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‘Write Where You Belong’

ECU focuses on vertical writing approach

By Meagan Williford
Photography by Cliff Hollis

A new set of initiatives will prepare East Carolina University students in all fields of study to be writers who have an immediate and lasting impact on their audiences.

The university’s quality enhancement plan (QEP), “Write Where You Belong,” will focus on training students to write analytically within their area of intended major. The initiatives will instill in students the value of applying excellent writing skills to their career and life. Through courses and mentorship, they will learn how their future professional success depends on their ability to clearly communicate ideas.

ECU’s plans to strengthen student writing fall under three initiative areas: curriculum enhancement, student support, and faculty support.

Writing with a purpose

The outline of “Write Where You Belong” includes more intensive writing instruction and practice. Currently, most freshmen take ENGL 1100 and ENGL 1200, English classes referred to as writing foundations courses, during their first two semesters. Under the curriculum enhancement initiative, students will take a course called ENGL 2201, a sophomore-level course focused on writing within the disciplines. The course will replace ENGL 1200 in the freshman curriculum.

“ENGL 2201 is specifically designed to help students remember what they learned in ENGL 1100 and to help them apply those writing skills to the disciplinary area they will be going into,” said Dr. Wendy Sharer, QEP director and associate professor of English.

In the new course, students will carefully read and analyze articles written about topics in their major area. ECU also plans to offer a number of sections of ENG 2201 for specific majors. Grouping students by major will allow those who will be doing similar kinds of writing to take the class together. They will have that support system as they receive the initial exposure to key kinds of writing they will do within their chosen majors.

“For instance, at the sophomore level, if they are thinking of majoring in some area of business, they are not at a point where they are going to be able to write a business plan necessarily because they’ve got a lot to learn about business before they can do that,” Sharer said. “However, we will want them to have some experience with writing as a group because we know that business majors have to know how to do that effectively to succeed.”
Connecting composition and career

The second component of the curriculum enhancement initiative will be to integrate writing self-analysis into writing-intensive classes. In these courses, students will be required to upload writing samples to a university writing portfolio and include a self-analysis along with the samples. The self-analysis will document how the student approached his or her writing topic, why they chose a specific writing method, how their drafts evolved, and why certain changes made the document more clear, concise, and effective.

“Best practices about learning how to write say that in order for a writer to adapt to new situations and meet changing expectations, he has to be able to step back and analyze the situation he is facing,” said Sharer. “One way to promote these kinds of connections is through self-analysis of one’s own writing.”

This writing portfolio component will be a key area of assessment for the QEP, according to Sharer.
“Every year, we will pull out and sample portfolios from graduating students and assess them to see how well the samples included from the upper-level courses and their major are meeting the QEP student learning outcomes,” she said.

Students also will reap the benefits of an expanded University Writing Center in Joyner Library. A new, larger space designated specifically for the writing center has been created, including a digital studio where students can practice different methods of writing and communication.

“We know that writing is often more than just typing your paper in Microsoft Word,” said Sharer. “This digital studio will give us a space where consultants can help with different modes of writing, and students can work on group presentations, as well.”

Along with the expansion of the writing center, more writing consultants will be hired. Some of these consultants will serve as writing mentors, which are embedded tutors in writing intensive classes. The mentor will work with a particular class of students and be familiar with the assignments, communicate with the professor, and attend several class meetings. Ideally, the mentor will be someone who has taken the class before in the past. Starting next fall, all mentors and consultants will take a three semester-hour course in tutoring writing.

“We want to make sure our mentors and consultants are well prepared,” said Sharer. “They will also participate in ongoing professional development while they are mentoring and consulting.”

An investment in qualityQEP_img2

Through the faculty development component of the QEP, Sharer said, instructors will focus on how to integrate writing self-analysis into writing-intensive classes in meaningful ways. Another focus will be to prepare the faculty in the English department who currently teach ENGL 1200 to teach the new ENGL 2201 course.

Sharer emphasized that a major part of faculty development will be making sure that instructors of English 2201 are aware of the kinds of writing their students are going to do in the future. Instructors of writing-intensive courses will also be aware of the topics that students learn in English 2201. A primary goal of the QEP is to bridge the gap between composition in the English department and writing in courses from every discipline on campus.  

Faculty from both the main and Health Sciences campuses are getting involved in “Write Where You Belong.” Faculty from programs all over ECU have met with Sharer as well as Will Banks, director of the University Writing Program; Tracy Morris, director of the English composition program; and Nicky Caswell, director of the writing center.

“These faculty are called writing liaisons,” Sharer said. “We want to make sure there is good communication between the people who administer the programs and the departments that offer the writing-intensive classes.”

Sharer added that working with the liaison group has been an exciting part of setting the QEP’s mission into action.

“It’s been really nice working with these folks and to see how much faculty at the university value student writing,” she said. “They really want to help the students improve as writers.”

ECU submitted its QEP to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS then conducted an on-site review of the plan April 2-4.

Ribbon Cutting

At 1 p.m. on May 1, in conjunction with ECU's annual commemoration of Founders Day and University Awards Day, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for the new homes of the Quality Enhancement Plan, the University Writing Center, the University Writing Program and the Office for Faculty Excellence. The event will be held in the Joyner Library.