We focused on revision in this assessment cycle. “Revision” here needs to be understood not merely as turning a first draft into a final one by fixing specific mechanical problems after proofreading, but as sustained reflection on one’s writing, inspired by both one’s own evolving ideas and by feedback from others, and leading to new and better versions of one’s work. Revision is thus a continuous process that happens in multiple, perhaps overlapping, cycles and constitutes a key component of the writing process. INTD 105 attempts to “sell” revision as a hallmark of a skilled writer, but the process is not something our students understand fully. Developing students’ ability to do it well is thus an important part of achieving INTD 105’s “write sustained, coherent, and persuasive arguments” outcome.
Considering the importance of revision, we proposed and got Senate approval for a change to the INTD 105 requirements effective fall 2015. As of that semester, every INTD 105 section assigns at least three essays that explicitly include revision as part of the writing process. This assessment report gauges how effective that change has been.
Method and Results
We gathered assessment data in spring 2016 by asking instructors to score one of their “revision” assignments against a rubric. We developed the rubric in a workshop with current INTD 105 instructors. The rubric classifies essays as “excellent” (revision clearly improved the essay by drawing on multiple sources of feedback), “adequate” (revision improved the essay by resolving explicitly identified problems but without comprehensively considering all feedback), or “insufficient” (revision didn’t improve the essay or wasn’t attempted).
The fact that 87% of the essays show evidence that students can effectively revise their writing is a good result, although we hope that it becomes even better in the future. In particular, it would be nice to see a stronger bias towards “excellent” rather than merely “adequate” revision skills, and to see even fewer students falling in the “insufficient” category.
Looking Forward (Closing the Loop)
The activities students do in INTD 105 and the support instructors provide for those activities are key to extending the successes indicated by our assessment data. Thanks to generous support from the provost’s office, we have revived the INTD 105 instructors’ workshops, which we now offer near the beginning of each semester. We also encourage new instructors to meet with us to discuss the course and plan their syllabi. Finally, we have a wiki space for INTD 105 news and resources. We will use all of these channels to keep revision in particular, and writing as a process generally, prominent in the ways instructors teach INTD 105.