'Writing-to-learn' institute for faculty underway


School may be out for summer, but not for a select group of educators at Mississippi State.

The university's Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence started June 6 in Griffis Residence Hall. The month-long experience will help faculty representing a range of academic disciplines learn how to better employ a writing-to-learn approach in their courses, with the goal of increasing student learning and retention as part of the university's quality enhancement plan or QEP.

QEP is any plan or project that targets the improvement or enhancement of undergraduate student learning at MSU.

The institute developed a QEP with input from students, student organizations, faculty, staff, administrators, advisory council, and the community. QEP also is critical to reaffirming MSU's accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

"Our purpose is to learn teaching strategies that will improve not only our students' writing, but also their learning of our course content," said Rich Raymond, English department head and the institute's moderator and facilitator.

Participants will include nine representatives from the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Forest Resources. They include LaToya Bogard, English instructor; Michael Brown, music department head; Stephen Grado, forestry professor; Jamie Larson, animal and dairy science assistant professor; Matthew Little, English associate professor; Robert Moore, marketing professor; Rick Noffsinger, senior extension associate; Donald Shaffer, English and African American studies assistant professor; and Deborah Lee, library professor.

"This is an exciting opportunity to impact the quality of education in undergraduate classrooms, and these faculty members are going to be helping us develop this process," said Lee, who also is co-chair for MSU's QEP communications and marketing subcommittee.

Raymond said the program is designed to encourage participants to practice writing-to-learn strategies and revise class syllabi to incorporate those strategies as part of their fall and spring course schedules. The nine also will continue meeting during the 2013 fall and 2014 spring semesters to share how writing-to-learn strategies have impacted their respective classrooms, he said.

SACS officials will visit campus next year to review and approve the plan, Lee said.

Connie M. Forde, QEP topic selection task force and development co-chair, said, "Our goal is to foster this culture of writing-to-learn across our curriculum, so that a writing culture will be in place at MSU. We want as many students as possible to be impacted by our QEP."

Head of the College of Education's instructional systems and workforce development department, Forde emphasized how important writing is to the enhancement of critical thinking, which is essential for professional success.

Echoing Forde's observation, Lee said, "Writing is an integral part in the evolution of students in growing the skills they need to function in the 21st century. We're focusing on what students need to succeed while at MSU and in their careers."

For more about the campus QEP initiative, visit www.qep.msstate.edu.

Leah Barbour | University Relations

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