WSU Writing Programs receives National Innovation Award

Washington State University’s Writing Programs has received a 2007 Award for Innovation from the Conference on Basic Writing, a national collegiate organization aimed at aiding educators to teach effective written communications.

It is the latest accolade for Writing Programs, which has been among the top “Academic Programs to Watch For” in all six years of rankings by “U.S. News and World Report, America’s Best Colleges” edition, beginning in 2002.

WSU received the innovation award for its English 102 course, a one-credit tutorial that employs skilled and specially trained student writers as peer tutors.

The conference judges viewed the WSU English 102 program to have broad applications and lauded its many student successes. They called it “original” and said it blends various elements of teaching writing to create a better experience for students. Winning programs had to be original to their home institution and portable to other schools or contexts.

Theresa Maloney, English 102 coordinator, submitted a description of the course to the Conference on Basic Writing in December.

“I really think that what we do is unusual, compared with other schools and programs I’ve seen offered,” Maloney said. “Participating in the Conference for Basic Writing was a great way to showcase and share what we do with others.”

“We’re very proud of English 102, and of receiving the award,” said Lisa Johnson-Shull, the director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program. “We’ve always known this course was innovative.” It was first offered in 1991.

Each semester, 25 to 40 tutors work with up to 500 students enrolled in English 102. Some students must take the course concurrently with their freshman composition course. Others (25-50 percent of the total enrollment) take the class voluntarily because they want extra help with their writing.

Most of the English 102 tutors are undergraduates with experience working in the Writing Center’s Open Lab, a one-on-one tutorial walk-in service. To work as English 102 tutors, the students are trained on topics such as basic tutoring philosophy and working with non-native speakers of English. They also take part in ongoing “Windowside Chats,” one-hour sessions on special topics like how to work with midterm writing prompts unique to English 102.

Writing Programs at WSU includes the Writing Center, Writing in the Major course support, and the Writing Assessment Program. Writing Programs is a core unit of the Office of Undergraduate Education and contributes to WSU’s goal of providing the best undergraduate experience at a research university. English 102 is one of the outstanding first-year experiences available to WSU students.