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Department Programs

Communication Arts & Sciences Writing Program

  1. The CAS faculty’s commitment to student learning in written, oral, and visual rhetoric.

    The CAS faculty are committed to teaching written, oral, and visual rhetoric throughout their courses to improve students’ critical thinking, enhance their learning, and develop their communication skills. Through this knowledge and these skills, students should be able to critically engage and alter their culture to glorify God.  

    The Communication Arts and Sciences faculty incorporate various types of rhetorical knowledge into their classrooms—knowledge that benefits the students taking core courses as well as those majoring in CAS.  The CAS department has historically offered many courses in the college core, with CAS 100, the Fundamentals of Oral Rhetoric, perhaps being offered the most.  With the recent college curriculum revisions, CAS now offers CAS 101 (a three-credit oral rhetoric course), and other communication and culture courses within that particular core category.  In all of their core courses, the CAS faculty strive to teach their students a combination of written, oral, and visual rhetoric.   

    In addition to teaching rhetorical skills in their core courses, the CAS faculty introduce current and prospective CAS majors to disciplinary rhetorical skills.  The CAS department consists of five tracks: Theatre, Mass Media, Film Studies, Rhetoric and Communication, and Speech Pathology and Audiology.  The learning goals for the students differ according to the purposes of each track, yet a set of common rhetorical knowledge and skills unite these concentrations.  All CAS students must understand the components of communication, how to adapt their messages to audiences in specific situations, and the ethical implications of their messages.

    In conjunction with the college core revisions, the CAS department revised its curriculum, strengthening each track and changing some of the classes offered for college core credit.  During the faculty’s discussion, members agreed that CAS students—those both in college core courses and major courses—must be effective communicators able to engage and renew their surrounding culture.

  2. Learning objectives for written, oral, and visual rhetoric

    1. General learning goals
      Introductory Courses offered in College Core

      CAS 101:  Students should be able to present an ethical, extemporaneous speech
      that clearly communicates a focused, reasoned message to their audience in a given situation.  Students should use delivery to enhance their message, using their performance as part of their overall rhetoric.  Students should be able to identify how a Christian can responsibly interact with the public sphere, carefully analyzing their messages’ ethics. Students must learn the necessary research skills to create their speeches and how to evaluate their sources.

      CAS 140, 141, 143:  Students should be able to identify the relationship between rhetoric/communication and culture.  Students should be able to extemporaneously present either an individual or group speech, thereby teaching their peers about a course concept.  Students should be able to identify how a reformed Christian perspective affects their rhetorical choices and how they should use that perspective to evaluate messages. Students should be able to critically analyze images as well as verbal or written communication.  Students should learn the basic research skills to create their presentations and analytical papers.  Students must evaluate their sources.

      200 Level Courses:  Students should build on the fundamentals gained in the introductory courses: they should be able to offer thorough critiques and responses, provide reasoned arguments, and better adapt their messages to different audiences and situations.  Students should be able to define rhetoric, communication, and culture and articulate their relationships.  Students should learn the necessary research skills for their particular track.

      300 Level Courses: Building on their skills from the 200-level courses, students
      should utilize more sources for creating their texts; refine their use of organization, language, evidence, and argument; and identify the key rhetorical/communication issues for their field of study.

      Capstone:  Students should integrate their knowledge regarding rhetoric and
      communication, reflecting on how their faith informs their rhetorical creations and critiques.

    2. Learning goals for specialized knowledge                        
      Within each concentration, students should gain specific knowledge and skills appropriate to that concentration’s goals.

      Film Studies:  Students should be able to write analytical and historical papers
      and oral present ations using the appropriate methodologies and terminology of film media.  Students should be able to account for all of the film’s components (e.g., sound, image, structure, style, etc.).  Students should be able to analyze a film according to rhetorical and aesthetic perspectives and place it into a historical context.  Students should be able to present an extemporaneous presentation exhibiting these analytical skills.  Students interested in film production must have an understanding of the process of film production and the rhetorical elements thereof.

      Mass Media Studies: Students should have a thorough understanding of the
      rhetorical exposition, persuasion, and principles of visual rhetoric.  In particular, students of media should have an understanding that film, tv, radio, internet, etc., are all texts which must be read in terms of their own language.  In order to do this, the student must be familiar with rhetorical principles of argument, evidence, value, and the like.  Furthermore, once students of media have discovered the language of their studied medium, they should have the communication skills to articulate their ideas and critiques regarding this identification.  In addition, mass media students should be aware of the following methodologies: textual analysis, social scientific/ effects-based research, audience studies/ ethnography, critical/ cultural studies, and feminist approaches.  Finally, production students must be able to research, plan, and make mediated messages that display good, right, and fitting rhetoric.  Students in media production must be able to create a message for their audience, understanding that audience’s expectations.  Students should write and produce clearly, and should be able to articulate the impact their Reformed faith will have on production.

