About First-Year Writing at Texas Tech
Writing instruction is key to student retention and success in higher education. Students who take one or both First-Year Writing courses (ENGL 1301 and 1302) at Texas Tech receive both face-to-face and online writing instruction. This hybrid course sequence enables first-year students to reap the benefits of both types of instruction while offering students the most opportunities to practice and improve their writing skills. The hybrid delivery of the course also enables a more efficient allocation of instructional responsibilities. Some instructors work primarily with students in the classroom and one-on-one during office hours while others focus their efforts on responding to and evaluating student writing. Small groups of 4 to 6 instructors work with 6 to 8 sections of 1301 or 1302 students.
In the classroom, students meet once weekly with an instructor to learn and discuss aspects of rhetorical theory, academic writing, and research skills and strategies. They also work individually and in small groups on various assignments designed to help them apply what they have learned in their classroom discussions.
Online, students submit all writing for evaluation in a comprehensive, locally-designed, database-driven course management system. Brief assignments are evaluated by one instructor, while major assignments are evaluated by two instructors with their two grades averaged.
Goals and Benefits:
The program serves approximately 2,500 students from across the Texas Tech campus each semester. The same curriculum is also made available to all students who enroll in the courses through Outreach and Distance Education (ODE). Approximately 175 students, many of them home schooled or seeking dual credit, are enrolled at any given time in the ODE courses. While enrolled, these students interact with those taking the courses on campus and have an opportunity to acclimate to college-level work. Approximately 600 students have completed one or both courses via ODE since the program's inception in January 2002.
The program has three primary goals—creating quality instruction for first-year college students, providing a training ground for graduate students as teachers of writing, and developing an ongoing research environment for the teaching of writing. Each carries educational and economic benefits.
Undergraduate students develop the writing skills and technological literacy skills that they need to succeed in college and later participate as productive members of the Texas workforce. Additionally, the hybrid delivery systems enable students to take these courses while moving efficiently through their degree programs (rather than test out and risk not learning or practicing writing skills).
Graduate students receive training in current course delivery and teaching methods, thus increasing their marketability. They have the opportunity to work even as they participate in the online or onsite graduate programs. The hybrid delivery system also enables students who might need to relocate during their graduate programs to remain enrolled in their programs.
Finally, the database is a dynamic instructional research environment which will attract researchers and students from around the country to Texas Tech to study the nearly 1 million pieces of student writing, along with the associated instructor commentary and other data. Coupled with the emerging A&S Writing Initiative and the reconstituted Writing Intensive Guidelines, Texas Tech can quickly become a center from which to develop new knowledge about writing instruction—an urgent state and national need essential to educational and economic growth in the information age.
Advantages for students:
- Once-a-week class meetings with the remainder of instruction delivered online.
- Online submission, grading and archiving of all writing assignments.
- Quick and objective evaluation of writing (i.e., major assignments are evaluated anonymously by two writing instructors with their grades averaged).
- Immediate compilation and access to grades, attendance records, and ranking within their course section.
- Instructor commentary linked to online explanations of common errors and advice for correcting such errors.
- Access to a “problem-log” that compiles an accumulating list of structural and syntactical problems noted by the instructor during draft commentary;.
- Ability to rate and comment on the quality of instructor commentary received.
- New instructors allowed to start slowly, learning to offer commentary and evaluation instead of immediately preparing lessons and managing classrooms.
- New instructors grouped with experienced teachers (in groups of 4 to 6 instructors) to share the instruction of 6 to 8 sections.
- Continuous learning about writing instruction and effective commentary and evaluation as instructors review each other's commentary and grades, observe each other's classroom practices, and meet to discuss their shared instruction of students.
- Greater flexibility in teaching assignments (i.e., combinations of classroom instruction and document instruction).
- Ability to continue appointment as a GPTI from remote locations (e.g., during illness, pregnancy, or travel for dissertation research).
- Participation in a pioneering first-year composition program, offering experience in both conventional classroom instruction and distance education.
- State-of-the-art writing instruction leading to national visibility (e.g., The Chronicle of Higher Education, lead article, March 10, 2006).
- Greater ability to hire instructors for sections of first-year composition.
- Greater ability to find substitute instructors in case of emergency.
- Integration of all sections of first-year composition for a more transparent and consistent learning experience for all students.
- More efficient use of classroom space (i.e., instead of 22 students using the same classroom for 160 minutes a week, 70 students do).
- Unparalleled opportunities for research in the teaching of writing, with nearly one million documents stored in the TTU First-Year Writing databases.
Advantages for instructors:
Advantages for Texas Tech University: