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Appendix:  Constructing a Four-Year Writing Program


These examples illustrate possible ways Tufts might develop a multi-year writing program.  They are illustrative only and should not be viewed as Task Force proposals.  If the Tufts community feels that a program that pays attention to writing in multiple years at Tufts would be beneficial, we would expect that the EPC in consultation with other appropriate committees in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering to develop a specific proposal in greater detail.


First Example: A Program With Writing in Each of the Four Years of Residence


Year 1:  English 1 and 2 would be required, regardless of AP scores.  Rather than exemptions, we might consider implementing advanced writing courses for qualified students.


Year 2:  We might require sophomores to write two or three short papers (fewer than five double-spaced pages) describing why they wish to concentrate in a particular major or program.  All papers would be read and graded by a writing fellow on a pass-fail basis, except the final paper, which would be read and graded (pass-fail) by the pre-major advisor and submitted to the department or program in which the student declares a major.  The paper would become part of the student's file in the department or program and assist faculty in getting to know their majors.  High standards for grammar, syntax, and argument construction would be required for a pass grade for all submissions.  Transcript notation indicating successful completion of the sophomore writing requirement would be made. 


Year 3:  Juniors would identify a course in which a substantial amount of writing is required (hereafter known as the junior writing course).  Students would submit multiple drafts to a writing fellow who could work with sections of students (thereby allowing for peer editing and other group work).  The final draft(s) would be graded in the usual fashion by the course instructor.  In addition, the instructor would file a form for all juniors who have designated this course as a junior writing course.  On the form the instructor would check a box indicating whether the writing ability demonstrated by junior student in the class was excellent, proficient, satisfactory, or poor. 


              Successful completion of the junior writing course requirement would require both a passing grade from the writing fellow – based on the student's work at the draft stage – and a grade of satisfactory or better given by the course instructor.  The pass requirement from the fellow ensures that students take seriously the requirement to work with the fellow in the writing of multiple drafts.  Transcript notation indicating successful completion of the junior writing requirement (with grade) would be made separate from the course grade.  The transcript notation for a student who received a grade from the instructor of proficient would read:

              Junior Writing Requirement:           Proficient


Year 4:  A senior thesis could clearly be used to satisfy the fourth year writing requirement.  For students not writing a senior thesis, a senior writing requirement similar to the junior writing course – such as a seminar paper –  could be implemented with the additional requirement that the course be taken in the student's major department or program.


      The virtue of this program is its explicit and continued attention to writing throughout a student’s undergraduate career. 


Second Example: A Program With Writing in the First Two Years of Residence for All Students and Continued Attention for Students Requiring Further Attention.


Pre-Matriculation:  Identify before they arrive at Tufts those students whose test scores and writing backgrounds are weak and offer them access to summer session writing clinics before freshman year begins (these could be taught by trained graduate students in exchange for a summer stipend). 


Year 1:  Require English 1 and 2 for all students (with provisions as already exist for ESL student sections and equivalent courses for Eng. 2 – and perhaps with special sections for students who score 4 or 5 on the English Advanced Placement Test).


Year 2:  Any student receiving a grade below B+ in English 2 would be required to take a Writing Intensive section of a course offered in her or his sophomore year.  In addition, instructors would receive an evaluation card for each sophomore in any of their classes. The instructors would be required to check a box indicating whether the writing ability demonstrated by each sophomore in their classes was: excellent, proficient, satisfactory, poor, or not applicable.  This last box would be for courses in which there was insufficient writing that would allow the instructor to judge the student's writing ability.  These cards would be sent to the Dean of the Sophomore class (or college Director of Advising under the college model) as well as to the students' advisors.  


Years 3 and 4:  Those students whose writing in their sophomore year received more than 2 notations of satisfactory, poor, or not applicable would be identified as needing special work with tutors in the writing center.[1]  They would be required to work with those tutors during the first semester of the junior year and submit to a committee of Writing Fellows a series of drafts and a final paper for one of their courses in the junior year.[2]  This committee would determine whether or not the student is making satisfactory progress on her or his writing. If, in its estimation, the student is not, they would notify the Dean of the Junior Class (or appropriate college Director of Advising), as well as the student's advisor.  These students might then be required to take another writing intensive course, enroll in a special, newly created class in advanced expository writing, or work individually with a senior tutor at the writing center.  Further remedial work could be required in the senior year as needed.


          The virtues of this program include tracking the writing of all students through the sophomore year and being able to identify which students the faculty considers to have difficulty with their written expression.  It also avoids the necessity of tracking beyond the sophomore year students whose writing has seemed excellent or good.  It would require a minimal investment of money and it would introduce relatively few onerous burdens on the faculty.  At the same time it would make all faculty responsible for attending to the quality of writing produced by the sophomores in their classes.


      For any four-year writing requirement to be feasible given our constraints on faculty time, we would rely on a team of writing fellows supervised by a team of trained writing instructors.  Juniors and seniors might be appropriate as writing fellows for the sophomore program while graduate students might be designated to work with juniors and seniors.  As the School of Engineering's rigorous requirements leave little room for electives, any four-year writing requirement should take the particular curricular needs of Engineers into account.


[1]  We include not applicable in this category for two reasons.  First, students taking a large number of courses in which writing is not being done are unlikely to improve their writing skills.  Second, the failure to include this category provides incentives for students with weak writing skills to avoid classes in which writing is required.   This particular rule for identifying students in need of additional work might penalize majors in certain disciplines.  We might modify the rule so that sophomores who receive no notation above satisfactory and two notations of satisfactory or poor would be identified as needing special work.  Thus a student with strong writing skills who, in order to fast-track a major, takes a number of courses in which the instructor cannot judge the student's writing ability could still satisfy the writing requirement by taking one course in which he or she demonstrates proficient or better writing. 

[2]   Juniors studying abroad could work with writing fellows through a distance learning style program.


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