Pre/Views: When WIC Class Size is the Elephant in the Room
By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director 

Image Courtesy of Aduldej at

For a number of College of Engineering WIC courses, the elephant in the room has long been class size, with sections that should have fewer than 30 students swelling to over 100. With the recent Bacc Core Committee Category Review of WIC in the College of Engineering, the elephant is no longer being ignored. The purpose of smaller class size, aligned with national standards, is to allow instructors to give meaningful formative feedback on drafts in order to guide revision. As we last year posted results for the review of WIC in Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Business, and Public Health and Human Sciences, here are the review results for Engineering:

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asdfasf Read More Teaching Marine Biology Writing in the Field: An Interview with Sally Hacker
By Natalie Saleh, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC Intern

Dr. Sally Hacker’s 15-credit WIC course, BI 450, immerses students in Marine Biology on the Oregon Coast. Read More


Top Scholar on Second Language Writing Visits OSU
By WIC Team 

Paul Matsuda, Professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University and an international leader in the teaching of second language (L2) writing, visited Oregon State on Feb 11, 2016, to host workshops and share strategies for teaching and assessing L2 writing. Read More

2016 WIC Seminar Faculty Recognized
By Kristina Lum, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC GTA

The WIC program and staff would like to congratulate the 13 faculty participants of the 2016 WIC Winter Seminar. We are pleased to have these members of the WIC community committed to seeking professional development in the teaching of writing across the disciplines. Read More


Nominate Your Best Student Writer for the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Your Discipline
By WIC Team

As spring term arrives, please remember to nominate outstanding undergraduate writers for WIC Culture of Writing Awards. Recognizing exceptional student writing communicates to our students and the university that good writing matters in every discipline. Read More

RWIC Spring LUnchWIC Spring Pizza Lunches
By WIC Team

We are happy to announce our Spring Lunch Series schedule. This year’s topics are lively, and we look forward to the stimulating conversations that will occur. Read More

By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director
vicki_cropJune is the time for congratulations, gratitude, and closure. In this issue we congratulate Walt Ream’s student team in Microbiology 311 who turned a class research project on genomes into a scholarly publication. Congratulations also to our 2016 WIC Culture of Writing awardees from across the university, and to their nominating teachers. Read below about these amazing undergraduate research projects. These are among the best of OSU’s undergraduate writers.

Feeling a little stressed? Check out my article “Mindfulness for Distracted Writers,” which was also the topic of one of our spring lunches. Did you miss Chris Thaiss’s wonderful presentations on writing in STEM? Kristina Lum and Natalie Saleh bring you some highlights.

I also want to express public thanks to the WIC team, who have made this year a success and a joy. Thanks again for the generous leadership of Tracy Ann Robinson, who served as interim WIC Director while I took a fall term sabbatical. Thanks also to Kristina Lum the WIC GTA. Her positive spirit, astute course assessment, consulting advice, and event planning have made WIC a better program and my life much better. Thanks to WIC intern Natalie Saleh, who worked with us throughout the year, contributing in many areas of the program from the newsletter to course reviews. Thanks also to WIC office assistant Julie Howard for her attention to endless details on many WIC projects. And thanks to all the faculty who have taught our 150+ WIC courses this year.

Have a great summer! See you in September.

RCOW-300x232By WIC Team 

WIC and participating units strive to foster a commitment to excellence in undergraduate student writing and recognize the value of writing across the disciplines with the annual Culture of Writing Award.

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. WIC would like to thank all participating units for their continued desire to recognize and reward outstanding student writing.

Congratulations to this year’s awardees!

