We knew that the final PWPA meeting for the year was going to be special, but many of us were surprised by just how special it was. A day packed with PWPA faculty development, an introduction to the brilliant new program assessment tool designed by one of our very own, and PWPA collaborative writing was quite possibly one of the best ways in which this awesome organization could have spent time together. We may have begun a tradition.
The day began with Justin Everett’s presentation on the history and assessment of writing program development at the University of the Sciences. Working primarily with adjuncts, Justin has labored over the last several years to create a community of writing instruction that is shared, streamlined, and accountable to itself, and aims to offer competitive compensation to its teachers. Following a cycle of curriculum revision, portfolio creation and assessment (that measures how goals are met in the curriculum), and faculty development, the writing program at the University of the Sciences is one model for how assessment can help a program to reflect and move forward successfully.
Our colleagues at Chestnut Hill College (Keely McCarthy, Sue Magee, and Karen Getzen) presented next on their assessment of a new FY seminar, college writing and literature classes. Their project allowed students to self assess their reading comprehension skills. Students were asked a variety of questions ranging from how they perceived their reading skills improved through the semester to whether they annotated in the margins to how many times they were interrupted while reading an article. These kinds of questions allowed Chestnut Hill to create a simple assessment procedure that has started a culture of assessment and conversation about student learning. This framework has created a loop between the faculty, the classroom, and larger curricular questions.
Bill Lalicker of Westchester University presented next on his remarkable strategy for program reflection and assessment in a talk called “Strong Composition: Using Program Strength Quotient to Build a Better Program.” Bill has composed 12 “standards” and a 100-point scale that covers many aspects of a writing program, from Basic Writing to “disciplinary equity,” from “global Englishes” to “scholarly engagement with composition and rhetoric.” Using this self-assessment, programs can begin to make arguments to themselves about how they need to change and grow. What’s more, using the critical discourses of external assessing, administrating, and funding bodies, the PSQ measurement can help programs to make arguments to the important others that can provide the support and resources for that growth.
After a delightful lunch, the group gathered once again for the final piece of the day: collaborative writing. A few years ago, PWPA members began to discuss how they might work together on a researched publication. Drawing from the wealth of expertise that exists among us, what would be our focus? Adjunct support? Program development? Assessment? Together, we decided that a collaborative piece discussing the history, benefits, and future of the organization would be immensely useful to our colleagues across the field. We have accomplished so much together—collaboration with other organizations in the area, recruiting efforts to build membership, support of graduate students and part-time faculty, networking, supporting one another with staffing, building an online presence—that it’s well worth a publication that documents and shares who we are and what we’ve done. A Google Doc was created, and for quite some time it lay empty. On Friday, many brought laptops, and the writing began. As some of our sages spoke about the history of PWPA, others wrote reflections and began to build a structure for the document. Pages and pages were written together in just 90 minutes, and the buzz of this hive mind was exciting. In the Fall, we will use our first meeting to continue to shape the document and strategize how we will move forward with it.
Our many, many thanks to Liz Vogel and the wonderful people at Arcadia for hosting this energizing, intimate, illuminating gathering.