By Vicki Tolar Burton, Director, Writing Intensive Curriculum

First Impressions from Bacc Core Committee Assessment of WIC Courses

The Baccalaureate Core Committee (BCC) is charged with periodic review of all courses in the Bacc Core.  Now involved in a seven-year review cycle, the BCC is reviewing WIC courses by college, reviewing about 25 courses per year.  The first round of reviews includes the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences (CAS), Business (COB), and Public Health and Human Sciences (CPHHS). This review is not complete in that the BCC has not yet completed discussions or re-certified any courses under review; but some general observations can be made based on early data available.

On the plus side:

  • WIC learning outcomes are being measured in all courses, and faculty report that most WIC students are achieving WIC outcomes at an “acceptable” level, some at a “strong” level
  • Students are writing in a wide and impressive array of genres in their majors.  The pro-forma term paper is out, and the day of grant proposals/case studies/white papers and other creative assignments has arrived.
  • Peer review is widely used across colleges.  One hundred per cent of COB WIC syllabi indicate that peer review is used in the course; 57% of CPHHS syllabi indicated use of peer review; 46% of COB syllabi indicated use of peer review.  Peer review is not required but is clearly seen as an effective strategy for giving students feedback on writing.

On the minus side:

  • Because students need to know that a course is Writing Intensive and be aware of the WIC learning outcomes, the BCC has required since 2010 that the WIC learning outcomes appear verbatim, stand-alone on every syllabus.  Colleges vary in putting the WIC learning outcomes on syllabi, with roughly half of sections in compliance.  To WIC teachers: Please add the WIC outcomes to your syllabus, if they are not already there.  Don’t tweak the language.  Just cut and paste from the Bacc Core website.
  • A larger problem is becoming evident: as the undergraduate enrollment grows, there is pressure on WIC class size. For several years, the BCC has given departments some flexibility with the recommended 20 student limit for WIC classes, approving enrollments up to 30. The vast majority of WIC sections fall into that range.  But some do not.  This is an issue under consideration by the BCC and the WIC Advisory Board about which we will hear more later.

Why class size matters:  In order to improve as writers, students need detailed feedback (but not line-editing) on their writing followed by robust revision of their draft.  The time a faculty member can devote to giving feedback is finite.  The larger the class, typically, the less feedback writers receive, especially when faculty members have research demands of their own.  The amount of writing assigned also tends to decrease as class size expands.

Assessment results are prompting conversations in units, colleges, on the WIC Board, and in the Bacc Core Committee.  During spring term, the BCC will report their review results, and units will begin to close the feedback loop with changes and improvements in their courses.  The WIC program is here to help.

Copious, Imperfect Feedback: Phil Harding on Teaching Writing to Engineers
By Jillian Clark, WIC Intern and Summer Wimberly, WIC GTA

You’ve been teaching at OSU for over 6 years now. How did you get started with teaching?

 My dad taught at Evergreen State College; he was an architect, and he taught art there. He was always saying, “Phil, you need to be a teacher one day.” I said, “Dad, there’s no way in this day and age that I’m going back now, with a wife and kids and a mortgage, and do tenure track. There’s no way.” I was always very negative. I look back now, and I regret being so hopeless about the prospect. I was on the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering, and this position opened up, this Linus Pauling Chair. This is an endowed chair that’s dedicated to undergraduate education. I applied, and I got the position. It was just a great day. My dad had passed away, and so I like to think that he knows and he’s very happy upstairs. But that’s how I got here. I enjoy working with teams. The atmosphere with seniors is more collegial.  Students need a strong leader, but I love and respect my them.

Before teaching at OSU, what was your background in industry? How has your background in industry influenced your teaching?

I worked in a variety of roles in industry, from manufacturing to research and development. I had the luxury of working pulp and paper, petroleum, microelectronics, and even life sciences in the context of my HP time. That breadth of experience really suited the three disciplines we have here—chemical engineering, bioengineering, and environmental engineering. It really has helped to have seen different approaches to work and how people have been successful or not successful or partially successful, and then I preach what I practice.

For teaching engineers writing, I think that if you have someone who doesn’t have an engineering background—someone who isn’t accomplished in the technical world—it’s going to be difficult to get the students’ attention. We need to acknowledge that there are these chasms. It’s important for me to teach technical rigor, hopefully early in my exposure to students, so that they can see that I can relate these problems to industry.

Can you describe your WIC course for us?

Our WIC class, this senior capstone laboratory class, is structured so that you have a lecture and then you have multiple lab periods throughout the week. When I started, there were 4 labs that had 12-15 students each. Now, we have 7 labs that have 21-24 students each. I taught the largest WIC course on campus last year with 118.

We understand that you have a distinctive approach for teaching WIC. Can you tell us more about your teaching strategy?

