QEP Finalist #1

Communication Across the Curriculum

Topic Introduction

This proposal will advocate for the creation and facilitation of a robust communication across the curriculum program at Texas Woman’s through TWU CxC, a cross-disciplinary effort to increase student retention, achievement, and workplace readiness at the undergraduate and graduate level through enhanced attention to and quality of instruction in the areas of written, oral, visual, and digital communication. Building on resources, courses, and programs already in place, we propose a robust, diverse Communication Across the Curriculum (CxC) program for undergraduate and graduate students to empower them to effectively use their communication skills to change their communities and professions. The program does this by addressing deficiencies in students’ communication skills across disciplines and levels of instruction at TWU. As defined by Dannels and Gaffney (2009), “Communication-across-the-curriculum (CxC) programs provide assistance to other disciplines on the teaching and learning of communication—meeting an increasingly important need for students not only to be content specialists, but also coherent communicators.” 

University Mission and Strategic Plan Alignment

This project aligns with TWU’s mission to “cultivate engaged leaders and global citizens” through “transformational learning” and “discovery.” In order to be engaged citizens, leaders must communicate well through effective communication practices. What’s more, a hallmark of global citizenship is networking, which also requires well-honed communication skills. Research on fostering student global citizenship shows that participation in co-curricular activities, such as learning communities, can positively influence participants’ attitudes and behaviors toward political engagement and social responsibility (Whitley & Yoder, 2015). How does a student or graduate or global citizen share the discoveries she makes and the learning experiences that transform her? Through audience-aware, discipline/field-informed communication — clear, and clearly empowered, communication. 

Core Values of Opportunity, Collaboration, Excellence, Creativity

Imperatives: Learn, Serve, Lead

Goals & Objectives

This program would be aimed at serving both undergraduate and graduate students by strategically targeting their written, oral, visual, and digital communication development. Students would be able to do the following:

  • Practice communication as a process. Practices that assist students in developing an effective writing or communication process include class discussion of process, an examination of mentor texts (models) in the field, peer review of early assignments, teacher feedback to early (ungraded) drafts, and the assignment of reflective cover letters turned in with final submissions that detail the communicator’s process. 
  • Reflect on their own development as learners and communicators. Writing and speaking facilitates cognitive connections between new information and learned information, and among areas of knowledge across multiple domains. In practice, writing-to-learn (WTL) activities are informal, ungraded, and designed to focus on a particular learning outcome. WTL activities include double-entry (or dialectic) journals, freewriting, observation journals, reading responses, online class blogs, and class wikis. Likewise, reading aloud and rehearsing presentations results in better student retention of content. 
  • Author and/ or publish texts across a variety of rhetorical situations, for a variety of audiences, and for a variety of purposes. This outcome is writing specific: faculty typically imagine that writing requires high-stakes assignments worth a considerable portion of students’ grades and requires faculty to invest hours in grading. Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) can, indeed, assist students and faculty with these types of assignments. For high-stakes writing, WAC provides models for faculty to better demonstrate that the writing process is long and complex, with the writer revising in response to developing ideas, reader feedback, and a deeper understanding of the rhetorical situation. When faculty scaffold students’ writing assignments, it often leads to student writing that displays an increase in the depth of thought, awareness of audience, and attention to style and editing. These so-called “learning-to-write assignments” (LTW) require the writer to write with attention to the conventions of a rhetorical context (i.e. within the genre and discourse conventions of a specific community) and to move through a multi-draft writing process. LTW assignments include academic genres (i.e. research reports, argumentative essays, analyses, annotated bibliographies) as well as civic genres (i.e. letters to the editor, proposals, reviews, blogs). 
  • Think critically, understanding that all aspects of communication are affected by the rhetorical situation in which they communicate. Practices that assist students in developing rhetorical thinking include genre analysis (comparative analysis of multiple examples of a type of text, looking at mentor texts), rhetorical analysis of a text (examining arguments in disciplinary texts to learn the rhetorical patterns of argument in a given discipline, types of evidence used, organizational strategies, etc.), and peer review or feedback on drafts or presentations. 

Methods for Implementation - Action Plan & Assessment Ideas

  • Provide supported opportunities for students to communicate across the entirety of their academic careers at TWU. Students will receive more sustained communication instruction in a variety of courses, including courses in their major. 
  • Provide supported opportunities for faculty to develop and revise assignments within individual courses, as well as provide support for programs that wish to create a CxC designation for their courses.
  • Engage students with their own learning acquisition. Utah State University’s 2008 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data revealed significant correlation between extensive writing and both higher-order thinking and integrative learning, affirming a long-held tenet of WAC that increased attention to and support for student writing lead to further engagement with course content and increased retention. 
  • Increase student communication proficiency. The TWU CxC program will provide students the opportunity to become more proficient as they communicate across a wide range of rhetorical situations, genres, purposes, and discourse communities, and compose using a range of media. 
  • Create a campus culture that supports writing, speaking, and communicating through multiple modes. The TWU CxC programs will sponsor speaker series, faculty workshops, and other platforms that highlight student communication development and partner with efforts in the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Write Site. 

Assessment:

We recommend developing a system that allows for student artifacts to be assessed in addition to embedded, discipline-based writing assessments; student surveys and focus groups; and faculty surveys or focus groups (6-7). This might include assessment that involves: 

  • collaboration with TWU’s Office of Institutional Research and Data Management and the Office of Assessment, the CxC leadership could develop programmatic learning outcomes, rubrics, and a corresponding artifact to be used in assessing the program. 
  • program-level assessment of writing artifacts, as well as institutional assessment across programs, might be developed in collaboration with Core Assessment or other offices
  • periodic focus groups and surveys of both faculty and students may help in assessing how effectively the CxC interventions are working and what needs additional development. 

Other Information

Existing TWU Partnerships & Resources: 

Read the full proposal!

Learn more about this initiative by reading the full Communication Across the Curriculum proposal.

Page last updated 2:09 PM, November 10, 2021