Research & Assessment

Assessment for and of WEC Units' Writing Plans

Data gathered by the WEC team to support units' implementation include:

  • Syllabi, writing assignments, and student writing from early, mid-range, and late-range courses designated by the department faculty
  • WEC surveys given to a unit's undergraduate studentsfaculty members/instructors and professional affiliates
  • Baseline curricular surveys that allow units to intentionally locate explicit and relevant writing instruction

Data gathered to support Writing Plan implementation

  • For each implementation activity described in a plan, a unit's faculty develops customized assessment instruments that will allow them to track the progress, over time, of those efforts as they move toward WEC-related goals. These assessment instruments may include post-workshop surveys, longitudinal assignment analysis, direct assessment of student writing, and so forth.
  • Triennial direct assessment of collected samples of student writing against the faculty-developed criteria.

Assessment of the WEC Program

WEC assessment research is primarily conducted in response to three questions:

  1. How does the WEC process support the meaningful integration of writing instruction into disciplinary curricula?
    Data gathered about the WEC process include surveys of faculty, teaching staff, professional affiliates, and students; taped and transcribed meetings and summaries; and unit curriculum data. The aim of this research is to track, describe, and report to unit faculty about the ways in which the process itself has allowed for faculty-driven curriculum change.
  2. How does the WEC process result in improved student writing?
    To contribute to faculty understanding of the impact Writing Plan implementation has on student writing, the WEC Program organizes rating panels. Every three years, from the time a unit's first-edition Writing Plan is approved by the Campus Writing Board, raters drawn from inside and outside the academic unit rate capstone-level student writing against faculty-generated criteria. Rating results are subsequently put into reports so that they can be interpreted by the unit faculty. In this way, rating sessions help measure effects of Writing Plan implementation and inform next-edition plans.
  3. How well does the process used to create, implement, and assess Writing Plans work across units?
    The WEC Program conducts stakeholder assessments of the process used to create and implement Writing Plans. Results allow the team to more fully describe and understand how the process works and to what extent it is an effective and viable way for the University to support improvement of undergraduate student writing. Working with WEC unit data, and University-wide student assessment data including SERU and NSSE responses, WEC and the Office of Institutional Research have conducted programmatic assessment since the early days of the WEC Program (see below). The results of these assessments have shown correlation between WEC implementation and student learning and satisfaction. Further research is being conducted on the correlation of WEC implementation and student engagement, persistence, and matriculation.

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Ongoing Research


Collaborative research: Accelerating the pace of research and implementation of writing-to-learn pedagogies across STEM disciplines

In Spring, 2015, Leslie Schiff (WEC Faculty Liaison, College of Biological Sciences), Pamela Flash (Director, WEC), and colleagues from the University of Michigan and Duke University received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the impact of assigned writing activity on student learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. The project, "Collaborative Research: Accelerating the Pace of Research and Implementation of Writing-to-Learn Pedagogies across STEM disciplines," builds on the ongoing success of the University of Minnesota's innovative Writing-Enriched Curriculum Program (WEC) and on prior NSF support for research into the relationship between writing and critical thinking in undergraduate STEM thesis writers. Goals for the current project include investigating ways that faculty members and instructors understand scientific knowledge and critical thinking, understanding the relationship between brief instantiations of low-stakes writing activity and conceptual scientific learning, and creating a network of STEM faculty and instructors who use writing activity in their courses as means to enhancing relevant critical and creative thinking abilities.

Publications & Presentations


Anson, C.M. and Flash, P. Eds. Writing-Enriched Curricula: Models of Faculty-Driven and Departmental Transformation

This edited collection explores theoretical and practical applications of the Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) approach, an innovative and sustainable alternative to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines. The collection’s purpose is to inform writing program administrators, teachers, scholars, and university officials about the model’s potential to transform the way writing is used and supported across courses and curricula in higher education. To this end, contributors offer theoretically grounded accounts of WEC or WEC-like programs and localized research that demonstrate the model’s impact and effectiveness within and across institutional contexts. You can find the book at This book will be available in a print edition from University Press of Colorado in the coming months. We will post ordering information here at that time. Contributions from University of Minnesota WEC team include:


Flash, P. (2016). From apprised to revised: Faculty in the disciplines change what they never knew they knew. In Yancey, K.B. (Ed.) A Rhetoric of Reflection (pp. 227-249). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.
In this chapter, WEC Director Pamela Flash describes the central role played by instructors' metacognitive inquiry in achieving intentional, curricular integration of meaningful writing instruction.

Conway-Klaassen, J.M., Thompson, J.M., Eliason, P.A., Rojas Collins, M., Murie, R., & Spannaus-Martin, D.J. (2015). Multilingual and native English-speaking student writers in medical laboratory sciences (MLS): A comparative pilot study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 15(4), 139-160. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v15i4.13515
This article describes a WEC-funded analysis of writing errors found, by second-language acquisition specialists, in writing turned in by both multilingual and monolingual Medical Lab Sciences majors.