Student Name Paper Title College/Unit Nominating Professor
Alexandra (Lexie) Krueger “Cardiovascular System Technical Description” Kinesiology Elizabeth Delf
Alyssa Froman “Plutarch’s Women: A Unique Perspective on the Value of Women in Ancient Rome” History Kevin Osterloh
Alyssa Rollins “Seventeen Days: A Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for Hispanic Adolescent Females in Portland, Oregon” Public Health Peggy Dolcini
Amandip Singh “Decaying Pig Body’s Impact on Forest Soil Microbiota” Microbiology Walt Ream
Armando Kraynick “Gondar Site Development Project, Final Group Design Report V2.0” Civil Engineering Shane Brown
Keisuke Harry “Gondar Site Development Project, Final Group Design Report V2.0” Civil Engineering Shane Brown
Nicklaus R. Abdou “Gondar Site Development Project, Final Group Design Report V2.0” Civil Engineering Shane Brown
B. Lauren Stoneburner “Trumpet of the Spirit, Bass of Faith: Jazz as a Cold War Spiritual Weapon” Religion Christopher Nichols
Breanna Hagerman


“The Influence of Race and Gender on an Individual’s Support for Reducing Income Inequality” Sociology Kelsy Kretschmer
Brian Dougherty “Biochar as a Cover for Dairy Manure Lagoons: Reducing Odor and Gas Emissions While Capturing Nutrients” Bioenergy Minor Kate G. Field
Danika Locey “Frauenliebe und Leben: Robert Schumann’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” Music Julia Goodwin
Darian Taylor Seim “Understanding the Impact of Orientation on Gene Expression of lux operon in pKN800 Transformation into Escherichia coli DH5a” Microbiology Ryan Mueller
Jason Sandwisch “Radical Addition Polymerization and Characterization of Polymethylmetacrylate by GPC, DSC, and Viscometry” Chemistry Michelle Dolgos
Jenna Marie Proctor “The Great Hall: A Story of Promise, Lost Opportunity, and the Value of the Liberal Arts” Honors College Ben Mutschler
Jennifer K. Green “Transient Electron Donor Concentration Experiments for the Determination of Dehalogenation Rate and Kinetic Parameter Shifts in an Anaerobic Microbial Culture” Honors College Lewis Semprini
Jennifer Green “Calcium Removal for Increased Hydrolyzate Activity” Environmental Engineering Philip Harding
Miranda Raper “Calcium Removal for Increased Hydrolyzate Activity” Bioengineering Philip Harding
Zachary Jones “Calcium Removal for Increased Hydrolyzate Activity” Chemical Engineering Philip Harding
Joshua Y. Zheng “Conveying Affect: Vocal vs. Nonverbal Cues” Psychology Frank Bernieri
Justin Stangel “Ethics in Construction Bidding” Construction Engineering Shane Brown
Kendra Sherman “Strong Bones Start Young” Kinesiology Tony Wilcox
Lauren Henneford “Is Cosmetic Tail Surgery in Dogs Ethical?” Animal Sciences Claudia Ingham
Michelle Koepke “Standardized Testing” Economics Carol Tremblay
Mudra Choudhury


“The Development and Application of a Systems Biology Approach to Mapping Monocyte Gene Regulatory Networks” BioResource Research Kate G. Field
Natasha M. Smith “An Enzymatic Study of the Role of Tyr415 in Native Catalase HPII using the UAA Mutants: 3-Cl-Tyr415 and 3-Br-Tyr415” Biochemistry and Biophysics Kari van Zee
Samuel Kowash “Solving the Geodesic Equation on the Poincaré and Klein Disks” Mathematics Tevian Dray
Samuel Kowash “The Lag-Luminosity Correlation in Time-Resolved Episodes of Long Gamma-ray Bursts” Physics Janet Tate



By Kristina Lum, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC GTA, and Natalie Saleh, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC Intern

A panel of GTAs and instructors whose WIC courses involve GTAs presented on their experience with student writers at the WIC lunch on May 6. The panel provided insight into the strengths and weakness of student writing and pointed out ways that instructors can make better use of GTAs in their classrooms. Typically, GTAs are only used in WIC classes when the class size exceeds the allowed maximum of 25-30.