When I started here six years ago, there were 40-some students in this class. It had just been declared the WIC class a couple of years before that. I would take these papers home on the weekend. I would work very hard, and I wouldn’t see my family. And I did that for the whole first time I taught the course. Because I refused to allow the quality of the instruction, in my estimation, to drop, I had to metamorphose this in order to survive.

Having a lecture and these multiple labs Monday through Friday has turned out to be a real convenience with regards to the WIC course execution. I train my TAs well to run the labs, to make sure the students are safe and text me if there are problems. I make sure the students have trained themselves well with doing pre-laboratory technical assignments and such. Then I go to the library; I disappear to a secret place on the sixth floor, and for two hours and twenty minutes, I go through all these papers with a rubric of some kind, record the scores, and then get back to the lab. Their early scores are very low, but I believe in copious, imperfect feedback. Engineers are notorious for wanting to be perfectionists, and that is one of the main reasons that engineering professors really struggle with WIC feedback. I cover the papers in so many marks (I buy whole packs of pens) that students aren’t even going to think about saying, “I deserve more points,” because look what an…opportunity for growth I have. That’s what I have embraced.

The benefit is that, although it is profoundly exhausting to do this for two and a half hours, it means that I get home at 6 o’clock, and other than email, I do not bring any papers home. I love my family time, and I just refuse. A lot of this evolution came from frankly selfish reasons. I was tired and miserable. My whole life, I’ve organized my way through everything. I had to prepare better, organize better.

Three years ago, I started training undergraduates who had been through my class before to help [in the lab and with writing]. We have a writing training workshop for two hours a day for the week before classes start. I give them one old report and seven minutes, and I tell them to mark it. I don’t give them a rubric; we just talk about it. What did they find? What was flawed?

Then I give them five more minutes for the abstract, and I ask them what makes a good rubric. What elements should be included? Five minutes, three abstracts. I tell them that I’m probably not going to change my own rubric, but I want them to see that they can arrive at those elements on their own. Then I tell them they have one minute to score the abstract. It’s worth 20 points, so how do you assign those points? One minute. I get them into the mentality of minutes, never hours or stacks of papers. It’s all planned out. This preparation course builds their confidences, gets them used to the speed.

We split the class this year, so I only had 96 students this fall and my colleague Líney Árnadóttir had 46. Thanks to her flexibility, I only had one of those three hour labs a day this fall, and I was light on my feet.

How do you structure the progression of assignments and revision?

There’s a persona paper, then resume; you understand yourself and professional expectations, and then you write a cover letter and have to apply for a job.

Students start with small assignments, but do so immediately. On the very first day of class I have students write what they imagine themselves doing in five years and describe their professional persona—how they’re perceived by their colleagues. This idea came from former School Head Ken Williamson.  After they write, I have them self-assess, critically, as if they’ve never seen it before. They always think it looks great. So I have them swap it with someone they don’t know, and I say “Ok, whoever is the peer reviewer, put your name on it, do not tell them it’s great because I will call you down and show you why it’s not great. They are counting on you to give feedback”.

Students then take what they did in lecture, and they bring it to their first lab period. I take those personas and correct whatever is necessary; I literally dot their “i”s. I just hammer—rewrite, rewrite. And they have to bring that back every week. It’s a really quick, 20 second thing for me.

While I focus on the persona, the writing TAs are correcting a draft of their resume. Meanwhile the technical work is starting, so they write update reports from lab. That’s really when it gets more serious. With the update report, I begin copious, imperfect feedback in earnest. I give students a feel for what we’re looking for—everything. I tell my TAs, we need to write down every rubric number on the margins so they say, “Wow, they are looking at so much detail.”

I don’t give out rubrics. When you go out and work, are you going to go to your boss and say, “Hello, I’m really excited to be here for this job. Could you give me a rubric so I can get a pay raise next year? Because that’s what I want.” Everyone laughs. So no rubrics are shared with students. I do verbally discuss with students and the class about what they think I’m looking for in an abstract, for example, and at this point I’ve already lectured about it.

After receiving that copious, imperfect feedback on the update report, students write a final report, adding new stuff like presentation of results and how to put good captions on figures. Then more copious, imperfect feedback, but the average climbs 5 or 8 points. Almost everyone sees, “Oh my score went up! It’s going to be ok! How long until the next assignment?” That’s how I do the feedback cycles in the engineering lab context.

I believe in this model. It distributes the student thinking. They’re writing, and it’s not everything the night before—which is a notorious issue. It distributes the student work. And it makes the feedback easier for instructors. Just have more, smaller writing.

Given your experience as an Engineering and WIC professor, what are some strengths and challenges you find with students as writers?

Engineers specifically don’t have very many opportunities to write during their first three years, and all of the WIC classes are stacked into the Senior year. The kids starting to come into my class have been texting for so long, that if they email, it’s all lowercase with no spelling or punctuation. They think that they can turn it on, that they can turn on the ability to see a word and recognize that it’s misspelled. They cannot.

