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Writing Matters Campaign

A Brief History of the Writing Matters Campaign at Howard University

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"Writing Matters" Statement for Your Syllabus

Writing is an essential tool for thinking and communicating in virtually every discipline and profession. Therefore, in this course I expect you to produce writing that is not only thoughtful and accurate, but also organized, clear, grammatical, and consistent with the conventions of the field. If your writing does not meet these standards, I may deduct points or ask you to revise. For assistance with your writing, go to the student section of the Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) website, http://www.cetla.howard.edu/wac/students.aspx.

The Writing Matters Campaign Begins (published as “Writing Across the Curriculum”)

By Shayla Hart, graduate assistant, Office of University Communications
Date: October 2011

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During the first week of classes, Howard’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program, an initiative within the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CETLA), participated in the Writing Matters Campaign. Faculty members were charged with communicating high expectations to their students when they gave out writing assignments. (During the campaign, 281 faculty members—including all of the full-time faculty in the School of Social Work—pledged support.) However, the program’s efforts did not begin or end after the first week of school.Phot
WAC is an interdepartmental program that assists students from all disciplines in two areas: writing to learn and learning to write. The program was established in 1991 in the College of Arts and Sciences and provides courses that assist students in becoming active learners by encouraging “careful reading, observing, listening and thinking.” These writing courses are designed to show students that high-quality writing is crucial no matter what field of study or career they pursue. More than 90 percent of the students who have taken advantage of the writing courses offered rated the courses highly.

Teresa Redd, Ph.D., director of CETLA, has participated with WAC since its inception. With the help of William Scheck, Ph.D., Redd co-authored the original guidelines for the program. After she became the program’s director in 1993, she integrated the program into CETLA so that it could also serve faculty throughout the University.

“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a university to train a writer. This program provides students with the writing practice they need across the curriculum and throughout their years of study,” says Redd. “It allows students to use writing to learn the subject matter and conventions of their chosen discipline, so WAC benefits students in multiple ways.”

Marguerite E. Neita, Ph.D., an instructor with the program for nearly 15 years, teaches clinical immunology as a writing class. “In addition to improving the students’ professional writing skills they learn to think critically about their assignments, to deconstruct the subject matter, to master concepts and to explore their creativity,” she says.

Neita emphasizes the final product of the intensive writing training: “The reward comes at the end of the semester when students express their satisfaction with learning to organize their ideas, process information and master the subject matter through writing,” she says.

Writing Matters in the School of Social Work

Press Release
Date: April 2014            Statistical Overview

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WASHINGTON, DC  (April 8, 2014)—On April 2, Howard University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning & Assessment (CETLA) saluted the School of Social Work for its exemplary performance during the university-wide Writing Matters Campaign.  During the campaign, the School of Social Work was the only school or college to achieve 100% participation by its full-time faculty all three years;  by bringing its part-timers on board, it even doubled its rate of participation during the last two years.
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Photographed by Ariane Gresson

To recognize the school’s achievements, CETLA’s Director, Dr. Teresa Redd, presented the Interim Dean, Dr. Sandra Crewe, with a certificate and a banner declaring, “Congratulations, School of Social Work, Winner of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Writing Matters Campaigns!”  

The campaign, which was launched by CETLA in 2011, seeks to improve student writing across the curriculum by recruiting faculty to insert the following statement in their syllabi:

Writing is an essential tool for thinking and communicating in virtually every profession.  Therefore, in this course I expect you to produce writing that is not only thoughtful and accurate, but also organized, clear, and consistent with the rules of Standard English.  If your writing does not meet these standards, I may deduct points or ask you to revise.  For assistance with your writing, go to the student section of the Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) website
(http://www.cetla.howard.edu/wac/students.aspx)

By asking faculty to state high expectations for writing, the campaign sought to motivate students to devote more time and effort to their writing and to seek assistance when needed.
During the campaign, not only did the Social Work faculty include the “Writing Matters” statement in their syllabi, but many also sported blue and white “Writing Matters” buttons during the first week of class.  True to their pledge, nearly all of the faculty members deducted points for deficient writing more often than they had prior to the campaign.  In addition, approximately half asked students to revise more often, while half referred students to writing resources more often.

So did the campaign make a difference in the School of Social Work?  Dr. Redd reported that students attributed the following developments to the campaign:

  • More than half of the students said they were more likely to prepare a rough draft and solicit feedback.
  • More than two thirds of the students said they were more likely to proofread.
  • One third of the students said they were more likely to seek assistance.
  • Half of the students said they had spent more time preparing their papers.

Given such testimony from the students, it is not surprising that nearly three quarters of the faculty concluded that the quality of student writing had improved since they joined the campaign.  As one professor declared on CETLA’s anonymous survey, “It’s working!”

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