The presenters were …

  • Tracy Ann Robinson; Instructor; Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Maggie Anderson; GTA; Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Lauren Crandon; GTA; Chemical Engineering
  • Monica Olvera; Instructor; Human Development and Family Sciences
  • Jason Pascoe; GTA; Civil Engineering

Strengths and Areas of Improvement in Student Writing

Some strengths that GTAs recognized in student writing include:

  • Motivation to obtain job skills
  • Ability to generate interesting ideas
  • Creativity in writing assignments

The areas GTAs noticed students struggling the most were:

  • Recognizing the differences in genres in the field
  • Understanding and writing to a specific audience
  • Learning disciplinary documentation and writing styles
  • Choosing the appropriate tone

Strategies to Support GTAs

One GTA mentioned that he had never had formal training in how to grade papers. While he thinks he grades fairly, he thinks more guidance on what kinds of comments are most helpful could benefit him and his students. Such a training could focus on teaching GTAs how to give effective global feedback rather than focusing on local feedback.

Another issue that came up is that one GTA struggled with grading student papers when there was not a standardized rubric. One way to do this is by providing or allowing the GTA to create a rubric that applies to all students. A rubric can help GTAs ensure that their grading is fair and transparent, so professors can collaborate with the GTA to create a rubric.

It is also important for instructors to support and reinforce the authority of GTAs, so that students respect and address the feedback GTAs provide students. A constant flow of communication between GTAs and professors is essential.


By WIC Team

Congratulations to Professor Walt Ream and his Microbiology 311 students for the publication of their article, “Draft Genome Sequence of Erwinia billingiae OSU19-1, Isolated from a Pear Tree Canker” in the journal Genome Announcements. The students were enrolled in a Molecular Microbiology Lab WIC Course (MB311, winter, 2015).

Dr. Ream offers the following details on the project:

The first author, Jeannie Klein (a Microbiology major), did her honors thesis research with Virginia Stockwell, who works at the USDA facility in Corvallis. Virginia is well known for her work on biological control of fire blight disease on fruit trees.  Jeannie worked on that project for two years.

Writing Process

Each student in MB311 wrote a proposal to study microbial populations in environmental samples. The students selected the best proposal from each group of twelve. The students selected Jeannie’s proposal to study the bacteria that inhabit fire blight cankers; I agreed with their decision. Jeannie directed the experiment and cultured an organism for genome sequencing.

The fact that the organism was so interesting was pure luck. This is only the second genome sequence published for this organism. To put that into context, many human pathogens and commensals have been sequenced hundreds of times (or more). The Erwinia billingiae type strain was isolated in the 1950s from a fire blight canker on a pear tree in England.  Despite the great temporal and geographic distances that separate Jeannie’s strain from the type strain, they share many genes in common, including ~40 genes on a plasmid. Because plasmids are not essential for life, they are quickly lost unless they contribute to the fitness of the bacterium. The plasmid genes these two strains share have been conserved for 57 years, which is an eternity for bacteria. So, they must do something important.

The students and TA (Wei Wei) each contributed to the first draft of the paper, although Jeannie and Rhett Bennett (another student from Stockwell’s group) made the most significant contributions. Logan MacFarland was not part of the original team; his contribution was to show me how to use multiple genome assembly programs in tandem to improve the assembly. I revised the abstract and text so that they met the word limits.

Jeannie and I struggled with one sentence. We knew the original version was confusing, but neither of us knew how to fix it. We gave the draft to Virginia for review, and she completely misunderstood the sentence, confirming that we had a problem. Here is our solution: OSU19-1 lacks significant similarity to pEB170, but contigs 2 (98,580 bp) and 10 (40,687 bp) share 26,170 bp and 14,490 bp (94 to 96% identity) with different regions of pEB102. This is not elegant, but it is more clear than was the original version.

Virginia also critiqued our interpretation and asked us to cite the original papers by Eve Billing (for whom the species is named). These papers are so old they are not available online, so we made a trip to the library! I find it reassuring that Google does not know everything.

Jeannie, the lead researcher, has accepted an offer to enter a PhD program at the University of Florida (Gainesville) where she will continue her education in Plant Pathology.

The library’s Open Access Fund made publication of this article possible. Without their support, we could not have paid the publication costs. This is an important program that supports publication of articles written by OSU students. I hope this fund will continue indefinitely and receive an increased budget. The current level of funding is modest but greatly appreciated. Your support for the Open Access Fund could make a difference.



