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ERIC Number: ED556311
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
First-Year Writing: What Good Does It Do? A Policy Research Brief
National Council of Teachers of English
First-year writing (FYW) courses, long a common introductory experience for college students, regardless of location or institution type, are currently being challenged by a number of alternatives. These challenges include online courses and/or MOOCS, various "test-out" options, and dual-enrollment programs. Although they differ from one another in approach, all of these alternatives disrupt the traditional face-to-face FYW courses that strengthen students' writing abilities and play a key role in orienting students to post-secondary study. The current economic pressures on students and their families to complete degrees as quickly as possible and on higher education to limit the number of small enrollment courses make alternatives look especially attractive. In this current economic environment, it is important to consider research on what FYW courses contribute to undergraduate education and what might be lost if FYW courses were no longer part of the experience of students beginning their college careers. This issue presents a discussion regarding the fact that research reveals personal attention and low student/teacher ratios are key factors in college student retention, both of which are provided by FYW courses. Furthermore, FYW courses have been identified by researchers as fostering engagement (a sense of investment and involvement in learning) along with persistence (the ability to sustain interest in an attention to short and long-term projects). In addition, FYW courses provide students with rhetorical skills they can use in-or transfer to-many other disciplinary contexts. Studies show that metacognitive awareness which is also nurtured in FYW courses can help students engage more productively with and better understand instructor feedback, and more generally, to articulate the strengths and weaknesses of their own writing. Metacognition also goes hand-in hand with students' sense of responsibility and ownership towards their work and learning. As education policy increasingly focuses on notions of career and college readiness, research shows that common practices in first-year college writing classes reinforce the intellectual habits and behaviors needed for success in postsecondary studies or the workplace. Alternate routes to satisfy first-year writing requirements, such as online courses, test-out options, or dual enrollment coursework, can offer students useful preparation for FYW courses. However, such instruction cannot fully replicate the experiences of FYW because high school students' social and cognitive development is at a different level, and because none of the alternatives can provide the sustained attention to developing the habits of mind and strategies fostered in FYW.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), James R. Squire Office of Policy Research