Transforming the Writing Program into a Research Laboratory

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The Student Success initiative at MSU is focused on increasing graduation rates and on closing opportunity gaps with specific student populations. The initiative is broad-based, starting with the development of the neighborhood concept, moving to proactive advising, and now including a careful, long-term effort to improve student learning experiences in the curriculum. Not surprisingly, the core undergraduate experience— Math, Writing, and Integrative Studies—represents a tremendous opportunity for innovation and creativity. This section describes a Writing Initiative intended to be transformative and visionary.

The College of Arts & Letters and the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture (WRAC) are committed to advancing a transformative and visionary writing initiative that creates an experience for learning writing at scale that aligns course learning goals with course-based outcomes and the goals of the student success initiative. Significantly, this effort builds on a decade of transformation in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) and a recent complete revision of our writing curriculum. Accordingly, the Writing Initiative will have the following characteristics:

  1. 1  It will transform the first-year writing program into a research program, thereby explicitly connecting classroom practices with ongoing research into a range of relevant issues: pedagogy, assessment, learning, and identity.
  2. 2  It will develop, institutionalize, and share a set of shared teaching practices that are evidence-based and informed by disciplinary knowledge in writing. The resulting learning community can support ongoing professional development and coherence in the student experience around some of the most vexing issues in delivering quality writing instruction, including the challenges of sustaining a learning environment that provides high-quality feedback to students at scale.
  3. 3  It will eliminate the need for Preparation for College Writing (WRA 1004) by testing and implementing a way to meet the need of these learners in the course that meets MSU’s writing requirement (WRA 101). This aligns writing with parallel efforts well underway in Math.
  4. 4  The first phase of the Writing Initiative will be time-limited. It will have three years to meet specific objectives related to items 1-3, and specific outcomes will be identified and measured in years one and two to understand progress. Subsequent phases of the Writing Initiative might critically engage with aligning placement of students into FYW with the University’s student success initiatives more effectively or investigating Tier 2 writing as a critical component of student success at MSU.

WRAC has many of the underpinnings necessary for this Writing Initiative, but more resources are required if we are going to transform this into a signature initiative capable of elevating the quality of student learning and the reputation of the University as a leader in Higher Ed writing. Specifically, our 2018 spring budget request will include support of this initiative in the form of a senior tenure stream hire and increased non-recurring funds to stand up research programs and address needs in professional development. The senior hire will need to be a visionary scholar with a strong track record to lead the writing program in this bold new direction, to provide research energy and expertise, and to empower a group of faculty to focus their e orts on the work of the Writing Initiative.