By WIC Team

The 2016 WIC Culture of Writing Award winners were asked to give writing advice for students in their respective majors/disciplines. Here is what they had to say:

Alyssa Froman, History:
“I have found in history courses that you have to be open to change. That is, if you set out researching one topic, and halfway through realize that it’s irrelevant or less exciting than a new lead, go ahead and follow your gut. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, it will always be better than something forced. Another tip is to print out your paper and edit it by hand — we stare at computer screens for hours upon hours and it drains our eyes. Mixing it up by reading a real piece of paper can help you zero in on sections that you would otherwise gloss over.”

Alyssa Rollins, Public Health:
“My biggest piece of advice for undergraduate writers is to not be afraid to make edits. Even the most experienced authors can’t write something perfectly on their first try! Appreciate when your professor or a friend hands back to you a draft covered in red ink; it shows that your writing has potential and they care enough to help you take it to the next level.”

B. Lauren Stoneburner, Religion:
“Writing never gets easier but you get better the more work is put into it. It gives back to you in ways that you don’t expect. Work to write out of who you are and uncover your own voice. And the work is always worth it.”

Breanna Hagerman, Sociology:
“The advice that I would give to undergraduate writers in sociology would be to always meet with their professor before the paper is due, even if all they have is an outline. Clarifying details and getting a better idea of what is expected makes the paper easier to start and to write in the long run! Also, I find it more successful to just pick a spot in a coffee shop for a couple of hours and write as much as I can without focusing on the details. Instead of spending all of my time on one paragraph, I’ll add comments in places I want to use quotes or highlight sentences that I want to go back to. Always continue writing, you know what you’re doing and you’ll get there! It is a process.”

Brian Dougherty, BioResource Research:
“Don’t procrastinate on starting your thesis. It may require several rounds of editing and revising before you submit it. A draft of the introduction and literature review can be completed before or during data collection. Starting early reduces the stress involved with meeting your deadlines.”

Joshua Zheng, Psychology:
“The end goal of any piece of writing is to communicate something as clearly and as simply as possible. Thus, when you edit your work, never be afraid to rip apart everything you’ve written and write it all again. Don’t be afraid to throw away an entire paragraph if you can convey the same meaning in a single sentence. It’s like cutting a diamond: the process is rough and vicious but the end result is beautiful and refined.”

Mudra Choudhury, BioResource Research:
“Make sure your scientific writing is clear and concise, and that you accurately describe the broader impacts of your project. When conducting research, document all of your progress regularly. This helps avoid having to recall details when writing the scientific paper later on.”

Samuel Kowash, Mathematics and Physics:
“You can start writing sooner than you expect. Even if you don’t have results or fully understand the theory yet, you always have some idea of what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Write this down the way you would explain it to a classmate or professor, then update and revise it as your project evolves. This keeps old knowledge from fading, solidifies new knowledge, and saves you time later on.”



By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director 

We are all distracted writers. David Levy, Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Washington, is so concerned about the effects of omnipresent media on his students that he asks them to study themselves and their own media-driven distractibility. Try this: While you are reading this article, make a hash-mark every time you think about your phone or email and what new message might have arrived. Don’t check it, just mark it down. Or ask your students to do this for the first fifteen minutes of class tomorrow. Levy believes that our immersion in technology has a cost, and that cost is loss of the ability to maintain focus. Not only do Levy’s computer science students meditate for five minutes at the beginning of each class, but they also conduct reflective inquiries regarding their own technology habits. Using the screen-capture video tool Camtasia, students video themselves working on email for 15 minutes. The software records their facial expressions while they complete—or skip around among—online tasks, and tracks every move they make online during the fifteen minutes. Then students review their video and data and write a paper analyzing their own online habits as revealed during that time. Levy’s pedagogical goal is to teach his students contemplative and reflective practices that will help them improve focus and attention span. (Pod Talk, October 2012)

Stanford’s Alex Soojung-Kim Pang describes himself as an intellectual omnivore and futurist focusing on technology trends. Much like Levy, Pang claims that we live in in a state of permanent semi-distraction and that there is a need in our lives for deep, extended thinking. We must relearn how to support the life of the mind because, “Distracted people never change the world.” Pang asks his students to keep a technology diary in which they record and reflect on their lives in technology. He aims to help his students change the way they relate to technology through what he calls Contemplative Computing, which is also the name of his website. In his book Addicted to Distraction, Pang advocates for apps referred to as Zenware—software that simplifies the interface so that your screen has as few distractions as possible. Zenware is designed to help writers manage their online clutter, focus on the task at hand, clear the screen of toolbars and icons, and write more productively. WriteRoom for Macs and DarkRoom for PCs are among the most popularly reviewed clean-screen apps.

We university teachers have much to learn from colleagues like Levy and Pang. The distracted students in Levy’s IT classes have their counterparts in our own courses. We see them in class, eyes lowered and hands cupped together as if in prayer. They are not praying, of course, but reading and sending text messages on their tiny, addictive phones. Instead of turning iphones into contraband and us into the tech police, I suggest that we can find ways we can help our students improve their ability to focus, think, and write in a sustained way by bringing contemplative pedagogy to our classrooms.

I approach both mindful practices and their use in writing pedagogy with an experimental mind. I like to try things. I ask students to try things with me and on their own. I ask them to turn off their phones when they are writing, to reflect and write about what happens. I invite them to dwell with their topic, and as they do so, to let go of distractions, to break the technology trance or whatever trance is distracting them.

Mindfulness seems suddenly ubiquitous, even making the cover of Time as the next big thing. Daniel P. Barbezat and Mirabelle Bush, in their 2014 monograph Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, identify contemplative practices and pedagogies as inward or first-person focused approaches that promote introspection, and reflection. “Whether they are analytical exercises asking students to examine a concept deeply or opportunities to simply attend to what is arising, the practices all have a . . . focus that creates opportunities for greater connection and insight” (5). Their goal is “to stimulate inquiry” (6). According to Barbezat and Bush, the goals of contemplative pedagogies include:

  • Attention and analytical problem solving
  • Deeper understanding
  • Connection and compassion
  • Personal meaning in learning (Barbezat and Bush 12-17)

Their strategies include mindfulness, contemplative approaches to reading and writing, deep listening and beholding, contemplative movement, compassion and loving kindness, and outreach. Physics professor Arthur Zajonc advocates what he calls “meditation as contemplative inquiry,” including in the sciences.

In classes not focused primarily on contemplative practices, meditation and mindfulness can have a number of uses. English Professor Mary Rose O’Reilley, who uses meditation with literature students, speaks not only of making space for silence in the classroom but also offering students hospitality in the Benedictine sense of “welcoming all arriving guests.” O’Reilley also describes deep listening as helpful to contemplative pedagogy. Concerning “deep listening,” she writes:

People are dying in spirit for lack of [deep listening]. In academic culture most listening is critical listening. We tend to pay attention only long enough to develop a counterargument; we critique the student’s or the colleague’s ideas; we mentally grade and pigeonhole each other. . . . By contrast, if someone truly listens to me, my spirit begins to expand (19).

She advises her students to “listen like a cow. . . . We don’t need fixing, most of us, as much as we need a warm space and a good cow. Cows cock their big brown eyes at you and twitch their ears when you talk. This is a great antidote to the critical listening that goes on in academia” (29).

Like O’Reilley, I have sometimes invited students in a literature course to begin class with a couple of minutes of silence, sensing that they have rushed to class with their minds going in a hundred directions. I do not guide their thoughts during these two minutes but ask them to sit in a dignified position and use silence to settle and prepare silently for discussion of the poem at hand. In this same Introduction to Poetry class with seventy students in a room so packed that neither I nor the students can move around, or breathe, I have introduced slow reading, where we take our time through a poem, with multiple voices performing the reading. We create movement with voices located around the room, each standing and reading one stanza of Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Student 12 reads, “The river is moving./ The blackbird must be flying.” Student 13 answers,

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat in the cedar-limbs.

I recommend multi-vocal slow reading.

Environmental philosopher and OSU Emerita faculty member Kathleen Dean Moore suggests that student writers who fully comprehend the implications of climate change also benefit from meditation that expresses loving kindness for themselves as well as for others and for the earth. Moore says that deep engagement with climate change can elicit a kind of grieving before the person can go on and do the work to which they feel called. Their distraction is not from technology but from the pain of understanding. I explored this with my class on contemplative writing pedagogy, which included several environmental science majors. Several students recalled courses in which distressing topics were discussed but no time or suggestions for processing were included. Students suggested that journaling or meditation afterwards would have helped.

What is the ethos of contemplative pedagogy? If the earliest roots of the word ethos are in the term ethea, which means to dwell, where does contemplation dwell? And where do we dwell as teachers when we invite contemplative/minfulness practices into our classrooms? I would say, first, that we do not dwell in any one spiritual tradition. Nevertheless, contemplative practices are of the spirit. Some people don’t like that. Some people doubt that the human spirit can be acknowledged and welcomed in a classroom without proselytizing. There are both faculty and students at land grant universities like OSU who believe that curriculum should focus only on the material world: on engines and laboratories and animal breeding. A colleague asked her students in an ethics class to sit quietly for one minute at the beginning of class, only to have a student protest to the department chair that his freedom of religion was violated by the request to sit quietly with his own thoughts. He did not want to dwell.

But I suggest that the distracted writers in our classes are in need of practices that can help them learn to recognize their distraction, to focus, to read deeply, and to listen. Through various practices of mindfulness, we can help them learn to dwell. And to turn off their phones.

Sources and Sites

Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning. Web.

Barbezat, Daniel P. and Mirabai Bush. Contemplative Practices in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014.

Center for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education. Web.

Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.

Levy, David. “Contemplative Pedagogy.” POD Conference, Seattle, Washington. October 26, 2012.

OReilley, Mary Rose. Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998. Print.

Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. Addicted to Distraction. New York: Little, Brown, 2013. Print.

Rosenthal, Norman E. “Using Meditation to Help Close the Achievement Gap.” Web.

Zajonc, Arthur. Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry. Great Barrington, Mass.: Lindesfarne Books, 2009.

By Kristina Lum, (MA 2016, SWLF) WIC GTA, and Natalie Saleh, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC Intern

Chris Thaiss, Clark Kerr Presidential Chair and Professor in the University Writing Program at the University of California Davis, visited Oregon State on May 13, 2016 to provide a workshop for STEM faculty and spoke at the last Spring Series WIC Lunch. He shared his techniques of rhetorical approaches to STEM reading and writing at both events, and the following is a summary of some main points from a rich day of faculty development.

According to Chris Thaiss, a rhetorical approach to STEM reading and writing “relies on tradition in science communication studies of analyzing 1) the argumentative structure of scientific articles and 2) differences in scientific writing for specialist and non-specialist readers.” This approach focuses on analyses of purpose, audience, genre, style and graphics in science writing, allowing for students to better understand how certain elements of science writing communicate meaning in their field.

Thaiss explained that a rhetorically-aware teaching approach also emphasizes the connection between reading and writing. He says, “I don’t think I could teach writing in this field without teaching reading in this field.” Critical reading skills can introduce students to important rhetorical principles behind scientific writing genres. Thaiss encourages the use of critical reading heuristics to improve students critical reading skills and help them recognize how science writing differs across genres. These heuristics require students to analyze differences in science writing in six different areas: purposes, audiences, types of evidence, order of information, tone and style, and graphic elements.

When designing rhetorically-aware writing assignments, Thaiss recommends incorporating the same heuristic topics from his critical reading assignments. These heuristics help students better understand how different elements of their writing can be clearer and more effective. For instance, asking “Who are the readers?” and “How can they use the writing?” can help students address their audience rather than write to a nebulous “general public.” Thaiss also emphasized the importance of scaffolding to help guide students through their writing process.

