Title page for ETD etd-06132006-112606

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kiser, Charlene
URN etd-06132006-112606
Title To Write or Not to Write: A Look at Faculty Use of Writing at a Small Liberal Arts College
Degree PhD
Department Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bailey, Carol A. Committee Co-Chair
Barksdale, Mary Alice Committee Co-Chair
Doolittle, Peter E. Committee Member
Kelly, Patricia Proudfoot Committee Member
Metz, Nancy Committee Member
  • faculty attitudes
  • writing across the curriculum
  • college writing
Date of Defense 2006-02-17
Availability unrestricted

Although it may not seem possible that a student could graduate from an Ivy League institution without basic writing skills, a 2003 Chronicle of Higher Education article concluded that it is not only possible, but that it does happen. Some students are actually suing colleges and universities because they do not believe they have been taught the skills necessary to succeed in the area of written communication. This deficiency reflects poorly on universities, and even small liberal arts colleges are not exempt from this problem.

This dissertation was driven by a desire to learn how professors at one small liberal arts college viewed the use of writing in their courses. The professors were interviewed to determine how they viewed writing, how they viewed their students’ writing, how familiar they were with writing-across-the-curriculum practices, and how much writing was assigned in their courses.

The study results indicated that many professors use writing extensively in their courses, and that they considered their assignments appropriate and successful in achieving their goals. The study also revealed that some professors use little or no writing, and their reasons for doing so were varied. The most common explanation was a lack of time to create assignments and to read and assess written assignments. Some professors also concurred that they felt uncomfortable using writing because their own writing skills were lacking. Other professors were discouraged by poor student writing and had given up on using additional writing assignments.

The most surprising result from this study was the professors’ lack of knowledge concerning the use of writing as a learning and thinking tool. Most were comfortable with the standard research paper, case study type of writing assignments, but few used writing-across-the-curriculum methods or practices. Writing prompts, journals, and non-graded pieces were not part of their teaching repertoire. Even professors in the field of education reported that they have not adopted the newer teaching strategies. The concluding chapter addressed faculty concerns and provided suggestions for overcoming these concerns.

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