By Claire Roth, WIC GTA

We are happy to announce our Spring Lunch Series schedule for 2017. This year’s topics center around an exciting publication in Writing Across the Disciplines scholarship, and we look forward to the stimulating conversations that will occur. All lunches will be held on Fridays in Milam 215 from 12 to 1pm. As always, delicious American Dream pizza and beverages will be provided. If you have any questions regarding the lunches, please contact the WIC GTA, Claire Roth, at Please register for each lunch you plan to attend by clicking here or the link below.

The topics for this year’s series are:

April 14 – “High-Impact Writing Practices & Multimodal Learning”

The WIC Team introduces the ATD’s recent article on High-Impact Writing Practices, a central theme for this year’s lunch series, and explores hands-on multimodal learning.

April 21 – “From Writing Center to Writing Studio: What Faculty Need to Know”

Dennis Bennett, Director of the Writing Center, and associate panel discuss the major transition into the Writing Studio, the reasons behind the change, and what faculty need to know.

April 28 – “Cognition and Learning”

Kay Sagmiller, Center for Teaching and Learning Director, discusses connections between cognition and student learning.

May 5 – “Technology and Interactive Writing Processes”

Instructional Technology Specialist Tasha Biesinger and Information Services partner with the WIC Team to explain how to make the most of Canvas, Eli Review, and other writing technologies.


To register for one or more of our lunches, please click here.

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. To nominate outstanding undergraduate writers, interested units (schools, departments) seek nominations from the faculty and select the best paper from the major. For each writing prize winner, WIC awards $50, matched by $50 from the unit, for a total of $100. What an excellent way to acknowledge the hard work and talent of our undergraduate writers! If a unit nominates a student, that student receives an award. There is no competition between units.

Once your department or unit has chosen a paper to nominate, fill out the nomination form and submit it via email to Claire Roth by 5:00 p.m. PST, June 2, 2017. The complete policy and submission instructions are on the WIC website. Here are a few tips and models for the award nomination process:

  • Model 1: the academic unit might use the department or school awards committee, who asks faculty to nominate and submit their best undergraduate paper for the year. The committee chooses the awardee.
  • Model 2: the academic unit wants the awardee to be from a WIC course, so one or more WIC instructors select the best paper.
  • Model 3: the top academic writing occurs in a capstone course with a team project. The unit selects the team with the best-written capstone project for the award. When the award goes to a team of four, some units divide the $100 award 4 ways, while other units contribute more than $50 so that individuals will receive a more substantial award.

Because the only way a student at OSU can receive a monetary award is through a deposit in the student’s account, the award is typically given to a student who is currently enrolled. If a student winner has graduated prior to June 2016, additional paperwork and processing time will be required. If possible, submit those nominations as early as possible. In addition, if units would like to receive the award certificate in time for an awards event, include that information and the date of the event with the nomination form. Units with special considerations regarding the due date should contact Vicki Tolar Burton, copying Claire Roth (

Student awardees are invited to submit their winning paper to the WIC section of the ScholarsArchive@OSU.

Photo by Lynn Ketchum

By Dan Smith and Jessica Just, Food Science and Technology

Several years ago the Food Science and Technology Department confronted a crisis in the delivery of our writing intensive course (WIC). For years we had been able to offer just one WIC per year, with a typical enrollment of about 30 students. However, following a doubling of undergraduate enrollment in the major in the three preceding years, by 2014 the enrollment in this class became far too large to effectively meet the goals of WIC, yet the department lacked teaching resources to offer it more than once per year. A new design was required to meet students’ need for a compelling writing intensive course and to minimize the burden on a faculty whose members were already stretched in their teaching assignments. The solution, arrived at through internal brainstorming and in discussion with the WIC Director, was to engage the entire faculty in teaching the WIC. We created a new course, FST385 Communicating Food and Fermentation Science, designed to deliver WIC outcomes utilizing an ever changing “hot topics” focus intended to keep the course fresh and permit the involvement of all FST teaching faculty members.

FST385 is offered twice annually, taught in a format of lecture and recitation. Enrollment in the lecture is limited to thirty* students with accompanying recitation sections capped at ten. To provide continuity, the department’s two instructors, following a common syllabus, alternate teaching the lecture. The lecture portion of the course is used to provide examples and practice with different kinds of writing common in our discipline and in the food industry. Writing Science in Plain English by Anne E. Greene is the textbook for the lecture. Greene’s book reinforces our emphasis on conveying science both clearly and concisely, avoiding jargon, and adapting the focus and register (technical level) to meet the needs of the target audience.

