History of the Writing Proficiency Program
In 1984, the University Senate voted to include a large-scale writing assessment—the Writing Competency Examination—as a Core Curriculum requirement, and the Exam was first given in Fall 1987. It was a timed, hand-written exam, and all students wrote an expository essay in response to a single, general prompt which they received 3 weeks in advance of their scheduled exam. Exams were graded holistically by a committee of readers.
At this time, the requirement was administered and graded by members of the Department of English, and its goal was, according to a 1987 Daily News report, “to ensure that graduating students are equipped for the real world."
During the 1990s, several changes were made to both the Exam and its administration. Administration of the Writing Competency Exam (ENG 392) was overseen by the Office of Academic Assessment and Institutional Research, and oversight of the Writing Competency Course (ENG 393) was the responsibility of the English Department.
In this version of the Exam, an attempt was made to acknowledge differences in writing expectations in the disciplines. Although not a true Writing Across the Curriculum assessment, students were able to sign up for an exam in which the prompt was written for their “discipline cluster.” For example, the discipline cluster “Fine Arts” was meant to include students in English, Modern Languages, Art, Dance, Music, and Theater, and the prompt was written with this audience in mind. Prompts were elicited from faculty throughout the University, and efforts were made to include Exam readers from a diverse group of disciplines. The essays were hand-written, but the prompts were now given impromptu—revealed when students sat down to write their exams.
This form of the exam persisted until 2010, as did the portfolio form of the Course which had been created as an alternative to the Exam in the late 1980s.
In Summer 2010, the Exam was changed to the current format which stresses the assessment of a combination of critical reading skills, critical thinking skills, and writing skills--all of which are expected from junior-level bacclaureate students from all disciplines. This version of the Exam is written in a computer-mediated environment, and students use an academic article for context and support.
Also in Summer 2010, the Writing Competency Course (WPP393) was redesigned to the current format: students create a portfolio of essays, each of which parallels one step in the critical writing process. These portfolios were now read by a committee of Program readers, so the assessment process of the Course now parallels that of the Exam.
In 2011, the Program was renamed the “Writing Proficiency Program,” and in January 2012, the Program was consolidated and moved to University College.