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WAC and Second Language Writing: Cross-field Research, Theory, and Program Development

Writing at UC Davis: Addressing the Needs of Second Language Writers

Abstract: The University of California has struggled for many years to build fair and workable policies and programs to develop the English literacy of its highly diverse student population. Considering past, present, and future, this essay describes how the UC's largest campus, UC Davis, with 50% of its 33,000 students L2 writers, has built a network of academic programs and services toward making support of L2 writers integral to its educational mission. With particular focus on Davis's recently-independent University Writing Program (UWP), we show how the drive to integrate L2 theory and practice in a well-established WAC/WID-based writing environment has influenced faculty hiring, a new doctoral initiative, a new writing minor, and the training of graduate student instructors of first-year writing. We show how these changes have taken place amid ongoing challenges, including intensifying budget woes, long-time policies and commitments, and the sheer scope and complexity of the Research I land-grant university.

The disciplinary divisions of labor between mainstream/first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) composition have been well chronicled over the past decade (e.g., Matsuda, 2003). These distinctions are in part historical and can be traced back to differences in the "parent" disciplines of rhetoric and (applied) linguistics (Silva & Leki, 2004). These origins in turn have led to some philosophical disagreements and differences in practice (Atkinson & Ramanathan, 1995; Silva & Leki, 2004). Institutional structures in local contexts have often furthered this divide. For instance, L2 writing courses and their instructors are often in separate silos in larger departments, and in other contexts, they are in entirely separate departments or programs. The result is frequently a counterproductive and artificial divide between groups of instructors and administrators who actually share similar goals and interests (i.e., student writing and writers).

Such distinctions are especially troublesome in environments where the numbers of multilingual/L2 student writers are large and growing and in which the boundaries between "L1/L2" or "native/nonnative speaker/writer" are increasingly blurred (Chiang & Schmida, 1999; Ferris, 2009; Roberge, 2009; Valdés, 1992). Regardless of specific program structure, in such contexts, all composition teachers are working with writers from multilingual backgrounds, and all programs need to be (re)designed with the needs of a more complex student population in mind. While this observation particularly holds true in such high immigration states as California, Texas, New York, and Florida (Harklau, Siegal, & Losey, 1999), the issues of complexity and diversity are becoming increasingly common at colleges and universities throughout the United States (Kapper, 2006).

We ourselves enter this discussion at the highly practical convergence point of working together as administrators in a relatively new independent writing program in a large public research university in Northern California. The program was chartered in 2004, Chris arrived in 2006, and Dana was hired in 2008. When the program was chartered, five tenure-line positions were funded, and Chris, as the first hire and new director, had the responsibility and opportunity (along with the existing faculty of long-term continuing lecturers) to shape the program and its faculty in ways consistent with the goals of the program's charter and the characteristics of the local context.

One key decision made in hiring tenure-line faculty was to recruit a second language writing specialist to help shape curriculum and prepare teachers based on current research and best practices in working with multilingual/L2 populations. As Dana was being interviewed for this position, the two of us discovered common ground: that we both felt that existing L1/L2 composition divisions were unnecessary and unhelpful and wanted to find ways to bridge that gap not only in our own program but also in other programs at UC Davis devoted to student writing. We hope that our collaboration (as administrators and co-authors) will help others to think creatively about ways to bridge the L1/L2 composition divide in their own programs and to facilitate better collaboration between L2 specialists and others working on writing across the curriculum (WAC).

—including some of our own—in meeting both L1 and L2 students' needs. In this section we also delineate specific challenges and how we at UCD try to meet them. Fourth, we focus particular attention on efforts we are making within our first-year writing program to better serve a diverse population by describing recent changes in first-year curriculum and in the preservice and in-service training of our instructors to emphasize the needs of L2 learners. We conclude by reiterating the challenges currently facing us in our local context.

Overview: Defining L2 Student Writers

Over the past 10-15 years, L2 writing scholars have become more aware of different subgroups among L2 student populations. In the early days of ESL/L2 writing programs at U.S. universities, the target audience was largely international students (Ferris, 2009; Leki, 1992; Matsuda, 2003). With increased immigration after the Vietnam War and the rise of open-admissions policies at U.S. colleges and some universities, beginning in the 1970s, there were increasing numbers of L2 students who were resident immigrants (Ferris, 2009; Harklau, Losey, & Siegal, 1999; Matsuda, 2003; Shaughnessy, 1977). Scholars began to note distinctions in background, motivation, and ability between the international and immigrant student audiences at U.S. postsecondary institutions (Matsuda & Matsuda, 2009; Reid, 1998; Valdés, 1992). By the 1990s, a third group had emerged, the so-called "Generation 1.5" students (Harklau, Losey, & Siegal, 1999; Roberge, Siegal, & Harklau, 2009). The term (taken from the literature on Korean-American immigrant children) refers to the children of first-generation immigrants whose linguistic and cultural experiences were somewhere between L1 and L2; within this broad definition exist subgroups of various descriptions (see Roberge, 2002, for a very clear discussion of Generation 1.5 learners). Researchers, teachers, and program administrators have been trying in recent years to attain a better understanding of these different L2 student groups and the implications of the distinctions for program and curriculum design, assessment, and teacher preparation—but there is still a long way to go (Ferris, 2009; Harklau & Siegal, 2009; Roberge, 2009). We return to these distinctions among groups of L2 writers in a later section.

L2 Writers at UCD

With this broader background in mind, we turn to some description of our own context. The University of California at Davis (UCD) is a public (land grant) research university in Northern California, located about 70 miles east of San Francisco and 20 miles west of Sacramento, the state capital. Like most or all of the public educational institutions in California, UCD is linguistically diverse, with substantial numbers of students coming from homes where a language other than English is spoken, and instructors across the university encounter writing in English that is influenced by a wide variety of other languages. While language policy and practices continue to be debated, the university community recognizes the importance of working to improve the English writing of our diverse population, as the following sections will describe. Moreover, the transnational character of the university is reflected in a wide variety of area studies majors and in the undergraduate general education requirements, which include coursework in World Cultures and in Domestic Diversity (within a US Culture, Government, and History requirement). While the majority of programs and offices relevant to writing instruction serve the needs of the 25,000 UCD undergraduates, the multilingual composition of our many graduate programs has also led to development of a variety of writing support services for graduate students.

In a 2006 survey, 60% of UC undergraduates reported that either they or their parents were first-generation immigrants to the US (Locke, 2007). In our own program, the University Writing Program (UWP), we surveyed the students in our first-year composition (FYC) course, UWP 1, in the winter and spring quarters of 2009[1], finding that close to 50% self-reported having begun life in homes in which the primary language was not English.[2] Of these, about 20% had been born outside of the US, and nearly 99% had graduated from a U.S. high school. Thus, the vast majority of the L2 writers in our FYC program are not recent arrivals but rather Generation 1.5 students.

Among the L2 students, the most common family L1s were Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, numbers which reflect the broader demographics of the Sacramento region of Northern California. They were more likely than monolingual English speakers to major in engineering or science and less likely to major in humanities or social science. Of the L2 students, 70% began learning English at age four or later (14% did not begin until after age 10). Ninety-seven percent of the L2 students reported still using their primary language outside of school at least some of the time.

As to experiences with and feelings about reading and writing, 53% of the L2 students said that they either "always" or "sometimes" enjoyed writing, compared with 73.5% of the monolingual English speakers. While nearly 61% of the L1 English speakers said that "teachers generally liked [their] writing," this was true for only about 23% of the L2 students. They also were less likely than L1 students to say that they enjoyed reading or that they ever read for pleasure outside of required schoolwork. In short, despite their long tenure in an English-speaking country and fairly early start in learning English, the L2 writers as a group felt less successful as writers and did not enjoy writing and reading as much as their L1 peers did.

Within given sections of the FYC course—we have 25-30 sections of 25 students each per quarter—there can of course be quite a range of L2 experiences and ability levels. A subset of students in one recent section (taught by Dana) provides a snapshot of this diversity: According to background questionnaires that students completed on the first day of class (a precursor to the survey shown in Appendix A), the group included one newly arrived international student, several students who had arrived in the US after age 10, a student who was born in the U.S. but then moved back to China with his parents before returning to California at age six, and a student who was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the US with his parents at age 3.[3] After the course ended, Dana traced the progress of this subgroup of students through the texts they had produced for the class, their in-class work, and their final grades, finding that the international student produced the weakest writing sample in the class on a diagnostic task the first week of the quarter but was extremely motivated, hardworking, and well prepared, and she ended up being quite successful in the class. One of the later-arriving immigrants, who had come from China at age 12, was a very weak writer who struggled throughout the quarter and never seemed to quite follow what was happening in class or in course readings. Another, who had moved from Russia at age 10, was exceptionally conscientious, and though he struggled with lexical precision and sentence structure, he made a lot of progress during the course. The student born in California who moved to China and then back to the U.S. at age six had a limited vocabulary and was frustrated by his inability to express himself more accurately and elegantly. Finally, the student born in Vietnam, though his early papers had a bit of an L2 "accent," was the star writer of the group, finishing the quarter with the highest grade in the entire class. While every class is different, this brief description of the L2 students in one section illustrates the range of backgrounds and writing abilities that L2 writers in our context present.

These demographics are particularly significant when we note that most of the sections of UWP 1 are taught by graduate student instructors, mostly Ph.D. students in English literature, with little teaching experience and preparation for working with L2 writers, a point we return to later in this essay. To summarize, not only are many of the students in our UWP courses from a wide range of L2 backgrounds, but their level of preparation for English academic literacy tasks varies tremendously, with some students functioning extremely well while others clearly struggle. We have attempted to build an understanding of this complexity and its possible implications into our pre-service training for graduate student instructors and our in-service discussions and workshops with continuing faculty as well as into our curriculum design and evaluation processes. As an example, we describe our revamped FYC course in a later section.

Writing and Writing Support at UCD: An Introduction

Having described our student population, we now move to explaining the ways in which writing instruction and support are currently provided at our institution and how these programs do (or do not) serve the needs of L2 writers. The teaching of writing at UCD is carried out by several different offices and programs that have separate and overlapping responsibilities. Overall, the university takes a cross-disciplinary approach to these responsibilities, and we have been sufficiently successful with this approach to have been selected each year since 2007 by U.S. News and World Report as one of only twenty or so colleges and universities to be listed in the annual "America's Best Colleges" issue for their emphasis on "writing in disciplines." As described further in this essay, programs or units at UCD providing services to student writers include the University Writing Program, the Student Academic Success Center, the Entry-Level Writing Program, the English as a Second Language (ESL) courses taught by the Linguistics Department, the Office of Graduate Studies, the almost 80 departments that offer courses meeting the University's "writing experience" requirement, and the more than 100 undergraduate majors in all that require student writing. A recent addition to this list of participating programs is Global Studies (within the university extension program), which is partnering with the University Writing Program to offer specialized first-year and second-year writing courses designated for students from participating universities overseas who are completing coursework or degrees at UCD.

For the purposes of this essay, it is important to note that these various programs and services devoted to student writing have developed over more than three decades, sometimes in coordinated fashion and sometimes relatively in isolation. Moreover, several have been specifically focused on L2 writers, while others have developed without conscious attention to these students' characteristics and needs. When we talk about our recent commitment to "bridging" the divide between L1 and L2, we mean not only an effort to build an inclusive campus philosophy, but the very practical, nuts-and-bolts work of administrative coordination and training of teachers and tutors. As we describe each program and service in our section on "Programs," we'll note our progress in that "bridging" effort.


One of the first steps in "bridging" the disciplinary divide between L1 and L2 composition in our program was agreement on a philosophy or approach. In preparation for a program-wide workshop on L2 writing issues, Chris and Dana articulated a set of philosophy statements that represent our own thinking and that should guide not only our own program but our broader advocacy efforts on our campus. These philosophy statements were shared with our faculty at our fall 2010 workshop to an enthusiastic response. Our work with L2 writers in UWP is guided by our shared commitment to the following research-based principles and observations:

While our own philosophies regarding second language (L2) writers have evolved over decades of working with students and teachers in a variety of postsecondary contexts, they are also captured well by two important documents published in the past decade. The earlier one, California Pathways (Browning et al., 2000), is the result of a remarkable collaboration among high schools, community colleges, and universities to accurately describe the student population in California and to articulate a set of philosophies, standards, and best practices for working with these learners that could be shared across a broad range of local institutional contexts. The second, "CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Writers" (originally adopted in 2000 and revised in 2009), further outlines a set of principles for writing programs and administrators (including higher-up college/university administrators) as they consider how best to identify, place, teach, assess, and support an increasingly diverse student audience.

There are many important issues raised by both documents, but the three that are particularly relevant to our program at this point in time are

We discuss these three points further in this section.

Understanding the Student Population. The introduction to California Pathways reminds us that

Second language students in California come from a broad range of linguistic, cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. Because they share the need to learn English, they are sometimes seen as forming a homogeneous educational group. They are, however, not at all homogeneous. In fact, the interplay of variables characterizing L2 learners makes meeting the population's educational needs exceptionally challenging (Browning et al., 2000, p. vi).

As already noted, L2 writers may include recent arrivals (both international students and resident immigrants), residents who have been in the US and learning English for only a few years, and students either born in the US or who arrived with their immigrant parents at an early age. While all of these student subgroups have in common that the primary language spoken in their home was not English, they differ from one another in many other ways, including first language (L1), culture, educational background, literacy development, and the ways in which they have been taught or exposed to English (see Roberge, 2009, for an especially cogent summary of these variables). With these issues in mind, one important part of our local program's philosophy is that we must understand the nature of our student population. As already discussed, one of Dana's first projects after arriving at the UWP as the lower-division composition director was to survey the FYC students (see Appendix A), a task also responsive to the recommendations of the CCCC position statement (CCCC, 2009a).

Teacher Preparation Issues. Another important element of our shared philosophy is that the instructors in our program must be well prepared to work with L2 writers. The CCCC position statement recommends that

[a]ny writing course, including basic writing, first-year composition, advanced writing, and professional writing, as well as any writing-intensive course that enrolls any second language writers should be taught by an instructor who is able to identify and is prepared to address the linguistic and cultural needs of second language writers (CCCC, 2009a, emphasis added).

