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Beginning in the spring of 2019, the City Tech First-Year Writing program has begun an overhall of how to rethink and reinvent writing instruction for faculty teaching and students entering the first-year writing program.
Why are these changes being instituted? For a number of reasons. In the previous years, First-Year Writing at City Tech has updated its Student Learning Outcomes to be more in line with national standards, but the learning outcomes had two main problems. First, they were complex and complicated for new and returning faculty, seemingly putting an overwhelming number of demands on faculty teaching composition courses. Second, there was no mechanism in place in order to be able to track that what faculty were doing in their courses was actually meeting the published learning outcomes. With approximately 160 sections of composition each semester, this situation was unsustainable. As a response, the new writing program director, Robert Lestón, newly hired composition specialist, Carrie Hall, and a team of full and part time faculty began working to address how learning outcomes could be simplified, implemented, and tracked across all of the sections of ENG 1101 and ENG 1121.
A number of other factors also led to the current changes. Among them included the lack of curricular consistency across the composition sections and the failure to have any way to measure student performance as they entered and exited the program. In addition, Composition is a critical gateway course, and research shows that success in graduation completion is dependent on students having success have in gateway courses. Composition I is the only course required by all students at the college, and so it is in the students’ interest that City Tech has a robust, effective, and consistent first-year writing program.
What changes are being made?
Two of the top priorities for the program is to institute consistency for the program and to address the content that is being taught in the program. In terms of content, the first-year writing program has begun to address a primary educational priority that is important in any field, but particularly important in writing instruction–that is, the question of transfer. Transfer asks whether students are able to write effectively in new writing situations in which they may not have before encountered. Research in writing has shown that when transfer is not explicitly taught, students do not perceive that the classes they have taken in composition have prepared them to write effectively in their other classes or in their professional lives (See Bergman and Zeperneck). In other words, they do not draw upon what they learned in composition courses when confronted with a new writing situation. Composition is perceived, rather, as an educational hoop they must get through but that has no real value beyond getting a passing grade. To address this issue, the first-year writing program has begun building the curriculum around the question of transfer so that students can draw upon the knowledge that they gain in composition to help them be effective writers once they move out of the critical gateway courses.
What does the new curriculum comprise?
As stated above, the two main quandaries facing the FYW program is the lack of curricular consistency across all sections of the program and the need to address the question of transfer. Towards these ends, the first year writing curriculum has begun implementing changes that speak to both consistency across the program while keeping in mind a degree of instructor flexibility.