Wagner, H., Hilger, A.P., & Flash, P. (2014). Improving writing skills of construction management undergraduates: Developing tools for empirical analysis of writing to create writing-enriched construction management curriculumInternational Journal of Construction Education and Research, 10(2), 111-125. doi: 10.1080/15578771.2013.852146
This articles describes curricular and instructional changes engendered by this department's engagement in the process of developing and implementing a Construction Management Writing Plan.

Anson, C.M., Dannels, D.P., Flash, P., & Housley Gaffney, A.L. (2012). Big rubrics and weird genres: The futility of using generic assessment tools across diverse instructional contextsJournal of Writing Assessment, 5(1). Retrieved from
In comparing data collected from multiple institutions and undergraduate fields, authors highlight the mismatch between generic assessment criteria and discipline-specific writing genres.

Werry, M., Lein Walseth, S., & Flash, P. (2011, September). Articulate Bodies: Writing Instruction in a Performance-Based CurriculumTheatre Topics, 21(2), 185-197. doi: 10.1353/tt.2011.0025
In describing the outcomes and implications of their engagement with the WEC process, members of a Theatre Arts and Dance department describe the instructional impact of understanding writing in an expansive sense, encompassing embodied, ephemeral, material, and visual forms of communication.

Durfee, W.K., Flash, P., Adams, B., & Applesies, A. (2011). A writing program for mechanical engineering118th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Mechanical Engineering faculty member and WEC Liaison, Will Durfee, describes the ways in which Mechanical Engineering faculty approached the WEC process and the curricular and instructional changes resulting from that process.


2017 Clinical Laboratory Educators' Conference (ASCLS CLEC), Boston, MA
Spannaus-Martin, D.J. (2017, February 27). Using Writing as a Learning Tool.
This presentation by a WEC Liaison to other clinical educators described the introduction and implementation of Writing to Learn (WTL) activities in a clinical curriculum.

2016 International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, Ann Arbor, MI
Emery, D.L. (2016, June 24). Social Network Theory and the Writing-Enriched Curriculum Program: Relationships and Knowledge in Faculty-Driven Educational Change.
This presentation described the value of social network analysis, a social scientific methodology for studying relationships within knowledge networks, for understanding ways in which the WEC process promotes broad and deep faculty buy-in for effective writing instruction.

Spannaus-Martin, D.J., Conway-Klaassen, J.M., Romain, C., & Ruskin, L. (2016, June 24). Development of a Strategic Writing Plan for Multilingual and Native English-Speaking Students in a Medical Laboratory Curriculum.
In this presentation, faculty from the Medical Laboratory Sciences program at the University of Minnesota described developing strategic interventions for students in their program based on development and assessment of their Writing-Enriched Curriculum Writing Plan.

Flash, P., Eodice, M., Cusack, G., Sheriff, S., Kaduk, S., Lahm, S., & Dickinson, H. (2016, June). WEC Across Contextual Divides: One Model, Five Sites.
WAC directors from five institutional sites-including research universities, small liberal arts colleges, and a European university-compared and contrasted ways in which the University of Minnesota's WEC model is adapting to their institutional contexts.

2015 International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) Conference, Pittsburgh, PA
Emery, D.L., Wolff, R.M., & Bittner, H. (2015, October). Visuals in the Writing Center: What Can We Do? What Could We Do? What Should We Do?
The slides attached preface a roundtable conversation among writing center professionals on the rheotical functions of images in academic writing and how those functions relate to principles of composition and design.

2014 International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, Minneapolis, MN (Hosted by University of Minnesota's Writing-Enriched Curriculum Program)
Flash, P., Robinson, J., Schiff, L., Miller, L., & Jacobs, W. (2014, June 13). Mapping Waves, Bridging Shifts: Disciplinary Faculty Take on Whole Curricula.

Conway-Klaassen, J.M., Spannaus-Martin, D.J., Eliason, P., Rojas Collins, M., & Thompson, J.M. (2014, June 13). Multilingual and Native English-Speaking student Writers in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (CLS): A Comparative Pilot Study.
This presentation described a WEC-funded analysis of writing errors found, by second-language acquisition specialists, in writing turned in by both multilingual and monolingual Medical Lab Sciences majors.

2012 Writing Program Administrators (WPA) Conference, Albuquerque, NM
Flash, P. (2012, July 20). Taking it to the Source: Disciplinary Faculty Contribute to, Interpret, and Act upon Local Assessment.

2012 International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, Savannah, GA
Flash, P. (2012, June). The Future of WAC is WEC: Infusing Relevant Writing into Diverse Undergraduate Curricula.
In this presentation, WEC Director Pamela Flash discussed the WEC process and that early assessment indicated shifts in writing and writing instruction in departments who created a WEC Writing Plan.

