Frequently Asked Questions
The Campus Writing and Speaking Program at NC State began in the fall of 1997.
The Campus Writing and Speaking Program (CWSP) emerged out of a long discussion at North Carolina State University about the role of writing and speaking in our General Education Requirements (GERs). The GERs were established in the early 1990’s in response to a strong sense among faculty and students that our land-grant university needed to offer general education to all students that included a strong focus on communication abilities to provide a basis for and supplement students’ specialized education. The original writing and speaking requirement in the GERs stated that, in addition to two semesters of first-year composition and an advanced course, faculty across the university should encourage student learning by assigning writing in the majors, specifically at least two papers. Because this two-paper requirement was so ambiguous, a university task force was formed to study the situation and recommend a revision that would clarify it.
After two years, the writing task force brought its recommendations to the university committee that oversees the GERs and proposed a modest set of writing-intensive courses in each major, one each in the junior and senior years. This recommendation was approved and forwarded to a committee comprised of the provost and deans, who decided that it was too modest and sent it back with three stipulations: (1) that it should include speaking on a par with writing; (2) that responsibility for writing and speaking in the majors should be the responsibility of each specific college and its departments, and (3) that the colleges and departments would be held accountable for the writing and speaking of their majors through outcomes-based assessment designed and conducted by the units themselves.
It was clear to practically everyone involved that instituting a discipline-specific, outcomes-based writing and speaking program would require significant university support. That support came in the form of a proposal to establish the CWSP, with the two primary tasks of guiding the assessment of writing and speaking and providing faculty development to enhance the use of writing and speaking in the teaching and learning environment of our university.
The origin of the CWSP was not the result of any one group on campus. Rather, it had its genesis in a collaboratively felt need. It is this felt need that has contributed, to a large extent, to the success of the program. Because no one group is identified with the founding of the CWSP, it represents no single special interest and is perceived as as an organization that serves the needs of the entire campus.
With respect to writing and speaking, the general education requirements at NC State have two components. The first component requires students to take one semester of a foundational writing course in their first year and one semester of one of the following courses before graduation: advanced writing, public speaking, or foreign language.
The second component of the general education requirements states that “each curriculum is designed so that upper-level courses and other programmatic experiences help students write and speak competently in the discipline. In each curriculum, the design and delivery of that support are guided by various forms of programmatic assessment.” Thus, the responsibility for writing and speaking within the discipline resides in each department. Along with this responsibility, each department is held accountable for its students’ writing and speaking. That accountability takes the form of outcomes-based assessment: each department evaluates some aspect(s) of its students’ majors to write and speak effectively in the discipline according to department-specific writing and speaking outcomes. Specific outcomes can be assessed in specific years and reported annually; every seven years each program is required to produce a more formal cumulative report of its efforts.
Writing and speaking are fully integrated in all Campus Writing and Speaking Program (CWSP) activities. It is the CWSP philosophy that communication (including writing, speaking, and other modalities such as visual communication, digital communication, etc.) is an essential area of competence for faculty to address, and the modality they choose to focus on should depend, in part, on their discipline specific (and course specific) goals, standards, and genres. CWSP campus-wide workshops address issues of both writing and speaking, guest facilitators address writing and/or speaking (depending on their expertise), and the faculty seminars address issues of writing and/or speaking (depending on each participant’s course goals).
Additionally, it is the CWSP’s philosophy that faculty should make decisions about the relative amount of attention paid to writing and/or speaking based on their own goals. If faculty members teach courses in which it is critical for students to give professional, high-stakes presentations, CWSP supports them in that endeavor and does not attempt to convince them they should be focused on other modalities. The same goes for faculty teaching courses where it is more critical to teach students how to write a lab report; the CWSP provides resources for that particular goal. Essentially, the CWSP is committed to integration of communication modalities and sensitive to discipline-specific choices of those modalities.
