General Program Information
The Writing Across the Curriculum Program at Lehigh University is committed to promoting a campus-wide culture in which writing and communication in its many forms are central to learning in all disciplines. In this culture, communication and inquiry are vitally linked, restraints on learning imposed by traditional disciplinary boundaries are eased, and students and faculty are all part of one vibrant community, seeking and sharing knowledge and understanding together.
The TRAC Writing Fellows program is based on the tried-and-true notion that collaboration among peers is one of our most effective and efficient methods of learning. When motivated peers come together in focused effort toward a common end, the results can be uncommonly good, both in terms of the work produced and what is learned in the process.
The program is also based on three other important guiding assumptions about writing itself. The first is that writing is a vital mode of learning that promotes intellectual engagement, active learning, and critical thinking. The second is that writing is a lifelong process that is never completely mastered, not by anyone. A better writer is a not only a better communicator, but a better thinker as well, and there’s always room for improvement. Third, all academic disciplines and their related professions have their own special kinds of writing that require special skills.
The Fellows training course explores fundamental theories and practice of pedagogy in three areas: (1) writing and communication; (2) library and database research; and (3) use of instructional technology. After an intensive study of current literature in the field of composition and rhetoric, students learn practical, hands-on approaches to the teaching of writing with special emphases on assignment design, peer conferences, and effective feedback. Next, students learn strategies for guiding peers in library and database research, including the location, evaluation, proper use and citation of research materials. There is also an introduction to the use of instructional technology and sessions devoted to working effectively with faculty. Emphasizing the Lehigh Lab model of interdisciplinary collaboration, the course follows a team-teaching approach led by the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum in collaboration with the Director of Faculty Development, reference librarians, and instructional technologists. Fellows will also receive ongoing training through regular meetings and workshops.
TRAC Fellow Activities and Responsibilities
TRAC Fellows serve as peer writing tutors who read and respond with written feedback to drafts of student work-in-progress, hold individual and small-group draft conferences, and act as resources for students conducting research and using instructional technologies. Each Fellow works with no more than 15-20 students. Large classes therefore require more than one fellow. Fellows do not grade student papers, nor do they play any other role in determining grades. Fellows will be prepared to consult with faculty on the use of new instructional technologies, assignment design, effective use of write-to-learn activities, and clarifying rhetorical contexts and learning objectives of writing projects. Fellows will be required to attend regularly scheduled staff meetings and workshops, and participate in program assessment activities.
The program is open to freshmen, sophomores and juniors from all majors, in good standing as members of the university community, who are dependable and have strong skills in writing, reading, interpersonal communication, leadership, and time management. A minimum GPA of 3.2 is recommended.
Benefits for Students
By creating productive partnerships between highly trained student peer tutors and faculty in the disciplines, the TRAC Writing Fellows Program will help students (1) improve the quality of their writing; (2) develop their research skills; (3) cultivate the habit of using writing and other forms of communication as modes of learning; and (4) expand their use of new educational technologies. In practice, the TRAC Fellows will help students with all aspects of their writing, including: generating ideas, thoughtfulness, cogency, focus, organization, structure, coherence, transitions, style, mechanical correctness, mastery of discipline-specific discourse conventions, and understanding various rhetorical situations and objectives. Working with the Fellows, students will practice habits that lead to mastery of writing and communication skills and strategies that are important in college as well as in their specific disciplines and careers after graduation.
Benefits for Faculty
A direct result of the TRAC Fellows program will be improvement in the quality of student writing. Faculty who value good writing will enjoy reading better student work without having to devote precious time to the teaching of writing. In the TRAC Fellows, faculty will also have a valuable resource for helping students with assignments that require library and database research. TRAC Fellows will also be trained in assisting faculty with integrating “write-to-learn” activities that enhance student engagement with course content. Additionally, as part of the Lehigh Lab, the fellows will work together with LTS instructional technologists to provide assistance in making the best and most appropriate use of new educational technologies. Ultimately, faculty will benefit from interaction with students in their courses who are increasingly engaged, knowledgeable, and communicative.
TRAC Faculty Responsibilities
To be eligible for TRAC Writing Fellow assistance, members of the faculty participate in two basic workshops and meet minimal criteria for implementing writing in their courses. TRAC professors must agree to require all students enrolled in the course to submit first drafts of all writing projects to the TRAC Fellow and to structure the course so that it makes substantial use of writing to achieve course learning objectives.
Benefits for the University
With the help of TRAC Writing Fellows in their courses across the disciplines, students will improve not only at writing and speaking, but at reading and listening as well. They will learn course content effectively—more deeply and more broadly—and in ways that are engaged, connected to their lives. They will learn that effective communication includes not only skills of explanation and persuasion, but also the willingness and ability to empathize and understand, to collaborate, to acknowledge, appreciate and assimilate new, strange, and even opposing views. This is why Aristotle called rhetorical skill the highest “intellectual virtue.” With the TRAC Writing Fellows contributing to a successful Writing Across the Curriculum program, Lehigh will prepare students to compete in a global culture while they also acquire the skills and motivation they will need to make the world a better place.
Applicants will be required to complete an online application form and submit these materials: (1) a personal statement explaining their interest in the program; (2) two writing samples submitted for assignments at Lehigh; (3) a current transcript; (4) References: provide the names of two faculty who can attest to the quality of your academic work; and two peers who know you well as a person and can speak about your character and interpersonal skills.
The program will be routinely assessed through evaluation form completed by faculty, student, and fellows themselves each semester. Additionally, technologies such as Waypoint and online responses to the performance of fellows on a web site devoted to the program will facilitate enhanced, real-time assessment.
With a successful pilot, the program can be expanded to serve more faculty and students. The Coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum is developing a proposal to expand the program to make it capable of supporting a writing-and-communication-enhanced courses within the major for every Lehigh student in both the sophomore and junior years. A program of this size will have a profound impact on the undergraduate experience at Lehigh.