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Achieving Writing Excellence Program Garnering National Attention

AWE_WebDuring the 2008-2009 academic year, Limestone College launched its Achieving Writing Excellence program (AWE). It was the College's course of action-formally referred to as its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)-to strengthen students' writing skills all disciplines.

Barely into the third year of the five-year plan, the program has already caught the attention of college educators at the national level.

In April, Erin Pushman, Associate Professor of English at Limestone and Director of AWE, and Reed Chewning, Instructor of English and Co-Director of AWE, were invited to speak about the initiative at the 62nd Annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Atlanta. The invitation is of particular significance because CCCC is the world's largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition, from writing to new media. Later this month, Dr. Andrew Cook, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, will share his experiences with AWE at the National Society for Experiential Education's 40th Annual Conference in Dallas.

"There are many writing enhancement programs on campuses throughout the country, but what I think makes Limestone's AWE program so intriguing is the way that our faculty and administration have fully supported it," said Pushman. "From administration to faculty, we are strongly committed to facilitating excellence in our students' written communication skills."

Chewing said that the emphasis goes far beyond basic writing skills. "AWE goes deeper than that; we are in the business of helping our students become professional writers within their disciplines. For example, we want our students who are majoring in criminal justice to be able to write in that particular discipline at the same level as a professional, and that is something that will not happen in the English foundational classes."

The key to achieving that interdisciplinary level, according to Pushman, is focusing on faculty development. "During the first year of participation in the AWE Core Faculty Development Program, professors are not assigned any committee work, and they are paid a stipend to take part in intensive semester-long faculty seminars devoted solely to enhancing writing instruction. They also attend a four-day retreat with other members of faculty from different disciplines to discuss challenges their students face and share strategies for improvement. We have also found that through this retreat, the instructors form a camaraderie with one another that perhaps would not have occurred otherwise."

Among the initiatives launched by Limestone to impact directly students' writing skills through AWE are the following:

  • Expansion of the College's Writing Center to include online peer tutoring for students who are taking courses at one of the seven off-campus sites or online
  • Establishment of and continual assessment of writing intensive courses required for each major
  • Enrollment caps for writing intensive courses to allow for incorporation of "writing as a process" instruction
  • A guest speakers program to highlight the importance of effective writing in various careers

"I am about 12 months into the AWE program," said Dr. Cook. "It is definitely a new method and I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from my students. I have been able to further develop a multi-step process that enables students to receive feedback from start to finish as they complete their writing assignments. This 'Green Strategy' involves feedback being given electronically rather than marking up papers and returning them to students."