It is very important to me how we at OSU represent ourselves. Now, I look at this page [Harding holds up project document] and I can immediately see this [misspelled word]. This team submitted their first version to me on a project they’re working on with an external industry colleague. However, despite their best efforts, here in the first sentence, the notorious misspelling of “engineer.” They’re good human beings; they work very hard, but they have lost the ability to see it. It’s terrifying for me because they’re going to go out and work for someone like me, people in my generation who are out there hiring. I’m saying that students coming in have huge challenges about attention span, attention to detail, and fundamental writing skills.

What other reflections can you share with Engineering faculty, WIC faculty, or instructors with large course enrollment?

On teaching writing

I don’t know formal grammar rules and lingo, and I don’t care. I know extra words when I see them. “The calibration of the pump”—pump calibration. Two extra words for the reader. “Because the pump needed calibrating (forget the comma) we chose to measure flow rates…” No, don’t make the reader wonder what’s going to come. Be direct in technical writing. “We calibrated the pump.” Tell them. The pump was calibrated this way. This is technical writing, again. Fewer words, communicate clearly.

On “grading”

I don’t use the word grade, by the way. I think it’s a very emotional word for us in America. I provide feedback. Then, if someone insists, I will tell them I scored it because I had to. If a student says I gave them a bad grade, I say, “What are you talking about? I didn’t give you a grade. What makes you think I had a grade in mind?” I’ll tell them that they wrote 100 units, and I found a flaw in 1/3 of them. That’s pretty good. Do they want me to find more? Of course not. When they go out and work, sometimes 1/3 of their work is going to be flawed. Get used to it. So I don’t use the word grade.

As a final question: What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Henry David Thoreau’s journal excerpts, and I read that so I learn new words. I keep a pen, and I circle the words and look them up. Right before that I read Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction—Galapagos.

Nominate your Student for the WIC Culture of Writing Award
By WIC Team

Along with flowers blooming and more sun shining, Spring is the time to nominate students for the Culture of Writing Award. The award is a way units across the disciplines can recognize and praise exceptional student writing, communicating to both the student and the university that good writing matters in all subject areas.

Nominating Students and Paper Selection

If a unit (school or department) is participating, faculty can nominate and submit student writing to the unit. Of all of the submissions, the unit then selects the best paper. After determining the winning paper, each unit should fill out this nomination form and submit it to WIC Assistant Summer Wimberly (  Once the form is accepted, the unit grants the winning student a $50 award which WIC then matches. The student, in total, receives $100, an award cirtificate, recognition in the WIC Spring Newsletter, and often in the student’s hometown newspaper.

Please submit the nomination form by 5pm PST, May 30, 2014. A more complete description of the Culture of Writing Awards policy and submission instructions can be found on the WIC website or by clicking here.

Tips and Models for the Award Nomination Process:

  • Some academic units use a department or school awards committee. The committee, then, would ask for faculty to nominate and submit their best undergraduate paper for the year and choose the awardee.
  • Some academic units want the awardee to be from a WIC course, so one or more WIC instructors select the best paper.
  • Some faculty may wish to submit a paper that was created as a group project, say from a senior capstone course. In this case the academic unit selects the team with the best-written project for the award. The $100 award, in these cases, is sometimes distributed evenly among team members. At other times academic units may contribute more than the $50 so students may receive a more substantial award. The decision of splitting the funds is subject to each academic unit.
  • Because the only way a student at OSU can receive a monetary award is through a deposit in the student’s account, the award must be given to a student who is currently enrolled. Thus, we have a deadline that enables us to process all awards to student accounts before the end of spring term. Units with special considerations regarding the due date should contact Summer Wimberly requesting an adjusted date.

For any questions or concerns, please contact WIC GTA Assistant Summer Wimberly at

Quick WIC Advice from WIC Faculty
By Jillian Clark, WIC Intern

We surveyed recent WIC Seminar alumni, asking which strategies work well in their WIC courses. Here are a few ideas:

“[Follow brief] lectures with writing assignments in class that pertain to the lecture, which provides me with insights on what students understood. [It also] provides students with an opportunity to work on their writing skills and rehearse new information. The next class then begins with a discussion of points gleaned from the writing that ‘fill[s] the gaps.’ This allows the instructor to both guide writing development and tailor lectures to the students’ needs.”

“Have students write a section of the core project, no more than 300 words, in class. [They] exchange those with a fellow student who then attempts to edit the piece down to fewer words and correct errors; these are returned to the original student. The goal is to learn brevity of expression, editing skills, and to participate in peer review. Students find this to be very informative.”

“I found what I learned about having students do peer review was very helpful. I wrote up a document to help them understand the difference between meaningful and unhelpful feedback, with specific examples of comments in each category. I also listed some other helpful tips for them. On average, I found the peer reviews most people wrote to be much better than what I expected and was quite pleased. There are a few things I can improve on next year, but for my first time guiding a peer review, I think it went well!”