Each member of our faculty with undergraduate teaching responsibility offers a recitation for the course, on an approximately three year rotation. Each recitation has a unique theme developed by the instructor who is a “content expert” in that area.  Some themes offered to date include “Raw Milk,” “Eating fora Lifetime of Well Being,” “Flavor Delivery and Product Development,” and “What Defines Craft Beer?” The topics are announced well in advance, so that students can plan to enroll in a session that piques their interest.

The major WIC assignment, a 2000 word literature review paper that is revised following receipt of peer and instructor feedback, is completed in the recitation. Students are given substantial latitude to research and write on a topic of their choosing, requiring only that it relate to the overarching section theme. Recitation instructors deliver a series of lectures in the early weeks of the quarter to provide background to facilitate the students’ research for their paper. The middle third of the class is highly interactive as students develop their paper in three stages: outline, draft, and final paper. Students receive written and verbal feedback on the outline and draft. Additionally, verbal feedback is delivered during a short one-to-one meeting between the student and instructor and provides a time to discuss revision ideas.

The final third of the class seeks to apply the substantial learning that has taken place through the lectures and independent research to the analysis of some unsettled question in the field. Each recitation group selects a contentious issue from within their recitation theme, and frames it as a question for debate. Dividing into “pro” and “con” teams the groups spend about two weeks on research, development of debate scripts, and practicing their delivery. On the last day of the class, all sections come together to stage the debates. The entire department is invited, so that all can benefit from the insights developed on each topic during the quarter.

Instructors are encouraged to choose their recitation themes with an eye to the debate. For example, in the “What Defines Craft Beer?” recitation, students chose to debate the timely question “Is the acquisition of small craft breweries by large brewing corporations bad for craft brewing?” Like the above, the topics the students select often encompass social, economic, political or environmental questions, stretching our students to think about the interface of science and society. The debates tend to be lively, as students often approach the topics with strong preconceptions. The critical thinking involved in preparing to defend a position typically results in students exiting with a much better informed understanding of the issues.

Having taught the FST385 WIC for two years, we have analyzed some data and have preliminary opinions about the outcomes. Several assignments, including the revised paper have been evaluated by a rubric (see below) that assesses five dimensions of the writing: content, organization, reasoning, use of language, and presentation. For each dimension, three levels of achievement were defined: capstone, milestone and benchmark. Our goal has been to have almost all students achieve outcomes at a milestone, or higher, level. We fell short of this goal under the old model. Of 60 students enrolled in the final offering of the old WIC course, only 75% were assessed to have achieved above the benchmark level in the major written assignments, and some 10% of students did not even reach what we would consider a benchmark level performance. Initial results from applying the same rubric assessment to FST385 are very encouraging. Some 84% of students were judged to have achieved at a milestone or better level, with about half judged to have completed these assignments with capstone quality, and almost none falling below benchmark.

Quantified improvements in writing are matched with positive feedback from recitation instructors and students. Students and professors report satisfaction around having in-depth, individual discussions about subject material and several students have commented that the new WIC class provided the first opportunity to discuss their writing with a mentor. The intentionally small recitation size allows for extensive interaction between students and instructor without placing an undue burden on faculty members, while the three year faculty rotation avoids the potential hazard of instructor “burnout” from the intensity of such a course.

Having more than a dozen individuals involved in teaching our WIC presents a challenge to providing consistency of outcomes and equivalence of assessment of student work. To address this, both lecture instructors have assumed the role of orienting the recitation instructors to the goals and standards of the course. Prior to each offering, we jointly score and then discuss papers retained from previous iterations of the course to help calibrate the assessment provided by recitation instructors. That said, we continue to seek ways to more accurately assess our students and welcome suggestions from the OSU WIC community.

In the end, we’re pleased with the opportunity that our growth-induced WIC crisis provided. It has allowed us to rethink the way that we teach students to write about food science and provided a better experience for students to learn food science by writing.

