QEP Fall 2013 Update

We are moving ahead rapidly in this first year of QEP implementation. Below is but a sampling of the many things underway to help ECU’s student writers as part of our Quality Enhancement Plan:

• The “Writing Mentors Program” was introduced in a selection of writing-intensive courses in Chemistry, Library Science, Interior Design, Merchandising, and History. This program embeds university writing consultants, drawn from majors across the university, in selected discipline-specific, writing-intensive courses. These embedded consultants—the Writing Mentors—learn peer-consulting theory and practice through either the completion of a semester-long course (for undergraduate Writing Mentors) or through a full semester of consulting work and professional development in the University Writing Center (for graduate Writing Mentors). Mentors are prepared to assist in writing-intensive courses by reading students’ writing, offering constructive comments, holding individual writing conferences with students, and providing additional writing assistance in a variety of ways. For more information about the Writing Mentors Program, contact Dr. Nikki Caswell, Director of the University Writing Center, at caswelln@ecu.edu.

• The University Writing Program and the Office for Faculty Excellence partnered to offer a three-part workshop series on “Metacognition in the Writing Intensive Course.” These workshops, attended by 15-20 faculty from across the disciplines, provided information about fostering students’ abilities to monitor, evaluate, and adjust their own writing strategies. The series will be repeated in spring 2014: check the Office for Faculty Excellence schedule for updates (http://www.ecu.edu/ofe/).

• QEP Writing and Learning Communities were established. WLCs are comprised of 4-5 faculty members from across the university who identify and then, over the course of the academic year, investigate a common challenge or set of challenges encountered in the teaching of writing. Based on the knowledge generated by this collaborative exploration, members of the WLC plan and complete a project (the form and format of which will vary depending on the focus of the WLC’s inquiry) that aims to help students work toward the QEP student learning outcomes. If you are interested in participating in future Writing and Learning Communities, contact Wendy Sharer, QEP Director, at sharerw@ecu.edu.

• The Writing@ECU website was launched. From this central location, students and faculty can find information about the University Writing Program, the University Writing Center, the Writing Foundations program (ENGL 1100 and 1200/2201), the QEP, and the Tar River Writing Project. Also accessible through this site are various resources for instructors and students, including a collection of short videos featuring ECU students and faculty talking about common writing challenges and the unique demands of writing in different disciplinary contexts. Those videos, filmed in the new University Writing Center space this past summer, can be found here: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/writing/wac/resources-wac.cfm

• A grand opening ceremony for the new University Writing Center space, including a drawing for two i-Pad Minis, was held on September 23rd.

In addition to these various initiatives, work continues on establishing assessment mechanisms for the QEP. WI instructors have again been asked this semester to have students submit writing samples to provide baseline data for post-implementation assessment. Plans are progressing as well for the fall 2014-spring 2015 implementation of the University Writing Portfolio, an electronic collection of writing samples that students will submit from WI courses. In spring 2014, workshops will be run to familiarize WI faculty with the University Writing Portfolio.

Dr. Wendy Sharer, Director of the QEP

Write Where You Belong

University Writing Center Update: Fall 2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 10.52.47 AMEver since the new University Writing Center (UWC) opened its doors to students last April, the energy and excitement for writing has been high. The Fall 2013 semester marks the first full semester the UWC will be open for students, faculty and staff, and with a new space, new changes.

The UWC’s staff grew to 26 undergraduate and graduate consultants from across disciplines. Eight of these consultants took a 3-credit Peer Tutoring Course last spring. The Peer Tutoring course was offered for the first time as a Special Topics course in the English department and will be offered again Spring 2014. Consultants from the course explore writing center theory, tutoring practices, and philosophies of learning and writing in collaborative space.

Because of our physical growth and staff growth, we are excited to offer Sunday night hours. We will be open for face to face and online appointments from 5pm to 9pm on Sundays. During the week, we will be open 9am to 9pm Mondays to Wednesdays, 9am to 5pm on Thursdays and 9am to 2pm on Fridays. Students are encouraged to make appointments with our online schedule system, but we welcome walk-ins as long as consultants are available.

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Our virtual presence also grew and changed this semester. In Summer 2013, the UWC piloted synchronous online tutoring. This fall, we welcome all students in DE courses to take advantage of our synchronous online tutoring. Students sign up for an Online appointment, and they are able to chat in real-time with a consultant as well as upload their paper onto a shared whiteboard where the consultant and student can collaboratively work to develop the paper. Additionally, the UWC is happy to reveal its new website. Of particular interest to students are our video tutorials that walk students through making face-to-face and online appointments.

During the fall semester, a number of big events are happening. On September 13, seven consultants are traveling to Meredith College for the North Carolina Writing Center Network Consultant Retreat. On September 23, the UWC is hosting a grand opening event for students that’ll include a consultant-led ribbon cutting. The UWC and UWP will feature writing related workshops in the Digital Studio leading up to the ribbon cutting event.  In November, 6 undergraduate consultants are presenting at the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing and have been awarded ECU travel grants from the Office of Undergraduate Research. The UWC was also awarded a $500 research grant from SWCA that’ll be used this semester for professional development from the consultants. Finally, looking toward the spring semester, the ECU UWC is proud to host the Southeast Writing Center Association conference.

We hope, that with your help and your students help, the excitement for writing continues throughout the year.

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UWC Director, Dr. Nikki Caswell

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Changes at the University Writing Center

Dr Nikki CaswellThe University Writing Center (UWC) is open to all students, faculty and staff at ECU. Our staff consists of undergraduate and graduate students from across the disciplines and we are ready to help your students with their writing. We can help with all types of writing, including research papers, observation reports, resumes, and more. Also, please let your students know we can help with writing at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to proofreading. Students in DE courses can take advantage of our services by using our Online Writing Lab.

One of our changes in Fall 2012 was to move to an online appointment based system for our face-to-face sessions. We are happy to announce that the Online Writing Lab has also moved to an appointment based system. After listening to our students last semester, we found that appointments would help students (and us) keep track of submissions and would allow us to tell students when they would receive their feedback. We felt this would allow students to better plan out their writing process. Students in DE courses can schedule an appointment on our OWL/DE schedule (at any point in the semester), upload their paper (in the appointment itself) and then re-download the paper at the end of the session. Students do not have to be near a computer during the hour of their appointment, so they can sign up for any time. The OWL is still an asynchronous based system. We ask that students submitting to the OWL provide us with their questions and concerns about the piece of writing. Then, the consultants are better able to tailor their feedback to the concerns of the writing. Just like the face-to-face sessions, the OWL is not an editing service, but a space for students to receive reader-response feedback and direction on how to improve their writing. More detailed directions and a Prezi to share with your students can be found on our website. Continue reading

Redesigning Writing Intensive Courses @ ECU

This week’s post comes from Hector Garza (Theatre and Dance), who currently chairs the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Committee.  Professor Garza explores several changes that the WAC Committee has been working on regarding WI courses; these changes are important in the context of the Quality Enhancement Plan: “Write Where You Belong.”

Headshot of Assistant Professor Hector GarzaThe Writing Across the Curriculum committee has been working to create a new, more comprehensive definition of Writing Intensive courses at ECU.  Our major source for inspiration in making these changes has been the work of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).  The “Write Where You Below” initiative is our chance to effect change in a system that has never defined student learning outcomes. As committee, we have endeavored to strengthen the WI program at ECU by redefining what “writing intensive” means at ECU.  This redefinition can be seen in the new WI course proposal form that is currently in draft form.  At the core of the new proposal is the adopting of the QEP’s Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) as the official Writing Outcomes for WI courses at ECU. According to these outcomes, students will

  1. Use writing to investigate complex, relevant topics and address significant questions through engagement with and effective use of credible sources;
  2. Produce writing that reflects an awareness of context, purpose, and audience, particularly within the written genres (Including genres that integrate writing with visuals, audio or other multimodal components) of their major disciplines and/or career fields;
  3. Demonstrate that they understand writing as a process that can be made more effective though drafting revision;
  4. Proofread and edit their own writing, avoiding grammatical and mechanical errors;
  5. Assess and explain the major choices that they make in their writing.

This simple step goes a long way to strengthen the WI program.  The models that are currently the standard for WI courses will fall by the wayside.  If these changes are approved by Faculty Senate and the Chancellor later this spring, all WI courses will be expected to meet these Writing Outcomes. One benefit for faculty is that meeting the Writing Outcomes is not tied to a specific number of pages of writing, which allows for greater flexibility for faculty across different disciplines where final projects vary in length.

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Updates from the QEP: Write Where You Belong

This week, QEP Director, Wendy Sharer, updates us on what has been happening with the QEP project, “Write Where You Belong.”  As Dr. Sharer reminded us back in September, the QEP “is an opportunity to develop forward-looking, long-term initiatives that will enhance the educational experiences of current and future ECU students.” At the UWP, we hope you’re as excited as we are about all the changes being put in place to support students and faculty at ECU.

