What We Learned

Students need more opportunities to write, and faculty is the key. Faculty at NMSU assign writing when they know how students benefit. Creating a faculty community that knows how to use writing to enhance learning is the key to improved student writing.

Watch the video below to gain an insight into the way our faculty perceives writing in the curriculum.

Through a collection of no less than 15 nationally standardized and locally developed tools and information sources, we were able to provide triangulated data that was remarkably consistent across findings.

Key Takeaways

  • The quantity of student writing at NMSU is fairly consistent with peer-designated institutions but varies widely by college and discipline.
  • Nationally standardized measures conclude our students are “average” in their writing ability and show that students are strongest in grammar and mechanics and weaker in organizing, problem-solving and effective rhetoric to argue a position.
  • Students point to courses as the primary place where writing takes place, and have very strong associations between the amount of required writing and the perceived importance of writing in the respective discipline.
  • Our framework for writing instruction is similar to that our of peer institutions, but the policies and practices around that framework may disadvantage writing success for some of our students.
  • While we have structured writing support services for international students, we have limited support services for our significant population of domestic English Language Learners (English is not the first language).
  • There are ample and identifiable opportunities to strengthen our communication to students about the importance of writing.
  • Students identify formative feedback and clarity of expectations as having the most significant impact on their success in writing.
  • Faculty are more inclined to assign writing if they believe it is in the best interest of students; however, faculty often view their own writing in terms of ‘process,’ while they tend to view student writing in terms of ‘product.’  This may insinuate that the gains they perceive (and research upholds) for themselves through the writing process, is not viewed as a potential gain for the student.

Click to see data sources > 

What Does It Mean?

We know that the only way to improve writing is to write. If we want students to be better writers, we need to give them more and diverse opportunities to write. For students to be required to write more, faculty across all disciplines must be willing to assign writing. For faculty to assign writing, they must believe that writing will help students in their courses learn course content. Faculty must also be knowledgeable and equipped with effective and efficient ways to use writing as a tool for learning in their courses. Finally, faculty must collectively agree that writing is a shared responsibility, and the university should structure curriculum and a culture that values, through its actions, writing expertise.

How We’ve Used What We Learned

  1. Workshops and discussion opportunities address faculty anxieties about assigning writing.
  2. Improved and more consistent communication to students about writing expectations (e.g. college-level writing rubrics)
  3. Faculty development that results in increased writing, and in some cases writing-intensive courses,
  4. Creating an interdisciplinary faculty community around writing-to-learn, writing across the curriculum and writing in the discipline.
  5. Encouraged general education (GE) reform conversations to consider including writing-to-learn techniques across the GE curriculum.

NMSU Deans approved a plan to continue efforts to improve student writing.