*Thirty is the upper limit of class size allowed for WIC courses. Twenty to twenty-five is more appropriate. The FST use of small recitations assures students of writing feedback. -VTB

FST Rubric for Written Communication in FST

Capstone Milestone Benchmark (and below)

(weight 25%)

Topic is well developed, effectively supported and appropriate for the assignment. Effective thinking is clearly and creatively expressed. Writing is appropriately concise, but complete. Topic is evident with some supporting details; generally meets requirements of assignment. Efficiency of communication could be improved. Topic is poorly developed. Supporting details absent or vague. Trite ideas and/or unclear wording reflect lack of understanding of topic and audience.

(weight 25%)


Writing is clearly organized with effective introduction and conclusion. Each segment relates to the others according to a carefully planned framework Writing demonstrates some grasp of organization with a discernible theme and supporting details. Writing is rambling and unfocused, with main theme and supporting details presented in a disorganized unrelated way.

(weight 25%)

Substantial, logical, & concrete development of ideas. Assumptions are made explicit. Details are germane, original, and convincingly interpreted.


Offers somewhat obvious support that may be too broad. Details are too general, not interpreted, irrelevant to thesis, or inappropriately repetitive. Offers simplistic, undeveloped, or cryptic support for the ideas. Inappropriate or off-topic generalizations, faulty assumptions, errors of fact.
Language, Grammar, and Usage

(weight 15%)


Writing is free of errors in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Paragraphs are well-focused and coherent with a logical connection of points. Voice and style are appropriate for the type of paper assigned. Writing has some errors but these are not too distracting. Paragraphs occasionally lack focus or coherence. The connection of ideas is sometimes disjointed. Voice and style don’t always fit the type of paper assigned. Errors are frequent and distracting, so that it is hard to determine meaning. Paragraphs generally lack focus or coherence. There is not a logical connection of ideas or flow of sentences. Voice and style are not appropriate for the type of paper assigned.

(weight 10%)

Report/essay looks neat, crisp, professional.  Tables, figures and citation are effectively and correctly incorporated. Report/essay looks neat but violates some formatting rules. Report/essay looks untidy and does not follow basic formatting rules.

Adapted from Brenau University and Barbara Walvoord,

Draft Date: 11.11.05, by T. Shellhammer, w/corrections and additions 9/12/06, 4/9/2013 by D. Smith

By WIC Team

Are you invested in writing across the curriculum pedagogy, but don’t have time to read the related scholarly articles? Quick WIC provides citations and annotations for articles related to teaching writing across the disciplines. The WIC Team uses the rhetorical precis annotation format to bring you writing pedagogy scholarship in brief.


Creating High-Impact Writing Assignments in WIC Programs

Anderson, Paul et. al. “How to Create High-Impact Writing Assignments that Enhance Learning and Development and Reinvigorate WAC/WID Programs: What Almost 72,000 Undergraduates Taught Us.” Across the Discipline, Vol. 13, Dec. 2016.

In their article “How to Create High-Impact Writing Assignments that Enhance Learning and Development and Reinvigorate WAC/WID Programs: What Almost 72,000 Undergraduates Taught Us,” Paul Anderson, Chris M. Anson, Robert Gonyea, and Charles Paine promote three writing constructs as successful high-impact practices in the post-secondary setting. Using more than 70,000 surveys from a National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Survey, Anderson and his colleagues ran a statistical analysis leading them to the three constructs vital to creating high-impact writing assignments: interactive writing processes, meaning-making writing tasks, and clear writing expectations.  The three constructs were then broken down into specific tasks instructors can do to accomplish each of these three constructs, making the goals accessible and measurable for all instructors in higher education. They argue that implementing these three constructs may help provide consistency within and among university departments and increase retention rates and graduation rates.


Adaptive Transfer of Knowledge in ELL Students

DePalma, Michael-John and Jeffrey Ringer. “Adaptive Transfer, Writing Across the Curriculum, and Second Language Writing: Implications for Research and Teaching” Writing Across the Curriculum: A Critical Source Book, edited by Terry Myers Zawacki and Paul M. Rogers, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012, pp. 43-67.

