Committee on Writing and Speaking- Meeting Summary, 11-21-08

The committee discussed the new Writing Intensive Program, where certain courses will be designated “Writing Intensive” and receive an assurance for smaller sections and more TFs as a perk.  The committee discussed the publicity process for this new program, looked over a letter sent out to faculty members, and discussed ideas such as sending another email in December, emailing Head TFs, pulicizing through the Bok center, house writing tutors, and departmental writing fellows, designating “Writing Intenseive” in the course catalog, and going door-to-door to visit directors of undergraduate studies.  Additionally, the committee discussed the idea of, within this program, developping Graduate positions in the Writing Center, where Graduate students are assigned to a Writing Intensive course as a liaison and support.

The committee then discussed principles and questions about expos.  The discussion began with sentiments that the writing center has gathered from science faculty, who are concerned that students are not coming in with the skills necessary to write in their discipline, but at the same time do not want freshmen to rush ahead, and wish them to have a humanities-based background in foundational writing.  Some of the suggestions were diversifying course topics, having advanced graduate students collaborate with preceptors teaching a social science or science topic in order to assist with the content (i.e. informed papers).  The committee went on to discuss the merits of foundation vs. specialization, in terms of the assignments and syllabus in an expos class.  Some of the points raised were that in many expos classes, data is not evidence, but rather texts and close readings are evidence- this is often a problem for students who then go into the social sciences.  Some pointed out that there need to be more diversity in assignments, to have for example at least one assignment that is on cause and effect and testing a theory.

The committee then discussed the idea of combining expos classes with Gen Ed classes.  Jay Harris spoke and said that one of the best things to do might be to have certain expos sections for students in very freshmen heavy, problem set oriented classes like Life Science 1A and Ec10.  The idea is that this would expand the discipline and help students who wish to see how to apply the skills they are gaining in those classes on a wider level.  The committee thought it might be good to look into the possibility of a pilot experiment, there is, understandably, some hesitation from the science and econ professors in terms of student burnout.  The committee also wishes to look more closely at peer institutions who do this.

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