UUCC adds additional writing emphasis credits to undergrad

A new policy developed by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s University Undergraduate Curriculum Commission will add six additional upper-division writing emphasis credits starting in Fall 2014.

These credits will be added to the current general education writing classes English 1130 and English 1230.

General education director Shane Drefinski has been involved in the plan since 2007.  Drefinski said there were several different reasons for the change, such as a disconnect between general education courses and major core classes and a decline in students’ writing skills.

Part of the plan involves workshops for instructors who want to add a writing component to their current classes.  The workshops are offered in four cohorts per semester.  Each cohort consists of three 90-minute sessions.  Workshops are voluntary and English professor Dennis Ciesielski, who teaches the workshops, said over 50 professors have taken advantage of the course.

“The workshops are important because a cross-curricular ‘writing-to-learn’ classroom requires a certain consistency,” Ciesielski said.  “It is important that everyone has a standard approach.”

The workshops and the addition of a writing component to a course does not mean teaching the students how to write; rather, it encourages students to use writing to learn, Ciesielski said.

Emeritus professor George Smith participated in the writing workshops and said the workshop benefits are good for everyone involved.

“Our workshop discussions were engaging.  I took a lot of notes on how to improve my use of student writing, and I think we are fortunate to have Dr. Ciesielski advocating for this pedagogy,” Smith said.  “Regardless of how much our students have learned, that knowledge is wasted if they cannot communicate.  Effective development of discipline-specific writing is crucial to our students’ success.”

The writing emphasis courses will encourage critical thinking as well as help build students’ writing skills.  According to the website aacu.org, the top two qualities employers look for in a college graduate are the ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, as well as the ability to think critically and use analytical reasoning skills.

“This sort of writing-to-learn pedagogy will allow students to participate in their own education,” Ciesielski said.

Revising the general education curriculum calls for a review of all current courses.  Drefinski said the UUCC plans to complete the reviews by the 2014-15 academic year when the new plan is scheduled to be implemented.

The change in general education curriculum will not affect students currently enrolled at UW-Platteville.