“I have found informal, writing to learn strategies to be beneficial to students in all of my courses, not just my WIC course. Students become more active in the classroom through these activities, and they are more willing to engage in conversation after having a moment to think more deeply about a topic.”

More to come in the spring newsletter!

It’s time to Dine, Discover, and Discuss: The 2014 WIC Spring Lunch Schedule
By Summer Wimberly, WIC GTA

We at WIC are excited to announce that WIC’s Spring lunch seminars are coming up quickly. This year’s topics are lively and we are looking forward to the conversations to be had. All lunches this year are being held on Friday in Milam 215 from 12 to 1pm. To RSVP for one or more of the lunches, please click here.  If you have any questions regarding the seminars, please contact Summer Wimberly at  As always, delicious American Dream pizza and beverages will be provide.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Curiosity-Based Research
Anne-Marie Deitering (Valley Library), Hannah Rempel (Valley Library)

Anne-Marie Deitering and Hannah Rempel are interested in the intersections of WIC and curiosity-based learning. This panel will discuss curiosity-based research and how it can be used in the classroom.

Friday, April 18, 2014
Self-Assessment & Goal-Setting
Tracy Ann Robinson (MIME, College of Engineering), Tim Jensen (School of Writing, Literature, and Film)

This discussion will look at the role of goal-setting of writers as well as self-assessment of their writing processes.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Peer Review
Ehren Pflugfelder (School of Writing, Literature, and Film), Sara Jameson (School of Writing, Literature, and Film), Dennis Bennett (Writing Center), Celeste King (INTO)

One form of providing student feedback that WIC believes to be advantageous to both student and instructor is peer review.  In this panel discussion we will hear and discuss the practices instructors are using for peer review.

Friday, May 9, 2014
Teaching WIC Online
Kryn Freehling-Burton (Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Scott Heppell (Fisheries & Wildlife), Mary Nolan (Anthropology), Penny Diebel (Agriculture Sciences)

The growing interest in online teaching has been a hot topic nationwide as many colleges and universities, Oregon State included, expand their online course offerings. This panel discussion will consider the methods, modes, successes, and challenges of teaching WIC online.

WIC Students Publish
By Summer Wimberly, WIC GTA

WIC would like to give a hearty congratulations to the following students who are being published based on work done in their WIC courses:

  • Tyler Chagnon, current EXSS undergraduate, co-authored (with Brad Cardinal) “Traditional and alternative pathways to the practice of medicine in the United States” in Chronicle of Kinesiology in Higher Education
  • Joe Shannon, a 2013 EXSS undergraduate alumnus and former president of Pre-Therapy Allied Health Club, co-authored (with Brad Cardinal) “Healthcare careers in physical rehabilitation” in Chronicle of Kinesiology in Higher Education

Don’t Forget to Write!
By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director

This issue of Teaching With Writing richly displays many ways that OSU can celebrate our Culture of Writing.  We asked Culture of Writing winners to share advice about good writing. Don’t miss their excellent responses.  Also check out the complete list of Culture of Writing Award winners, their amazing topics, and their nominating professors.

If you are kicking yourself for missing the spring WIC lunch seminars, you can read about two of those lively events and the great teaching ideas they revealed in articles about peer review and teaching WIC online.

And believe it or not, the fall WIC Faculty Seminar (five Tuesdays, 3-5 pm, admittance by chair’s nomination) is about half full before we have even advertised it.  This is a great way to join the Culture of Writing at OSU with knowledge and collegiality.

To all who make the OSU Culture of Writing a growing reality, I want to say thank you.  First thanks go to all the faculty who have taught WIC courses this year.  With 150 WIC courses on the books, in any given year we are offering WIC courses to about 25% of the OSU undergraduates.  I am grateful for your dedication and determination to help your students learn to write in their majors.

Thanks to all who presented at the WIC spring lunch seminars: Anne-Marie Deitering and Hannah Rempel of the Valley Library on Curiosity-Based Research, Tracy Ann Robinson (MIME) and Tim Jensen (School of Writing, Literature, and Film) on Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting for Writers, Ehren Pflugfelder and Sara Jameson (School of Writing, Literature, and Film), Dennis Bennett (Writing Center), and Celeste King (INTO) on Peer Review for Writers, and Kryn Freehling-Burton (Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), Scott Heppell (Fisheries & Wildlife), Penny Diebel (Agriculture Sciences), and Shannon Riggs (E-Campus) on Teaching WIC Online.

Next, I want to thank Summer Wimberly, this year’s WIC GTA, whose grace and attention to detail and follow-through have made all things WIC run smoothly and my life better.  Summer especially shines at event planning—including dealing with a certain Monroe Road pizza establishment when they fail to deliver for a WIC event.  We had two outstanding WIC interns this year, Chad Iwertz, who was a great help with the seminar during fall term, and Jillian Clark, who interned both winter and spring.  Jillian and Summer broke new ground as they not only reviewed all the WIC courses undergoing Bacc Core Category Review but also analyzed the results and gave them to me in shiny tables and graphs.  As always, thanks to Jeanna Towns for her help with the budget and other mystical things administrative.