The statement goes on to recommend various types of pre-service and in-service training opportunities that may be useful, and we have some distance to go in our program to implement all of the suggestions. However, because we agree that, especially given our student population, our instructors should be well prepared to work with L2 writers, the UWP has taken several steps in this direction over the past several years. For example, in her pre-service work with graduate student instructors of FYC courses, Dana has incorporated materials written by L2 specialists (most notably the adoption of the 2006 collection Second-Language Writing in the Composition Classroom, edited by Matsuda, Cox, Jordan, & Ortmeier-Hooper), as one of the required texts in the pedagogy seminar, provided sample texts by L2 writers for analysis and assessment practice, and extensively discussed and modeled pedagogical strategies for working effectively with a diverse student audience in FYC. Further specifics about the FYC training sequence and curriculum (re)design are provided in a later section.

Under the subheading "Sustaining the Conversation," the CCCC position statement notes

While there is value in single experience situations (e.g., a guest lecture, a single workshop, or a single class dedicated to second language issues), instructors will be better prepared to work with second language students if issues of second language writing and writers are a consistent feature that is reenforced throughout their training in writing instruction, especially in-service training encouraged of all writing instructors (CCCC, 2009a).

This suggestion challenges writing programs to go well beyond the typical "ESL day" that occurs in pedagogy seminars, practicum meetings, and in-service workshops. A key portion of our philosophy about working with L2 writers in our program is that all of our "conversations" among teachers—whether about standards, assessment, or pedagogy—should be intentionally and explicitly framed in the light of our unique, diverse, and complex student population (see Section IV for examples of how this is done in the FYC program). In the following sections, we try to show how the tenets of this philosophy are followed in the various pieces of our own cross-disciplinary program and in our interactions in WAC workshops and collaboratively with other programs and offices.

Specific Programs Serving Student Writers at UCD

In each of the subsections that follow, we provide a brief structural description of a program, then focus on the ways in which it addresses the needs of L2 writers. We emphasize again that in this historically diverse university, most elements of our long-standing commitment to student writing have been developed to meet the needs of L1 and L2 writers alike, not ignoring the needs of any writer. Nevertheless, given the focus of this article, we particularly note recent changes (or proposed changes) in structure that foreground the needs of English language learners.

Multiple Roles of the University Writing Program (UWP)[4]

Lower- and Upper-Division Programs. The University Writing Program (UWP) is an independent unit of the College of Letters and Science. Having separated from the English Department in 2004, the UWP conducts research in multiple areas of rhetoric and composition, much of this research supporting its central teaching role. The UWP offers 50% of the sections that meet the University's first-year English composition requirement[5] (discussed further both above and later in this article) and provides pedagogy courses to prepare Ph.D. candidates who teach writing courses at the first-year level. Further, the UWP teaches almost 100% of the writing courses "in disciplines and professions" that meet the University's upper-level English composition requirement (more than 220 sections per year). Thus, UCD is one of the growing number of U.S. universities that divides its English composition requirement between the first and later years (Shamoon et al., 2000; Thaiss & Porter, 2010).

These 220+ upper-division sections per year are divided among more than 20 courses, which cover most areas of the curriculum. A partial list includes journalism, writing in film studies, writing in ethnic studies, writing in biological sciences, writing for engineers, business and technical writing, writing in science, writing in legal studies, and writing in the health professions. All sections are taught by experienced lecturers (most on continuing [non-term] contracts) and by the UWP's tenure-line faculty. We hire no "adjunct" teachers on quarter-by-quarter, no-benefits contracts. We are committed to continuty of the program through our faculty and ongoing development of all our teachers.

The goals of the upper-division courses complement the "writing in disciplines" orientation of the first-year UWP course. But where each first-year section of UWP 1 enrolls students from across majors (plus the many undeclared students) and endeavors to introduce students to university-level writing in a cross-disciplinary context, the upper-division courses, each more narrowly focused, have two main aims: (1) help students understand and practice the rhetorics and genres of their majors and (2) prepare them for professional life beyond graduation.

These upper-division sections typically have a proportion of L2 writers similar to that in our FY courses, but these percentages vary by the focus of the course. For example, while our 15 sections of Writing in Legal Studies enroll very few L2 writers, close to 60% of the students in our 45 sections of Business/Technical Writing and our 20 sections of Writing in Science come from L2 backgrounds, including Generation 1.5 students and immigrant students with varying years of residence in the US. The majors represented in the 25-student classes of Writing in Science, such as those sections Chris teaches, include the biosciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering fields, and agricultural disciplines, such as plant and animal science. Though not all of these juniors and seniors plan to go to graduate or professional school immediately upon graduation, most envision medical, veterinary, or science research careers.

The course gives all students, including L2 writers, structured practice in reading and writing genres pertinent to their STEM majors and to careers based on these degrees. Typical assignments include specialized research reviews, proposals, "popular" materials for non-technical readers, and presentations. The conscious attention to genre traits, to rhetorical variety, and to subject matter relevant to students' majors is particularly valuable to L2 students' development of fluency in diverse rhetorical contexts. Sections of these courses vary to a degree in their attentiveness to grammar per se, but all treat grammar in the context of actual rhetorical choices, and as part of a process pedagogy that includes multi-stage projects, peer and instructor feedback, and team assignments. Since 85% of the UWP courses in disciplines and professions meet in computer classrooms, and almost all teachers use the Web 2.0 course management system Smartsite (http://smartsite.ucdavis.edu), students routinely communicate on course projects inside and outside class through online forums. Thus, students of varying degrees of English proficiency are routinely reading the messages and drafts of fellow writers/researchers, and practicing task-oriented communication with a range of readers.

Most of our veteran instructors do not have formal training in L2 writing pedagogy; nevertheless, the process- and rhetorically-based pedagogy that informs our courses—which these experienced faculty developed—shows the convergences of rhetoric/composition and L2 best practices that Matsuda (2003), among others, has marked. Part of our "bridging" has been to make L2 concerns and methods a regular part of our faculty development since 2006. For example, in Fall 2010, our start-of-the year UWP faculty workshop developed applications of the new CCCC statement (CCCC, 2009a) on L2 learners to our upper-division courses. Following Dana's presentation of demographic data on our students and her overview of the CCCC statement, instructors met in small groups to share their classroom techniques and brainstorm ideas, which we then incorporated in Instructor Resources on our website. Another part of our "bridge" has been to make L2 teaching experience an explicit focus in hiring of new faculty and formal training a preferred element (in our hiring calls and our interview protocols), though we still do not require formal training.

The Undergraduate Writing Minor. The UWP's new 20-credit Writing Minor, begun in 2009, has already attracted more than 150 students from across majors who desire a graduation credential that highlights extra coursework in writing, plus a writing internship. The Minor has already proven to be a draw to L2 students, some of whom see writing as a possible career alternative, but most of whom use the additional advanced coursework to build their confidence and versatility in English. As one minor put it, in relation to his internship,

I never considered myself a writer. I did the minor because I knew writing was one of my weakest skills. Now I don't feel like that. I know how to write various forms, such as press releases. I never thought I had a strong grammar background, but this is an area in which I've also seen improvement. I believe this is because I was put in charge of editing the writing of others. I feel able to write on the job when I leave UC Davis.

As we conclude just the second year of the Minor, one "bridging" task of the new standing committee will be to evaluate through portfolios and interviews the impact of the additional coursework and internships on all students in the Minor, including L2 writers.

