Assessment Narrative - Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center
This assessment model is part of the WPA Assessment Gallery and Resources and is intended to demonstrate how the principles articulated in the NCTE-WPA White Paper on Writing Assessment in Colleges and Universities are reflected in different assessments. Together, the White Paper and assessment models illustrate that good assessment reflect research-based principles rooted in the discipline, is locally determined, and is used to improve teaching and learning.
Assessment Narrative - Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center
Institution: Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center
Type of Writing Program: Community Writing Center
Contact Information: Tiffany Rousculp, Director
SLCC Community Writing Center
210 E. 400 South, Suite 8, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Assessment Background and Research Question
The Community Writing Center (CWC) is an outreach site of Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), a drop-in writing center for all members of the Salt Lake community. The mission of the CWC is to support, motivate, and educate people of all abilities and educational backgrounds who use writing for practical needs, civic engagement, and personal expression. The CWC combines pedagogical strategies of academic writing centers with the responsive nature common to nonprofit organizations. Participants in CWC programs are self-motivated to develop their literacy abilities and can do so through one or more of our four programs: Writing Coaching, Writing Workshops, Writing Partners, and the DiverseCity Writing Series.
Writing Coaching provides free, one-on-one individual assistance on any writing task—résumés to poetry to letters—in a supportive mentoring environment. Writing Workshops introduce community members to a variety of writing genres in low-cost, low-stakes, short-term, small-group workshops. The CWC collaborates with nonprofit educational and/or governmental organizations through the Writing Partners program. These partnerships include workshops for staff/clients, mentoring for writing group development, and shared promotion of literacy/writing resources throughout the Salt Lake valley. Finally, the DiverseCity Writing Series is a multigroup, year-round writing group and publishing program that engages community members in personal expression and shared celebration of the written word.
The CWC is directed by a faculty member from the SLCC English department and is staffed by five part-time writing assistants (students from the college and the local university). Recently, the CWC added an assistant director (an English department faculty member with 50 percent reassigned time) to its staffing. The CWC opened in October 2001 and is located on the plaza of the Salt Lake City Main Library in downtown Salt Lake City. To date, the CWC has served over 2,000 community members and has partnered with nearly 80 community organizations.
The CWC does not generate income through number of students served and thus must continually justify the budget expenditures for its programming to SLCC administration and trustees. Although the CWC receives excellent support from SLCC administrators, our budget is tenuous when compared with programs at the college that deal only with registered students. Therefore, it is imperative for the CWC to anticipate—and implement without prompting—the type of assessment that administrators and trustees value. To address this need, and to shape the direction and work of the SLCC Community Writing Center, center staff has engaged in two main types of assessment since our inception:
- User satisfaction surveys on each of our four programs that try to address the question, “How satisfied are community writers with the services that the CWC provides?”
- Work Plans (reestablished every two years) to assess the use and achievements of the CWC, specifically addressing the question, “Who uses the CWC and what resources are they using?”
These ongoing assessment practices generate mostly quantitative data targeted toward our funding sources (SLCC administration and Boards of Trustees and Regents).
In 2006, after five years of conducting assessment through our Work Plan process, the CWC was well supported by SLCC administrators, yet we believed an external review would enhance our credibility as a well-theorized and responsive program with a new president who arrived at the college that year. As a site of learning, our primary concern was how to establish an assessment process that moved beyond the quantitative findings of our Work Plan and into a deeper examination of the learning (or not learning) that our writers experienced. We had not been able to track individual literacy development in our Writing Coaching programs, and the responses to our public workshop evaluations—though always positive—did not adequately assess acquisition of new or developing writing abilities. As a first step in that process, we invited Dr. Eli Goldblatt from Temple University to conduct an External Review of our programs in the spring of 2007. In that review, we asked Dr. Goldblatt to examine whether the CWC appeared to be fulfilling its mission and to make recommendations on what assessment strategies we might pursue to more thoroughly evaluate our programs.
The user satisfaction surveys have not—at this point—provided sufficiently useful data on our programs to merit inclusion in this narrative. (Two sample surveys are provided in the appendix for informational purposes.) We focus instead on the Work Plans and the External Review, which have provided useful information.
Every two years, the CWC director, assistant director, and writing assistants come together in a retreat to establish objectives for the next two years. Before proposing objectives, the CWC staff analyzes the “successes and failures” from the current work plan according to the criteria set forth for each objective. For example, we examine whether we have maintained adequate diversity of demographics in our writer population, or we analyze whether the partnerships we have maintained prioritize underserved populations. During this retreat, we collaboratively prioritize center-wide goals, such as “increase diversity of writers,” “establish connections with K–12 institutions,” and/or “broaden reach of community publications.” While the director and assistant director guide this process, all staff members contribute valuable and insightful ideas to the goal-setting process.
After the retreat, the director and assistant director group the center-wide goals into program areas (e.g., Writing Coaching, Workshops) and priority areas (e.g., Diversity, Fundraising). These goals are revised into measurable objectives with deadlines and aligned with SLCC goals and objectives, which group into four main areas: “Provide Quality Education,” “Provide Lifelong Learning,” “Serve People of Diverse Cultures, Abilities, and Ages,” and “Serve the Needs of Community and Government Agencies, Business, and Industry.” The draft Work Plan is returned to the CWC staff members for feedback, revision, and approval. The Work Plan is then distributed to the CWC’s Advisory Committee for review. Any suggested changes are brought back to the CWC staff for consideration, revision, and group consensus.
Upon completion, the Work Plan is distributed to the SLCC administration for final approval. (Since our opening, no recommendations for change to previous Work Plans have been made by upper administration. Should such recommendations be made, the CWC director would negotiate with administration to balance their requests with staff preferences in order to maintain the stability of the CWC in both financial and staffing terms.)
After final approval, the Work Plan is used by the CWC director and staff to evaluate progress toward the goals on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. The Work Plan is revisited each month in one-on-one meetings between the director and staff members through assessment of individual staff performance. Staff members set “semester work goals” based on the Work Plan at the beginning of each semester. Significant portions of the Work Plan (numbers of new writers, workshops offered, partnerships) are assessed quarterly for the SLCC English department and for the immediate administrative supervisor overseeing the CWC, the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The entire Work Plan is assessed annually for SLCC upper administration and the Boards of Trustees and Regents, as well as for public dissemination on the CWC website (www.slcc.edu/cwc). (See selections from the 2006–2008 Work Plan in the appendix.)
In the spring of 2006, the English department chair approached the CWC director with a proposal to conduct an external review of the Community Writing Center’s programs. The chair, Stephen Ruffus, had spoken with Dr. Goldblatt at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication Convention after a panel that Dr. Goldblatt shared with the CWC director and other community literacy scholars and activists. Over the summer of 2006, we shared emails with Dr. Goldblatt to narrow down our research questions and flesh out the scope of what could be accomplished in a brief external review.
In February 2007, the CWC director compiled a portfolio of CWC documents to present a broad picture of CWC programming successes and challenges. Dr. Goldblatt received the portfolio approximately two weeks prior to his visit. The portfolio included (among other items):
- Quantitative Data
- Previous Work Plans and Their Assessments
- Lists of Community Partners
- Demographics of Writers Who Utilize CWC Services
- Budget Analyses
- Narrative/Program Data
- Evolution (including revisions) of CWC Mission Statement
- Brief History of the CWC
- Selected Reports from Staff Meetings
- Selections from Writing Assistant Training Manual
- Procedures for Workshop Management
- Assessment Samples
- Workshop User Satisfaction Surveys
- Writing Coaching Comment Cards
- Writing Partner Satisfaction Surveys
- “Success Stories” (letters, emails, comments from partners and individuals)
- Publications from the DiverseCity Writing Series
- Sample CWC Newsletters
- Bibliography of Publications/Presentations from CWC Staff Members
In early March 2007, Dr. Goldblatt arrived in Salt Lake City for a two-day visit. On the first day, he met with the CWC director, who gave him a brief bird’s-eye view tour of the Salt Lake valley (from the foothills overlooking the city) to establish a sense of place for his review. After talking with the director for the morning, Dr. Goldblatt met with current and previous writing assistants for lunch and discussion of how the CWC impacts students who work there. Following lunch, he met with representatives from a few community partners that the CWC had collaborated with during the past year. In each of these meetings, the director was not present to influence conversation. During dinner, Dr. Goldblatt met with the current DiverseCity Writing Series coordinator (a student writing assistant) and the two previous DWS coordinators. We made this a priority due to Dr. Goldblatt’s expertise in community publishing projects. Next, Dr. Goldblatt was scheduled to attend a DiverseCity Writing Series writing group meeting, but due to miscommunication, did not meet up with the group. Instead, he continued his discussion of community publishing with the DWS coordinator.
In order to get a sense of the college’s relationship with the Community Writing Center, the next morning Dr. Goldblatt met with the SLCC English department chair and the SLCC student writing center coordinator. Lunch followed, with a meeting including the aforementioned, as well as the academic vice president, associate academic vice president, and CWC director. Then, on a request from Dr. Goldblatt, the CWC director arranged a brief meeting with the SLCC president to congratulate her on the center (thus bolstering the CWC in her mind). Next, Dr. Goldblatt met with a few members of the CWC Advisory Committee, followed by dinner with SLCC English department faculty and attendance at a writing workshop in the evening.
Approximately two months after the visit, Dr. Goldblatt sent a letter of review to SLCC administration with his findings.
Assessment Results and Follow-Up Activities
Since the CWC Work Plans are a continual assessment process, findings from each Work Plan inform CWC programming throughout the year as described earlier. The Work Plan is discussed at each staff meeting as a way to consider and prioritize efforts and resources for programming, at quarterly English department meetings, and in one-on-one meetings with the dean of the School of Humanities (the new institutional home of the CWC). The findings are also distributed to the CWC advisory committees and SLCC upper administration on a yearly basis.
The External Review produced challenging and useful findings for the CWC and SLCC administrators. The primary findings, which were delineated in a letter to SLCC administrators (the entire letter can be found on the CWC’s assessment website; see address below in the appendix), included successes and suggestions.
The successes included:
- Establishing an environment in which a wide range of writers unaffiliated with SLCC or other nonprofit academic institutions could pursue their own projects and receive criticism, support, and access to publication they would have no other means to obtain.
- Training, mentoring, and launching student writing assistants on career paths connected to literacy and community engagement.
- Focusing attention and material resources on the literacy needs of low-income, marginalized, or otherwise underserved learners in many of the neighborhoods of the city.
- Modeling a democratic educational approach, one that is not motivated primarily by competition, not measured by grades or standardized tests, and not limited to groups segregated by age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
- Offering literacy instruction in a uniquely interdisciplinary and multidimensional context that truly integrates writing, reading, listening, and speaking abilities whose purposes are practical, civic, and social.
- Indicating the possibilities of collaboration between and among large and small local institutions such as youth services, the public library, refugee aid groups, agencies preventing domestic violence, the University of Utah, and theater companies for the enrichment of literacy-related activities in the civic arena.
This was followed by suggestions, which can be summarized as:
- Enhanced effort for financial development.
- Increased regional connectivity and circulation.
- Strengthened internal college alliances.
- Focused research as a theme.
The CWC staff, while buoyed by the successes, focused on the suggestions as we made some immediate changes over the summer of 2007. Specifically, follow-up activities based on the External Review have been:
- Dismantling the existing Advisory Committee, which was made up of community members and SLCC faculty and staff, and creating a new one more representative of our constituency and better suited to the CWC’s needs. The new advisory structure consists of two advisory committees, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Academic Advisory Committee (AAC). The CAC focuses on fundraising, community exposure, and volunteer recruitment. The AAC will be responsible for increasing student involvement in CWC programming, research, and scholarship opportunities and, primarily, implementing useful strategies for assessing the impact of our programs on the writing skills/abilities of our community users.
- The CWC moved its institutional home from the associate academic vice president’s office to that of the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. This has put the CWC director in close contact with department and division chairs in that school, which should improve opportunities for student involvement. Also, this move has provided additional support for the CWC director to engage in research and publication work regarding the CWC.
- The SLCC president has committed to providing more support for the CWC in our fundraising endeavors. While resources are limited at the college, contributions have been made when possible. For example, a local citywide newspaper donated 12 pages of space to the college to use for promotional purposes. The college’s president has given half of those pages to the CWC for a feature article on our programs and writers.
In addition, the External Review has informed our Work Plan process as we develop our newest Work Plan, which will span 2008–2010. As we have begun work on it, we are prioritizing the need to develop valid assessment instruments of the learning that we assume takes place through the CWC programs. However, as the NCTE-WPA white paper on writing assessment points out in its principles, writing assessment characterizes writing as complex, inherently social, and context driven. In first-year composition programs, this principle challenges assessment practices; in a community writing center context, with multiple persons, purposes, and genres, all outside of an institutional setting, such assessment can appear quixotic at best. However, this will be a priority for the new Academic Advisory Committee as we move into the next two years of the Community Writing Center.
Because we anticipated a need for external funding, in 1999—prior to the establishment of the CWC—the future CWC director worked with the SLCC Development Office on documents found in grant-writing and fundraising genres. These documents, which spoke to SLCC administrators in their favored discourses, became effective proposals for funding by the administration. The rhetorical strategies used in these proposals were then utilized in the CWC Work Plan assessment process, as the primary audiences remained SLCC administration and other external funding sources.
The Work Plan documents and the External Review are—and have been—based on the following principles of writing assessment, though perhaps not fully articulated as such at the time:
The Work Plan requires time to create and assess on an ongoing basis. Initially, there is a significant time commitment (approximately 10 hours) for retreats with staff and meetings with stakeholders. Year-round, it takes time to meet with CWC staff members and to collect information on accomplishments and challenges that lie within the Work Plan. However, those conversations are essential to the collaborative principles of the CWC. In addition, the Work Plan provides credibility to the CWC in the eyes of the SLCC administrators who fund us.
The total cost for the CWC’s external review was just under $1,500. That included the flight and hotel for Dr. Goldblatt, meals for Dr. Goldblatt and the stakeholders he met with, and a stipend. Personnel commitments included meetings with CWC staff members, college faculty, and administrators on the two days of his visit. Planning was the purview of the CWC director, who compiled the evaluation portfolio and organized the schedule of meetings/observations with the various stakeholders and communicated with Dr. Goldblatt prior to his arrival. The English department administrative assistant helped in purchasing the flight ticket and reserving the hotel room.
The Work Plan design is certainly sustainable; in fact, it is necessary to the CWC’s own sustainability. The External Review is, by nature, not a sustainable assessment process. However, we do plan to conduct another external review similar to this one in our tenth year of operation.
SLCC Community Writing Center Assessment Website
This website includes the External Review findings, the full Work Plan assessment, and other assessment materials: http://www.slcc.edu/cwc/Assessment.asp
Sample User Satisfaction Surveys
Writing Workshop Evaluation
Please respond to the following so we know how effective our writing workshops are and how to best improve our programs.
Workshop: Workshop Title
Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Workshop Leader: Your Name
Date: Workshop Date
1. I felt encouraged to participate in the workshop discussions and writing activities.
2. The workshop was interactive and collaborative.
3. I received helpful feedback on my writing from other participants.
4. I received helpful feedback on my writing from the workshop facilitator.
5. This workshop provided me with writing tools and strategies that I will continue to use.
6. The workshop facilitator was well-prepared and knowledgeable.
What worked well for you in this workshop?
What could have been better?
What types of writing workshops would you be interested in attending in the future?
How did you hear about this workshop?
CWC Writing Partners Evaluation
Please respond to the following so we know how effective our writing assistance is and how to best improve our programs.
Organization: Name of Organization
Workshop/Partnership: Brief Description of Workshop/Partnership
Contact: Name of Contact
Date: Date Range of project
The CWC responded to our request within a reasonable time frame.
The CWC listened to our needs and goals in developing the workshop/partnership.
The CWC communicated sufficiently with us about the project planning and implementation.
The project was useful to our organizational needs.
Overall, the collaborative nature of the CWC’s approach worked well for us.
Based on this experience, we would work with the CWC again.
What worked well for your organization in this collaboration?
What improvements would you suggest for future collaborations?
Please either mail to CWC, 511 W. 200 South, #100, SLC, UT 84101; email responses to email@example.com, or call us at 957-4992 and we’ll come pick it up.
Selections from SLCC Community Writing Center
Report on 2006–2008 Work Plan
Assessment July 2006–June 2007
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
From June 2006–2007, 250 new community members will have participated in CWC educational programs. From July 2007–June 2008, 350 new community members will have participated in CWC educational programs. ($0)
In 2006–2007, 341 new community members registered as writers at the CWC. We far surpassed our goal of 250 new learners.
In July and August 2007, 48 new people have registered with the CWC. If this stays consistent during the year, we will be 78 short of our goal of 350 new writers.
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
In 2006–2007, the CWC will provide 200 Writing Coaching sessions to community learners; in 2007–2008, the CWC will provide 500 Writing Coaching sessions. ($0)
In 2006–2007, we provided a total of 523 writing sessions, far surpassing our goal of 200 sessions.
In July and August 2007, we have provided 90 writing sessions. If this stays consistent during the year, we should reach 540 sessions in 2007–2008.