Thank you, finally, to Kevin Gable (Chair) and the Baccalaureate Core Committee for the inaugural assessment of WIC courses—this year comprising the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Business, and Public Health and Human Sciences.  I will be sharing some of the findings with you next fall, once the BCC’s work is concluded.

Happy summer to all, and don’t forget to write!

Writing Advice from Culture of Writing Awardees

By WIC Staff

The 2014 cohort of WIC Culture of Writing Awardees were asked to provide advice to fellow students on writing. Here is what they had to say:

“Have an emotional investment in the topic. After that, cut out unnecessary words.”—Anne Dennon, School of Writing, Literature, and Film

“Read your writing when you think you’re finished! Does your sentence length vary? Did you use the same adjective/verb/adverb in two consecutive sentences? Make sure everything flows nicely and don’t be afraid to ask for critical feedback from another writer you trust.”—Kevin Marks, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

“Create a good setting, work hard, ask for assistance, and be humble when other people offer their advice.” —Jacob Kollen, Crop and Soil Science

“Good writing is achieved through editing. An initial draft should be developed without expectations of producing a perfect document; achieving a final document will be executed through multiple drafts which will incorporate numerous edits, both small and large.” —Josh Hille, Mechanical Engineering

“Writing is both a science and an art. From the framework of grammar and punctuation, through the nuances of style and form, an idea can be transferred between minds. The better you write, the more accurately your ideas are represented. Be concise. Avoid colloquialisms. Raise your diction. Read often. Write often.” —Emily Mangan, Animal and Rangeland Sciences

“Start well before the deadline and have one person who is experienced and whom you trust to read over the piece and offer revisions. Also, talk to that person in depth about what you are trying to communicate and make sure it is as clear and concise as possible.” —Cory Gerlach, BioResource Research

“Make sure every word has a reason to be included. Editing your work to be concise while still communicating effectively is essential.” —Jay Stevenson, School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering

“Proofread your paper multiple times and have others read your paper as well for further feedback.” —Madison Bertoch, Chemical Engineering

“The first time you write something, it won’t be what you envisioned. Revise your writing to where it becomes acceptable.” —Zach Moeller, History, Philosophy, and Religion

“As with many activities in life, the craft of writing can be improved through practice. I believe, however, that being a good writer extends beyond the simple act of practicing. Writers who are truly passionate about their work will see the most success, both in terms of personal satisfaction and external reception, as that passion is a near-tangible quality that resonates with audiences. In order to be good at something, you must first enjoy what you do.”–Alyssa Hughes, Graphic Design

“Break down your long writing papers into pieces and then look at each piece as a separate paper. By doing this you instinctively create chapters within your writing that, with good transitions, will allow your reader clarity of thought.”

—Jonathan Beskow, Sociology


Peer Review and Challenging Students to Leave Their Comfort Zone
By Summer Wimberly, WIC GTA

This year the WIC Lunch Series hosted four spring seminar discussions. The topics included: Student Self-Assessment and Goal Setting, Teaching WIC Online, Curiosity Based Learning and Peer Review. Each discussion was lively, robust, and informative. 

In the peer review discussion, one theme stood out among the rest: student resistance. Panelist and Assistant Director of the Center for Writing and Learning, Dennis Bennett said of peer review “students resist until they can no longer resist.” But why? A major reason students resist is because peer review asks them to leave their comfort zone. To help students get out of their comfort zone as well as provide useful feedback for their peers, Bennett says structured peer review is an ideal model. Structured peer review helps guide students in the feedback they provide and can give them specific areas of content to focus on.

When Ehren Pflugfelder, Assistant Professor in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, assigns peer review on shorter assignments (600 words or less), he utilizes a round robin style of review. Students leave a copy of the assignment on a desk and then move around the class to comment anonymously on each other’s papers. Students spend a few minutes on each paper, providing quick feedback and then, towards the end of the reviewing session (or in a later class), students sit down and provide more robust feedback for a single assignment. With this method students can quickly overcome discomfort because the feedback they provide is both anonymous and brief. Another perk of this kind of peer review is that it can be performed using hardcopies of a paper or electronic copies. If students bring a laptop or are working in a computer lab, then comments can be made using sticky notes in Adobe Acrobat or the review function in Microsoft Word.

While Pflugfelder’s peer review model is face-to-face feedback, Sara Jameson, Senior Instructor in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, provided a method of doing peer review completely online. This option is excellent for instructors who value peer feedback, but struggle with finding sufficient class time to do it. In this online version of peer review, a discussion board is created for the assignments and students are asked to upload their assignments via the “create thread” button by a certain date and time. Once uploaded, students are asked to provide feedback on a first-come, first-serve basis, but also being aware of papers that haven’t received many (or any) reviews. That is, if one paper has three reviews and another has zero, choose to review the paper with zero reviews. Because papers are uploaded on discussion board, it is easy for students to see the drop down list of reviews. Another perk of this method is that students can look at all of their peer’s work and see how they are engaging with the assignment and class.

