Student Learning Outcomes

As writing faculty, we recognize that all of the following student learning outcomes (SLOs) are interwoven, and often happen simultaneously. We also recognize that rhetorical awareness and critical thinking happen throughout all of composing and that it’s artificial to try to separate these acts from the highly complex work of composition. We have done so to help a variety of audiences—students, colleagues in other departments, for example—to better understand concepts introduced and reinforced in First-Year Writing (FYW) so that they will continue to be practiced and developed throughout a student’s lifetime of literacy development.

Rhetorical Knowledge

Rhetorical knowledge is the ability to identify and apply strategies across a range of texts and writing situations. Using their own writing processes and approaches, writers compose with intention, understanding how genre, audience, purpose, and context impact writing choices.

By the end of FYW, students should be able to:

  • Use rhetorical concepts to analyze and compose a variety of texts using a range of technologies adapted according to audience, context, and purpose;
  • Assess how genres shape and are shaped by readers' and writers' experimentation with conventions, including mechanics, structure, and style;
  • Develop the flexibility that enables writers to shift voice, tone, formality, design, medium, and layout intentionally to accommodate varying situations and contexts.

Critical Reading

Reading critically is the ability to analyze, synthesize, interpret, and evaluate ideas, information and texts. When writers think critically about the materials they use, they separate assertion from evidence, evaluate sources and evidence, recognize and assess underlying assumptions, read across texts for connections and patterns, and identify and evaluate chains of reasoning. These practices are foundational for advanced academic writing.

By the end of FYW, students should be able to:

  • Use reading for inquiry, learning, and discovery;
  • Analyze their own work and the work of others critically, including examining diverse texts and articulating the value of various rhetorical choices of writers;
  • Locate and evaluate (for credibility, sufficiency, accuracy, timeliness, bias) primary and secondary research materials, including journal articles and essays, books, scholarly and professionally established and maintained databases or archives, and informal electronic networks and internet sources;
  • Use a diverse range of texts, attending especially to relationships between assertion and evidence, to patterns of organization, to the interplay between verbal and nonverbal elements, and to how these features function for different audiences and situations.

Composing Processes

Writers use multiple strategies, or composing processes, to conceptualize, develop, and finalize projects. Composing processes are seldom linear: a writer may research a topic before drafting then conduct additional research while revising or after consulting a colleague. Composing processes are also flexible: successful writers can adapt their composing processes to different contexts and occasions.

By the end of FYW, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate flexible strategies for drafting, reviewing, collaborating, revising, rewriting, rereading, and editing;
  • Recognize and employ the social interactions entailed in writing processes: brainstorming, response to others’ writing; interpretation and evaluation of received responses;
  • Use their writing process in order to deepen engagement with source material, their own ideas, and the ideas of others and as a means of strengthening claims and solidifying logical arguments.

Knowledge of Conventions

Conventions are the formal rules and informal guidelines that define genres, and in so doing, shape readers’ and writers’ expectations of correctness or appropriateness. Most obviously, conventions govern such things as mechanics, usage, spelling, and citation practices. But they also influence content, style, organization, graphics, and document design.

By the end of FYW, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate how to negotiate variations in conventions by genre, from print-based compositions to multi-modal compositions;
  • Investigate why genre conventions for structure, paragraphing, design, formatting, tone, and mechanics vary;
  • Use the concepts of intellectual property (such as fair use and copyright) that motivate documentation conventions to practice applying citation conventions systematically in their own work;
  • Develop knowledge of linguistic structures, including grammar, punctuation, and spelling, through practice in composing and revising.

Critical Reflection

Critical reflection is a writer’s ability to articulate what s/he is thinking and why. For example, to explain the choices made in a composition, to contextualize a composition, to address revisions made in response to reader feedback, etc.

By the end of FYW, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate reflecting on their writing in various rhetorical situations;
  • Use writing as a means for reflection;
  • Demonstrate their rhetorical awareness, their writing process, and their knowledge of conventions with regard to their own writing; 
  • Illustrate that reflection is a necessary part of learning, thinking and communicating.

*Based on the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition