The objective of Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) in the School of Forestry is to build critical thinking and writing skills throughout the duration of a student’s program. The program, as it has evolved over the last four years, has resulted in more writing assignments in classes where previously little had been required, a movement from descriptive to analytical writing by the students, and finally, a demonstrable improvement in student writing abilities. Success has been due primarily to four key features: (1) a revision of the Forestry Professional Program prerequisites, (2) revising the Forestry curriculum both to increase the amount of writing required as well as a logical progression in the types of assignments, (3) faculty development seminars and assistance provided by the English Department’s Composition program, including tutoring students and providing them workshops, and (4) an assessment of faculty and student attitudes towards writing. Student and faculty attitudes towards writing and opinions about effective strategies to improve writing were assessed through the use of surveys. The results showed that while there was broad support for writing among faculty and students, the amount of writing assigned was fairly minimal (particularly in the lower-division courses), and that while students, on average, felt their writing was successful, faculty though that it was not. The two strategies that were considered most effective were student revision after faculty comment and peer revision among students. Because evaluating and grading was viewed by the faculty as the primary factor limiting their assignment of writing, a standardized grading score sheet (“rubric”) was developed. The net result of the writing across the curriculum program in the School of Forestry is that faculty are assigning more writing, providing opportunities for revision after their comments, and standardizing evaluation and grading criteria. Our strongest partner in this effort has been the English Department and its Composition program in particular. The results of our collaboration have demonstrated—albeit not statistically significant—an improvement in our students’ writing abilities.
Souder, Jon A.
"Writing across the curriculum efforts at Northern Arizona University's School of Forestry,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 7, Article 32.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol7/iss1/32