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
By January 2007, community requests will account for 50% of all writing workshop offerings. ($0)
63% of workshop offerings from January 2007 through June 2007 were based on community requests.
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
Throughout 2006–2008, at least one low-cost public workshop will be provided to community learners per month; topics will rotate through pragmatic, personal, and social writing contexts. ($0)
Fourteen public writing workshops were offered during 2006–2007:
- Creative Writing
- Letters to Public Officials
- Letters to the Editor
- Haunted Thoughts
- Pamphlets, Press Releases, Posters
- Poetry Basics
- Beat Grammarphobia
- Write Your Legislator
- Résumés and Cover Letters
- Writing for Screen and Stage
- Writing for the Web
- Beginning Creative Writing
- Business Writing: Electronic Communications
- “The writing strategies in this workshop will be useful to me.”—84%
- “The instruction was clear and well-paced.”—82%
- “The workshop leader(s) responded well to my questions.”—83%
- “The interactive manner of the workshop worked well for me.”—77%
- “I gained some new knowledge or understanding about writing.—73%
- “This workshop has been a valuable experience.”—77%
- Salt Lake Peer Court: Youth Offender Writing Group series
- KRCL/Spy Hop: Radio Essay ’Zine Writing Workshop
- GLBTCCU: Breast Dialogues Writing Workshop
- TreeUtah: City Nature Writing Workshops
- Romance Writers of America, Utah Chapter: Workshop for Annual Conference
- Utah Arts Council: Introduction to Grant-Writing Workshop for 15 organizations.
- Youth Providers Association: Workshop on proposal writing
- HEAL Utah: Workshop for essay contest (no-show)
- Literacy Action Center: Fundraiser at Barnes and Noble, DWS group
- Univ. of Utah English Department: Guest Writers Series, Community workshop facilitation for Bino Realuyo
- Salt Lake Film Center/Hood River Productions: Community workshop facilitation for David and Julie Chambers
- University/Neighborhood Partners: Ad hoc committee for SLCC/UofU/community partnerships.
- SL County Youth Government: Advocacy Writing Group meetings
- City/County: Writing Coaching sites (3)
- City Main: Scenes of Salt Lake Writing Contest
- City Main: Dewey Lecture Series (9)
- City Main: Teen Services Screenwriting Workshop
- City Main: Literacy Day Panel Discussion
- City Main: Literary Luminaries event coordination
- City Main: Workshop for Staff Development Day, Performance Plans
- City Main: Arbuthnot Lecture application
- City Main: The SLC Reads Together, The Big Read programming
- City Main: Teen Services Fantasy Writing Workshop
- City Chapman: Dungeons and Dragons writing group
*Note: These are workshops offered solely through the CWC site. It does not include all partnership workshops that the CWC has offered.
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
Throughout 2006–2008, all workshops will receive an 85% “very satisfied” rate from community learners based on end-of-workshop surveys. ($0) By December 2007, we will revise the workshop assessment form to provide more useful feedback.
The 2006–2007 workshops received 100% “very satisfied/satisfied” responses. The six evaluative questions received the following “very satisfied” percentages:
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
From 2006–2008, the CWC will partner with at least 30 different nonprofit organizations/government agencies to provide community learners with educational opportunities. (TBD)
In 2006–2007, the CWC partnered with:
2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b
By 2008, the CWC will have partnered with the city/county library systems on at least 12 instances of community education/engagement. ($0)
In 2006–2007, the CWC partnered with: :
Reviewed annually, throughout 2006–2008, the diversity of demographics (ethnicity, income, education) will exceed that of the SLCC student body, Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County populations. ($0)
Ethnicity (percentage of ethnic minority representation):
—CWC: 60% of writers have an annual household income of less than $30,000
—SLC: Median household income: $36,944
—SLCo: Median household income: $49,003
At least 50% of all Writing Partnerships will be with organizations serving underrepresented populations. ($0)
Not including partnerships with the city/county library systems, the CWC has had 13 partnerships since June 2006. Seven of these partnerships have been with organizations serving underrepresented populations. One partnership, the Intro to Grant-Writing Workshop, served 5 participants from underrepresented groups.
The DWS coordinator surveyed DWS mentors to assess their level of satisfaction with CWC support and inquire about needed changes. After receiving feedback, new support programs have been implemented: visiting the DWS groups regularly, creating mentor blog sites, and providing more writing resources.