Graduate Program. Meanwhile, at the graduate level, the cross-disciplinary Ph.D. Designated Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies (new in 2008 and administered by the UWP) has attracted students from Education, Linguistics, and English, many of them completing coursework or writing dissertations focused on the education of English language learners. The history of linguistic diversity in Northern California, and the established and expanding attention to L2 writers in the public schools and at the university, have made composition research on the needs of L2 writers a central focus of our PhD students' projects. To cite a few of many examples: (1) a longitudinal study of students (Leonard, 2011) who have progressed through the developmental writing sequence and first-year composition at Davis (this dissertation, which we cite in the section on "Developmental Writing Programs and the ESL Task Force," is also a detailed history of the politics and changes of explicit L2 writing instruction at UC Davis); (2) a longitudinal study of an innovative teacher development model for language arts in schools with diverse populations, by a teacher in a multilingual middle school in Sacramento (Pella, 2011); (3) an in-progress dissertation study on the L2 writing placement practices and rationales of the many branches of the California State University (CSU) system, by an international PhD student with masters-level graduate training from a CSU campus. Several others are examining the progress of multilingual writers in FYC programs/courses. Dana is also developing and teaching seminars for this program on second language writing and on response to student writing (the latter will include assigned readings on responding to L2 writers).

Writing Programs Outside of UWP

Developmental Writing Programs and the ESL Task Force. In addition to the various baccalaureate-level courses offered by the UWP, about 30% of incoming freshmen at UCD are also required to take courses in one or both of the developmental writing programs currently administered outside of the UWP. Applications for undergraduate admission to all branches of the UC are accepted from the top 12 1/2% of graduates of California secondary schools and from qualified students from outside the state and nation. For over 100 years, most admitted students, despite their high academic standing in the secondary schools, have been required to take the Analytical Writing Placement Examination (AWPE; formerly known as Subject A), a timed essay examination used to determine placement in the appropriate first-year course that meets the first-year composition requirement. Students with sufficiently high scores on the pertinent Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams are exempted from the AWPE. Each campus determines the configuration of first-year options differently, but all make distinctions based on AWPE scores.

At UC Davis, the range of possible placements is complex, is administered by different units, and is therefore cause for concern. Leonard's dissertation (2011) traces the 40-year history of state politics and local decisions behind the current arrangement. In the present configuration, the highest level of exam scorers (about 60%) may enroll in their choice of one of the several first-year composition (FYC) courses, including UWP 1. About 30% of our L2 students achieve this level on the AWPE. The second level of AWPE scorers (about 30%) is placed in a course that does not receive academic credit and is therefore considered remedial. This course is not taught by UC Davis faculty or graduate students, but is outsourced to another institution, Sacramento City Community College. These students must satisfactorily complete the non-credit course,[6] known as Workload 57, before being admitted to UWP 1 or equivalent courses. According to Dana's 2009 background survey of students taking UWP 1, a substantial percentage of students who were required to first complete Workload 57 are L2 students (nearly 61% of respondents, compared with under 40% for monolingual English speakers). While there are several designated ESL sections of Workload 57 each quarter, the majority of these L2 students by necessity or choice take mainstream/regular sections.

A third group of AWPE scores (about 10% of scores from the total UCD first-year students and therefore about 20% of our L2 first-year population) identifies L2 learners whose writing skills are considered not yet adequate for the higher two levels. Each of these students is placed into one of three sequenced courses (all bearing graduation credit) taught by ESL specialists in the Linguistics Department. Thus, a student placed into this developmental sequence may take as many as four ten-week courses in two different programs (up to three in the Linguistics program plus the Sacramento City College Workload 57 course) before being eligible for the first-year academic writing course in a third department (UWP 1 or equivalent).

Formed to combat this fragmentation, a 2010-11 UCD initiative, the cross-programs ESL Task Force, epitomizes our "bridging" spirit. Because of budget restructuring in the current economic recession, this multi-step curriculum for the lowest group of AWPE scorers—all of them L2 writers—was the target of severe cutbacks in 2009-10 by the Linguistics Department's home division, Social Sciences. Created in response to this emergency, the ESL Task Force authored a proposal that has since received unanimous endorsement from Faculty Senate committees and is now being considered by the Provost. Under this proposal, the explicit L2 developmental curriculum would be brought under the management of the UWP, so that placement and course goals could be coordinated with the lower- and upper-division writing courses, and curriculum revision and teacher preparation would be made easier. Moreover, all budget decisions would be made in consideration of students' progress through the entire curriculum. The proposal, which mandates a fresh reconsideration of the entire developmental curriculum for these students, suggests such variants on the four-course sequence as "stretch" courses, which would combine two of the developmental courses into one longer version, and possible elimination of the Workload course for some students. Other innovations might include sophomore-level courses for ESL writers, designated ESL sections of popular upper-division courses, and targeted adjunct tutorials for L2 students who might need more support to succeed in mainstream composition courses.

The proposal also begins to address the growing population of international students who enter UCD as transfers, usually in the third year. Under budget pressure to raise revenue through out-of-state enrollment, the UC system as a whole is aiming to increase international upper-division transfers—who circumvent the first-year AWPE gate. Therefore, the ESL Task Force proposal suggests additional lower-division course offerings beyond the FYC course for transfer students who might need additional preparation before attempting upper-division courses. It also suggests special sections of upper-division UWP courses for some L2 writers.

Further Writing Support at UCD

WAC/WID Workshops. A long-standing element of the UWP since the 1980s has been its faculty outreach work across the curriculum. The upper-level courses in the UWP in many cases actually began as writing "adjuncts" linked to specific courses in majors, thus depending on the cooperation of instructors in a variety of fields. Though specific courses are no longer linked, the cross-curricular emphasis remains vibrant and continues to diversify through a program of workshops and consulting. A particular strength of this workshop program is the large number of UWP faculty who over the years have served as consultants to departments; there has been programmatic commitment to training of new consultants by the experienced ones. In 2011, for example, five faculty and two graduate students are designated as part of their teaching commitment to lead scheduled events or serve "on call" for impromptu requests from faculty and graduate teaching assistants (TAs). One of these faculty consultants is in her first year in this role and another is in her second. Through this process of training and succession, the number of qualified faculty with contacts to other departments and experience in workshop settings grows, so there is at any moment a large number of UWP teachers who can answer requests from departments across the university.

The Workshop Program and L2 Writers. For L2 learners and their teachers across the curriculum, this close tie between the UWP "writing in disciplines and professions" classes and the workshop/consultancy setting means that our consultants bring to their WAC outreach work expertise in guiding the writing of students who vary greatly in their proficiency and background in English language use. For example, in the regular cross-disciplines workshops we do for faculty and graduate teaching assistants in particular colleges, favorite topics include assignment design, managing writing processes, and giving effective feedback. Since many TAs, like their students, are non-native English speakers themselves, a frequent question that arises is how to inspire revision of higher-order elements while also paying attention to the syntax and word choice issues that provoke students' anxiety. Consultants are able to rely both on their workshop experience and on their extensive classroom experience with the genres and students in question in order to help teachers prioritize their goals in giving feedback and achieving efficiency.

Increasingly, the faculty consultants, and the graduate students who also serve in the program, have had graduate coursework in L2 theory and pedagogy. Thus, in 2011, both of the new faculty members of the team have had Ph.D. coursework and prior experience in teaching linguistically diverse classes. The graduate student consultants from our DE are also extensively trained in L2 pedagogy.

The Cross-Disciplinary "Writing Experience" Requirement

Beginning in 2009, the UWP WAC workshop program has designed events specifically toward preparing departments for an ambitious, enriched general education requirement in "writing experience" (WE) that has just gone into effect (Fall 2011). Some 1500 course from 80 departments have now been approved to meet the 6-9-credit cross-majors requirement for all undergrads.[7] Approved courses, which range across all areas of the curriculum and include classes of all sizes and purposes, will require a minimum of 3000 words in multiple or staged assignments, with written feedback and the opportunity to revise within the quarter. The outgoing WE requirement, in place for over ten years, was met by a similar high number of courses and departments, but demanded at minimum a 5-page paper, with feedback and revision recommended.

Most students will be able to meet the new enriched requirement within their majors. For the majority of UC Davis students, including many in the sciences and social sciences, the sheer number of approved WE courses, plus the stricter requirements, will mean a more writing-intensive undergraduate experience, with students needing to confront the genre, rhetorical, and content expectations of diverse teachers and environments. Moreover, a significant number of the courses approved for WE also have been deemed to meet the new requirements in "domestic diversity" (diversity within the U.S.) and "world cultures," further recognition by university faculty of the transnational nature of our population and mission.

Implications of the WE Requirement for L2 Students. For Davis's highly diverse population of L2 learners, the upside of this change will be guided, process-based practice in diverse writing situations, meant to build fluency and versatility in addition to deeper learning of course content. But challenges facing this ambitious venture in relation to L2 students are obvious. We will need to ensure (1) that even more faculty and TAs have the training and resources to handle the curriculum productively for the students and (2) that students have the support they need in order to thrive. Though the scope of the new requirement is daunting, the UWP workshop program is flexibly structured to be able to respond to some increase in requests and is also improving its web-based resources, some of which will specifically address the needs of L2 learners, to help meet the need for training. Meanwhile, another resource for undergraduates, the Student Academic Success Center, described just below, is already serving several thousand Davis students per year, with workshops and tutoring specifically for L2 writers across disciplines, and is anticipating even more call for its services, as the new requirements affect students more intensively over the next few years.

The Writing Center of the Student Academic Success Center (SASC)[8]

The tutoring and workshops for writing offered by the SASC reach undergraduates across the curriculum. In 2009-10, visits totaled almost 10,000. Self-designated L2 students accounted for 58% of all the visits to the SASC, most of these visits regarding assignments from courses in well over 100 majors, as well as visits regarding personal statements for graduate school or job applications. The writing center is managed and staffed by professional tutors—all of whom have formal training in ESL pedagogy. In addition, the professional staff trains undergraduate peer tutors from a range of disciplines. In 2009-10, 72% of all visits to professional tutors were made by self-identified L2 learners; only 48% of all visits to peer tutors were made by L2 students. Since visits to professional tutors can be scheduled by appointment only, rather than by drop-in, the high percentage of appointments by L2 writers indicates the students' recognition of their need for advance consultation from the most experienced tutors.[9]

In addition to one-on-one tutoring, the SASC also offers each quarter multiple workshops on such topics as the research/term paper, in-class exam writing, and style and grammar. Workshop series are also held as preparation for several high-stakes writing exams, such as those for the L2 developmental courses offered by Linguistics and for exemption from the upper-level composition requirement. Additional series of "grammar review" and "writing practice" workshops for L2 students only are also offered.[10]

Workshops and Tutoring for Graduate Students

Because the SASC focuses its tutorials and workshops primarily on the 25,000 UC Davis undergraduates, the UWP in cooperation with the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) has developed similar services for graduate students across disciplines, a majority of whom are L2 writers. Over the past eight years, increasingly more time spent by the UWP on training for faculty and on services to the students themselves has been devoted to the graduate level. To illustrate, the Fall 2010 schedule of UWP/OGS workshops included a wide range of topics devoted to the needs and interests of UCD graduate student writers.[11]

Since 2007, the UWP has also staffed a Graduate Writing Fellows tutoring service with Ph.D. students trained in writing pedagogy. This service began with volunteers who had worked in writing centers at other universities; in 2009, the OGS began to provide funding for the tutors and in 2010 a permanent workspace. That the development of tutorial services for graduate students across disciplines is far more recent at UC Davis—as at other research universities--than those for undergraduates reflects the gradual realization by U.S. graduate schools that lack of such assistance has kept retention and degree completion rates at disappointing levels.

The commitment by the OGS to improving Ph.D. students' completion rates is further reflected in a grant from the U.S. Council of Graduate Schools, "Mentoring at Critical Transitions." In this pilot program, 25 graduate faculty in the sciences and one Ph.D. advisee per faculty member—most of the students have L2 backgrounds—are taking part in a workshop series to (1) train the faculty to be more skilled mentors and (2) make students aware of services offered by the university. As one would expect, students' writing in pertinent genres and faculty management of this writing is a core element of the program. The extensive UWP/OGS writing workshop series noted earlier has been a key element of the mentoring process. This program represents another example of how a WAC program can partner with other university offices to provide support services for L2 writers and their instructors or supervisors.

Thus far, we have described the ways in which our institution as a whole attempts to meet the needs of student writers in an increasingly linguistically and culturally diverse context. The UWP has unquestionably been the leader in many of these recent efforts, and as the program continues to evolve and absorb responsibilities, it needs to continue working with other departments and offices to "bridge" the L1/L2 divide. In the last part of this essay, we focus specifically on how the UWP has redesigned its first-year curriculum and its formal preparation of graduate student instructors to work with a diverse student body within a cross-disciplinary framework—thus not only improving our instruction for L2 students in our FYC courses but also supporting our program's WAC orientation to writing pedagogy.

Specific Recent Steps in Addressing L2 Writers' Needs in the UWP: The Case of First-Year Writing

We described at the outset of this essay the UWP's hiring of an L2 expert, Dana, in 2008 to direct the lower-division writing program. This decision signaled willingness and interest on the part of UWP faculty to find innovative ways to best serve our diverse student population. It also signaled the search committee's intent for the UWP to become a model program that bridges the gap between "L1" and "L2" composition research. We feel that a large public research university in California is an ideal place for such a bridge. As Dana began work immediately as director of the first-year composition program, some of our most substantive changes have taken place at that level. In this section, we describe the steps we have taken since 2008 in the curriculum of FYC and in preparation of the graduate student instructors who teach it.

Assignment Design

The CCCC statement (2009a) makes several specific recommendations about ways in which writing assignments and pedagogy can be responsive to the needs of L2 writers. For instance, bearing in mind that students from diverse backgrounds may bring different types of background knowledge to a writing task, instructors are encouraged to provide multiple options for completing a writing assignment and to provide clear instructions and expectations, including a rubric that communicates how the task will be evaluated. To address this recommendation, all of the FYC instructors, for example, are now required to follow specific assignment design guidelines (see Appendix B) which, along with samples, model for these newer teachers how to set up assignments in ways that are clear and accessible and which provide both student choice and exposure to writing in different genres and for different purposes and audiences. We have them practice assignment design in the theory and pedagogy course they complete before they begin teaching for us; this training includes analysis of sample assignments and a final project in which they must design their own major assignment along with a plan for how they would teach it over a several-week period.