Lein Walseth, S. (2012, June). Articulate Bodies: Writing Instruction in a Performance-Based Curriculum.
This presentation described how the Theatre Arts & Dance faculty at the University of Minnesota approached the WEC process in their department where communication of content is largely visual and embodied.

Adams, B. (2012, June). From Problem Set to Design Proposal: Fostering Discipline-Relevant Writing (and Writing Instruction) in Mechanical Engineering.
In this presentation, Mechanical Engineering graduate research assistant Ben Adams highlighted ways in which the WEC process pushed the departmental faculty to determine what "writing" is (and isn't) in their field and allowed them to develop genre-specific supports for students.

Van Vleck, H., Hobbie, S., Weisenhorn, P., & O'Bryan, L. (2012, June). Asking for What We Want: Identification & Alignment of Valued Writing Abilities with Writing Instruction in Biological Sciences.
In this presentation, faculty members and graduate students from the College of Biological Sciences discussed the college's approach to identifying where explicit writing instruction existed for their faculty-developed writing criteria and what changes were made to their writing instruction.

2012 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), St. Louis, MO
Flash, P. (2012, March 25). Writing from Threshold to Gateway: Faculty Members Map their Curricula.
In this presentation, WEC Director Pamela Flash highlighted the WEC model's focus on intentionally integrating relevant writing instruction into entire curricula (rather than individual courses).

2011 Writing Research Across Borders (WRAB) Conference, Washington, D.C.
Flash, P., Applesies, A., & Yancey, K.B. (2011, February 19). Writing Research Within Borders: Faculty Perceptions of Discipline-Specific Writing Instruction.
In this presentation, WEC Director Pamela Flash discussed the central role faculty perceptions play in the WEC model.

2010 International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, Bloomington, IN
Flash, P. (2010, May 21). Why, Your "Well-Developed" Looks Nothing Like Ours.
This presentation provides an overview of the Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) Program after four years of implementation. WEC Director Pamela Flash focused on the program's attention to descriptive (versus generic) criteria development within undergraduate departments.

2009 Writing Program Administrators (WPA) Conference, Minneapolis, MN
Flash, P., Applesies, A., Yust, B.L., Herrick, L., Norling, L., & Durfee, W.K. (2009, July 18). WAC + WID = Watching Departmental Faculty Define, Integrate, and Assess Writing.
WEC Director, Pamela Flash, joined by faculty from several departments who developed WEC Writing Plans at the University of Minnesota, discussed the development of the University's innovative Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) Program and how each department's unique faculty-written Writing Plan was developed.

Applesies, A. (2009, July). Reporting on WEC Assessment.
Audrey Applesies, then WEC Assessment Coordinator, presented on the methods of assessment used in the WEC Program both for developing undergraduate Writing Plans and for assessing their results.

Durfee, W.K. (2009, July). Mechanical Engineering: The Engineer's View of 'Writing'.
In this conference presentation, Mechanical Engineering faculty member and WEC Liaison, Will Durfee, described the ways in which Mechanical Engineering faculty approached the WEC process and the instructional changes resulting from the process.

Herrick, L. (2009, July). Writing-Enriched Curriculum in Undergraduate Nursing.
Linda Herrick, Nursing faculty member and WEC Liaison, presented on the change in explicit writing instruction and faculty perceptions of student writing in the Nursing program at the University of Minnesota.

Norling, L. (2009, July). Writing-Enriched Curriculum: Department of History.
In this presentation, University of Minnesota's Department of History faculty member and WEC Liaison, Lisa Norling, discussed what she and faculty colleagues learned as they developed their first undergraduate WEC Writing Plan.

Yust, B.L. (2009, July). WEC in the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.
Becky Yust, faculty member and WEC Liaison, demonstrated the WEC model's flexibility in adapting to a department that comprises five distinct programs.

2008 International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) Conference, Austin, TX
Flash, P., Swan, C.E., Sampson, M.W., & Condon, W. (2008, May 30). Gargantuan R1 and the Daring Initiative.
Presenters from the University of Minnesota and Washington State University described initial development of the innovative Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) project, one year into implementation, and shared data from preliminary program assessments.

2008 Writing Research Across Borders (WRAB) Conference, Santa Barbara, CA
Flash, P., Breuch, L.K., VanNorman, M., & Kalbfleisch, E. (2008, February). Writing-Enriched Curriculum.
The innovative Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) project was developed in response to University of Minnesota faculty dissatisfaction with overall student writing, across disciplines. WEC Director Pamela Flash and her team discussed the ways in which WEC provides a process for department faculty to describe expectations explicitly and to intentionally infuse the instruction of those expectations into their curriculum.