Obtaining a diploma from a California State University has many requirements, one of them being a writing exit exam, known as the Written English Proficiency Test. But there is another option besides a test to fulfill this requirement. Writing Intensive Courses are an alternative to the WEPT and are available to students in both general education and major courses.
Many CSU campuses provide their students with alternatives to satisfying the CSU’s written assessment requirement, and in Spring 2016, Sonoma State became one of them. “The initiative began when students and faculty across the university expressed dissatisfaction that the Sonoma State graduation writing assessment requirement could only be met by a test,” Said Dr. Scott Miller, director of Sonoma State’s Writing Center and writing intensive courses initiative.
When the initiative began, Sonoma State offered five classes, but over the years the courses have grown in interest, and today Sonoma State offered 22 courses this fall and expect to continue growing them in the coming semesters. According to Miller, about 400 students were enrolled in WIC last semster.
The WIC initiative calls on the faculty to create, propose and revise curriculum every semester. The curriculum must meet certain criteria, which, according to Miller, includes a low class size, a certain number of words written over the course of the term, assignments with multiple drafting stages and incorporates multi-purpose writing. The WIC trains and educates its faculty on theories and structures of teaching writing skills in two three-hour workshops.
These courses intend to improve students’ writing skills and confidence. The program requires each faculty member to take extra time grading papers and use their special training to give useful constructive criticism that promotes growth for the student. “Writing is a lifelong learning process,” Miller said. “You never stop learning how to write. I’m an English professor and I’m still learning how to write, everybody will always have to be a writer. This program and faculty takes that reality and makes it part of the curriculum.”.
Because these classes are a substitute for an actual writing assessment, there are multiple writing assignments both large and small.
“It is stressful to look at my calendar and see that I have a paper or writing assignment due every week for the next month,” said senior communications and spanish major Annie Finck, “My WIC is a senior seminar class so I went into it knowing that there would be a lot of writing … and it’s forcing me to be more on top of my academics.”
Despite the heavy workload, many students believe that this course has helped them develop and improve their writing skills.
“I do feel my writing has significantly improved. My professor was heavily involved with our papers and gave great guidance,” said senior kinesiology major Dezarina Bernales-Mendez. “Our graded papers held useful constructive criticism and would help with writing the following paper. Even with her busy schedule she always made time to speak with students during her office hours, after class, and promptly responded to emails.”
WIC officials believe the program will continue to grow and attract students to work on their writing abilities instead of taking an exam. The WIC director and faculty are working with Sonoma State’s Provost to phase out the WEPT. “The aim is actually to phase out the WEPT, that is the hope,” said Miller. “It’s probably unrealistic to think that we will ever not have it as an option for some students but that is our hope…the provost has expressed a wish that that will happen in like a three-year time span. But it is unclear at this point whether that will actually be possible or not.”