College approves new writing requirement
Faculty members recently voted to approve a universal writing requirement, which will require every student to take a writing-intensive course, thereby fulfilling the English 115 requirement already in place. As of yet, the College has not set a definitive date for the requirement to go into effect, and it will not affect the Class of 2015.
In the past, the College merely required incoming students to enroll in English 115 as a writing intensive course. Students who received a score of either four or five on their AP English exam were exempt from taking the course. “In this earlier model, students would come in and take [the] 115 class, and while that has been good, I think having that single writing class design sends the message that you’ve done it, you know how to write and then you move onto your other courses. We are trying to make writing a more continuous process,” Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writers’ Center Paula Harrington said.
When the writing requirement, called W1, is implemented, students will no longer be able to place out of English 115 with their AP score. The College will require every first-year student to take a writing intensive course, although this course does not necessarily have to be English 115. Students will also have the option of taking their writing intensive course through another department.
Next year the administration is adding writing intensive courses to the curriculum as a pilot program. The courses offered will be in the theater and dance, government, geology, science, technology and society (STS), environmental studies and integrated studies departments.
Adding new courses results in a greater number of teaching hours for professors, many of whom already have full teaching schedules. However, NEH/Class of 1940 Distinguished Professor of Humanities and English Laurie Osborne noted that “the Deans’ Office and President are supporting other departments so that way they can free up faculty to do this.” Additionally, a grant from the Davis Education Foundation is providing much of the financial support necessary to implement this change. “The grant laid out the idea that it was important to build in more writing classes, more writing experiences, to make it an essential part of the fabric of an education at Colby,” Harrington said.
However, the addition of the W1 requirement is only the first step in a much more broad reaching plan. “Because writing is recursive, we want to keep kids writing throughout Colby so that their skills improve in their time here,” Osborne said. She envisions the writing requirement as a three-fold process. “Students would take W1 sequence in their first year as sort of an introduction. Then in their sophomore or junior year they would take a W2 course in any discipline. And then they would take a W3 course their senior year for advanced writing.”
The Colby Writing Project Steering Committee is still working through these elaborate plans. The only immediate change is the addition of writing-intensive courses to next years’ curriculum. Harrington predicts it will be at least two years until the ‘W1’ writing course will actually become a requirement.