WSU General Education Program Recognized in U.S., England for Web Material and Student Writing Portfolio Program

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State University General Education Program has been recognized in the U.S. and England for the quality of material available on the World Wide Web and for its student writing portfolio program.

Richard Law, WSU General Education Program director, said the program honors are gratifying because they recognize WSU faculty for their excellence. “People like Richard Hooker, teaching in the world civilizations program, and Paul Brians, of the English Department faculty, are pioneers in using technology in teaching, and they deserve recognition.

“What pleases me most is that WSU faculty have always understood that the new technology is not just a gadget nor a way to achieve economies of scale; it is a marvelous new way to communicate,” said Law. “But first and foremost, you have to have something worth communicating. Hence, the value of these external awards and notices.”

Brians is the editor of an award-winning reader for the world civilizations courses. He said including the reader,, on the WSU General Education Web site was intended to combat the tendency for publishers to make access to classic texts difficult and expensive. “We continue the pioneering spirit of the Internet by providing free access to annotated selections from frequently-studied significant writings. Teachers, students and independent readers write us frequently seeking copies of the full anthologies for their own use.”

Providing “free samples” has also proved an effective marketing tool for a custom-published anthology not available through conventional channels. “Several of our translations have been reprinted in other anthologies by major presses, and we frequently receive mail from researchers seeking more information about the subjects covered. The project makes WSU and its world civilizations courses highly visible on the Web,” Brians said.

The world civilizations-related sites have received a number of citations and awards, including by being included in major scholarly databases such as the Online Subject Catalog of Academic Resources.

One WSU Web site,, about Shinto, an ancient Japanese religion, has been selected to be in the Gallery of Faith in the soon-to-be-opened Pope John Paul II Cultural Center exhibit in Washington, D.C.

Another site,, about Gilgamesh, historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, was chosen and is now a “key resource” in an online directory search and directory service provider Links2Go, This resource identifies the most heavily cited pages by topic, and designates the 50 most-used sites as “key resources.”

Two other WSU Web sites were picked by a panel of more than 400 expert teachers and have been added to the British Schoolzone Web site, They are an agricultural revolution module,
agrev-index.html, and the World Civilizations Reader, which has been designated a “History Channel Associate.”

WSU’s student writing portfolio program is the focus of an article about documenting improvement in writing by college students by Richard H. Haswell, a Texas A&M University Corpus Christi English professor, who taught at WSU from 1969-95. Haswell’s work appears as the lead article in the July issue of Written Communication: A Quarterly Journal of Research, Theory & Application.

Haswell’s research, based on data generated by comparisons of student performances on the freshman placement and junior-level portfolio, represents the first hard evidence of the impact of a program of writing instruction on student writing. The WSU Writing Program has a comprehensive set of assessments of student writing at entry, mid-career, and end-of-program that is unique in a large public university. This fall, Greenwood Press will publish a scholarly monograph on WSU’s program for assessing student writing, the focus of which is the WSU writing portfolio. The techniques developed at WSU for assessing student writing are frequently cited as a model in the scholarly literature.

The General Education Program is a set of requirements established by the WSU faculty as part of all baccalaureate degree programs. All undergraduate students must complete courses meeting the requirements in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as in intercultural studies and American diversity, said Law.

Undergraduate students entering WSU starting this fall will be required to complete one three-credit course that covers historical and contemporary issues in American diversity. The university’s Faculty Senate approved the general education requirement in 1998 at the urging of WSU students. Cultural awareness and sensitivity to differences in perspective are important goals of the undergraduate program. Students also explore ethnic and cultural diversity in the required world civilizations courses and in the course they choose to meet the intercultural studies requirement.