Thaiss advocates for a continuous cycle of thoughtful assessment that includes peers and instructors. He explained that a common problem with STEM writing feedback is that it tends to focus on grammar. This problem is particularly prevalent when instructors respond to second language speakers’ writing. As a result, those students do not receive much feedback on the actual content of their writing.

One examples of Thaiss’ own rhetorically-aware assignments and documents are provided below:

Comparative Document Analysis

  • “Compare three articles (on the same specific topic of your choice). One should be from a peer-reviewed journal,  another from a popular news publication, a third from a science blog or government report”
  • “Using the heuristic, identify the purposes and audiences for each article.”
  • “How do the writers of these articles use
    •      (1) types of evidence
    •      (2) order of information
    •      (3) tone and style, and
    •      (4) graphic elements

to achieve their purposes for their target audiences?”

Heuristic for Critical Reading in Science Table








By WIC Team 

The WIC Faculty Seminar for the 2016-2017 school year will be held in fall term. Faculty interested in participating should ask their unit heads to email a nomination to WIC director Vicki Tolar Burton at

The seminar is designed for faculty teaching WIC courses and faculty using writing in non-WIC courses, as it focuses on learning best practices for teaching writing across the disciplines. Upon completing the five-session seminar, participating faculty receive a modest honorarium.

The seminar is held on five consecutive Tuesdays, with the specific dates listed below:

  • October 11
  • October 18
  • October 25
  • November 1
  • November 8

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

Registration is now open and will continue throughout the summer.

Pre/Views: When WIC Class Size is the Elephant in the Room
By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director 

For a number of College of Engineering WIC courses, the elephant in the room has long been class size, with sections that should have fewer than 30 students swelling to over 100. With the recent Bacc Core Committee Category Review of WIC in the College of Engineering, the elephant is no longer being ignored. The purpose of smaller class size, aligned with national standards, is to allow instructors to give meaningful formative feedback on drafts in order to guide revision. As we last year posted results for the review of WIC in Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Business, and Public Health and Human Sciences, here are the review results for Engineering:

[table id=4 /]

Congratulations to faculty and units whose courses were recertified, and especially to the WIC instructors for MIME, whose capstone design course sequence, ESE-IE-ME 497-498, was recognized as Exemplary by the Bacc Core Committee. Several instructors for this course, Tracy Ann Robinson, John Parmagiani, and Javier Calvo-Amodio, have recently published an article on their course in the International Journal of Engineering Education. TA Robinson, J Calvo-Amodio, JP Parmigiani, and V. Tolar Burton. “Capstone design as an individual writing experience,” International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol 31, No. 6(B), 2015, pp. 1902-1923.

One unit whose course was provisionally recertified has already taken steps to strengthen student writing instruction by hiring a writing specialist to work with the WIC course. For one of the decertified courses, the appropriate remedies have been taken by the unit, and the course has been recertified by the Baccalaureate Core Committee. One unit is designing a new WIC course more appropriate for WIC outcomes, and other units are developing plans for change. Continuous improvement by assessment of teaching and learning is ongoing.

Meanwhile the university is projecting and encouraging major growth in the number of Engineering majors. It is important that planning for this growth includes planning for increasing numbers of instructors for WIC courses in Engineering majors. The College of Engineering and its units are responsible for a sustainable and ethical model for WIC courses to assure that OSU engineering graduates have the written communication skills sought by future employers, as noted by the Engineering and Technology Industry Council of Oregon in the “Oregon Engineering and Technology Industry Needs Portfolio 2014”: “Among the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA’s) identified in national studies as being of high importance to [engineering] employers, written communication typically rises to the top as the skill in need of greatest improvement in recent engineering graduates.”

Currently under Bacc Core Category Review are WIC courses from half of the College of Liberal Arts, including Schools of Writing, Literature, and Film; Arts and Communication; and Psychology. The remainder of WIC courses in CLA will submit review materials in June, 2016. Next up: College of Science in 2017.

Faculty or administrators with questions about WIC Category Review may contact me