In “Adaptive Transfer, Writing Across the Curriculum, and Second Language Writing: Implications for Research and Teaching,” DePalma and Ringer reveal the complex adaptive processes English Language Learners (ELLs) must go through to keep up with their native English-speaking peers. The authors argue that scholars have focused on the re-use of learning rather than recognizing that many students rely on adaptation of learned skills to succeed in “unfamiliar” academic situations. They call this process “adaptive transfer”—the writer’s “conscious or intuitive process of applying or reshaping learned writing knowledge in order to negotiate new and potentially unfamiliar writing situations” (46). DePalma and Ringer’s purpose is to point out that multilingual writers must learn to write across disciplines in complex ways, and this requires flexibility.

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.

20160513_120004 (1)Good Advice from Chris Thaiss on Writing in STEM
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. Read More

H5Y00D4OFTMindfulness for Distracted Writers
By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC DirectorWe 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. Read More

RRR150x150WIC Faculty SeminarCall for Nominations: Fall 2016 WIC Faculty Seminar
By WIC TeamThe 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 Read More

pears-870445_1920Microbiology WIC Students Publish Genome Research
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). Read More

RcultureofwritingatosuWriting Advice from WIC Culture of Writing Award Winners
By WIC TeamThe 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: Read More

RCOW-300x2322016 WIC Culture of Writing Awards in the Disciplines
By WIC Team 

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! Read More

The Role of GTAs in WIC Classes
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. Read More

Waldo Hall

By WIC Team

You are invited to take part in the first ever Writing Assignment Tune-up Workshop for WIC faculty and hosted by the WIC program staff! Writing assignments in WIC courses often involve multiple layers of complicated scaffolding, draft sequencing, and peer reviews. To help students understand, we write assignment sheets and descriptions on Canvas to explain what we expect, why we expect it, and when work must be completed. Sometimes our writing assignments could use a second pair of eyes to catch moments of potential confusion before our students encounter them. At the request of several seminar participants, the WIC Program is organizing an informal workshop for opportunities to connect with colleagues willing to give and receive feedback.

Come on over to Milam 215 on January 24th any time between 3:15-5:00pm (open house). There will be refreshments. Join WIC faculty from across our campus to work toward making writing assignments better!

We will send out an email announcement as the workshop draws near. If you are not on the events list but would like to be added, please contact Claire Roth:


By Claire Roth, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC GTA

A few weeks into our Fall 2016 WIC Faculty Seminar, discussion turned for a moment toward the different writing projects participants worked on beyond their academic pursuits. Our curiosity led to the design and distribution of a survey asking past seminar participants about their non-academic writing. We collected data from 42 participants on their writing experience as well as their thoughts on why non-academic writing is important. Thank you to all our survey participants! You surpassed our greatest expectations. The graph below shows the distribution of faculty writing experience across the relatively arbitrary categories we provided.

Communication and reflection clearly dominate the nonacademic writing life at OSU with email, letters, and journaling pulling impressive numbers. The distinction between personal letters and personal email suggests that the traditional post is not dead on our campus, though we suspect a survey of students would show otherwise. Social media and online writing also appeared in high numbers, but the gap between apps is substantial with Facebook at the top and YouTube at the bottom of the group. We were pleasantly surprised to see the number of creative writers in our midst. Just over 20% of faculty responding have experience writing poetry, and personal/autobiographical essays are close behind. Writing for the public also pulled in substantial numbers for reviews, letters to the editor, newspapers, and more. Engaging in some of the more public writing categories suggests that survey participants write for more than personal satisfaction alone.

When asked what motivates their academic writing, most described their motivation in terms of a need or desire. A clear majority pointed to personal reasons e.g. “desire to stay in contact,” “need for personal reflection and interpersonal connection,” “catharsis,” and “the necessity of expression.” Still others described motivations dependent on a larger audience than family and friends, pointing to “engagement,” “need to communicate information,” “activism,” “desire to teach others,” “communicating science to different audiences,” and “a desire to be heard.” Clearly, the faculty at OSU are active writing community members. No matter the reason behind the writing, we can boast of a rich and diverse writing life for faculty across our campus.

We decided while looking over the responses to leave the survey open for additional participants. We want to know more about the writing culture at OSU and are convinced this survey can bring in more data. Because of different communication and survey policies, we will not be emailing the link to new groups. Instead, we add the link to the survey here for our readers. If you want your non-academic writing life added to our picture of the OSU writing culture, please complete the anonymous survey and suggest it to any of your colleagues who might also want to contribute. Thanks!



By Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director

Faculty colleagues, I’d like to crowd-source an idea, and you folks are my crowd. I’m working on a project on Ethics and Writing Across the Curriculum for a collection edited by two leading scholars in the area of ethics and writing.  I would like to interpret ethics broadly and represent ethical writing and teaching in many disciplines in the article. I know, for example, that the WIC course in Animal Science at OSU is focused on ethics in the field; and I know that in the Physics WIC course students consider the ethics of scientific research. How does the topic of ethics pertain to your WIC course or another course in the major? How does it appear in your syllabus? How do students learn that their words carry ethical responsibility? What does that responsibility look like in your field? Are there hard and fast rules for right and wrong in oral and written communication, or are ethical decisions contextual? What unethical uses of writing might you caution students about?  There are folks, some outside the university and some inside, who think that teaching students to write in their discipline is itself unethical  because it promotes submission to authority— “working for the man.”  I would be grateful for any thoughts you have—even brief, random ones—on the ethics of writing/teaching writing in your field. I’d love to hear from you by email:

In this issue, our featured interview, “On Writing in the Fine Arts,” focuses on WIC professor Lee Ann Garrison, who is also Director of the School of Arts and Communication.  The author of this article is Julia Malye, a graduate student from France, who is in the OSU MFA program in fiction. Julia has already published three books in France. Read this article to learn how OSU students are learning to write in genres used by artists.

Scientist and best-selling science fiction writer David Brin’s visit to OSU inspired the WIC team to explore how Brin’s ideas might play out across the OSU curriculum. Check out Claire Roth’s interview with professors Ray Malewitz (English) and Bill Smart (MIME), “David Brin: From Sci Fi to Science/Humanities Collaborations.”

During the fall faculty seminar, there was some conversation about the kinds of writing faculty do beyond their academic world, so we surveyed WIC seminar alumni on that question.  We were amazed at the variety of writing genres with which faculty engage. To learn more, read Claire Roth’s article, “WIC Faculty Survey: Writing Beyond Academia.”  As this survey suggests, we really are building a culture of writing at OSU.  There is still time to contribute to the survey—all faculty are welcome!

I also want to express my thanks to the sixteen faculty who participated in the fall WIC Faculty Seminar. Learn more about the seminar in “Fall 2016 Seminar Faculty Recognized.”

Finally, coming winter term, at the request of WIC faculty, is a workshop where faculty can come together to get and give feedback on their writing assignments.  The date is Tuesday, January 24, 3:15-5 pm, in Milam 215. If you are not a WIC seminar alum but would like to be on our events list, please email Claire Roth:

In October, in place of a mid-term exam, I asked my students in WR420/520 Writing Across the Curriculum to interview a professor in a discipline that interests them, asking how that professor teaches their majors to write. Students were also asked to make connections to readings in the course as they arose naturally. In this article, Julia Malye interviewed Lee Ann Garrison, Director of the School of Arts and Communication, about teaching writing in the fine arts. Julia Malye is a graduate student from France and author of the novels La fiancée de Tocqueville (2010), Thémoé (2013), and Les fantômes de Christopher Dorner (2016). She is working on her MFA in fiction here at OSU.

-Vicki Tolar Burton, WIC Director


By Julia Malye, (MFA 2017, SWLF) SWLF GTA

The office of Lee Ann Garrison, director of the School of Arts and Communication, is covered with paintings. A first sign that words matter for this fine arts professor, who also writes poetry, is that she is “never ever not reading a novel.” I tell professor Garrison about the change one can witness in French art schools; when my mother graduated from Camondo (Paris) in 1976, her degree did not entail any writing component. Nowadays, Camondo students take mandatory writing classes from their first year on and all the way to graduation. Professor Garrison explains to me that she had a similar experience as she went to school around the same time as my mother did. So, how did this change occur over the years? Interestingly enough, Professor Garrison does not start with defining good writing; rather, she jumps right in with concrete examples of writing assignments.

