WRIT 5 Course Outcomes

Note: This document, developed collaboratively in 2009-2010 and revised in 2011 and 2012, with feedback from all 2009-2011 Writing 5 faculty, is intended as a starting point for ongoing discussion about outcomes, and will be revised and refined over the coming years. It should be understood to reflect the capabilities we agree on, but does not preclude other capabilities each of us might focus on developing with our students.


As they adjust to college expectations, first-year students need to understand and appreciate writing as a complex and rigorous method of critical thinking and meaning-making, one that entails re-thinking and re-seeing, rather than formulaic, prescribed rehearsal of received knowledge.

In Writing 5, we expect students will begin to develop the core capabilities they need for college writing and thinking, which include: reading, inquiry, analysis, exploration, discussion, and composing abilities.[1] These capabilities, articulated below, are central to students' future academic work. Therefore, we understand and expect that they will continue to be developed in FYS and throughout the curriculum students pursue. They are intended to be generic enough to apply in many contexts beyond the first year.

While these capabilities are specific to Writing 5 in the first-year sequence, they have much in common with Writing 2-3 and First-year Seminar outcomes.

The overarching ability that we hope students will demonstrate is rhetorical flexibility. The outcomes are divided into three domains that support this: 1) creating and producing, 2) inquiring, integrating, interpreting, and 3) building-joining scholarly community. We expect students to be assessed in terms of progress made on these outcomes.

[A note to all faculty: the degree to which a student should be able to demonstrate any particular outcome is a subject we need to take up collectively as a next step.]

Creating and Producing

In order to create compositions, students will need to demonstrate rhetorical flexibility, making informed and thoughtful authorial choices in context, and developing a composer's sense of craft.

The student completing Writing 5 will demonstrate the ability to:

recognize, develop, and employ appropriate methods to structure an argument.

  • make informed decisions about integrating the ideas of others into her own writing, both conceptually and technically.
  • craft sentences with working parts that convey meaning clearly.
  • balance rhetorical complexity with linguistic concision.
  • use active and informed language and vocabulary, paying close attention to voice and audience.
  • craft a strong, supportable thesis.
  • develop and use her own voice to complement and enhance a written argument.
  • use an array of appropriate structural and rhetorical devices to refine and enhance her argument.
  • accept and respond to feedback from professors.
  • revise at both substantive and editing levels as appropriate.
  • articulate her preferred writing process, and articulate weaknesses she needs to continue to address.

She will demonstrate an understanding:

  • that ideas shape the form of her essays, not rules or formulas.
  • that writing processes are complex and necessary and she has strengths and weaknesses within them.
  • that voice(s) operate in various ways within compositions.

Inquiring, Interpreting, Integrating

In order to write well at the college level, students will need to move from reciting general knowledge to pursuing specific lines of inquiry, gathering and exploring information, processing and analyzing it, "loosening up" as a thinker. Accordingly, they should be able to form questions, contextualize them, and pursue them through active and interrelated reading, writing and research.

The student will demonstrate the ability to:

  • read critically and recognize the crucial link between effective reading and effective argument construction.
  • approach writing as a process of inquiry through which information is transformed into argument.
  • ask good questions about the complex problems in her course materials.
  • use active techniques—which may include close reading, research, or multi-modal inquiry—to gather information.
  • use basic research tools to pursue useful inquiry and develop arguments based on reliable evidence.
  • acknowledge and examine her own position as a reader in a way that makes her evidence-based argument stronger and more persuasive.

Integration into Academic Life

In order to integrate into the academic life of the College, students should understand that they are both entering and helping to shape a new scholarly community,[2] with new expectations for reading, thinking and writing. This community includes their class and extends beyond it to include the broad academic life they enter through reading, writing, and research.

The student will demonstrate the ability to:

  • provide helpful feedback to her classmates.
  • enter ongoing academic conversations with an awareness of the multiple positions present.
  • recognize class discussion as a means to develop ideas in collaboration and in context.
  • access all Dartmouth resources that can support her growth as a writer and researcher.

She will demonstrate an understanding:

  • that she can enter these conversations, written or spoken, using a level of discourse appropriate to the context.
  • that she recognizes the purpose, as well as the pleasure, of exchanging ideas in serious academic discussion.

[1] We understand "writing" and "text" here to refer to compositions in multiple forms, as appropriate to any particular course (traditional written or multimodal essays, multimedia projects, speeches...). "Reading" refers to engaging with linear printed texts, images, hyperlinked documents, and the like.

[2] "Community" is used here to represent the College as a whole, but with the explicit understanding that the term is fraught, and that we are constituted by multiple "communities," from a single class to a whole institution, layered with diverse memberships and multiple purposes and goals.