Eastern Michigan University
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First-Year Writing Program Outcomes

Overview

Over the past ten years, and most recently in 2008-09, the First-Year Writing Program (FYWP) at EMU has actively developed student-learning outcomes to serve the needs of pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment across all sections of ENGL120, ENGL121, and ENGL 225. This experience has led to the current set of outcomes detailed below.

Based on an ongoing process of reflective practice and program-wide research, our current student learning outcomes cluster around two closely-related groupings, which we've labeled composing processes and learning processes. While discussions of outcomes elsewhere often focus on issues of measurement and accountability, we instead approach their development and use in the FYWP as heuristics through which instructors and students become more aware of, as well as engaged with, the complex experiences of literacy teaching and learning they encounter in our courses.

Outcomes for Composing Processes

Our first cluster of learning outcomes in the FYWP deals with composing processes and the sorts of knowledge and abilities that successful writers bring to writing tasks in college and beyond. This cluster of outcomes consists of the following:

  1. Critical Reading and Analysis, which includes the writer's ability to choose and employ reading strategies appropriate for a given writing task/assignment.
  2. Research Practice and Processes, which includes the writer's ability to a) use research to become curious about and choose a topic for writing; b) situate his/her own research interests within the perspectives of different academic disciplines; c) choose and employ research strategies appropriate for a given writing task/assignment; d) gather and critically evaluate research sources according to the purpose(s), audience's needs, and genre conventions for the writing task/assignment; as well as e) choose and employ multiple modes of inquiry (field observation, interviews, etc.) relevant for a given writing task/assignment.
  3. Writing Processes and Representation, which includes the writer's ability to a) recognize and follow genre conventions appropriate for a chosen type of writing; b) choose and employ composing strategies appropriate for a given writing task; c) make appropriate rhetorical choices so that his/her writing accomplishes its purposes and meets its audience's expectations; as well as d) choose and employ strategies appropriate for adapting research material to different genres/audiences.
  4. Use of Evidence, which includes the writer's ability to a) support and develop his/her ideas in writing with appropriate evidence that fits the purpose(s), audience's expectations, and genre conventions for the chosen type of writing; b) judge the level of background information, details, and/or examples appropriate in his/her writing to develop the main point(s), to achieve the purpose(s), and to meet the audience's needs; as well as c) attribute and cite accurately the evidence from outside sources presented in his/her writing using the documentation format appropriate for your chosen genre.
  5. Syntax and Mechanics, which includes the writer's ability to a) follow the conventions of usage, punctuation, and spelling in his/her writing according to the expectations for the chosen genre; b) distinguish in his/her writing between intentional and unintentional divergences from the mechanics and sentence patterns of Standard Edited English; as well as c) choose and employ in her/his writing strategies for editing unintentional divergences in mechanics and sentence patterns so as to meet the expectations of Standard Edited English.

These outcomes for composing processes draw heavily upon the guidelines in the well-known WPA Outcome Statement for First-Year Composition, developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators in 1999. The major difference comes with greater attention to matters represented by the outcome for use of evidence, since our ENGL121 course (and to some extent ENGL120 and ENGL225) emphasizes college-level research and academic writing. Our attention to use of evidence as a priority for first-year composition owes in large measure to the insights of faculty librarians at the Halle Library, who contributed to the program-assessment initiatives from which our current set of learning outcomes resulted.

Among other places, these outcomes for composing processes appear most prominently in the program-wide Portfolio Grading Rubric that all sections of ENGL121 and ENGL120 use to determine final course grades.

Outcomes for Learning Processes

Our second cluster of outcomes in the FYWP concerns the sorts of dispositions (attitudes, habits, stances, and so forth) that we've come to associate with the most successful student writers and composition classes we've taught. Rather than focusing exclusively on composing texts, these outcomes apply broadly across a range of activities throughout college and life beyond; hence, we've associated them with learning processes generally. Our outcomes for learning processes consist of the following:

  1. Investment and Engagement, which includes the writer's sense of connection to his/her subject matter, texts, and processes of composing.
  2. Autonomy and Authority, which includes the writer's ability to experience him/herself and his/her ideas as credible.
  3. Sense of Perspective, which includes the writer's ability to acknowledge and take into account ideas and viewpoints that contrast with his/her own.
  4. Competence and Confidence, which includes the writer's agency and perseverance in relation to the assignment or task at hand.
  5. Resource Use, which includes the writer's ability to consciously seek out ideas, people, and other affordances, including technology, appropriate for completing the assignment.
  6. Reflection, which includes the writer's awareness of his/her available choices involving writing, reading, and research, as well as ability to explain his/her decision-making.

Beginning in the Fall semester of 2010, these learning process outcomes will serve as the basis for an ongoing assessment project coordinated by members of the program's First-Year Writing Committee. As part of this project, using their final portfolios, students across sections of the FYWP's courses will collect and consciously reflect upon artifacts they believe document their development in relation to the learning process outcomes.