Goucher College Writing Proficiency Questions
How do Goucher students typically acquire the skills they need to meet the College Writing Proficiency requirement?
Because writing academic prose requires such a complex suite of skills and some unusual specialized knowledge of format and audience-relationship conventions, there is no single path that all students must take to achieve College Writing Proficiency. Writing is a cognitive skill which must be practiced often to be acquired and maintained, but it also requires social skills which only can be acquired by first-hand experience in a supportive environment that sets appropriately high standards of performance. Some extremely well-prepared students may arrive writing proficient academic prose before their first semester. Most students need a semester or two to change their composing processes and to learn how to manage their papers' relationships to the papers' readers. Some students whose backgrounds have not prepared them well for the task may take several semesters to adjust. Click here to see the typical routes by which students meet the College Writing Proficiency requirement. Writing your very best on the Writing Placement Essay is the all-important first step in your progress toward achieving CWP.
I am dissatisfied with my placement results from the Writing Placement Essay--what should I do now?:
If this is your first semester at Goucher, and if you are a strong writer, experienced in doing scholarly research and in using the results in properly documented academic papers, you could use samples of your writing to persuade the Writing Program to raise your placement by submitting a 3-paper portfolio. Before you assume that you are correct and we are in error, however, please consult the College Writing Proficiency criteria which your prose must meet before you can graduate. If you do not understand clearly the terms it uses to describe proficient writing, you may not understand how academic prose operates at the level required by Goucher faculty. Experienced writers know that, when they change audiences, they sometimes must write more articulately and use more carefully crafted arguments in order to persuade their new readers. If your only sense of your writing quality comes from comments on your papers in one high school or at a previous undergraduate institution, you must accept the possibility that Goucher's standards of writing quality may be higher than those of the instructors who wrote those comments. Learn who we are by studying what we want from your writing. If you still believe your prose can meet those criteria, please send us a portfolio according to the instructions on the Writing Portfolio web page. We will respond as quickly as possible. If you are a new student during Fall Orientation or the Add/Drop period, we may make exceptions to the number of papers required if you can provide us with at least one sizeable sample of your academic prose.
Do I get CWP for passing English 105, or for getting a certain grade in English 105, or for taking and passing a Writing Across the Curriculum Course? Can I get CWP with a certain score on the AP exam, the IB exam, or the SAT Verbal or Writing exams?
Grades are calculated by averaging together scores for a variety of tasks, many of which may be related to writing quality, but some of which may not be directly relevant to it. For instance, lots of instructors award grade points for class participation, quiz scores, workshop cooperation, good peer editing feedback, etc. etc. Though many of those activities are important to being a good, cooperative member of the class, they are not relevant evidence the CWP criteria were met. College Writing Proficiency is demonstrated by producing writing that meets the CWP criteria. Similarly, if students take and pass courses, that is evidence they met the courses' grading requirements, but it tells us nothing about how well the students' writing meets the CWP criteria. For that reason, the Registrar's online grading program requires instructors to enter the CWP result separately from the grade, and it is recorded separately in the "degree audit" form that students and their advisors receive from the Registrar.
The exam questions confuse tests of knowledge with the ability to demonstrate skills. Imagine awarding Olympic medals to athletes who score highest on a standardized test on their sport. Academic writing requires the exercise of a wide range of skills, as well as the mastery of a body of knowledge that guides those skills. The CWP criteria tell us, and student writers, how we measure the exercise of those skills in actual practice. The College Board specifically cautions against using the SAT Verbal score as a measure of actual writing ability. Some people simply test well or poorly on standardized tests, and writing is not demonstrated by filling in circles on a form. The SAT Writing exam is a useful tool for estimating whether incoming freshmen are able to compose impromptu essays in less than half an hour, but it gives us no idea whether Goucher students can research, compose, and revise a complex paper over many weeks. That is the typical process which produces academic writing, and that is the process the CWP requirements are designed to measure.
I didn't get CWP in English 105, English 106, or a WAC course in which the instructor and I had signed the WAC contract, or I was not at Goucher for my first year of college--what should I do now?
If you took English 105, 106, or a WAC course at Goucher, your instructor should have filed an Academic Progress Report for you at the end of the semester, and it should tell you what you need to work on and what course of action seems best. Generally, there are three options for a returning student or transfer student.
If you are a strong writer, experienced in doing scholarly research and in using the results in properly documented academic papers, you could use samples of your writing to persuade the Writing Program that you meet the CWP criteria by submitting a 3-paper portfolio.
If you think your writing is adequate for college but you are unsure whether you are ready for scholarly research writing, you might be able to learn what you need by taking a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) course, a current list of which may be found in the Course Offering booklet prepared each semester by Student Administrative Services. Consult the WAC Course Contract for a description of the basic requirements for you and for the course.
If you know your writing needs more devoted attention to prepare you to write for college, you should register for English 106, multiple sections of which are offered every semester. If no seats are available in the existing sections, contact SAS and the Writing Program Director--we will try to make room for you even if we have to start a new section.
Whatever you do, do not put off this requirement! Especially if writing is difficult for you, it may take more than one semester to learn what you need to know in order to graduate. More importantly, since most upper division courses at Goucher require significant amounts of writing no matter what your major is, your GPA will be needlessly lowered by writing problems until you solve them. Take the time now to learn to write academic prose and set your best ideas free on paper!
When I looked in the Course Offering booklet from SAS, I saw sections of English 105 being offered in the fall--why can't I just enroll in one of those sections?:
Fall Semester English 105 sections are "advanced placement," limited to the very best incoming freshmen writers in hopes they will be able to progress toward CWP rapidly and move toward courses in their major at an accelerated rate. These sections are extremely competitive, and seats in them are limited. If you are not an extremely talented writer, you would not do well in them, and even if you are, but are not a first-semester freshman, you would be taking one of those seats from someone who needs them. Please consider your three alternatives (above) and talk with the Writing Program Director if you have any questions.
I think my writing is good enough for the Writing Portfolio option, or I would like to try a WAC course but I'm a little uncertain whether my writing is good enough--is there any other support for writers trying to achieve CWP?
Yes! The Writing Center is staffed by the best student writers at Goucher, people who were nominated by their instructors, passed an interview and writing sample, and successfully took a 3-credit course to teach them how to tutor (English 221). Their services are free to Goucher students, staff, and faculty, and they are open (usually) from 10 AM until 10 PM from Sunday through Thursday, and from noon to 4 PM on Friday. You can drop in at the Center in the Froelicher Hall lobby, or to make sure you have a tutor, you can make an appointment by calling ahead at 410-337-6551. The schedule is updated every semester after the Center opens, and you also can get a list of tutors and their majors/interests at the Writing Center web site.
Tutors can help advanced writers prepare their portfolios for submission (we encourage you to revise them!), and they can help writers in English 106 and WAC courses satisfy the particular CWP criteria they need to work on. Please be aware that tutoring is a very personal matter, rather like choosing a doctor. If you don't hit it off with the first tutor you try, you should pick another until you find someone with whom you feel comfortable.