and prompts were implemented.  

    The Writing Center advertises the exam and provides workshops to help students prepare prior to the exam.  The scoring criteria are available on the website, but it is likely that many students are not aware of the criteria or the intent of the exam.  

    Director Peterson would like the exam to be more collaborative.  Faculty should be involved with selecting the prompts so that the exam is better connected to the curriculum.

    Chair Hinman referenced the critical thinking rubric at WSU as an example of an alternative approach.  Director Peterson will distribute an article that assesses WSU's writing assessment.   Portfolio assessment is another approach, but it is difficult to manage unless tied to a particular class.  

    Chair Hinman suggests that workgroups read samples of texts and prompts to see whether the focus of the exam is on critical thinking, writing, or both.  Director Peterson will select a sample of exams for review. The Committee will need to determine whether the exam should have a guiding or gating function.  Next year the Committee will recommend changes to the exam.  The following year the changes will be implemented.  The third year the changes will be assessed for effectiveness.
  • The committee will meet again on May 4th to finalize business for the academic year.  A draft annual report will be circulated for comments prior to the meeting.

Good and Welfare

  • Student member Smillie is writing a senior honors paper on Education Policy and Teach for America and asked whether anyone knew of faculty member that would be willing to be her advisor.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:10 pm.