The writing program is changing. The word “phase” is gone forever. The big word now is “portfolio.”

Current freshmen and the future classes of Principia will no longer go through the six- phase writing program that has plagued many Principia students and generated wide-spread complaints from faculty and students alike.

The new program consists of three separate components that will make up each student’s college writing portfolio:

The first entry will include submissions from their writing seminar program taken during pre-fall of their freshman year. The second stage will be a research paper from their FYE with a cover letter and an annotated bibliography. This submission will be called “The Fundamentals of Academic Writing Portfolio.” The third submission will be a research paper for their major. This submission will be called “Writing in the Major Portfolio.”

Principia intends the new writing program to be more embedded within students’ classes, versus the old writing program that included significant time and work outside of class.

Students will write a research paper in their FYE classes that will be part of their second submission. This paper will be graded according to a rubric embedded in the new online portfolio system. When asked about the writing in her FYE Freshman Grace Abbott said, “The teachers in my FYE have been really helpful in providing feedback about my writing. It seems like they are trying to incorporate what we learned in writing seminar into our FYE.”

Instead of Phase IV, which included work (for some students, a lot of work) outside of the classroom, the hope is that within the new writing program most of the work for the writing portfolios will be included and completed in classes. That is the logic of the new system – it is a natural part of students’ classes.

For the “The Fundamentals of Academic Writing Portfolio,” the FYE instructors will be grading students’ papers. With the new system, a teacher can anonymously send the paper to another teacher outside of the FYE who will use the rubric to grade the paper a second time. By having two of the main components of the new writing program freshman year, the Writing Center will be able to identify early on which students need help.

While this new format may be the future of the writing program, the current Sophomore, Junior, and Senior classes will need to complete the old writing program in order to graduate.

Lynn Horth, Director of the Writing Center, flips through files of past phase papers. photo / Tim Dixon

The old writing program had six phases: Phase I was a submission from the Freshman Writing Seminar. Phase II was a cover letter, a paper, and an annotated bibliography. Phase III was to take a persuasive writing course and submit an essay written for the class. Phase IV included the submission of a persuasive essay or revised persuasive essay from a WRP3 course, and a cover letter. Phase V was a research paper from the student’s major. Lastly, Phase VI was a student’s capstone.

The new writing program should be simpler and less time-consuming.

Each portfolio for the new writing program will be stored on the website “Chalk and Wire.” This assessment system gives the students and teachers easy access to their work while also storing writing samples for job possibilities after school.

This portfolio’s goal is to showcase the progression of students’ work over time. The program allows faculty members to assess students’ work and easily provide comments based on the writing rubric.

“Chalk and Wire” will also be a helpful storage tool for students to easily access their work from any Internet source, both while in college and for the first year after graduation. Longer availability online enables students to use their writing samples for graduate school and job applications.

With the switch to semesters and a new future for the writing program, only one submission of Phase IV will be allowed each semester for the Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors still in the old system. Submissions of Phase IV will be accepted week eight of each semester.

Since there will be only one submission of Phase IV a semester, the Writing Center is offering a class entitled Portfolio Strategies, WRIT 154: a one semester-hour course that will help prepare students to submit their Phase IV pieces for review.

The hope is that having only one submission a semester will make students take their submissions more seriously, and that those who are concerned about passing phase IV will take the class offered by the Writing Center. Director of the Writing Center Lynn Horth said, “The insane thing about the old system was that some people would just sort of submit something for Phase IV.” The hope is that now, because students have written and completed work for their portfolios in class, the pieces they submit will be more ready for submission than some papers that have been submitteds in the past.

Image courtesy of admin