Learning Goals

Program Learning Goals for First-Year Writing

The FYW Program seeks to contextualize students’ rhetorical acts of inquiry, discovery, and communication by way of the three primary rhetorical conditions articulated in the FYW Program Learning Goals: purpose, process, and culture.

  • Inquiry: a recursive process of posing, following, and pursuing answers to questions.
  • Discovery: making new knowledge by way of processes of inquiry.
  • Communication: purposeful engagement of one’s self and others by way of the processes and products of inquiry and discovery.
  • Purpose: personal, practical, and culturally implicated motivations/goals for pursuing acts of inquiry, discovery, and communication
  • Process: the means by which students pursue acts of inquiry, discovery, and communication
  • Culture: social/communal forces that affect how we produce and assess the effectiveness of acts of inquiry, discovery, and communication

As such, the First-Year Writing (FYW) 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 FYW. 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 FYW curriculum invites students to put their prior knowledge in relation to new understandings of rhetoric, literacy, and culture. Inquiry, Discovery, and Communication–actions: ways of doing–are 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 and to informed goal setting. In short, the grid of learning outcomes below articulates a host of things that FYW aims to help students come to know by ways of doing. 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, inquiry, discovery, and communication are related and recursive acts. These acts help writers track how they create and convey knowledge both to others and to themselves.
  2. When writing students care about what they write, it is easier for them to become better readers of their own writing and to find opportunities for further development and revision in what they have written.  
  3. 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.
  4. Writing students each learn on the fringe of what they know. Consequently, surfacing what they know can help them mark progress and project goals.  
  5. Inquiry into students experiences enables them to discover new things about things they already know by way of the stories they write about their experiences.
  6. Risk taking is critical to writing development. When writing students are encouraged to reach beyond what they know, they will often make mistakes. 
  7. Effective writing development depends not only on making mistakes, but on learning to make the most of those mistakes. Making the most of making mistakes is one expression of finding opportunities for further development and revision in what they have written.  
  8. Writers benefit from working with other writers
  9. Helping others find opportunities for further development and revision in what they have written can be as productive and instructive for reviewers as for writers.  
  10. The practices, values, and effects of writing are variously situated in individuals and in communities and cultures.
  11. Purpose, Process, and Culture are important both in learning to write, and in assessing how writing works in the world.
  12. Because writers develop over a lifetime, informed self-reflection on both the processes and products of writing experiences is critical for assessing strengths and setting goals for continuing development.

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 aim 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.  

The following grids of FYW Program Learning Goals are designed to 

  • help FYW instructors understand the work of teaching this course
  • communicate FYW Program values
  • identify and name individualized learning goals appropriate for each student 
  • help students identify and name their own individualized learning goals
  • invite pedagogical conversations
  • show the program’s distinctiveness and communicate its priorities

How to read and use the FYW Program Learning Goals

Below we articulate a variety of means for pursuing the primary goal of the FYW curriculum: to help students develop transferable knowledge about writing – about concepts, processes, strategies, and practices.  Since transferable knowledge about writing is specific to each and every FYW student, the following learning goals should be seen to offer a host of possibilities rather than a comprehensive list of outcomes for each and every FYW student.  

  • The FYW Program Learning Goals are distributed across three color-coded grids, each corresponding to the three primary actions articulated of the FYW Program: Inquiry, Discovery, and Communication.
  • Each of the three color-coded actions is organized by way of the three primary rhetorical conditions articulated in the FYW Program Learning Goals: Purpose, Process, and Culture.
  • In each grid, the center Know column articulates types of transferable knowledge specific  to the action and the rhetorical condition specified in the grid.
  • In each grid, the right-hand Do column articulates learning goals associated with various types of writing activities. 

In each grid, the action and three conditions filter what the FYW Program aims to help students come to know by way of doing. 

Click here for .pdf and .docx versions of the grids for download.