She first mentions an exercise which heavily relies on writing – the goal being for students to familiarize themselves with describing art. Students go on a field trip to an art museum where they are asked to choose an art piece and sit in front of it for forty-five minutes. What do they see? They are encouraged to slow down and list everything they notice, without referring to their emotions or personal experience. This list will evolve as they include research about the artist and then turn it into a one-page essay that they bring to class. “They have to read out loud. If you can’t read it, it means it isn’t in your words,” adds Professor Garrison. I can’t help remembering Flaubert’s gueuloir (from gueuler, to yell), for whom reading in a loud voice was the ultimate test for good writing. Professor Garrison goes on explaining to me that the students do peer-review in class, where she encourages them to work on their word choice and to revisit the structure of their essays so that “the more important ideas are at the top of the page.” I am surprised to see how much she emphasizes revision, insisting on the fact that “the first draft isn’t the last draft.”

The activity shows student writing as a multi-faceted process, as they start with more informal writing – listing what they see – then move on to research, introducing others’ voices in their paper, and finally write down their thoughts before working as community in class to better structure and convey their ideas. I find it interesting that the activity is divided in multiple stages, so that the students can’t just sit and write their essay all at once. Between the moment they come up with the list and the moment they do research, they gain some perspective on what they have written – and one could say the same about the first and last draft of their essay. This activity invites the students to see writing as a process, which echoes Herrington’s conception of writing, as a “discovery process” (127). Hence, this first assignment deconstructs the idea of an immediate perfection, of a final product – something that the students will probably apply to their own artwork, as they will go on polishing what they have first produced.

Professor Garrison mentions another writing assignment, the artist statement that seniors need to present at the gallery as they exhibit their final work. Since they read it out loud in front of the public, I take the opportunity to ask her about audience – to what extent she emphasizes rhetorical awareness to her students. Her response is immediate: the students are taught about and familiarized with different audiences. The artist statement is not only addressed to faculty members, but also to students’ peers, who have witnessed the evolution of the project. Other assignments allow students to target wider audiences; for example, Professor Garrison’s husband, a professor and art critic, gives the students the opportunity to polish one of their articles and publish it on an online student magazine, The Corvallis Review. If they want to, he also offers to work some more on their writing, so that it could eventually be published in an art magazine. Once again, revision is emphasized as a key part of the writing process; the students come to realize that by keeping in mind who their readers are, they will need to write differently. It isn’t about “doing school” anymore, either. Rather, they are stepping into the world of art, jumping into a broader conversation and adding their personal insights on a defined topic.

Students majoring in fine arts must be able to write about other artists in order to build a discourse around their own artistic product. Now that I have a better idea of what students’ writing goals are in this discipline, I ask Professor Garrison to define what “good writing” means to her and her colleagues. I share with her Chris Thaiss’s idea that defining good writing in one’s own discipline is one of the main areas of difficulty for teachers of writing in the majors. She first mentions efficiency and clarity, before adding that it should engage the reader, coming full circle with this focus on rhetorical awareness. One of these elements surprises me, as it hasn’t been discussed much in our articles: good writing in fine arts must be beautiful. And what could be more natural for a discipline with a focal point on aesthetics? Professor Garrison goes further, illustrating her point: “I used to teach a class with 350 students. I would tell them ‘If I’ve already read 328 papers and the 329th one is beautifully written, then I will forget about the number of essays I had to grade.’”

Then, what kind of common mistakes would remind her of the crushing number of papers she has to give feedback on? Considering her previous comment on “beautiful writing” (and a part of me wonders how one would clearly define that), it isn’t a surprise when she mentions poor sentence structure and students starting with clichés like “I feel this” or “it caught my eye” rather than jumping right into their own analysis. Professor Garrison adds: “Then there is the paragraph issue, students writing in one block.” This last comment struck me as perhaps particular to fine arts students, since it goes back to something which is visual before anything else, and therefore struck the artist’s eye: an essay with only one paragraph feels rushed and doesn’t invite readers to immerse themselves in the text. Next I ask what kind of strategies she applies to help her students better organize their thoughts. Professor Garrison goes back to the first activity she mentioned, and the peer-review work in class where the students are invited to tackle those sentence-level issues and move around paragraphs in order to clearly structure their ideas. She also mentions the rubric that she hands out for the writing assignment; to her, the grading guide is more important for the student as they are working on the assignment than after.

Professor Garrison is a firm believer in the general education that students need beside their major. She considers that implementing more writing components at Oregon State University has been successful. Still, there seems to be room for improvement, when she recalls this one student who once had the courage to tell her about the research paper they had to work on: “You know you keep on telling us that it’s a short paper. Only 2000 words. We’ve never written that much before.” This student was a senior at the time.