For example, a workshop on using writing and speaking to enhance learning will address higher-level principles for communication-to-learn activities, samples of actual writing and/or speaking-to-learn activities, and models of assessing both writing- and speaking-to-learn activities. In another example, the CWSP hosted a brown bag luncheon on the topic of writing and speaking anxiety—addressing general issues involved with both kinds of anxiety and then focusing specific attention on different ways to address the specific anxiety issues involved with writing or speaking. Similarly, for one of our externally-facilitated workshops, the CWSP brought in an expert on writing, speaking, and case study teaching who was able to use the case study method as a way of talking about alternate writing and/or speaking assignments.
These examples illustrate the CWSP’s commitment to integration of writing and speaking, while maintaining sensitivity to some of the differences between writing and speaking that warrant specific attention.
The Campus Writing and Speaking Program offers a variety of activities focused primarily on helping faculty improve the ways they use writing and speaking in their courses.
Campus-wide workshops are offered at least twice a semester on specific topics. Designed to accommodate between 20 and 40 participants, these 2- or 3-hour workshops provide new ideas, strategies, and perspectives and involve hands-on group work and discussion to help faculty apply the concepts to their own teaching. Anyone may attend. Topics have included: “Concentric Circles: Using Portfolios in the Classroom,” presented by William Condon; “They are Portfolios First: Exploring the Why and How of Going Digital,” presented by Tim Peeples; “Writing to Learn Across the Curriculum,” presented by Toby Fulwiler; “Writing, Speaking, and Problem-Based Learning,” presented by Chris Anson and Deanna Dannels; “What Did You Say? The Role of Listening in Writing, Speaking, and Learning,” presented by Chris Anson and Deanna Dannels.
A faculty seminar is offered each semester. Enrolling up to 15 participants, the seminar meets for two hours every other week during the semester. Participants apply competitively for admission before the semester starts and propose a course they would like to improve with the use of writing and speaking. Participants write a brief report discussing the changes they have made to their courses, and many of these reports are available online (follow the links to “Faculty Seminar”). Participants also present, in pairs, some aspects of their course improvements the following year at one of the CWSP’s brow-bag lunch sessions. Faculty members who successfully complete the seminar receive a modest stipend at the end of the semester. For more detailed information about the seminar, please see the description at the WAC Clearinghouse: http://wac.colostate.edu/research/fullitem.cfm?itemID=20
Monthly brown-bag sessions are designed to give participants brief, thought-provoking presentations while they eat box lunches provided by the Program. Presenters are usually faculty on campus who are doing innovative things with communication in their courses, but sometimes guest presenters have led brown-bags as well. Topics have included “Changes in Freshman English, Communication in the Workplace,” “Advanced Research Skills,” and “The Many Faces of Plagiarism.”
Individual consultations are available for faculty when time permits. A member of the Program will meet with the faculty member to provide advice and strategies for his or her teaching.
Instructors choose the best pedagogy for their courses. In some courses, writing and speaking strategies are explicitly discussed, modeled, reviewed, and assessed. For example, a Statistics professor may guide students through the proper way to analyze and write about graphs. In other courses, writing and speaking are used as tools for learning, brainstorming, solving problems, and more, but not always assessed in a formal way. In this case, a Biology professor may have students write conference papers, or a Spanish professor may use informal reaction papers in addition to more formal work.
Moreover, professors from all disciplines have used CWSP services: Animal Science, Art/Design, Botany, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Communication, Computer Sciences, Crop Science, Education, English, Environmental Engineering, Foreign Language/Literature, Forestry, History, Landscape Architecture, Mathematics, Multidisciplinary Studies, Philosophy/Religion, Plant Pathology, Political Sciences, Psychology, Sociology, Zoology. For details about each discipline’s pedagogical goals and choices, visit: http://www2.chass.ncsu.edu/CWSP/fac_seminar/sem_archives.html.
Each year the Campus Writing and Speaking Program (CWSP) hires two graduate students from the interdisciplinary Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media doctoral program.
The consultants perform a variety of functions ranging from basic administrative duties to in-depth collaboration and research with the CWSP’s faculty seminar participants. Each semester, the graduate consultants divide the seminar participants into groups by subject area to make finding resources more efficient. The graduate assistant’s primary role is to serve as a consultant to the faculty participants in his or her group throughout the semester. In this role, the graduate student researches the Internet and other resources for writing and speaking activities that provide good examples of assignments for different disciplines. Consultants also provide help for the reports and poster presentations at the end of the seminar.
Beyond the CWSP seminar, graduate assistants also organize Brown Bags (short workshops) and assist with other CWSP-run workshops. These duties include managing technological issues as well as running basic errands to aid in set-up.
Writing and Speaking Tutorial Services (WSTS) was established in the fall of 2001 in order to support the writing and speaking skills and development of all members of the NC State community, including graduate and undergraduate students, staff and faculty. In doing so, WSTS provides free, one-on-one tutorials on a drop-in (first come, first serve) basis with each tutorial lasting approximately twenty-five minutes. Visitors can bring any piece of writing or speaking at any stage in the writing and speaking process to get help with brainstorming, topic development, thesis construction, organization, drafting, editing, and more. Many students begin using Writing and Speaking Tutorial Services during their first-year composition course. Others discover WSTS while preparing work for other courses later in their college careers. Still others present themselves when they are working on theses, dissertations, proposals, presentations, interviews, grants, research papers, reports, application essays, resumes and/or business letters.
Five to seven locations operate across campus in residence halls and study center areas, such as the Undergraduate Tutorial Center and campus library. Locations house a growing library of writing and speaking resources for students, instructors and administrators. These resources include handouts, dictionaries, thesauruses, citation manuals, grammar handbooks, writing textbooks, and public speaking texts. One location is equipped with a digital camera and TV/VCR in order that tutors and visitors will be able to rehearse, tape and critique oral presentations.
WSTS also offers campus-wide workshops on common writing and speaking issues, such as “Revising and Editing Written Documents,” “Conducting an Interview,” and “Effective PowerPoint Presentations.” Registration for these workshops is available online through the WSTS website (www.ncsu.edu/tutorial_center/writespeak.html).
For logistical and fiscal reasons, WSTS is housed within the DASA, which funds most of its operations including the salaries of its coordinator and tutors. A full-time, year-round coordinator manages, promotes and assesses the program with a staff of five to eight tutors during the fall and spring semesters. Writing and speaking tutors represent a mix of graduate students and advanced undergraduate students, and occasionally experienced professionals and/or instructors. In addition to strong academic and communication skills, all tutors are committed and trained to help others become more proficient writers and speakers. Tutors are especially invested in providing reader/listener feedback and suggestions that visitors can use with subsequent writing and speaking tasks.
The Campus Writing and Speaking Program is currently supported centrally with funds from the Provost’s Office allocated to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Permanent funds pay for half the salaries of the Director and Associate Director. Annually allocated funds in the CRDM program pay the stipends and benefits for the graduate consultants (equivalent to one full-time TA) and all operating expenses, which include stipends for Faculty Seminar participants, honoraria and travel expenses for guest presenters, supplies and printing costs, and the like.
The Director and Assistant Director receive course releases from their home departments and are considered to allocate 50% of their time to the Program.
The Writing and Speaking Tutorial Services, which provides writing and speaking assistance to students, staff, and faculty, is housed for logistical and fiscal purposes in the DASA, which funds most of its operations as well as the salaries of its director and tutors.
The CWSP is administratively located in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which serves as its fiscal agent, but it supports the interests of all undergraduate programs on campus. Other variable support comes in the form of grants in which the CWSP’s leaders are involved.
