One of three departments comprising the newly established College of Design, DHA has five undergraduate programs and enrolls approximately 700 undergraduate majors. Three of the programs are studio-based (Clothing/Apparel Design, Graphic Design, and Interior Design), and two programs are not (Housing Studies and Retail Merchandising). DHA’s 20–25 faculty members expand traditional notions of writing by adding visual image presentations, and by maintaining communication, via the department’s active outreach program, with the citizens of Minnesota.
Creation Phase (Fall 2007)
DHA faculty came to understand that its faculty hold some harmonious and some unique expectations for student writing. To tease these out, the WEC Team met individually with each program’s faculty. These meetings revealed similarities: faculty from four of the five programs expected students to learn to write with what they referred to as “the professional ‘I,’” whether they were writing as designers or as analysts. Differences between the programs also emerged. The process revealed, for example, that whereas writing in Housing Studies “works critically, analytically, and synthetically with ideas,” writing in Graphic Design “is active, imaginative, and oriented toward discovery.”
Implementation Phase (2008-2009)
In the first edition of their Writing Plan, the DHA faculty asked for an internal curriculum review which would allow them to better understand where and how writing was taught in each of their five academic programs/majors. When the plan was approved, the department deployed a small team of RAs to collect writing assignments and interview faculty members in each program about writing practices specific to sub-disciplines that ranged from Apparel Design to Housing Studies. Taking the time to talk with individual faculty members about the ways they use and assign writing in their studio and lecture courses has significantly expanded the department’s understanding of how writing was working in their visually-oriented or policy/retail-oriented subfields and ultimately allowed the RAs to present the faculty with a comprehensive matrix of nuanced programmatic writing expectations and program-specific genres.
Assessment Phase (Fall 2010)
Interested in operationalizing their Writing Plan, DHA faculty participated in an assessment of student writing samples collected from their undergraduate courses. Translating the list of writing expectations articulated in their Writing Plan into grading criteria led to a series of suggested revisions, and ultimately resulted in developing tools for meaningful writing assessment in the unit. In the second edition of their Writing Plan (approved by the Campus Writing Board in Fall 2010), the DHA faculty requested instructional support for those interested in helping students move from subjective reaction to critical analysis. In addition, the faculty is discussing specific assessment activities, including creating writing portfolios, holding focus groups, and adding writing-focused questions to their Student Response to Teaching (SRT) rating forms.