An important element of both of these types of peer review is that they are structured. Both Ehren Pflugfelder and Sara Jameson provide peer review forms. (A link to these forms is included below.) Using such forms provides students with guidance that leads them away from providing insubstantial feedback. Such forms can also help give students a stronger understanding of assignment goals, structure, and criteria. While this more complete understanding of an assignment is important for all students, it is especially beneficial for English Language Learner (ELL) students.  Sara Jameson noted that she particularly liked peer review workshop online because it allowed ELL students more time to read the posts and more time to respond. Celeste King, Associate Program Manager at INTO, notes that “when peer review is slowed down and the pressure is taken off, it empowers students.” King, who uses peer review with graduate students at INTO, is a strong advocate of peer review for the ways it supports ELL students’ learning. She describes peer review as “a point where international students can shift from their culture, and start meeting the standards of OSU/American academic culture.” Thus, peer review can be a critical way to help ELL students bolster their understanding of writing in the class as well as in the larger context of writing at an US university.

Together these different approaches can help students, domestic and international, engage more critically with their own writing as well as provide ways to critically interpret and evaluate the writing of their peers. In addition to the approaches listed above, below are a few more tips (from panelists and event attendees) for making peer review as successful as possible.

  • Conference with students based on a draft—they take it more seriously
  • Have students peer review on final drafts, then they can use that feedback on later writing assignments
  • Loss of points—if students submit an insubstantial draft, they could not be allowed to peer review or have their draft reviewed and thereby lose points

Handouts from this event are available here.

Teaching Writing Online: Writing to Learn Outside the Classroom
By Jillian Clark, WIC Intern

A topic requested by faculty was teaching WIC—and other writing classes—online. Many facultyduring the Fall Seminar sought different answers to the same question: How do I transfer this concept out of the classroom and on to the internet? The Spring Lunch Series sought the advice of Kryn Freehling-Burton, Penny Diebel, Scott Heppell, and Shannon Riggs to discuss the rewards and challenges of the online writing classroom.

The rewards, as discussed by the entire panel, are very clear. Writing to learn activities are readily adaptable to online platforms, such as Blackboard or the new Canvas system under review by the university. Discussion forums, wikis, and journal entries are all tools readily available to meet the needs of the course. Online writing classes can utilize tools like blogs and social media, which aren’t just simulating pen-to-paper writing but form the platforms for disciplinary and professional writing in the digital age. As panelist Kryn Freehling-Burton described, all interactions between students and between teacher and student are written. Students’ writing skills improve dramatically over the course of the term, and the students have a record of all the ideas generated, offering more opportunities to build upon others’ ideas. The process of writing becomes explicit in an online setting.

At the same time, student interactions can prove difficult online, without the personal interactions of the classroom, but a little preparation can go a long way. Panelist Scott Heppell posts a statement on his course site that is required to be read and “signed” by all students, outlining ground rules for appropriate online interaction and holding the students accountable for their presence in the course. He then scores discussion forums using a sliding scale: 7 points for posting; 8 points for posting “something intelligent;” 9 points for writing a comment on someone else’s post; and 10 points for posting something that provokes a response from other students. This encourages thoughtful interaction, and because online classes in some departments are smaller than face-to-face classes, students generate genuine relationships with their peers. The asynchronistic time frame, each student working at his or her own pace, gives students the opportunity to prepare and participate of their own accord, often generating better discussions than forced group work in face-to-face classrooms.

Another challenge discussed was plagiarism. Panelists and attendees of the lunch seminar expressed mixed feelings about the issue of plagiarism in online coursework. There are many ways online writing courses help prevent plagiarism. OSU librarians are available to contribute to the course and can provide research guides tailored to a course, suggesting databases and providing citation guidance. All coursework is submitted online, which provides ample opportunities to compare students’ drafts and, as panelist Penny Diebel notes, cuts down on lost papers. OSU also supports SafeAssign, a citation aid and plagiarism database which can alert students to passages in their writing that are cited incorrectly or that follow the author’s words too closely. However,  Heppell has found that plagiarism is more frequent in online courses, perhaps due to a perceived anonymity. Some panelists felt that SafeAssign can be a crutch and that students misinterpret SafeAssign as the “be all, end all” of documentation feedback, superseding the instructor.