For more specific information about the Program’s budget, please contact the Director, Chris Anson, at (919) 513-6544, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since its inception, the Campus Writing and Speaking Program has consistently achieved success in a number of ways (see www2.chass.ncsu.edu/CWSP/eval_home.html for program evaluations). For example, in 2001-2002, CWSP faculty participation reached 99% of capacity for all events. Additionally, the CWSP had participation from faculty in 9 of 10 Colleges at NC State and faculty participation has covered a wide-range of faculty experience—from one semester to 30+ years teaching experience. Workshop evaluations have achieved a mean score of 4.58 (5 being the highest). Finally, the outcomes development process eventually reached 9 of 10 colleges and approximately 80% of the departments in those colleges.
As illustrated above, the CWSP assesses the effectiveness of its work in three primary ways: 1) faculty participation in campus-wide events by college and rank, 2) evaluations of workshop effectiveness for all CWSP events, and 3) departmental participation in the outcomes-based assessment process. Although our program assessment processes are currently focused on faculty development, we are engaged in more limited projects to assess the extent to which faculty integration of writing and speaking in courses improves student learning. Working in alignment with the University Program Review initiative, the CWSP consults with departments to help them create a discipline-specific assessment plan (that they will then implement) for writing and speaking outcomes.
Additionally, funded by a 3-year NSF grant, the CWSP has worked with the Department of Chemical Engineering to integrate and assess student competence in writing, speaking, and teaming within two courses—lab and multidisciplinary design (see http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/project/actionagenda/ for project website). Another NSF grant involving a collaboration between Engineering, Education, and the CWSP involved a study of success and retention of engineering students. A current NSF grant is studying an electronic peer-review system implemented in STEM courses to find out what interventions best support students’ peer reviews of drafts in progress and the effects of those peer reviews on the quality of their writing. With projects such as this and continuing work with departments involved with Program Review, the CWSP is progressing with direct assessment of student competence in addition to the current assessment practices that evidence faculty participation in and effectiveness of program activities.
The Campus Writing & Speaking Program offers a variety of events and activities:
- Campus-wide workshops
- Department-specific workshops
- Guest speakers
- Individual consultations
- Brown bag discussions
- Faculty seminar
- Faculty grants
- Web-based resources and archives
- Monograph series
- Writing and Speaking Tutorial Services
While we receive positive comments about all of our activities, our faculty seminar probably achieves the best results and rates the highest according to the evaluations we collect. Its ffectiveness most likely comes from the way it fosters ongoing engagement between the program team and the 15 participating faculty members over the course of a semester. Graduate assistants are also available to each participant in between meetings; they help faculty members develop new activities and answer any other questions that come up. The continuous and always available exposure to our team allows each faculty member to make the most of the time they spend working with the CWSP. At the end of the semester, we require a report from each participant, detailing the changes they made to their course. We also request participation in our brown-bag lunch sessions the following year, which are open to the entire campus community. These obligations, and the modest stipend and the end, encourage each participant to truly reflect on his or her course and incorporate real changes. For detailed evaluation data, please visit: <http://www2.chass.ncsu.edu/CWSP/eval_home.html>.
Faculty Seminar: Based on the popularity of this service, we are seeking additional funds to run two seminars per semester instead of one.
Website: Enhancements to the Web site continue. We hope to make it one of the most comprehensive sites for the support of writing and speaking across the curriculum.
Research Report Series: To further support the faculty’s classroom- and department-based investigations of writing and speaking, we are proposing the establishment of a digital research report series. Faculty will apply competitively for support, and the Program will assist them in the development of their reports. Copyright will revert to the author should he or she want to publish the report elsewhere.
Award: The program is planning to offer a University-wide faculty award for excellence in the incorporation of writing and speaking into courses.
Departmental Grants: Pending additional support, the Program plans to offer $5,000 grants to teams of faculty and administrators within departments. Grants are designed to fund the investigation of improvements on a curricular level, across courses.
Fundraising: The Program is currently working with fundraising offices on campus to secure endowments and other funds that would make the Program more self-sufficient and less reliant on continuing funds from the Provost’s Office.
Yes — check out the Resources page to review 15 informal writing and speaking strategies to enhance learning.