Write Where You Belong


As reported in a September, this academic year marked the kickoff of ECU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a key component of our reaccreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Many exciting things have happened since September:

  • The final version of the QEP document was submitted to SACS on February 18th. An on-site review team from SACS will visit ECU from April 2-4, 2013 to discuss the QEP with various constituents.
  • Tremendous progress has been made on the construction of the new University Writing Center (UWC) space on the first floor of Joyner Library. The space—which will provide multiple tables for tutoring sessions, a “digital studio” for students working on multimedia and multimodal projects, dedicated space for the Online Writing Lab, and office space for the administration and staff of the University Writing Program and the QEP—is slated for completion in late March, with an official opening ceremony on Founders Day, May 1, 2013. Additionally, a “Welcome and Open House” will be held for ECU students, faculty, and staff early in the fall 2013 semester. Stay tuned for details! Continue reading

2012 National Day on Writing

(Today’s blog post comes from Christina Bethel, PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant in the department of English. Christina teaches primarily first-year writing courses; in her research, she investigates identity and the impact of identity performance on student writing practices.)

by Christina Bethel

A picture of Chris Bethel, PhD Candidate in ECU's English DepartmentIn Fall 2011, the Tar River Writing Project, in conjunction with the ECU English and Education departments, hosted the first National Day on Writing celebration at ECU, attended by around 200 local public school students and teachers. The event was such a success that we decided to expand the celebration. The Tar River Writing Project’s mission for this event is to engage local K-College students and teachers, as well as community members, in fun and enriching writing experiences. This year, the TRWP joined the University Writing Program, Joyner Library, and the Department of English in sponsoring the 2012 National Day on Writing @ ECU.

At the K-12 level, we brought over 500 students to campus on October 19, 2012. During the half-day field trip, students participated in three writing activities. For elementary and middle school students, we offered two new activities:  a scene writing workshop, led by Hector Garza (Theatre & Dance), and a Halloween-themed writing workshop, facilitated by English department faculty Randall Martoccia and Jenn Sisk. We also offered our two most popular activities from last year:  a digital writing studio (led by Stephanie West-Puckett and Rob Puckett) and a graffiti wall (led by former ECU art instructor Cynthia Gibb). In our exit survey, students wrote that they enjoyed rapping about their favorite foods, expressing themselves through words and art, sharing their writing aloud with others, and getting to hear what great writers their peers and classmates are!

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Wilderness Writing: Bringing Interdisciplinary Writing to Bear on Environmental Ethics

(Today’s blog post comes from Stephanie West-Puckett, teaching instructor in the department of English and Associate Director of the Tar River Writing Project. Stephanie teaches first-year and advanced writing courses; in her research, she investigates digital literacies and the impact of digital cultures on student writing practices.  Currently, she serves as the project coordinator for TRWP’s Project Connect at J. H. Rose high school in Greenville.)

by Stephanie West-Puckett

A Picture of Stephanie West-PuckettIn Spring 2011, Dr. Ashley Egan from Biology designed a new course that would increase students’ awareness of the natural world and wilderness while challenging them to formulate a public environmental ethic.   Drawing from her experience as a field botany instructor and from a deep knowledge of biodiversity and systematics, she was confident teaching the natural science content but felt the course would be strengthened by partnering with a faculty member who specialized in writing studies and the teaching of writing.  I was thrilled to jump on board, and together, we co-designed and co-taught Wilderness Writing as an Honors College seminar that brought interdisciplinary knowledges to bear on problems of environmental ethics.  Through a combination of scientific and cultural readings and discussion, intensive immersion in wilderness settings, and writing about nature for a variety of audiences, purposes, and media, students developed arguments about the definitions, values, and purposes of “wilderness”, and published ethical manifestos to communicate those understandings to a broad public.

Two images: the first of two ECU students hiking a river; the second of three ECU students sailng a boat

ECU students write from the mountains to the ocean!

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Teachers, Quality, and Partnerships

(This week’s blog comes from Dr. Todd Finley, Associate Professor of English Education, at ECU. Dr. Finley specializes in the intersections between technology and literacy and maintains a weekly blog on Edutopia related to issues of writing pedagogy. In this post, Dr. Finley informs the university community of a project that connects the College of Education and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences with high school teachers in our community, one goal of which is improving writing and writing instruction.)

by Dr. Todd Finley

A picture of Dr. Todd FinleySupported by a large grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) is a collaboration between ECU’s College of Education and the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, as well as Pitt and Greene County Schools—all joined to enrich prospective teachers’ experiences and demonstrably improve the academic achievement of their public school students. These objectives are being accomplished by focusing on improving teaching and learning in four content areas: language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Dr. Betty Beacham, TQP primary investigator, explains, “Faculty from secondary education and educational foundations programs were identified to become members of the TQP secondary design team.  The team began exploring ways to merge the previous TQP curriculum and clinical practice reform in elementary, middle grades, and special education with the secondary curriculum reform driven by the Common Core.

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