Beyond plagiarism alerting tools, there are a significant number of other online tools that writing instructors can utilize throughout the entire writing process. Panelist Shannon Riggs laid out a number of these tools supporting the writing process from practice from invention to revision. Brainstorming tools include mind maps and webbing exercises almost identical to the pen and paper techniques favored by traditional teachers. These sites include:


Drafting tools, which can show students the process of collaborative writing and the growth of their writing, include:

  • Track changes
  • Google docs
  • File sharing in Blackboard
  • Small Group discussion boards

OSU’s current Blackboard system supports built-in, customizable rubrics, which clearly set assignment expectations, allow for grading in depth, and can make grading faster and more consistent. Instructors can also use lesser known tools to provide new forms of feedback. Text expansion software lets an instructor insert a pre-established comment—such as an explanation of a comma splice—into a document. Voice feedback tools allow instructors to give verbal feedback and record their impressions on a screen. Riggs’ suggested tools include:

  • Shortkeys
  • Jing

Attendees were asked to describe the most useful elements of the seminar, and many cited the discussion on SafeAssign and the Web 2.0 tools as important information to carry into future courses. Participants will be able to build on the multifaceted perspectives of the panel as they move toward increasing online student enrollment.

Handouts from this lunch are available here.

Culture of Writing Award Winners
By WIC Staff

Through the annual Culture of Writing Award, WIC and participating units and schools foster a commitment to excellence in undergraduate student writing and recognize the value of writing across the disciplines. Participation in the Culture of Writing Award has thrived since 2006 as students earn recognition and cash awards through either individual or team writing projects. This year, participation continues to be strong with early results showing 16 awardees.  WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing. Congratulations to this year’s award winners!

Student Name Title of Winning Paper Department Nominating Professor
1 Stefanie L. Baker “Ion Exchange System for Strontium Removal” Chemical Engineering Philip Harding
2 Preston Pallente
3 Madison Bertoch
4 Zachary Moeller “The Peach Platform: How Democrats Lost the 1864 Election” History Christopher Nichols (on behalf of Stacey Smith)
5 Cory V. Gerlach “Mono-substituted isopropylated triaryl phosphate, a major component of Firemaster 550, is an AHR agonist that exhibits AHR-independent cardiotoxicity in zebrafish” BioResource Research Katherine G. Field
6 Alysa Hughes “Pathways to Success: The Impact of Narrative Branding Campaigns” Graphic Design Andrea Marks
7 Jonathan Beskow “The Effect of Deviance on Solidarity” Sociology Breandan Jennings
8 Alexandria Mikesell “The common skate: an unexpected degree of genetic diversity” Fisheries and Wildlife Brian Sidlauskas
9 Kevin C. Marks “Affable Akutan- History and Hazards” College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Anita Grunder
10 Joshua D. Hille “Unified Medical Instrument Prototype Hardware (project sponsored by UMI)” School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering Javier Calvo, John Parmigiani, and Tracy Ann Robinson
11 Christopher R. Nesler
12 Jay B. Stevenson
13 Jacob K. Kollen “Phosphate Rocks!” Crop and Soil Science Jennifer Parke
14 Annie H. Kersting “Imperialism for Breakfast” Crop and Soil Science/ Environmental Science Jennifer Parke
15 Emily Mangan “On the Ethics of Protein Production in Transgenic Animals” Animal and Rangeland Sciences Giovanna Rosenlicht and Claudia Ingham
16 Anne Dennon “Social Perfection: Lifestyle Blogs as (Non) Evolved Utopias” School of Writing, Literature, and Film Rebecca Olson
17 Taylor M. Nowlin “Pathogenic bacterial species detected on raw alfalfa sprouts” Microbiology Walt Ream
18 Courtney Hollingsworth “Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Adaptations and Effectiveness in Treating Various Populations” Psychological Science David Kerr
19 Abigail Sage “Estimating Density of a Black Bear Population in Northeastern Oregon Using Dogs and Genetic Mark-Recapture Techniques” University Honors College Clint Epps
20 Heather Elise Wilson “Real time monitoring of chemical reactions with carbon nanotube field- effect transistors” School of Physics Janet Tate
21 James Amrhein “Design of Express Line for High-Volume Products (project sponsored by Sheldon Manufacturing)” School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering Javier Calvo, John Parmigiani and Tracy Ann Robinson
22 Olivia Girod
23 Adam Strength
24 Samuel Alexander Mihelic “’Keep right except to pass” traffic rule” School of Mathematics Nathan Gibson

For advice on on good writing from the winners, click here.

Fall 2014 WIC Faculty Seminar Call for Participants
by WIC Staff

by WIC Staff

The Fall 2014 WIC Faculty Seminar is just around the corner. Faculty interested in participating should ask their unit heads to email a nomination to WIC director Vicki Tolar Burton at

The seminar, for both faculty teaching WIC courses and faculty using writing in non-WIC courses, focuses on learning best practices for teaching writing across the disciplines. Upon completing the five-session seminar, participating faculty receive a modest honorarium. Held on five consecutive Tuesdays, seminar dates are listed below:

  • October 14
  • October 21
  • October 28
  • November 4
  • November 11

*All seminars are conducted 3-5pm, Milam 215.

Register as soon as possible—seminar spots are filling up quickly!


