Developing Writers: Interviews and Analysis of Writing Practices in Post-Secondary Education

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There has long been debate as to the purpose of higher education. Some – particularly those in the liberal arts – assert that the purpose is to prepare minds for productivity through character development. Others believe that career development is more important. Students may pursue higher education for one, neither, or both of these goals. Regardless of the goal, Utah’s Governor is looking to increase the number of Utah graduates. He has put forth an initiative to push higher education completion rates to 66% by 2020. Success of this goal – if attainable – would likely prepare more students for the workplace with the skills that many employers desire. One of these key skills is writing.

Utah Foundation interviewed administrators at eight of Utah’s post-secondary education institutions to examine the development of writing skills. These institutions have adopted various strategies to develop students’ skills that employers want and need. This report builds on many of these practices to provide insights into two barriers that prevent writing development. Not surprisingly, resource constraints – both in terms of instructor time and department funding – limit the ability of higher education institutions to offer writing courses. Further, many faculty members’ disciplines do not require much writing, focusing instead on other outcomes more central to their disciplines. Some post-secondary institutions in Utah have overcome these challenges by creating writing centers, providing workshops for faculty on how to better to teach writing within the discipline, and implementing student peer review programs.

InFig1 addition to these measures, Utah’s higher education institutions could use support towards effective writing in the form of policy change. Interviewees asserted that garnering writing-specific funding and resources, increasing administrative emphasis on writing, and implementing writing-enhanced curriculum changes would be most beneficial.

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