Effective writing requirement is no more

By Trevor Bacque

The University of Calgary’s Effective Writing Centre has lifted its once compulsory Effective Writing Requirement for students lacking sufficient English grades when entering university.

The December 17th decision was in the works for a long time according to Meghan Houghton, member of the Program Coordination Committee that oversaw the decision to abolish the test.

“I think we had a sense that it was doing more than it was,” she said.

Houghton called the test a one-off thing, a snapshot of students’ writing taken out of context and not a true gauge of their abilities.

Others with a vested interest in the EWR echoed such sentiments.

“Is writing a test at the beginning of your university career enough to begin with?” asked Humanities representative Britney Luimes.

For a prospective student coming to the U of C, their grade 12 English mark must have been at least 75 per cent, according to Houghton, or they would’ve faced the now defunct writing exam.

With the test no longer in place, some administrators are concerned about the effect on meeting class size targets.

One of the EWR’s ambiguities was that a student could satisfy the requirement over nine different ways, including receiving a B- or better in an English course.

English department head Anne McWhir said there is now little impetus for students to take an optional English course such as Shakespearean literature.

“As an administrator I think it will have an impact on my enrolments,” said McWhir.

Many students tried to score a B- and failed, an idea she never thought was smart if a freshman entered university with a grade 12 English average between 50 and 75 per cent.

Luimes’ concerns centred around faculties implementing effective writing for their students now that there is not a requirement.

“How do we know that they are teaching writing?” she asked.

A 2002 study by the EWC showed 36 per cent of flagged students that year never sought help or peripheral support with their writing.

“I think we have to ask ourselves some real questions as to where the disconnect was,” said Houghton.

Houghton noted that the university had an effective writing requirement in various forms as far back as the ’70s.

“Over time it appears fulfilling the requirement became more of a hindrance for students than a help,” said Meg Martin, Students’ Union VP Academic.

“Those involved with the requirement certainly had the best intentions, but I would say the fact that it is gone indicates that it didn’t.”

There are positives to this, Houghton told the Gauntlet. She touted the up-and-coming Taylor Family Digital Library where the new Student Success Centre will be housed in a much larger space.

Students can continue one-on-one work with tutors, some of whom are professors, and attend writing workshops. The noticeable difference will be more available resources since time and capital will be infused into initiatives other than effective writing tests.

“Thousands of students use the EWC and with a larger space more will be accommodated,” said Houghton.

“This is a far more student-friendly approach with all of the same support resources in place that existed before and then some.”


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