Fall 2013 

Intersections of Student Writing: A Conversation with Tim Jensen, Director of Writing, Getting Curious in the Research Classroom, Teaching with Zotero: Citation Management for Feedback and Peer Review, Collaborative Composition with Google Drive, 2013-14 Baccalaureate Core WIC Review, WIC in Action–Updates from the Fall WIC Seminar


Spring 2013

Peer Review in Renewable Materials Courses, Building Upon Teaching: An Interview with Sarah Henderson, Accessibility as Professional Responsibility, A Book Review of Teaching and Learning Creatively: Inspirations and Reflections, Writing and Research Assistants for International Students, Culture of Writing Award Winners, Fall 2013 WIC Faculty Seminar Call for Participants



Winter 2013

Helping Students Make Sense of Fair Use, Working with L2 Students, Spring 2013 Lunch Schedule, Call for Culture of Writing Awards




Fall 2012

Interview with Jon Dorbolo, Fall Seminar Recap, Taking Notes on Mobile Devices, Departmental Writing Guides, New Bacc Core Website





Spring 2012

Culture of Writing Award Winners, Challenging Writing Assignments, Departmental Writing Guide Overview, Know Your Library




Winter 2012

Interview with Mark Edwards, Reflective Writing Assignments, WIC Spring Lunch Schedule, New Culture of Writing Awards Protocol



Fall 2011

Interview with Janet Tate, Fall Seminar Recap, Deploying the Writer’s Personal Profile on Blackboard, Introducing the WIC Blackboard Resource Site





Spring 2011

New WIC Outcomes, Collaborative Writing and Learning, Responding to Students Electronically, WIC Culture of Writing Awards


Winter 2011 – Interview with Lisa Ede, Three Approaches to Peer Review

No Fall 2010 Newsletter


Spring 2009 – Interview with David Russell, Bring Writing to Art and Design

Fall 2008 – Responding to Student Writing


Spring 2008 – Women Studies, Trendspotting: Common Student Errors (Pt 2)

Winter 2008 – Information Literacy, Trendspotting: Common Student Errors (Pt 1)

Fall 2007 – The Writer’s Personal Profile, Building Visually Fluent Texts


Spring 2007 – Kathleen Blake Yancy Visits OSU

Winter 2007 – Using Images in Student Writing

Fall 2006 – Educating Academic Writers, Introducing “They Say, I Say”


Spring 2006 – Departments Assessing Writing

Winter 2006 – Announcing: WIC Culture of Writing

Fall 2005 – Writing and Thinking about Ethics


Spring 2005 – OSU Heritage Language Learners Program

Winter 2005 – Putting WIC on Stage

Fall 2004 – Technology Across the Curriculum


Spring 2004 – Developing Writing Outcomes for WIC Classes

Winter 2004 – The Sequenced Assignment

No Fall 2003 Newsletter


Spring 2003 – New Grammar Tools for WIC Classrooms, Biology Haikus

Winter 2003 – Critical Thinking: Multiple Models for Teaching and Learning

Fall 2002 – 2001-02 WIC Grant Updates


No Spring 2002 Newsletter

Winter 2001 – Thesis Writing in Community, Interview with Brad Cardinal

Fall 2000 – Discovering Common Ground in the WIC Classroom


Spring 2001 – A Report on the State of Writing at OSU

Winter 2001 – Thesis Writing in Community

Fall 2000 – Arguing for Complexity


Spring 2000 – Writing for Change: Raising Awareness of Difference, Power, and Discrimination

Winter 2000 – A Capacity for Connectedness

Fall 1999 – Pair-A-Dice Regained: Multi-Writing as Imaginative Reality


Spring 1999 – WIC Celebrates its Tenth Year

Winter 1999 – A Modest Proposal

Fall 1998 – Student Writing at OSU


Spring 1998 – One Writer’s Story

Winter 1998 – Teaching Students to Revise

Fall 1997 – Responding to Student Papers


Spring 1997 – Jumping into Writing-to-Learn

Winter 1997 – High Tech, Low Tech, Fast Tech, Slow Tech

Fall 1996 – Successful Peer Review


Spring 1996 – Writing Philosophy Papers: A Student Guide

Winter 1996 – Writing in Marketing

Fall 1995 – WIC On-Line


Spring 1995 – Writing-to-Lead

Winter 1995 – Writing-to-Learn for the Sciences

Fall 1994 – Dispelling Grammar Myths in WIC


Spring 1994 – Curriculum Revision

Winter 1994 – WIC and the Baccalaureate Core

Fall 1993 – WIC Roots


Spring 1992 – An Interview with Stephen Chovanec

Winter 1992 #2 – An Interview with Sally Davenport

Winter 1992 #1 – An Interview with Michael Mix

Fall 1991 – Making Formal Writing Assignments


Spring 1991 – The Vaccination Theory of Writing

Winter 1991 #2 – Writing = Problem Solving?

Winter 1991 #1 – Integrating Informal Writing

Fall 1990 #2 – WIC Courses: Common Questions

Fall 1990 #1 – Active Learning?