UWG Quality Enhancement Plan Focuses on Improving Undergraduate Writing Skills

Monday, March 31, 2014

The University of West Georgia recently announced that the QEP, or Quality Enhancement Plan, will focus on the importance of undergraduate writing in the core curriculum. In order to choose the topic, UWG faculty were asked to submit topics for the QEP. Once the submission process was complete, the Faculty Senate and the President’s Advisory Council worked together to select the topic that would best serve the university’s constituents.

"The Quality Enhancement Plan is a five-year plan to improve students ability to write in standard academic English,” said Dr. Jon Anderson, UWG deputy provost for academic affairs. “This topic was identified through an inclusive university-wide selection process. It will impact all students enrolling in core courses at UWG."

The National Survey of Student Engagement showed that students consistently rank their language skills far higher than their professors do, proving the students are unaware of their deficiencies in this necessary skill. Moreover, the National Commission on Writing found that 95 percent of employers surveyed considered clear, concise and correct writing either “extremely important” or “important,” and “poor writing skills” was listed as a “barrier to promotion” in a survey taken of human resource directors at 120 major American corporations. UWG has developed this QEP to correct this issue and to best serve its students.

“In everything from taking useful notes to producing exams, papers and reports, students must be able to write with clarity, specificity, correctness and rhetorical flexibility,” said Dr. Debra MacComb, QEP director and associate professor of English. “But more than a product, writing is also intimately connected to thinking: we solidify our understanding of complex issues by breaking them down into discrete elements, and putting them into language we understand and can use effectively. I would strenuously argue that writing is not only an academic skill, but a critical life skill for one’s professional, intellectual, social and political life after college.”

Writing includes more than using correct grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. A strong writing foundation extends to the proper organization of thoughts, audience consideration and providing support for ideas. These are not static skills, but rather ones that will continue to be refined over time. According to the QEP, the university will revise its core curriculum to increase awareness, instruction and assessment of writing skills in all core areas, not just English 1101 and 1102.

“Writing, in and of itself, is a rigorous process,” said Duane Theobald, manager of the UWG Writing Center. “Many students do not realize that once they leave the university environment and embark on a career path, the writing skills utilized in previous courses will be essential for overall success. Through the implementation of the QEP, along with the expansion and efforts of the University Writing Center, it is my hope that students will leave UWG better prepared to be engaging, effective communicators in the workplace.”

The plan aims to boost faculty and student awareness of writing as an essential skill, regardless of major or chosen career path. The UWG Writing Center, which offers individual tutoring sessions, workshops and writing exercises, will also expand its services to include discipline-specific writing tutorials.

“The QEP proposes to make effective, correct writing a learning outcome in all areas of the UWG core, not just Freshman Composition, so that students are constantly returning to their writing skills and refining them with each new effort,” said MacComb. “The plan will make UWG students more effective writers by giving them practice in several discipline-specific discourses, awareness of a rhetorical repertoire available for effective communication, and a thorough grounding in grammar and mechanics so important for clarity and authority.”

Planning for the QEP began in 2010. Pending SACS approval in April 2014, UWG will fully implement the plan by fall semester 2015.