The unique location of Texas A&M International University, along the U.S.-Mexico border, prompts the institution to consider issues related to the use of language, both Spanish and English, that have a direct impact on student achievement and student success. An emphasis on writing reflects the University’s commitment to best practices, as they pertain to increasing student retention and graduation rates, nurturing an intellectual environment, and guiding students through their chosen academic paths.
University data, in particular the results from the University Writing Assessment (UWA) and data from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), confirm the need for greater emphasis on writing. For the past several years, for example, the results of the UWA and its previous versions indicate that many students have required multiple opportunities for passing this competency examination. However, the University writing examination only assesses minimal writing skills; it does not provide information about how those skills translate into specific disciplinary or professional fields or track whether or not the acquisition of these basic writing skills translates into enhanced performance in students’ majors. The purpose of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), therefore, is to address not only the writing skills stressed in the University’s core curriculum, but how all academic and administrative units serve to enhance the quality of students’ writing.
During Spring 2004 the University conducted an assessment of all programs, in order to describe writing enhancement activities for all academic programs and administrative units and identify the resources needed for implementation. During the Fall 2004 semester, the University will initiate a pilot writing project, whose aim is to establish and review measures in selected programs that enhance the quality of writing at the University. Because the QEP is conducted within the context of the University Assessment Plan, the institution will draw upon the data generated by the pilot study to target additional areas and methods for enhancement of writing activities.
Because writing incorporates a broad range of communications and critical thinking skills, particularly in the area of reading, a QEP focused on writing will address the quality of student performance in the University’s Core Curriculum and degree programs and will promote the following measures of quality: