New writing courses set to replace JEPET by 2010
September 30, 2008 11:27 AM
A whole new acronym, the WAC/WID, is in the works to replace the much-dreaded JEPET, a graduation requirement of all SF State students.
Instead of the one-shot essay, a “writing-intensive” course in each department will be required for graduation. The classes will focus on developing higher writing skills but the content will focus material from that major, administrators involved said.
The move to replace the JEPET is linked to several problems with the test.
“I think it’s fair to say this ... we as a university have developed a reputation of graduating students who can’t write.” said Professor Betsy Blosser, who has been working on the WAC/WID project since the beginning. “That’s bad news for... students graduating with an SFSU degree because [they]’ll have less of a chance of getting a job if people think that if you graduated from here, then you can’t write.”
Both Blosser and Professor Mary Soliday, the director or the new Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines program said that another goal of the change is to get rid of a “high-stakes exam.”
This goal arose back in 2004, when SF State had three professors from out-of-state universities examine the JEPET as visiting consultants and write-up a report on what measures should be implemented to deal with the poor reputation SF State had found itself developing.
These consultant professors cited recent research that indicated from one-time testing, attempts to measure undergraduate students’ writing proficiency is no substitute for a comprehensive class to ensure proficiency.
SF State then formed a Writing Task Force; a group of professors and faculty from all departments of the university, to evaluate the situation and decide where to go next.
“The finding was that high-stakes tests did not really serve the function of improving students’ writing,” said Deborah VanDommelen of the tutoring center at SF State and a member of the task force.
It was this group which settled on the current decision and sent it to the Committee on Written English Proficiency, which is headed by Blosser, and set the project in motion.
“The JEPET will go, and in place of [it], students will take a writing-intensive course in their departments that’s designated to fill that requirement within the majors,” said Soliday, who was hired last semester for the specific purpose of coordinating this project.
“What we’ve decided and the academic senate has approved as a policy is to setup courses, one per department, that are GWAR courses,” Blosser said.
Each course will fulfill the CSU Academic Senate’s Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement.
“That will, eventually (we hope by the fall of 2010), substitute for the JEPET,” Blosser said.
There are a number of reasons the JEPET is now being replaced.
“There’s a high failure rate [for the JEPET],” Blosser said.
“And we’ve had a problem up until recently of students waiting until their last semester [before graduation] to take the JEPET and then needing to do their 414 before they can graduate. Which defeats the whole purpose because the idea is, by the time you reach your content courses in your major, you need a certain writing ability to get the most out of the content of those courses.”
The new courses will be taken “at the beginning of the junior year, ideally,” in order to prevent this problem, according to Blosser and Soliday.
Five departments will be having the pilot programs next semester, including English, psychology, and liberal studies.
“Incoming freshmen for this year are the first class that will be affected by it. This is because by their junior year they will be taking a GWAR course instead of the JEPET,” Blosser said.
“We’re trying as much as possible to alter existing courses. For one thing, it takes less effort and it costs less money,” Soliday, the WAC/WID coordinator, said.
Students seem to largely be in favor of the planned changes.
“I just don’t want to take a test,” said biochemistry major Emily Yip, 19, a sophomore, expressing much of the same unease with high-stakes testing that the consultant professors noted in the 2004 report.
“Its not fair because a lot of us take [English] 214 your freshman year and by junior year you don’t remember it all,” Yip continued.
“Some people don’t do well under testing,” said Rachel Lagan, a 19-year-old business major.
“A class would be better if it were easier for us to pass,” said Selena Tompkins, 19, a sophomore majoring in business.
Many seem to like the idea of a writing-intensive course within one’s major.
“It’s the major you like, so you pay more attention and care about it more then just [taking] an English class or [the] JEPET exam,” said Ryan Comlon, 19, an undeclared sophomore.
Even those who have already taken the exam and had no trouble appear to favor the change and offer their own thoughts on what the university should do now.
“I took the JEPET and passed,” said Kelly Johnston, 22, a senior majoring in theater. “I didn’t think it was hard so, from my take, it’s not a big deal but the whole idea is ridiculous. If you take English 114 and English 214 Composition, then that’s the school saying you’re OK to move on in the world with your writing. Why would you pass and not pass the JEPET? If you can pass those classes that should be enough and you shouldn’t have to take an exit exam of any sort.”
“As a transfer student I can see how it could be useful. As a transfer, I didn’t take 214, I had another class, so I can see why they would want to test us,” said Riley Marmesh, 22, who is a business major.
“I would think the best option would be to have a class for that [GWAR requirement] but [still] have the option to test out of that class. And maybe those requirements could be set by the departments and not by the university,” said Damon Burgett, 29, a grad student studying geography at SF State and who did his undergraduate work here as well.
The planned change to the writing assessments at SF State looks promising, and juniors next semester will begin seeing these changes firsthand.
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University