For the first time in the 126-year history of college-level writing programs, a single scholarly book focuses on one university’s writing program.

Beyond Outcomes: Assessment and Instruction Within a University Writing Program tells the story of Washington State University’s Campus Writing Programs. Beyond Outcomes fully describes a set of innovations that have become models for the nation: the University Writing Portfolio, a system of peer-led group writing tutorials at the freshman and the junior levels, and an “expert rating system” that Brian Huot, co-editor of the journal Assessing Writing and a leading expert on writing assessment, has called one of the most promising developments in the field.

More important, though, this book lays out an argument for attempting such a complex, large-scale, locally run assessment. The authors demonstrate that complex assessments of students’ learning outcomes provides extensive information about how and how well students are learning one of the most important sets of abilities they will acquire during their years of schooling—the ability to communicate in writing.

That information, as several of the book’s chapters reveal, enables faculty to improve the ways they help students strengthen their writing abilities, and it shows the faculty of the Campus Writing Programs how to further improve vital services such as the Writing Center, as well as the assessments themselves.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this story is the way WSU faculty exemplified the Cougar spirit.

While other large universities were—and, in most cases, still are—wondering whether writing portfolios might somehow be useful assessment tools, in 1987 WSU’s Faculty Senate had already approved them, in principle, for the junior-level assessment.

Today, while other universities consider how they might effectively involve assessment with instruction, WSU is already doing so. And now that Beyond Outcomes has been published, more of those other universities will look to WSU for a model they can adopt.

Contributing writers who are WSU faculty members, former faculty members, or alumni include William Condon, Fiona Glade, Lisa Johnson-Shull, Diane Kelly-Riley, Richard Law, Galen Leonhardy, Susan McLeod, Jennie Nelson, and Susan Wyche.

Ed. by Richard Haswell, former professor of English
Ablex Publishing
Westport, CT
2001