EXPERIENCES WITH WRITING
Harvey Mudd College
The focus on writing in Harvey Mudd College’s 2010 core curriculum revision, based in part on the observation that students reached capstone without advanced writing skills, led to the requirement for first-year students to take Introduction to Academic Writing (Writ 1), a half-semester course taught by faculty from all disciplines. NSSE and FSSE results—in particular, responses to the Experiences with Writing Topical Module—have been important in assessing the course’s impact and in identifying approaches for improvement.
Prior to teaching Writ 1, faculty attend an intensive oneweek workshop on current composition theory and pedagogy and on lessons learned the previous semester. At the 2015 Writ 1 workshop, looking at patterns in NSSE and FSSE results for where to expand effective practices, faculty discussed strategies to encourage reflection and to clarify and foster the application of Writ 1 skills across disciplines.
As Writ 1 approached its fifth year, both NSSE and FSSE results suggested Harvey Mudd’s students and faculty compared favorably to those of its Carnegie peer group. Additionally, since the implementation of Writ 1, survey responses from first-year students and seniors have indicated that most writing assignments asked students to use evidence and reasoning to argue a position, to explain the meaning of numerical and statistical data, and to write in the style and format of a specific field—all outcomes stressed in Writ 1.
Going forward, by disaggregating NSSE results, the college seeks to better understand how students access resources and how faculty meet the needs of a diverse student body. These results will help bring the benefits of Writ 1 to all students—by defining expectations, addressing learning preferences, and uncovering underlying assumptions.