South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium

Three Decades of Higher Education Excellence Through Collaboration

Writing Across the Institutions

In an extraordinary collaborative effort, SMHEC’s Council of Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) established a single, collaborative inter-institutional forum to discuss writing assessment. This forum responds to several needs including:

  • the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) determination that colleges need to develop assessments for general education requirements,
  • articulate indicators for student preparation to meet minimum college writing expectations,
  • identify particular areas for improvement in student writing skills, 
  • provide assessment data to inform curricular improvement,
  • align writing expectations and outcomes across institutions, and
  • establish a culture of shared purpose and continuous improvement.

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To accomplish this, they turned to the Southland Writing Consortium, a newly incorporated SMHEC forum for writing colleagues to network and discuss their work in the south suburban area of Chicago.  Together the CAOs and the Writing Consortium initiated a pilot project, Writing Across the Institutions, to use a common rubric for the assessment of writing at all participating colleges. After discussion with the English faculty at each institution, the group decided to begin with the AAC&U Value Rubric for Written Communication as the common rubric for the pilot project. Dr. Terry Rhodes from AAC&U met with the project faculty, prior the start of the project, to train them on the use of the rubric.




LiveText sponsored the pilot project by providing the platform for students to submit writing samples, faculty to conduct the assessments and researchers to collect and analyze the data. They also provided technical and theoretical support for the project.

Almost two years of working together on this project has enriched and perplexed the participants. As faculty create a common language and “norm” themselves to achieve similar perspectives on levels of writing,  the collaboration has informed faculty in startling ways; they have realized and articulated their individual expectations of “college-level” writing and their personal biases about writing assessment while learning to defend their evaluative choices.Faculty learned the importance of relying on common reference points to support scoring versus relying on personal experience and preferences.  Through all of this, they recognize, discuss, and to some extent eliminate the inconsistencies in expectations and standards for 1st year writing.