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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, or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task
  • Identify relevant knowledge and credible sources
  • Synthesize information and multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question, or topic
  • Apply appropriate research methods or theoretical framework to the problem, question, or topic
  • Formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations, and implications.
  • 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

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:

Improving Disciplinary Writing (IDW) Rubric *

Student Learning Outcomes

Exceeds Standard

Meets Standard

Approaches Standard

Needs Attention

4

3

2

1

1. Students will be able to clearly state a focused problem, question, or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task.

The topic statement is comprehensive, clearly stated, creative, focused, manageable, and demonstrates a clear understanding of the purpose of the task.

The topic statement is clearly stated, focused, manageable, and demonstrates adequate consideration of the purpose of the task.

The topic statement is ambiguous and too broadly or narrowly focused, but demonstrates awareness of the purpose of the task.

The topic statement is weak (or missing) and demonstrates minimal knowledge of the purpose of the task.

2. Students will be able to identify relevant knowledge and credible sources

Identified sources are relevant, credible, and high quality.

Identified sources are mostly relevant and credible.

Identified sources are minimally relevant and credible.

Identified sources are not relevant or credible (or are missing).

3. Students will be able to synthesize information and multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question or topic.

Evidence is synthesized to reveal insightful patterns, differences and similarities among multiple viewpoints.

Evidence is synthesized to reveal patterns, differences and similarities among multiple viewpoints.

Evidence is minimally synthesized and may not reveal patterns, differences and similarities among multiple viewpoints.

Evidence is not synthesized to reveal patterns, differences and similarities among multiple viewpoints (or is missing).

4. Students will be able to apply appropriate research methods or theoretical framework to the problem, question or topic.

The critical elements of the methodology or theoretical framework are skillfully developed or described to address the problem, question, or topic.

The critical elements of the methodology or theoretical framework are satisfactorily developed or described to address the problem, question, or topic.

The critical elements of the methodology or theoretical framework are minimally developed or described to address the problem, question, or topic.

The critical elements of the methodology or theoretical framework are weak (or missing).

5. Students will be able to formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations and implications

The stated conclusion thoroughly evaluates and organizes all essential information and is the logical outcome of inquiry.

The stated conclusion evaluates and relates logically to all essential information.

The stated conclusion minimally evaluates and relates logically to some essential information.

The stated conclusion is absent or weakly evaluates essential information (or is missing).

6. Students will be able to reflect on or evaluate what was learned.

Reflection of results shows a strong relationship among content, lessons learned, and/or changes in personal perspective.

Reflection of results shows a relationship among content, lessons learned, and/or changes in personal perspective.

Reflection of results shows a minimal relationship among content, lessons learned, and/or changes in personal perspective.

Reflection of results shows a weak or no relationship among content, lessons learned, and/or changes in personal perspective (or is missing).

IDW Rubric v.8 --*Rubric based on Inquiry and Analysis, Written Communication, and Critical Thinking VALUE Rubrics presented in Rhodes, T. L. (ed.). (2010). Assessing outcomes and improving achievement: Tips and tools for using rubrics. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Also available online at http://www.aacu.org/value/

Improving Disciplinary Writing (IDW) Rubric Definitions

SLO 1: Clearly state a focused problem, question, or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task -- The topic statement is comprehensive, clearly stated, creative, focused, manageable, and demonstrates a clear understanding of the purpose of the task.

What does it mean? The subject or theme of the artifact should be clear, easily understood and revolve around a central point while being applicable to the task at hand.

How is this done most effectively? A good topic statement should be easily identifiable, unobstructed by extraneous information and should establish the author's knowledge and comprehension of the assignment.

SLO 2: Identify relevant knowledge and credible sources -- Identified sources are relevant, credible, and high quality

What does it mean? The sources should be applicable, suitable and appropriate while also being plausible and of merit.

How is this done most effectively? In-text citation as well as works cited information should contain quality sources that, while diverse, have significant bearing on the subject at hand.

SLO 3: Synthesize information and multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question, or topic -- Evidence is synthesized to reveal insightful patterns, differences and similarities among multiple viewpoints.

What does it mean? It means combining ideas into a single unified artifact, showing intuitive understanding of the topic at hand specifically based on the research done and various ideas presented.

How is this done most effectively? Relevant and essential information for the assignment is included from research, though various positions are examined and utilized throughout.

SLO 4: Apply appropriate research methods or theoretical framework to the problem, question, or topic -- The critical elements of the methodology or theoretical framework are skillfully developed or described to address the problem, question, or topic.

What does it mean? Theoretical framework is the structure that can support or hold a theory research study, concepts and definitions that are used for a particular kind of study, modeled within the field, should be appropriate to the subject matter (or field) as well as the type of assignment.

How is this done most effectively? First determining which method or framework is appropriate, often defined by the assignment, but also working well within the larger framework of formal writing (i.e. the rules of grammar and syntax upheld along with the tenets of the particular disciplinary writing method, including proper citation and writing styles, being applied).

SLO 5: Formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations, and implications -- The stated conclusion thoroughly evaluates and organizes all essential information and is the logical outcome of inquiry.

What does it mean? The final portion or the assignment, last main division of a discourse, may summarize and/or help to give structure to various pieces of information considered throughout the discussion.

How is this done most effectively? It must sum up information in a reliable, sound fashion while including all essential material discussed.

SLO 6: Reflect on or evaluate what was learned -- Reflection of results shows a strong relationship among content, lessons learned, and/or changes in personal perspective.

What does it mean? It means more than surface regurgitation of information or even complex summary; reflection is the demonstration of critical, reflective thinking, personal inquiry, utilizing research or acquired knowledge to create individual awareness, meaning and knowledge, a shift in one's personal ideas, careful consideration, determining or setting the value, significance or worth of what has been ascertained.

How is this done most effectively? Integral (i.e. as a part of the actual writing assignment, when synthesizing and making judgments about research) or auxiliary, (i.e. can be built as a separate/distinct section outside of the assignment and can include reflection of the research as well as on the writing process, assignment or discipline in context often a discussion of the various complexities of the task) though personal, it doesn't necessarily have to be written in first person POV.

IDW Rubric Word document

IDW Rubric PDF document