Developing Writing Outcomes for Interdisciplinary General Education Courses

Developing Writing Outcomes for Interdisciplinary General Education Courses

writing, outcomes, general education, collaboration
  • Core Curriculum
  • General Education Requirements
0
Portland State University (OR)
http://www.pdx.edu/unst
  • Institutions

PURPOSE

Writing is an essential part of the University Studies' interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curriculum. Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry, which make up the first two years of PSU's core curriculum, fulfill students' writing requirement at PSU. Though Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry were designed as writing intensive in nature, we did not have a clear set of writing outcomes for FRINQ and SINQ courses, and we lacked a clear set of expectations for faculty in regards to writing instruction and assignments. This posed a particular challenge for faculty new to teaching in University Studies.

  • Develop a set of writing outcomes that reflect UNST's commitment to interdisciplinary and engaged work.

  • Clarify the objectives for writing within UNST to both faculty and mentors.

  • Provide guidelines for indepth writing assessment within UNST clusters and teams.

  • Provide support to faculty as they develop assignments and course learning outcomes.

DESCRIPTION

Writing is an essential part of the University Studies' (UNST) interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curriculum. In UNST courses, students focus on the composition process and learn how to write to a variety of audiences and within multiple genres and disciplinary conventions. This focus on writing within particular contexts and as mode of inquiry helps students succeed both within and beyond the university, making writing and communication a central aspect of their daily lives. UNST’s programmatic writing outcomes provide a guideline for writing instruction in University Studies.

University Studies (UNST), Portland States's four-year general education program, provides students with integrated, connected learning experiences that lay the foundation for lifelong intellectual development. Extending through all four years, the program teaches students how to think critically, communicate effectively, and gain a broad awareness of the human experience to instill a deep sense of responsibility to ourselves, our peers and our community. University Studies begins with Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ), a year-long course introducing students to different modes of inquiry and providing them with the tools to succeed in advanced studies and their majors. At the sophomore level, students choose three different Sophomore Inquiry (SINQ) courses, each which leads into a thematically linked, interdisciplinary cluster of courses at the upper-division level. Finally, all students are required to complete a Capstone course which consists of teams of students from different majors working together to complete a project addressing a real problem in the Portland metropolitan community. For more information on UNST see http://www.pdx.edu/unst/ Writing is an essential part of the University Studies' interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curriculum, and Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry fulfills students' writing requirement at PSU. In UNST courses, students focus on the composition process and learn how to write to a variety of audiences and within multiple genres and disciplinary conventions. This focus on writing within particular contexts and as mode of inquiry helps students succeed both within and beyond the university, making writing and communication a central aspect of their daily lives. UNST’s programmatic writing outcomes provide a guideline for writing instruction in University Studies. Though Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry were designed as writing intensive in nature, we did not have a clear set of writing outcomes for FRINQ and SINQ courses, and we lacked a clear set of expectations for faculty in regards to writing instruction and assignments. This posed a particular challenge for faculty new to teaching in University Studies. To address this, the University Studies Writing Coordinator convened an interdisciplinary team of experienced faculty members. The group was charged with defining a set of writing outcomes for University Studies FRINQ and SINQ courses, developing a list of guidelines based on these outcomes, and providing suggestions for further resources for faculty to support writing in UNST. Through a series of meetings, discussions, and several group emails, the group was able to agree on a set of outcomes for writing that reflected the interdisciplinary nature of the program, develop a list of guidelines for faculty, and provide an outline for future resources. The outcomes were subsequently endorsed by the University Writing Committee and by the University Council, both of which provide input and evaluate curriculum at Portland State. What stands out about this work is the collaborative nature of the process. Group members met several times over the course of two quarters. We divided into subgroups in order to complete specific tasks, and came together again at the end to provide input on each others' work and finalize the project.

  • The outcomes provide guidelines for both curriculum and assessment.

  • The outcomes provide a basis for revising our holistic rubric used in writing assessment

  • The outcomes provide faculty with a clearer sense of how and why writing is integrated into UNST.

The creation of the outcomes in itself has helped to generate further conversation about writing in UNST. They have also provided a clearer guideline for some of the Sophomore Inquiry courses that are in the process of revising/resubmitting their course objectives. Since both FRINQ and SINQ are designated by themes, we will encourage faculty to use the writing outcomes to help them think through ideas and common assignments for their theme. In the coming year, we will also use the outcomes to help us revise the holistic rubric we use to assess written communication in UNST. This rubric, which was developed several years ago, has long been in need of revision.

The outcomes provide a clear guideline for future work, and helped to generate a conversation about the role of writing in general education

RESOURCES AND LESSONS LEARNED

The University Studies Writing Coordinator was the lead organizer for the project. In this role, she scheduled both group and sub-committee meetings, gathered materials for the meetings. She also served as a liaison between the different subgroups, attending all meetings and communicating between the different groups.

  • Each of the seven faculty members received a $500 stipend for their work on the project.

  • Collaboration and input from people with diverse experiences is essential.

  • Scheduling is a challenge, particularly when working across departments and units.

  • It is essential to seek the endorsement of key committees and groups.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Annie Knepler
University Studies Writing Coordinator
Portland State University
117 Cramer Hall
1721 SW Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97201
Phone: 503-725-5813

knepler@pdx.edu

Annie Knepler
University Studies Writing Coordinator
Portland State University
Portland, Oregon
Phone: 503-725-5813

knepler@pdx.edu