Four years ago, NMSU Las Cruces and NMSU Grants began to fulfill one of the requirements of the Higher Learning Commission’s Open Pathway by launching a Quality Initiative. The focus of the Quality Initiative was to improve undergraduate student writing within the disciplines by comprehensively reviewing undergraduate student writing at NMSU and providing an evidence-based plan to improve student writing.
A large body of evidence demonstrates that to improve writing students must write; nevertheless, many faculty members are reluctant to increase the amount of writing they assign in their courses. Recognizing this, understanding what influences faculty members to assign writing became a major focus of the Quality Initiative.
Rigorous study of this question revealed that the most significant factor influencing the quantity of writing assigned by faculty members is their perception of the benefit associated with writing. The second most influential factor is the faculty member’s perception of how difficult it will be, in terms of time and effort, to evaluate and provide feedback on writing.
The understanding that faculty members at NMSU will increase the quantity of writing assigned in courses when 1) they know that students will benefit from the experience, and 2) they develop confidence in their own ability to provide meaningful feedback in a reasonable amount of time, has led to the development of the Writing-to-Think! (W2T) Program. In this departmental cohort program, which will begin this fall, participants will gain understanding about the types of writing assignments that students most benefit from and learn how to efficiently provide meaningful feedback on writing to students. Participants will also share their experiences and mentor other faculty members.
I want to thank the Quality Initiative team for their leadership of the Quality Initiative and for being willing to take what we have learned from this initiative to develop a program that promises continuous improvement in the writing and critical thinking abilities of our students.
With all best wishes,