As part of its mission to help faculty across the disciplines improve learning through better writing instruction, one of the main tasks of the WAC program is to help those faculty develop department and discipline-specific writing-related learning outcomes for their programs. Currently, this work is conducted as part of the WAC Fellows Program.
What Are These Outcomes?
The writing-related student learning outcomes, developed by faculty teams during the WAC Fellows program, are discipline and department-specific desired results of writing instruction at various departments and colleges of UCF. Such outcomes can serve either as structures to support existing curricula and pedagogies or as vision statements for future curricular and pedagogical change. In order to be meaningful and actionable, these outcomes need to take into account both the writing conventions of the discipline for which they are being developed and the nature, goals, and other local conditions in a department or college whose faculty are developing them. On the one hand, they need to account for the desired writing competencies for members of a given academic discipline or profession. On the other hand, outcome authors need to give a lot of thought to the practicalities of implementation, including such factors as curricula structures, courses, class size, student population, and others.
Why Develop Them?
In order to implement logical, vertical, and systematic writing instruction at any university, a haphazard creation of a handful of writing-intensive courses is not sufficient. When such courses, even well-taught ones, are not connected into a theoretically and pedagogically-sound cross-disciplinary system, students lack a clear rationale for the learning of writing as part of their education, and teachers and administrators lack a rationale for teaching it. And while grassroots efforts to create better writing assignments and writing intensive courses can have a limited use, a comprehensive system of discipline-specific writing-related learning outcomes greatly aids the development of a logical and vertical structure of writing instruction across the curriculum.
How to Use Them?
Just like other kinds of learning outcomes, writing outcomes should be used as tools for curriculum design and instruction. Having clear and discipline-specific writing outcomes can help teachers in the following ways:
- To design writing assignments and writing-intensive courses
- To show the importance of writing assignments included in a course, and the connection between those assignments and the larger concerns of their discipline, to students
- To design assessment instruments for student writing, keeping in mind that the main goal of writing instruction and of assessment is student learning
- To show the importance of writing and of active learning that it promotes to legislators and other stake-holders