Modeling Effective Pedagogy in the First Quarter of Teaching

In the CCCC (2009a) position statement, instructors are further encouraged to provide scaffolding—support for the various subskills required by major writing assignments—and intermediate deadlines which allow students to stay on track and receive interim feedback about their progress. They are also reminded of the importance of various types of response for L2 writers to be successful in mainstream composition courses. We model these principles for our new FYC instructors in a common syllabus (a complete package that includes assignments, texts, and lesson plans) that they use during the first quarter that they teach for us. All new instructors follow the syllabus and discuss it together during weekly practicum meetings. It is our hope that by modeling the types of assignments, in-class scaffolding, and response systems that we think are effective for our population, the FYC instructors will follow similar approaches when designing their individual course plans. For example, the common syllabus package shows the new instructors how to set up and pace multiple-draft assignments, with activities provided for in-class prewriting, peer review workshops, and revision and editing. New instructors are also provided with student background questionnaires, asked to have their students complete them on the first day of class, and required to construct a class "profile" that they share with their peers during the practicum meeting at the end of the first week of the quarter. This allows us to discuss the demographics of the various classes and the implications of having classes that include multilingual students.

The common syllabus is also carefully crafted to allow the new teachers adequate turnaround time to give substantive feedback to their student writers' evolving writing projects. In the practicum course meetings, we pay substantial attention both to response and evaluation of student texts. For instance, instructors bring in sample student papers and practice giving commentary in a peer workshop activity. They also submit a sample of student papers that they have evaluated as a class assignment and receive feedback on their commentary. These hands-on activities allow for discussion of effective approaches to responding to L2 writers' texts. After the first quarter of teaching with the common syllabus, the new teachers are guided as they design their own syllabi in accordance with course-wide syllabus and assignment guidelines (Appendix C). New instructors also receive close supervision at this stage, with their syllabi and assignments going through several stages of review and revision, and their in-class teaching being observed several times.

Finally, the common syllabus is designed to reinforce our program's WAC orientation. For most of the graduate student instructors, WAC pedagogy is likely almost as unfamiliar as L2 writing pedagogy, so our preparation sequence needs to address both topics. In the theory and pedagogy seminar that new instructors complete the quarter before they begin teaching, there are WAC-focused readings and discussions (in addition to the previously mentioned work on teaching multilingual writers). The fall quarter common syllabus includes several important introductory WAC elements, such as detailed lessons on rhetorical situation, audience, and genre analysis, several assignments in which students are required to write to a specified audience, and a WAC-focused research project in which students investigate and analyze texts in their own chosen academic disciplines. This individual research project is followed up by a collaborative paper in which students are asked to compile their previous work into a single paper providing advice for incoming freshmen at UCD about how to be successful readers and writers in a variety of disciplines in the university. These assignments and teaching materials illustrate for new instructors ways to approach WAC-focused assignments when they design their own syllabi. In sum, our fall quarter common syllabus is designed not only to show new teachers what sound FYC pedagogy might look like but also specifically to model best practices for working with L2 writers in mixed composition classes and for introducing WAC principles and terminology to all students.

Rubric and Portfolios

Our philosophy regarding L2 writers is also reflected in the ways in which we now approach assessment of writing in the FYC program. First, we piloted and then adopted a new course-wide rubric that not only clearly articulates the expectations for successful writing at this level but also explicitly provides guidelines for assessing the writing of L2 learners and of speakers of nonstandard varieties of English (Appendix D). Second, we began providing regular norming sessions for the FYC instructors with several texts written by L2 students included in the norming packets. Finally, beginning in the fall of 2010, we began the process of replacing the traditional in-class final exam with portfolio assessment, a move that not only follows the recommendation of the CCCC position statement on second language writing (2009a) but also its more general statement on writing assessment practices: "writing ability must be assessed by more than one piece of writing, in more than one genre, written on different occasions, for different audiences, and responded to and evaluated by multiple readers as part of a substantial and sustained writing process" (CCCC, 2009b).

Because our student population is so diverse, it is critically important that our instructors "look for evidence of a text's rhetorically effective features, rather than focus only on one or two of these features that stand out as problematic" (CCCC, 2009a)—a pattern that is easy for readers to fall into when they are unfamiliar with L2 literacy acquisition processes and overwhelmed with a range of issues and potential problems to consider. By thoughtfully considering what students are asked to write (carefully designed assignments), how they should approach different writing tasks (scaffolding and response), and what our assessment criteria and procedures are, we are aiming for a more transparent and fair approach for all students.

Readers will note that the curricular principles outlined above are nothing new or unique and that they are equally appropriate for all students, not just L2 writers. We are not suggesting or implementing any practices that would be harmful to students who are not from L2 backgrounds. However, it is important to state and even require these practices on a course- and program-wide basis for two reasons. First, as already noted, these approaches have been identified by L2 writing experts as representative of best practices for L2 writers in mainstream courses or programs. Second, without clearly stated expectations and modeling for instructors—particularly inexperienced ones as in our FYC level—teachers may not always think through their assignments, their classroom and response practices, and their assessment procedures (and perhaps unexamined assumptions) carefully enough to serve the needs of the student writers (including many or most L2 writers) who need those thoughtfully implemented procedures the most.

Current Challenges

As a still-new stand-alone writing program, the UWP at UC Davis still has a ways to go in serving our large and complex L2 student audience as effectively as we might. To do so, we will have to grapple with several challenges: (1) budgetary limitations; (2) staffing constraints; and (3) teacher attitudes that need to be more clearly articulated and closely examined.

While there is not much that we can do about the budgetary issues currently crippling the entire state of California, including the UC, we have made some specific strides in addressing challenges (2) and (3). As to staffing, because we now have a cross-disciplinary PhD Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies, we have a growing number of prospective graduate student instructors for the FYC course who have training, experience, and scholarly interest in working successfully with L2 writers. In fact, in the fall of 2010, five of our 15 new instructors matched this description. In short, we are trying to ensure that all teachers in all of our classes are well prepared for the linguistic diversity they will find.

As to challenge (3), teacher attitudes, we are working intentionally in our pre-service training sequence (as described in earlier sections) and in our teacher supervision to ensure that the new FYC graduate student instructors are well equipped to work with our student population at UCD. In addition, we are developing a range of in-service teacher development options, not only for our own faculty in UWP but for faculty in the disciplines, including those who work extensively and intensively with L2 graduate students.

As to continuing challenges, in our setting, budgetary issues manifest themselves in several important ways. For example, we have been unable thus far to implement CCCC recommendations as to offering designated sections of our upper-divisions courses for L2 writers, further limiting class sizes, or allowing students to participate in Directed Self-Placement processes. The current placement model for incoming freshmen disproportionately places students from L2 backgrounds into developmental ESL/writing coursework. L2 experts discussing placement issues have noted that such low placements can be demoralizing for L2 students and that allowing them some agency in the process can actually improve their outcomes in required writing courses (e.g., Crusan, 2006; You, 2006). Further, while our upper-division courses benefit from the expertise of our long-time faculty, our entire FYC teaching staff consists of Ph.D. students; while it would be optimal to have a mix of experienced faculty and graduate student instructors teaching the course (and especially instructors with L2 training and experience), graduate students must be supported, and they are less expensive than other faculty would be. We hope to find creative ways that address this and the other challenges in the coming years.