I asked Professor Garrison if she could compare how writing is included in the OSU curriculum with other universities where she had previously taught. Professor Garrison tells me about another concern faculty members have; she remembers a former colleague confiding in her, “I can’t teach writing, I’m a painter.” To which she replied: “You’re a college professor and you can.” This seems extremely interesting to me, this idea that the reticence of certain faculty members can be hiding anxiety – the feeling that they are not expert in this field, that when it comes to writing they don’t have the comfort one has in their own discipline. I couldn’t help thinking about Sommers and Saltz, who argued that the students who would grow as writers would be the ones who accept to be novices again, who “discover they can ‘give and get’ something through writing” (304). This idea could also be applied to professors. How to help them gain confidence in teaching writing, how could one convince them of the importance to be novice in this field? If faculty members attend WIC workshops, they have an opportunity to discuss together the issues they face and if they are the ones coming up with solutions, then they remain the experts in their field, which might help them deal with the anxiety expressed by Professor Garrison’s painter colleague.

I have one last question for Professor Garrison. Talking to a fine arts professor, I can’t help remembering where Thaiss wonders if, considering the democratization of technologies, one should expand the definition of writing to “a greater variety of ‘written products’” such as “visuals-and-text magazines, radio, television, CDs, live theater, Web sites, MOOs” (91). When I mention this idea, Professor Garrison smiles. The answer is yes; to her, writing, just like drawing or painting is about communicating, conveying a message. “When I write a poem or when I paint, I’m commenting on my time.” With such a conception of writing, it is no wonder that Lee Ann Garrison is so involved in incorporating writing component in her course. One can only hope that she convinces more painters that they know how to write, and not only with their brush.


Works Cited

Herrington, Anne J. “Writing to Learn: Writing Across the Disciplines.” Zawacki and Rogers, pp. 118-127.

Sommers, Nancy, and Laura Saltz. “The Novice as Expert: Writing the Freshman Year.” Zawacki and Rogers, pp. 290-309.

Thaiss, Christopher. “Theory in WAC: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going.” Zawacki and Rogers, pp. 85-99.


By WIC Team

The WIC program and staff would like to congratulate the 16 faculty participants of the Fall 2016 WIC 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.

This year’s seminar reflected growing interest in peer review within WIC courses and between WIC faculty. Our participants were so encouraged during a peer review session of class assignments that they expressed interest in future opportunities to consult their WIC colleagues. As a result, the WIC staff plans to organize peer review sessions for WIC faculty beginning in Winter 2017. Seminar participants also found discussion on feedback and evaluation strategies helpful, many of them vowing to improve the feedback students receive in their classes. Not to worry though, their students will have many opportunities to practice writing before evaluations in the form of minimally-graded writing-to-learn activities our faculty tried and enjoyed during the seminar. In general, seminar participants were enthusiastic about taking activities, strategies, and ideas from discussion and implementing them into their classes.

In evaluating the seminar, participants noted that they enjoyed the interdisciplinary collaboration. One seminar member saw this collaboration as a reminder of what writing challenges our students navigate on a daily basis:

The best part of the seminar was “discussing things in small groups with faculty from other programs. I think hearing other perspectives is helpful in understanding how they use writing because I do end up teaching many students from other schools and colleges.”

It was a privilege and pleasure sharing the learning space of the WIC Fall Seminar. This year’s participants were:

  • Julia Bradshaw (Art)
  • Rachael Cate (Electrical Engineering)
  • Marjorie Coffey (Academic Success Center)
  • Ashley D’Antonio (Forest Ecosystems & Society)
  • Kimary Fick (Music)
  • Reem Hajjar (Forest Ecosystems & Society)
  • Elizabeth Helman (Theatre)
  • Nicole Holck (New Media Communication)
  • Ian Munanura (Forest Ecosystems & Society)
  • Ted Paterson (Business)
  • Matt Powers (Forest Engineering, Resources & Management)
  • Walt Ream (Microbiology)
  • Ana Ribero (Writing, Literature & Film)
  • David Rothwell (Human Development & Family Sciences)
  • Kirsten Winters (Computer Science)
  • Mila Zuo (Writing, Literature & Film)

We were excited to work with you and look forward to continuing to do so in the future!