Great to hear your voice, Philippa. It makes me want to try
again at Concordia to establish some dialogue with those responsible for
our strange little competency test.
In answer to Rick's questions, our test was established as a
graduation requirement. I don't think anyone ever thought to connect it
with learning. It has, however, undergone a transformation in the past
few years in that students are now encouraged to take it early in their
program of study rather than waiting until the end. We still have
students who have completed all their coursework but can't graduate
because they can't pass the test.
The test itself allows students 70 minutes to write an essay on a
choice of topics. No dictionaries are allowed. And students are given
one sheet of paper to complete the essay--but, hey, it's a legal size
sheet! Essays are scored "holistically" I'm told. If students fail,
they are advised (but not required) to take a composition course where
they write essays in all the "modes"--but at least get to use a dictionary.
Those in charge of the test claim they based it on something at
Harvard and they seem to be real proud of it. We have no WAC program.
The peer collaboration that takes place in the Writing Centre (offered
across the curriculum) is looked on with distrust--must be plagiarism if
they're talking about writing, right? (Sigh)
At the Writing Centre we're trying to increase the work we do
with faculty. Some are interested. Maybe we should think of it as a
"grain of sand". Meanwhile, it's great to hear from institutions where
change actually occurs! I'd appreciate any suggestions for getting a
WAC program going.