[ skip to content ]

Defining Disciplinary Writing

Improving Disciplinary Writing, aimed at upper-division undergraduate students, refers to disciplinary writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue. Writing is a critical skill that goes beyond demonstrating proficiency with the mechanics and structure of writing per se. Writing is a means to communicate what has been learned.

The QEP recognizes that the methods by which research, reflection, and presentation are conducted vary by discipline. The written artifacts produced within each discipline reflect the different ways of "knowing, doing, and writing" in the disciplines; and the particular "ways of doing" are associated with the discipline's "ways of writing" (Carter 2007). Students learn how to do the discipline in ways that are particular to the discipline, such as laboratory research in

the natural and physical sciences, historical and archival research in the humanities, survey and field research in the social sciences, case study analysis in the professional schools, systems design in engineering, and performance in the arts. They come to know the discipline as they write about what they did and learned using the discipline's specific style of knowledge presentation, whether these are lab reports, monographs, research reports, field notes, patient notes, design plans, technical reports, or performance reviews. Although written artifacts communicating what was learned vary by discipline, they nonetheless provide evidence of learning.

QEP Goal and Student Learning Outcomes

The goal of Old Dominion University's proposed Quality Enhancement Plan is to improve upper- division undergraduate students' disciplinary writing - that is, writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue.

Upper-division undergraduate students taught by faculty participating in QEP development

activities will be able to demonstrate the attainment of the following six learning outcomes.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Students will be able to:

  • Clearly state a focused problem, question and/or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task
  • Identify relevant knowledge and/or credible sources
  • Synthesize information and/or multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question, or topic
  • Apply appropriate research methods, theoretical framework and/or genre to the problem, question, or topic
  • Formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations, and implications, and
  • Reflect on or evaluate what was learned.

The act of writing to communicate what has been learned is an iterative and recursive process

of seeking, focusing, evaluating, and reflecting on information leading to relevant conclusions. The student learning outcomes are not meant to suggest a linear process of steps. Rather, writers cycle back and forth and between a particular focus or outcome when writing.

Attainment of the student learning outcomes will be assessed through students' written artifacts. These artifacts may be research papers common to nearly all fields, or documents specific to disciplines such as patient notes (the health sciences), field or laboratory notes or posters (the physical, natural, social, and health sciences), archival reports (humanities), critiques of performances or creative projects (arts and humanities) or case studies or technical reports (the professions). All disciplines, even the visual and performing arts, engage in writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue.

QEP Writing Rubric

IDW Rubric Word document

IDW Rubric PDF document

The attainment of the student learning outcomes will be assessed using the QEP Writing Rubric. The rubric was developed by adapting the Association of American Colleges and Universities' (AAC&U) Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) Rubrics. The VALUE Rubrics assess the 15 essential learning outcomes that prepare students for "21st century challenges" The essential learning outcomes were developed as part of the Liberal Education & America's Promise (LEAP) initiative to promote the importance of liberal education across the curriculum (AAC&U 2011:7; Rhodes 2010).

In its process, AAC&U engaged faculty throughout the country and across Carnegie classifications of colleges and universities to identify 15 essential learning outcomes that include most of ODU's General Education Curriculum (GEC). In addition, AAC&U conducted surveys with employers to determine that the 15 essential learning outcomes included most of the skills they seek in employees. After identifying the essential learning outcomes, AAC&U engaged faculty from across the country in the development of VALUE rubrics to measure them. As a result, AAC&U's VALUE rubrics are widely recognized, adapted and used in higher education. The QEP Team reviewed the VALUE rubrics for Critical Thinking, Written Communication and Inquiry and Analysis, and identified specific parts of each rubric appropriate for assessing outcomes that improve upper-division undergraduate students' disciplinary writing. The Assessment Committee of the QEP Team met during summer 2011 to refine the Rubric.

A pilot test of the QEP Writing Rubric was conducted in August 2011.The rubric was then utilized at the university, refined and definitions were added in July 2013. The most recent QEP/IDW Writing Rubric appears below: