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Project Title:Initiatives to Transform the Writing Performance of Undergraduate Students Across the Curriculum Institution Name:University of Central Florida Innovation Category:Student Success Project Director:Elliot Vittes, Interim Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate StudiesContact Information:(407) 823-2374, vittes@mail.ucf.eduWebsite:http://writingandrhetoric.cah.ucf.edu/
Project Description:

This project makes writing a vertical curricular experience through administrative reorganization, hiring of faculty members, class-size reduction, writing center resources, and writing across the curriculum. It includes:

  • hiring or converting (from adjunct or visiting instructor lines) twenty-four permanent instructors and hiring five tenured or tenure-track faculty members over three years;
  • increasing the rigor of the composition curriculum through professional, permanent staffing;
  • lowering composition class sizes, including a three-year pilot program with19 students per class;
  • increasing University Writing Center tutoring and campus support across sites and modes;
  • implementing a writing-across-the-curriculum initiative; and
  • creating the Department of Writing and Rhetoric for oversight, coordination, and assessment functions.

Promoting and supporting sustained writing opportunities for students:

  • increasing opportunities to write and receive feedback (writing-across-the-curriculum program is implementing writing-intensive requirements to ensure that all students write across disciplines and include instruction and revision opportunities).
  • improving the quality of writing instruction (new composition instructors receive extensive professional development; student writing is carefully assessed at conclusion of basic composition courses; faculty members across disciplines will have numerous workshop and fellowship opportunities to improve their writing instruction).
  • increasing students’ rhetorical dexterity across time and contexts (including creation of a longitudinal assessment plan to determine how student-writing abilities change and work across courses and contexts).
  • New composition curriculum and composition staff has been assessed through two years. The new curriculum demonstrates that student writing has improved significantly in multiple ways (e.g., reflection, analysis, critical thinking, and citation).
  • Writing Across the Curriculum program is assessing writing intensive courses to determine the writing assignment types, quality of teacher instruction and feedback, and quality of student work.
  • The Department of Writing and Rhetoric is designing a longitudinal study of student writing portfolios created in the first year and revised with measurement points at the sophomore year (determining communication-related general-education outcomes) and senior year conclusion (determining discipline-specific communication-related outcomes).
Challenges/Problems Encountered:UCF has a very large undergraduate population, so while some aspects of the writing initiative have moved quickly (for example, revising the composition curriculum and hiring full-time composition instructors), other parts will take much longer to get off the ground (for example, the writing intensive courses). Additionally, literate learning is notoriously messy and cyclical, not linear, so assessment over time will be complicated. Writing growth takes time to see and time to meaningfully measure, so we need to help our stakeholders understand the complexities of the assessment process.
Evaluation Approach:There is reliance on the experts in writing studies to design assessments that are appropriate, given their expertise and the latest knowledge in their field about how literate learning works. The Department of Writing and Rhetoric has taken on the responsibility for assessment and provides regular updates to upper administration and other stakeholders. They are working across the departments themselves, with faculty experts in statistics and staff members in institutional research.
Potential for Replication:Replication is possible and desirable, and depends on recognizing that Writing Studies is a discipline with expertise in creating and assessing writing curricula. For writing programs to be innovative, tenured and tenure-track writing scholars must be encouraged to be visionary and take the lead, while also being accountable to stakeholders. Making sure that Writing Studies scholars have control over the basic composition curriculum and differentiating their work for all students and faculty members (from literature) is essential.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John C. Hitt , Presidentjhitt@mail.ucf.edu
(407) 823-1823
Date Published: Saturday, April 30, 2011