By Jordan Stanley
As universities across the Carolinas begin and continue to nourish writing and English programs across their curriculums, the role of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) becomes an essential player in the development of these schools. QEPs typically involve a multi-faceted proposal for how to improve particular aspects of student learning in a university through specific strategies that aim to achieve an overarching goal. In the case of East Carolina University (ECU), this goal is to “integrate, align, and reinforce writing instruction for students” throughout their entire educational experience. In this post, I will focus on how ECU’s QEP is geared toward and advances students in particular.
The title of the ECU’s QEP, “Write Where You Belong,” is representative of the initiative’s focus on making writing pedagogy more inclusive and applicable to all disciplines—not just English. In an interview with Dr. Wendy Sharer—the QEP Director at ECU and past President of CarolinasWPA—she said that, “Perhaps the unique thing about ECU’s QEP is that we’re mixing several things.”
One major facet of the QEP is the ENGL 2201: Writing About the Disciplines QEP curriculum initiative. This initiative is a synthesis of the collaboration with two other universities. Appalachian State University faculty shared their plan to create a “vertical curriculum,” in which students take a writing-intensive course each year of their undergraduate degree program. George Mason University, in turn, shared the value of their junior year discipline-themed composition courses, such as writing in the social or natural sciences. Together, ECU blended these two ideas to create ENGL 2201, which is to be taken in the sophomore year and offers several different sections of the course that are themed around various disciplines, from health sciences to education. The goal of this program, it seems, is to both ensure the continuity of student writing development and to encourage expanding this development across disciplines.
The ECU QEP reinforces this continuous student development through the implementation of the University Writing Portfolio (UWPort). As first-year students, ECU undergraduates are required to take the ENGL 1100 composition class, where they will create an electronic UWPort. This will serve as a foundation for each time a student takes a course with the university’s “Writing Intensive” (WI) designation. Students will be able to build, their UWPort, uploading writing samples with accompanying “writing self-analysis,” which describes the student’s writing process and explains/assesses the choices they made throughout their composition.
What separates ECU’s UWPort from other university’s electronic portfolios is that, because many ECU students take at least one WI course per year, the end product will have great longitudinal value. “This process is unique in that is makes metacognitive writing (writing in which a writer studies and evaluates his or her own writing) a practice that students engage in across their time at ECU,” says Dr. Sharer. “A good deal of research suggests that metacognition is critical to learning and applying what one has learned to new contexts, so we hope that students will, by the end of their undergraduate degree programs, students will be better able to assess and hence improve their own writing.”
So far, ECU is seeing several direct benefits from the QEP, one of which being the construction and staffing of an actual Writing Center space. The use of this Writing Center has doubled from 2,500 to 5,000 appointments per academic year since before the QEP. This seems to serve as a manifestation of increasing writing awareness in the student body across ECU’s campus. An upcoming post will examine how faculty, too, are benefitting from ECU’s QEP.
Jordan Stanley is currently a junior at Elon University. She is studying English with concentrations in Professional Writing & Rhetoric and Creative Writing, and works both in the Elon Writing Center and as a Writing Fellow.