Summary for Jennifer Good, Kevin Osborne, and Kelly Birchfield “Placing Data in the Hands of Discipline-Specific Decision Makers: Campus-Wide Writing Program Assessment”

29 Oct

Using two writing subtests from the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency, along with locally developed rubrics, Good et al. recount their efforts to provide individual disciplines with comprehensive data on the writings skills of undergraduate students entering that discipline.  Key to Good et al.’s purposes was a belief that “Whereas faculty members from multiple disciplines often learned to write within their discipline through apprenticeships and acculturation, they perceive writing as a skill set to be learned outside of their discipline…” (141).  As a result of this, Good et al. contend that the “indirect methods of learning to write in their disciplines” can be brought into the undergraduate curriculum in these various disciplines in profound and innovative ways (141).

One of the more intriguing aspects of this article were Good et al.’s findings that students who had chosen a major before entering the major coursework for that major oftentimes showed writing competencies that reflected those they would need once they entered that major (i.e. those in “practitioner” fields tended to show greater strength in the focus aspects of their writing while not scoring as highly in regard to style).  This tendency tended to carry throughout the disciplines, leaving Good et al. to wonder, “Are students with certain strengths and skills in writing attracted to certain majors or professions simply due to their own intrinsic proficiency in communication skills?” (147).  The data suggested this in many ways.

Overall, this article demonstrated a method for providing tangible, useful data about students’ writing abilities to a variety of disciplines–essentially, it was a data-driven WAC initiative.  This seemed rather conducive to enabling other disciplines to produce more insightful pedagogies that included writing instruction in a discipline specific manner, rather than just assuming writing as a generalizable skill set.  I was less interested in the data produced by these assessments as I was with what kind of discussions might evolve out of this data.


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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


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