As the campus entity created for and charged with overseeing and researching writing instruction at UC Davis, the UWP takes seriously its role and responsibility in helping to bridge gaps across students, faculty, and programs to the benefit of all students and especially the often invisible and underserved L2 population. This essay has portrayed the several dimensions of the interplay between UC Davis's long-time commitment to writing across the disciplines and our mission to meet the writing and learning needs of our linguistically and culturally diverse student population. Over many years, offices and departments have cooperated in sustaining explicit services and courses for L2 learners and in establishing (e.g., through the University Writing Program) strong cross-disciplinary curricula and faculty workshops that address needs of all students, including those with L2 backgrounds. Newer initiatives such as the Writing Minor, the PhD emphasis in Writing Studies, the enriched "writing experience" requirement, and the services for graduate student writers are founded on these past accomplishments. Other initiatives, such as the thoroughgoing emphasis on L2 and student diversity in UWP 1, aim to make instructor development in L2 theory and pedagogy an explicit goal. Still others, such as the work of the ESL Task Force, aim to bring new understanding and resources to the needs of our L2 population at all levels: explicit recognition in our university's vision of the character of the state in which we teach and learn.


Appendix A

Welcome to UWP 1! Your teacher has asked you to complete this survey so that the UWP can do a better job of serving UWP 1 students in the future. Your complete and honest responses will help you, your teacher, and other current and future UWP 1 students. All responses are completely anonymous, and neither you nor your teacher will be identified. If you have any questions about UWP 1 or this survey, please contact Professor Dana Ferris, Associate Director for Lower-Division Writing.


  1. Age?
    • Under 18
    • 18
    • 19
    • 20
    • 21-25
    • 26+
    • prefer not to state
  2. Year in School?
    • Freshman
    • Sophomore
    • Junior
    • Senior
    • Graduate
    • Not sure
  3. Major (if known)?
    • Unknown/Undecided
    • College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
    • College of Biological Sciences
    • College of Engineering
    • College of Letters & Science—Humanities, Arts, & Cultural Studies
    • College of Letters & Science—Mathematical & Physical Sciences
    • College of Letters & Science—Social Science
    • Double-major in two different colleges
    • Other (specify in comment box)

The following questions ask about your previous writing and language use experiences.

  1. Is this your first quarter at UCD?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. Have you taken any other writing/English language courses at UCD? Please check ALL that apply.
    • UWP 1 (repeating course)
    • Workload 57
    • Linguistics 21
    • Linguistics 22
    • Linguistics 23
    • English 3
    • NAS 5
    • COM 1,2,3,4
    • UWP 101, 102, or 104
    • None
    • Other (please specify in comment box)
  3. When did you take your most recent college writing course at UCD?
    • last quarter
    • within the last year
    • more than one year ago
    • I have never taken another writing class at UCD
  4. Have you taken any other college-level writing courses NOT at UCD?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not Sure

Writing and Language Background

  1. Was English the first/primary language in your home?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. Were you born in the U.S.?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. Did you graduate from a U.S. high school?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. What language(s) were spoken in your home when you were a young child?
    • English (only)
    • English and another language
    • Spanish
    • Chinese (any dialect)
    • Korean
    • Vietnamese
    • Japanese
    • Hmong
    • Arabic
    • Punjabi/Urdu/Hindi/Tamil
    • Tagalog/other Philippine language
    • Russian/Ukrainian/other Slavic language
    • Farsi
    • Amharic
    • French
    • German
    • Italian
    • Portuguese Two or more languages but not English
    • Other (please specify)
  5. At what age did you begin learning/speaking English?
    • From birth
    • 1-3 years old
    • 4-5 years old
    • 6-10 years old
    • 11-17 years old
    • 18+ years old
    • Not sure
  6. Outside of school, what percentage of the time do you use English?
    • I speak only English.
    • <25%
    • 25-50%
    • 51-75%
    • 76-100%
  7. Before college, was writing (especially in school) a good experience for you? Add comments if you would like to.
    • Yes, I always or usually enjoyed writing.
    • I sometimes enjoyed writing.
    • I rarely enjoyed writing.
    • I never enjoyed writing.
    • Other (please specify)
  8. Have you ever been given any specific feedback--by a teacher, tutor, friend or other person--about your strengths or weaknesses as a writer? If so, what kinds of things did they mention? Answer ALL that apply.
    • No, not that I can remember.
    • Teachers generally liked my writing.
    • Teachers praised my content/ideas.
    • Teachers praised my organization.
    • Teachers praised my expression/language use.
    • Teachers felt my ideas were unclear or needed more detail.
    • Teachers criticized my organization.
    • Teachers criticized my language use (grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, or other mechanics)
    • Teachers never seemed to like anything about my writing.
  9. Do you enjoy reading? Do you read for pleasure outside of school?
    • Yes, I enjoy reading and do so frequently.
    • I sometimes enjoy reading.
    • I only read when I have to.
    • I dislike or feel very uncomfortable with reading.
  10. Outside of assigned reading for school, what types of things do you read? Choose
    • I never read for pleasure outside of school.
    • Newspapers (online or print)
    • Magazines
    • Books--fiction
    • Books--nonfiction
    • Web sites, social networking sites, blogs
    • Other (please specify)

Appendix B - Assignment Design Specifications for FYC Instructors

  1. Assignment sheets should include a purpose and audience statement.
  2. All major assignments must include a clear statement of the task (i.e., the prompt), and, as needed, a list of steps required to complete the task.
  3. All assignments must include some student choice in how the topic/assignment is approached. This requirement may be fulfilled in several different ways:
    • Offer two or more prompt choices
    • Require the student to find additional information/sources on his/her own, allowing for some creativity and individual variation.
    • Provide a general task but allow for individual variation in how it is carried out.
  4. All assignment sheets must include a list of (re)sources required to complete the assignment (may include teacher-assigned reading, sources from student library or Internet research, and field research notes).
  5. All major assignments must include a time line specifying how the paper will be developed in and out of class.
  6. All major assignments must include paper specifications (e.g., word range, format issues, style manual requirements, etc.)
  7. All major assignments must include a trait-based rubric showing specific criteria for evaluating that particular assignment.
  8. Assignment sheets should be 1-2 pages in length (the rubric can be extra, as needed) and clearly formatted so that students can find the appropriate information quickly and easily.

Appendix C - FYC Syllabus Design Checklist

Part A: "Stock" Language: Must be Included in ALL UWP 1 Syllabi
Course Number (UWP 1), Name (Expository Writing), Section #, CRN, Room #, Days/Times  
Instructor Name, Office Location, Contact Information, Office Hours  
Entry-Level Writing Prerequisite Information  
UWP 6000-word writing requirement (original, formal, graded writing)  
Plagiarism policies & URLS for UWP document & SJA  
Student Academic Success Center & Students With Disabilities Office contact information  
Statement about importance/expectation of revision  
Part B:  Required Texts & Other Materials
Title, author, & publisher information for required handbook
Other required texts (reader, rhetoric, etc.)—type, where it can be purchased
Complete reading list for custom reader, if applicable
Other materials required (e.g., bluebooks, folders, etc.)
Information about course Smart Site
Readings include a range of text types/genres and topics –-may not be only literary
Readings include some professional authors (not only student-authored texts)

