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BC Ups Expectations of Writing Competency

Part of the new General Studies Requirement [GSTR] program at Berea College calls for a writing competency exam, which was administered to all first year students at the end of September.

The new GSTR program brings new standards to students.

The function of the Writing Competency Exam is to make sure that all first year students receive the help and support needed to write at the college level. Steve Gowler, the new director of General Education, commented, "The exam and the two first-year writing seminars signal the central importance of writing to higher education, and the three together are designed to provide students with a strong foundation in written communication that will contribute to their success in whatever program of study they pursue at Berea."

The old GSTR curriculum courses for first year students were "Stories" and “U.S. Traditions.” These classes a have been replaced with two different writing seminars: GSTR 110, a writing seminar dealing with critical thinking, and GSTR 210, another writing seminar, focusing on identity and diversity in the U.S. The focuses of both courses are similar to those of the old GSTR courses. Students in the new curriculum should have the same writing abilities at the end of their first year that students of the old curriculum were expected to have at the end of their first semester as a sophomore.

The goals set by Berea College’s General Education program for GSTR 110 include:
• Learning to develop, compose, and complete college-level essays that are documented, that engage and use various kinds of texts, and that are expository (i.e., develop reasons, evidence, support for a thesis);
• Learning to identify and use properly some common modes of reasoning (e.g. analogy, argument), patterns of reasoning and basic critical thinking concepts such as consistency, ambiguity and vagueness and general criteria in thinking well about a variety of topics and texts;
• Learning to use the Hutchins Library facility and its resources, including the Library Home Page and library web resources;
• Learning how to research, read and evaluate a variety of sources, to assemble an appropriately diverse bibliography and to appreciate how different types of sources can work together;
• Learning to understand how preparation, engaged attentiveness, reflection and thinking with appropriate criteria leads to learning from experiences beyond the formal classroom.

The exam challenges students to demonstrate what they learned in GSTR 110: a minimal competence in effective writing. The essays in the exam will be graded upon their focus, development, coherence and use of language. These elements will also be explored in more depth during the new required courses.

The object of the test is to sort out students who are in the most need of support and help in the area of writing and communication through writing. The tests are graded by two faculty members who are supplied with a common scoring guide. If the scores of each faculty member do not match, a third member will read the exam and also give a score. Passing "grades" are scores of 3, 4, and 5. A passing exam will satisfy the Writing Competency Requirement for the Fall Semester.

For more information on the new GSTR program, please visit the link below.

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