Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
FYW Learning Outcomes
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Program Learning Goals for First-Year Writing

October 2015

Developed by the FYW Committee: D. Carmichael, E. Cushman, S. Freiberg, B. Halbritter, B. Hayes, B. Holcomb, L. Ledbetter, J. Lindquist, J. Meier, M. Ristich, S. Wang

First-Year Writing at MSU is a program that values inquiry, discovery, and communication. Discovery and inquiry are related (inquiry is a process or a method for discovery) both serve the ends of, and are enabled by, communication.

  • Inquiry: a recursive process of posing, following, and answering questions.
  • Discovery: making new knowledge through inquiry process.
  • Communication: purposeful engagement of others through the products of inquiry and discovery.

As such, the First-Year Writing Program at MSU puts learners at the center of learning. Our mission is to help learners acquire the moves, strategies, and dispositions that will allow them to continue to develop as writers and producers of knowledge beyond first-year writing. This goal is realized through new understandings of production, effects, and ethics of knowledge produced through writing, and through the acquisition of new practices for its production. The First-Year Writing curriculum invites students to put their prior knowledge in relation to new understandings of rhetoric, literacy, and culture. The idea of inquiry is central to the curriculum, which moves students from reflection on experience to analysis of cultural and institutional values and discourses, to inquiry into rhetorical production. Whether or not it is named as an explicit topic in writing classes, culture is an idea that is surfaced, named, and referenced through writing and learning to write.

The following principles are foundational to our learning goals for First-Year Writing:

  1. For writers, inquirydiscovery, and communication are related and recursive acts.
  2. Learners of writing have useful prior knowledge and capacities. In fact, experience is central in learning to write: it is both a source of knowledge and a subject for inquiry.
  3. Writers benefit from working with others.
  4. The practices, values, and effects of writing are variously situated in communities and cultures.
  5. Culture is important both in learning to write, and in assessing how writing works in the world.

We believe that the work of learning about writing is necessarily unfinished when First-Year Writing is completed, and that students will leave with transferable knowledge that will deliver continued learning throughout their college careers and beyond. The first-year writing experience at MSU does not strive to predict or replicate every possible writing task students may encounter in their educational or professional lives. Instead, it aims to develop students' capacities to understand and adapt to new writing situations. The aim of developing transferable knowledge of rhetoric and writing practices shifts the emphasis from assessing generic products of writing (e.g., "the research paper") or specific content knowledge to building and assessing capacities for continued growth and production: i.e., to evaluating student learning The learning goals we have developed address this aim. 

This rubric should allow teachers to:
  • understand their job teaching this course
  • communicate FYW program values
  • communicate goals to students
  • invite pedagogical conversations
  • show the program’s distinctiveness and communicate its priorities





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