Better Late (for me) Than Never: National Writing Project’s “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing”

National Writing Project’s “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing”

This recently published treatise (available here as NWP Framework for Success) is a rich resource addressing specifics of how to help college students become successful writers in and outside academia. While its focus is not entirely directed at teaching literature, so much of what this piece deals with is applicable that it should be required reading for everyone involved with first year students. Further, the document references the Council of Writing Program Administrators Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition Students, which “describes the common knowledge, skills, and attitudes sought by first-year composition programs in American postsecondary education” (Outcomes). The Framework is essentially a compilation of agreed-upon competencies that instructors wish to transfer to those in their charge—in essence, a target to shoot for—and then outlines some ways to hit the bull’s eye:

Habits of Mind

The Framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing—ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and will support students’ success in a variety of fields and disciplines:

  • Curiosity: the desire to know more about the world.
  • Openness: the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world.
  • Engagement: a sense of investment and involvement in learning.
  • Creativity: the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas.
  • Persistence: the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.
  • Responsibility: the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others.
  • Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition: the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge.

Writing, Reading, and Critical Analysis

The Framework then explains how teachers can foster these habits of mind through writing, reading, and critical analysis experiences. These experiences aim to develop the following aptitudes:

  • Rhetorical knowledge: the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and contexts in creating and comprehending texts;
  • Critical thinking: the ability to analyze a situation or text, and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research;
  • Writing processes: multiple strategies to approach and undertake writing and research;
  • Knowledge of conventions: the formal and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate, or incorrect and inappropriate, in a piece of writing; and
  • Abilities to compose in multiple environments: from using traditional pen and paper to electronic technologies (Framework).

This treasure trove, while brief, helps quantify much of what instructors of higher education essentially know they want to communicate, but, especially  those who are just beginning, find difficult to pinpoint. There is little I can do to better summarize or enhance what these two resources themselves offer. All I can say is I wish I’d had these a few years ago when I first taught First-Year Composition.

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