General Education Writing Assessment Results

AGLS Award 2011

Each student, parent and teacher wants to be sure our writing and writing-intensive courses benefit our community of learners. We know that the more mindful we are about incorporating writing experiences, the better our students learn their material and polish their critical thinking and writing abilities.

Our outcome statement for student writing at Stetson University—the first on our list of general education learning outcomes—reads as follows:

Students can write effectively to a variety of audiences and for a variety of purposes (approved 2018)

Overview of Assessment Initiatives

Assessment of learning in Writing has been ongoing since 2009. Most recent assessment results are at the top, with older assessment reports at the bottom.

2022 External Assessment of the Writing Center

In April of 2022, Associate Provost of Academic Affairs and Writing Program Director (and noted scholar) Noreen Lape (Dickinson College) visited the Stetson campus for an external review/consultation/assessment. Here, we quote from her report:

"My overall judgment about the Writing Program/Writing Center is that they are healthy, well-designed programs under the extremely able leadership of Dr. O'Neill and Dr. Dunning...When it comes to program development and success, leadership is half the battle, so kudos to Stetson for having such an excellent team in place.

"The faculty development workshops are excellent and worthwhile, FSEM receiving specific mention from faculty. The Writing Program/Writing Center is highly regarded as a 'resource for faculty and students.' The Writing Fellows Program provides essential support for faculty and students tackling challenging classroom projects. The [revised ENGL 100] course offers important support for struggling students. [And] the DEI initiative, which frames the Writing Program and the Writing Center mission statements on the website, embodies the most recent and relevant conversations in the field regarding linguistic justice.

"Stetson's commitment to making sure their students graduate with strong writing skills vis-a-vis a four-course writing sequence is remarkable....Given the research that has shown that writers need time, practice and feedback to develop (making one freshman composition course insufficient), Stetson's sequence of FSEM, WE/WI, JSEM and Sr Capstone is truly a best practice...In addition, the process through which faculty apply to have a course designated WE involves a detailed proposal. All of this indicates that the writing courses are rigorous and of high quality.

"The writing [leadership] team is strategic, smart, well-versed in writing program administration, engaged and committed to the success of students."

2016-2020 Longitudinal Assessment of Undergraduate Writing

Two significant rounds of program assessment in 2009 and 2013-14 triggered curriculum and pedagogical change across the campus, effectively creating a Writing Across the Curriculum program and a Writing-Enriched General Education curriculum. Specifically, the writing requirement--based on assessment data--was revised to a developmental model requiring students to complete four writing or writing-enhanced (WE) courses during their time at Stetson. 

In December 2015, the University faculty voted to implement a writing requirement whose goals were to

  • prioritize and make visible writing instruction within and across general education and programs via WE designations on courses contributing to that learning goal
  • capitalize on demonstrated success rates in writing-intensive FSEM courses
  • better distribute university resources by targeting faculty development and student learning in courses whose effectiveness at teaching students to meet University writing goals has been repeatedly demonstrated
  • enhance faculty instruction of writing considered important in learning goals, disciplinary and/or genre conventions, and mission-driven academic goals and
  • enhance student learning of critical writing skills to excellence, as measured by GEAC, academic programs and faculty

As part of that writing requirement, we agreed that

  • faculty development opportunities would be offered across and within curricula to support the increased attention to writing as a high-impact learning practice
  • a Writing Fellows program, housed in the Writing Center, would begin to place Fellows trained in peer-based tutoring into courses to support faculty and students in learning goals
  • a four-year study would begin in Fall 2016, with the goal of reporting in 2020-21 on the effectiveness of the new writing requirement.

The University Writing Advisory Council (UWAC) was formed in the Spring of 2016 to develop plans to implement the requirement. In collaboration with the Director of Curriculum and Assessment, the General Education Assessment Committee and the University General Education Committee, UWAC has developed the following assessment plan, to begin Fall 2016. See the infographic of the cohort study.

  • Fall 2016: identify a student cohort; collect writing samples from students in FSEM; assess. Update faculty. (JSEM samples were also collected for contrast analysis)
  • Fall 2018: collect writing samples from the same students in JSEM; assess; compare to FSEM; plot a trajectory of student skill development over time. Update faculty. (FSEM samples also collected for contrast analysis)
  • Fall 2019: collect writing samples from the same students in their senior year; interview students for qualitative input into the assessment process; assess and analyze collected samples and interviews; compile report; deliver to faculty.
  • Fall 2020: Close the loop: are Stetson faculty and students satisfied with student learning achievement of writing goals? What are the next steps in continuous improvement?

Beginning in 2016 and running through Spring 2020, Stetson's Writing Program performed a long-range assessment of students in a randomly selected cohort to identify the effectiveness of the revised writing requirement (four WE courses). A contrast group was formed by another study, performed 2015-2019, in which a cohort of students regularly met with investigators to review and reflect on their learning about writing and information literacy.

Both studies confirmed that the presence or absence of ENGL 101 Writing and Rhetoric had little to no effect on student success at writing and in some cases benefited students. See the report of the Four-Course Writing Requirement study. 

2013-14 Writing Assessment Results

The results of the 2013-2014 General Education assessment confirmed the findings we saw in the 2009 assessment: 80% of the sampled students in our writing-intensive FSEM and JSEM courses met the outcome goals. We capitalized on this demonstrated, confirmed success by implementing (in 2015) a writing requirement that exposes all our students to four of the most writing-intensive, learning-rich courses on campus: the learning in FSEMs, JSEMs, and other WE courses. See the results of the 2013-14 General Education Writing Assessment.

2009 Writing Assessment Results

General Education Assessment of Writing in 2009 assessed a random sampling of student writing in ENGL 101, ENGL 109 and First Year Seminar (for introductory levels of learning) and Senior Capstone and equivalent courses in the School of Music and the School of Business (for mastery levels of learning). The results showed that nearly 75 percent of our incoming students—and nearly 76 percent of our graduating seniors—met or exceeded our learning goals. While these results are laudable, our expectations are high. Further examination of the assessment data offers some direction. See what we learned from the Fall 2009 General Education Writing Assessment. 

Stetson University, through the work of the General Education Assessment Committee, won the 2011 Exemplary Program Award from the Association for General and Liberal Studies (A.G.L.S.). The award was given for the outstanding work of the General Education Assessment Committee on establishing outcomes and testing them in the first wide-scale writing assessment (fall 2009). The A.G.L.S. serves colleges and universities by fostering strong general education programs. For details on this award, including criteria and an application rubric, please refer to the A.G.L.S. website.