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Franklin College departments advance their commitment to undergraduate writing

Lindsey Harding

Over the course of the 2023-24 academic year, four departments in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences took writing in their programs of study to the next level. In collaboration with the Franklin College Writing Intensive Program (WIP), the departments of anthropology, mathematics, history, and philosophy developed plans that articulate characteristics of writing in the discipline. These include desired writing abilities of students in the major, the ways in which writing is integrated into the curriculum, strategies for assessing student writing, and a plan to sustainably support the program’s writing-enriched curriculum. 

“Anthropology is very excited to implement our new writing plan. In addition to producing polished written work, students in anthropology use writing for discovery, to enhance depth of knowledge, and to communicate with diverse audiences," said Jen Birch, associate professor of anthropology. "Having a formal writing plan gives us a vehicle for being more intentional and transparent about how we implement writing in our courses."

For the 2024-25 academic year, the department will offer a variety of writing-intensive courses and receive support from the Teaching Enhancement and Innovation Fund to develop a writing lab in the department to be staffed by WIP-trained Teaching Assistants.

WIP, a program that has supported undergraduate student writing in the disciplines and across the Franklin College curriculum since 1997, embarked on this pilot program to not only enhance writing support and instruction but also ensure the inclusive excellence of writing-enriched programs of study. This new model, centered around collaboratively developed writing plans, helps make writing-intensive courses and learning experiences accessible to more students and throughout their major coursework. 

For this pilot program, each department elected a liaison to work with WIP Director Lindsey Harding and support the development of the department’s writing plan throughout the year. Liaisons, awarded stipends from Teaching Enhancement and Innovation Funds, were critical to establishing strong partnerships between WIP and individual departments and ensuring consistent progress on the plan throughout the year. 

“The process of developing a writing plan has encouraged philosophy faculty to think productively about the teaching and learning of writing across our curriculum," said Aaron Meskin, professor and head of the department of philosophy, "Appointing a graduate student liaison was a superb idea and helped the department make progress on forming a plan.” 

This year’s liaisons included Christina Lee, graduate student and WIP TA in anthropology; Kevin Jones, undergraduate coordinator and associate professor in history; Michael Usher, department head and professor in mathematics; and, Danielle Kotrla, graduate student and WIP TA in philosophy.

Early in the process, preliminary surveys gathered information from the department’s faculty and students on their thoughts and experiences related to writing in the field. Departments also hosted two meetings solely to talk about writing and how it might be more effectively and extensively woven into their curricula to better support the development of their students as writers. Survey data and department meeting notes in turn facilitated the initial draft of the writing plan, co-authored by the liaison and WIP Director. After initial drafts, feedback, and revisions, each department conducted a vote of support for their writing plans, which will go into effect in AY 24-25. 

“The History Department is really excited about using the writing plan to craft more effective writing assignments, taking advantage of new pedagogies and collaborative discussions with faculty members to help our students grow as writers," said Kevin Jones, associate professor of history. "Shared discussions about the various points of strength and weakness that we see in our students’ writing, from intro-level courses all the way through the senior thesis project, is really helping us see what we are doing well as a department and where we could stand to improve at each level of the undergraduate education process. We really think that the process can help us transform writing assignments from something students dread into opportunities to demonstrate their skills, growth, and confidence.”

Once faculty vote to support their department’s writing plan, they are published on WIP’s website

"This way, other departments can learn from the shared ideas and innovations and hopefully consider how they might further enrich their programs of study with writing so students are prepared with the communication skills they need to be successful in their post-graduation lives and careers," Harding said. "As these plans exemplify, department by department we can build a stronger culture of writing here at UGA." 


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