Part C: Major Writing Assignments

Course calendar includes time for a diagnostic writing activity
Course calendar includes time for final portfolio preparation
First out-of-class assignment due no later than Week 3; final paper due no later than end of Week 9
Course calendar includes 3-4 (minimum) out-of-class multiple-draft assignments
Assignments include a range of tasks/genres; at least one must be persuasive/argumentative
Assignments include at least one research assignment (may include both library and field research components)
All assignments (diagnostic possibly excepted) text- (or source-) based
Part D:  Grading
Grading breakdown clearly described on syllabus
85% (or more) of final course grades based on formal writing assignments (including final)
Attendance, participation, homework (etc.) portions of grade clearly explained (and clearly measurable)
Part E:  Other Syllabus Issues
Detailed daily course calendar included (general topics/activities; assignments due; readings to be covered)
Syllabus & course calendar reflect a plan for working with grammar/language issues
Syllabus & course calendar include opportunities for students to receive feedback from teacher on preliminary drafts of major papers (peers also, but not instead of teacher feedback)
Course calendar includes return dates for major papers (drafts & final graded versions)
Tone and visual appearance of syllabus is clear, friendly, and professional
Part F:  Optional Components to Consider
Classroom etiquette issues (cell phones, eating, etc.)
Encouragement to come to office hours/contact you for help
Space to write down classmates' names/contact info
Email policies (including politeness guidelines)
Tone and visual appearance of syllabus is clear, friendly, and professional

Adapted from the Department of English, California State University, Sacramento.

Appendix D - Course-Wide Grading Rubric

A EXCELLENT - A paper in this category

  • Addresses the assignment thoughtfully and analytically, setting a challenging task.
  • Establishes a clearly focused controlling idea and demonstrates strong sense of purpose and audience awareness.
  • Cites and analyzes relevant sources and evaluates their validity, effectively integrating them into text when required and/or appropriate.
  • Demonstrates coherent and rhetorically sophisticated organization; makes effective connections between ideas.
  • Provides clear generalizations with specific detail and compelling support.
  • Demonstrates superior control of grammar, sentence variety, word choice and conventions of standard written English.

L2/English Varieties Guideline: Grammatical errors are rare and do not interfere with overall effectiveness of paper; occasional imprecision in word choice or usage may occur.

B STRONG - A paper in this category

  • Addresses the assignment clearly and analytically, setting a meaningful task.
  • Establishes a clearly focused controlling idea and demonstrates a clear sense of purpose and audience awareness.
  • Cites and analyzes relevant sources, effectively integrating them into text when required and/or appropriate.
  • Demonstrates a clear and coherent organization, and makes connections between ideas.
  • Provides clear generalizations and effective supporting detail and reasoning.
  • Displays consistent control of grammar, sentence variety, word choice, and conventions of standard written English.

L2/English Varieties Guideline: Some grammatical error may occur in the paper but do not interfere with overall effectiveness; occasional inappropriate word choice or usage may occur.

C ADEQUATE - A paper in this category

  • Addresses the assignment, establishing a controlling idea and clear purpose.
  • Establishes a clearly focused controlling idea and meets most audience needs and expectations.
  • Cites sources, adequately integrating them into text when required/appropriate/relevant.
  • Demonstrates adequate organization, though connections between ideas may not be consistent.
  • Provides support for and some analysis of generalizations.
  • Demonstrates adequate control of grammar, sentence variety, word choice, and conventions of standard written English.

L2/English Varieties Guideline: Grammatical errors, inappropriate word choice, or incorrect usage may occur in the paper, but rarely interfere with communication.

D SERIOUSLY FLAWED - A paper in this category may be flawed in one or more ways. It may

  • Not address the assignment directly or clearly; it may distort or wander from the assignment or set a trivial task.
  • Show insufficient awareness of purpose, audience, or persona.
  • Display a lack of understanding of appropriate texts; fail to cite, integrate, or analyze material from the texts when required.
  • Display formulaic, random, or confusing organization.
  • Replace analysis with narration, summary, or description.
  • Fail to provide clear controlling general statements or supporting detail.
  • Show inadequate control of standard written English; error may distract or impede understanding.

L2/English Varieties Guideline: Serious and frequent errors in grammar, word choice, or usage hinder communication.

F FUNDAMENTALLY DEFICIENT - A paper in this category will be flawed in one or more ways. It may

  • Demonstrate a lack of purpose or audience awareness.
  • Lack a controlling idea.
  • Lack organization or organize illogically.
  • Display inability to generalize, analyze, or support ideas.
  • Fail to use sources when required/appropriate or misuses the texts of others.
  • Show substantially inadequate control of standard written English; error may prevent communication.

L2/English Varieties Guideline: Serious and frequent errors in grammar, word choice, or usage prevent communication.

Guidelines for Evaluating the Writing of L 2/ English Varieties Students: The writing of L 2/English Varieties students should be held to native speaker standards for content and addressing the assignment. However, because certain types of errors persist in L 2/ English Varieties writing even at an advanced level, some accommodation of L 2/English Varieties features is appropriate.


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Browning, Gari, Brinton, Donna, Ching, Roberta, Dees, Roberta, Dunlap, Susan, Erickson, Melinda, Garlow, Katheryn, Manson, Margaret, & Sasser, Linda. (2000). California pathways: The second language student in public high schools, colleges, and universities. Sacramento, CA: California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. http://catesol.org/publications.html [Retrieved 12-14-10].

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[1] A copy of the survey is provided in Appendix A.

[2] We are designing a similar survey for students in our upper-division courses, but from discussions with the UWP faculty, we would assume that the overall L2 population in the upper-division has similar characteristics. However, because our upper-division courses are differentiated across disciplines, some course sections (e.g., writing for engineering) may have higher proportions of L2 students than others do (e.g., legal writing).

[3] There were other early arrival/Generation 1.5 students in the class as well. These particular students are described here because they are illustrative of the range that exists within our FYC program and its individual sections.

[4] For more detail about the history and structure of the UWP, see http://writing.ucdavis.edu.

[5] Alternate first-year writing options are literature-based courses offered in the English Department and through Native American Studies and Comparative Literature. UWP 1 is the only alternative for students who prefer a writing-across-the-disciplines approach over a literary analysis approach.

[6] This course, while it does not provide graduation credit, does count for academic workload credit, important for students' financial aid status.

[7] For more information, see http://ge.ucdavis.edu.

[8] For more information, see http://lsc.ucdavis.edu/writing.html.

[9] The SASC web site specifies that students can make "appointments with specialists" and that this service is distinct from drop-in visits with peer tutors.

[10] The schedule and description of workshops is at http://lsc.ucdavis.edu/workshops.html.

[11] For more information, see http://iccweb.ucdavis.edu/graduates/pds). Recent workshop topics have included Writing Scientific Papers; Writing a Curriculum Vitae; Revising and Organizing for Grad Students & Postdocs; Overcoming Writer's Block; Enhancing Your Use of Endnote; Grammar and Sentence Crafting;Writing a Research Statement in the Sciences & Engineering: Academic Job Search Series; Articulating Your Research in the Humanities & Social Sciences: Academic Job Search Series; Dissertation Writing Workshop; Dissertation Writing Retreat; and Grant Writing in the Sciences.

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Complete APA Citation

Ferris, Dana, & Thaiss, Chris. (2011, December 21). Writing at UC Davis: Addressing the needs of second language writers. Across the Disciplines, 8(4). Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/atd/ell/ferris-thaiss.cfm