By Cassondra Kirby/Editor
While another batch of students are signing up for the university writing requirement, some Eastern officials are evaluating the effectiveness of the exam – which could mean doing away with it.”We are assessing it and seeing where we are since it has been so many years since the motion passed the faculty senate on Dec. 5, 1988 (to implement the UWR),” Kevin Rahimzadeh said. He is the chair of the university writing requirement committee and an associate professor in the English department. “I think there’s been excellent debates and excellent discussions about its value and its usefulness.”
Rahimzadeh said there has been talk of phasing the UWR out, but he feels the exam has been highly effective in identifying students who still haven’t obtained minimal writing skills by their junior year.
“The UWR has been good at identifying those students and using various means to get them to improve their writing,” he said. “If they fail the UWR a number of times they can take a course or they can see counselors at the writing center.”
Rahimzadeh said if Eastern keeps the UWR it will be because it does a good job at identifying that small number of students who do not have appropriate writing skills.
One option, he said, is to keep the UWR as part of a larger assessment program involving more than the exam. Or Eastern could replace it with writing across the curriculum courses. He said these courses would more specifically assess how students are doing in writing.
Some members of the committee favor the idea of writing-intensive courses because it’s a way to assess writing in the curriculum – something more meaningful to what students are actually doing in their classes, according to Rahimzadeh.
He said this is where the debate of offering writing-intensive courses and phasing out the UWR comes up. Because these are courses students take throughout their collegiate career, they are more specific in what they assess and emphasize writing as a process – instead of just the one-shot deal with the UWR, which measures how well students respond to a specific prompt in a certain amount of time.
Rahimzadeh said no final decision has been made.
“All of this is part of the conversation, but right now, it’s just a conversation,” he said.
According to Provost Lyle Cook, Eastern is bound by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to validate the effectiveness of the writing programs offered. Although he said he thinks the UWR is an effective way to measure students’ writing abilities, he said the amount of resources and effort it takes on the part of the faculty and students is tremendous.
“Right now, we are just asking if the way we are measuring it right now and the resources that we put into it and the effort it takes on both sides is worthwhile,” Cook said.
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