Teaching Writing Across the GenEd Curriculum

On August 17th, GenEd held its annual faculty assembly. The theme was “Teaching Writing Across the GenEd Curriculum.” Improving student’s oral and written communication is one of GenEd’s program-wide goals [link].  Vigilance is required because I fear that the pandemic-driven push to move classes online quickly, and associated budget pressures driving section size increases and reductions in TA, maybe lead instructors to shorten writing assignments or simply replace them with assessments that are less work to grade.

Assessing how well GenEd is promoting written communication is not easy, as our first presentation, given by Associate GenEd Director, Dana Dawson, made clear. She recruited a team of faculty to attempt to apply the AAC&U Written Communication rubric but found it difficult to apply the rubric’s elements to the types of writing common in GenEd courses. Likely we will have to develop a rubric of our own. You can see Dana’s slides here.

Rachael Groner, the Director of First Year Writing, was our second speaker. I specifically invited Rachael to talk because I remember that as a new faculty member at Temple I had no idea what skills students practiced in First Year Writing, so I did not know what I was building on. Rachael’s presentation, which you can listen to here, made it clear that First Year Writing is not a course in Engish composition or grammar; the emphasis is on rhetorical writing where students learn argument structure and support.

The final presenter of the day was Lori Salem, Director of Temple’s Student Success Center, and the person who oversees Temple’s program of writing-intensive courses. Her message — a welcome one for over-taxed faculty — is that you do not need to line-edit your students’ writing. In fact, doing so does more harm than good.  Watch this presentation to see why.  Lori’s presentation was full of tips on the types of feedback that do help students which actually saving time grading.  Here is the link. Watching it is worth your time.

The GenEd assembly went smoothly despite being forced online. Faculty had lively discussions in Zoom breakout sessions (sadly, not recorded) where they shared the tips and trials of their own experiences GenEd writing assignments.

Thanks to all who came, and don’t miss next year’s assembly!

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