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Update to AAO 03-03

11-15-05

TO: All Faculty

FROM: Provost McNall

SUBJECT: General Education Writing Requirements

I have received a recommendation from the General Studies Advisory Committee (GEAC) concerning the writing requirements for General Education (GE). GEAC has recommended that I extend through the 2006-2007 academic year the opportunity to continue to experiment with the GE writing requirements. As a reminder, we agreed that faculty would be allowed, if they choose, to reduce the number of words that students are required to write for a 3-unit course from 2500 to 1500 words. I have accepted GEAC's recommendation that the faculty continue to have the freedom, flexibility, and the responsibility to make decisions about writing assignments in a way that they believe is most helpful to their students.

GEAC also wanted to note, however, that we must assess whether or not this experiment best meets the needs of our students. This means that during the 2006-2007 academic year I will ask GEAC to review our writing requirements. GEAC has also noted that all GE syllabi should describe a writing assignment and asked that I remind you that in future reviews of GE courses, instructors will be asked to provide documented evidence of students' written work. In short, the writing requirement for GE courses can be reduced but it cannot be eliminated.

MEMORANDUM AAO 03-03

TO: All Faculty
FROM: Scott G. McNall
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
SUBJECT: Teaching and Assessing Writing in General Education

I have received a set of recommendations from the General Studies Advisory Committee (GEAC) concerning the writing requirements for General Education (GE). GEAC has asked that faculty who teach GE courses be allowed to experiment next year with reducing the number of words that students are required to write per 3-unit GE course from 2500 words to 1500 words, if they chose. In developing their recommendations, GEAC asked me to assure faculty who will be experimenting with new pedagogies, and those who may be teaching larger classes than in the past, that they continue to have the freedom, flexibility, and the responsibility to make decisions about writing assignments in a way that they believe is most helpful to their students. I have accepted GEAC's recommendations concerning the writing requirements for next year and will want to revisit the topic next year. GEAC is concerned that the GE syllabus describe a writing requirement, and that in future reviews of GE courses, instructors be able to provide evidence of students' written work.

The reason we have a GE writing requirement is obvious, but bears repeating. We ask students to write in all of their classes because it is one important way to help them develop their critical thinking skills, their communication skills, and their understanding of and appreciation for the course content. We learn by writing.

You, the faculty, have always responded to these GE writing requirements in discipline-specific ways, determining how best to help your students--through writing--to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills related to your courses. As you plan your courses for next fall, I urge you to continue to use your best professional judgment about what is best for your students in terms of the types, the number, and the length of writing assignments. Some of you will want to experiment next year; some of you will not.

Most importantly, please know that you have--as you always have had--the freedom and the flexibility to design writing assignments and feedback procedures that make sense to you relative to the nature of your course and your own personal teaching style. Finally, please do remember to make use of the following valuable teaching resources on our campus:

1. The publication: "Faculty Guidelines for Teaching and Assessing Student Writing in the General Education Classroom"
2. GE guidelines
3. Your colleagues
4. Your college representative on the University Writing Committee
5. The University Writing Center
6. GEAC members (Russell Mills is the committee chair and the coordinator of General Education.)

Best wishes for the coming year, and thank you for all you have done this year to help create high-quality learning environments in and outside of the General Education classroom.

You and your work are much needed and valued.

Scott

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