      Theatre: Students should have an understanding  of the rhetorical components of a
      variety of performance texts, including  plays, scenes, monologues, oral histories, adaptations of non-dramatic  prose, poetry, and ethnographic material. This will be attained through  analysis of the structure, style, intention, etc., of these texts, with  such analysis making students aware of how these different forms work,  both on the page and in performance. Depending on the nature of the  particular course, written assignments will include one or more of the  following: extended critical, analytical, or historical papers, written  peer evaluations, response papers, and journals. All of these should  manifest capabilities in argumentation and critical thinking, and should  be written with clarity, expressiveness, and grammatical correctness.  Students should also be able to make oral presentations consistent with  standards inculcated in Oral Rhetoric courses.

      Rhetoric and Communication: Students should be able to chart the history of rhetoric and the place of rhetoric in liberal arts study.  They should know a range of rhetorical theory (from classical to the present).  Students should be able to construct clear, well-supported arguments, write such arguments in papers, give such arguments in competent oral presentation, integrate
      theory with primary evidence in critical writing, and use a variety of argument forms.

      Speech Pathology and Audiology:  Students should be able to both evaluate and use scientific academic journal articles.  Students must know APA style and be able to write their papers in that style.  In addition, students must be able to write succinct clinical reports.  Students must access the professional website for further information.

  3. Assignments and feedback to develop rhetorical skills

    Course assignments should require students to apply the rhetorical knowledge and skills learned in that course. Each level of course should offer a different learning opportunity than the previous level, or an increase in the intensity/ length of assignment.

    Faculty teaching sections of the same course (e.g., 101, 140) should agree on similar learning goals to ensure a certainty degree of uniformity in student learning.  However, instructors should have the freedom to utilize what they consider the best assignments for student learning.

    Introductory Courses offered in College Core

    • CAS 101: Students should present three to four extemporaneous speeches, including
      narrative, informative, and persuasive.  Students should write full sentence
      outlines for each presentation, including a bibliography of their library sources.  Students must identify when visual aids (including PowerPoint) are necessary to enhance (i.e., are integral to) their presentation(s).  Students must complete written and oral peer critiques and self-critiques.  Professors should provide written and oral feedback on the speeches and outlines and ask for peer comments as well.

    • CAS 140, 141, 143:  Students should present either an individual or group extemporaneous presentation, based on either a paper or a full sentence outline.  Students should write a short (3-5 page) critique or response paper.  CAS 141 students should create a piece of visual rhetoric for an actual audience and situation.  Unless the professor assigns an original research piece, students must use library research for their work. Students must identify when visual aids (including PowerPoint) are necessary to enhance (i.e., are integral to) their presentation(s).  Professors should provide written feedback on the assignments and provide optional conference times for students to seek input before the assignment’s completion.

    • 200 Level Courses:  Because many of the 200-level courses are introductions to the various tracks, the type of assignments will vary.  However, all 200 level courses should include at least one, if not more, of the following:  minute response papers, individual (at least 5 minutes) or group presentations (at least 20 minutes), critique or response papers (at least 5 pages in length), research papers or semester projects (6-8 pages using at least 6 sources), and essay exams. If possible, a revision assignment should be included to allow students to refine their rhetorical text. Unless the professor assigns an original research piece, students must use library research for their work.  Professors should provide written feedback on the assignments and provide optional conference times for students to seek input before the assignment’s completion.

    • 300 Level Courses:  All 300-level courses should include at least one, if not more of the
      following:  short response papers, individual (at least 10 minutes) or group presentations (at least 30 minutes), response or analytical papers (at least 12 pages in length), reflective papers (which may not require research), and essay exams.  Students must have an opportunity to revise one of their rhetorical assignments, receiving oral and written feedback from the instructor. Unless the professor assigns an original research piece, students must use library research for their work.  Professors should provide written feedback on the assignments and provide optional conference times for students to seek input before the assignment’s completion.

  4. Faculty and Student Awareness of Departmental Rhetoric Program

    The CAS faculty have been dedicated to the college’s writing program and frequently discuss (albeit informally) best teaching methods.  The CAS chair will distribute the CAS rhetoric program to new faculty.  In addition, each year the department will review in a departmental meeting the “Current Needs” section in an attempt to keep the rhetoric program relevant and current.

    In addition to strengthening CAS faculty’s awareness of the departmental rhetoric program, CAS students should be aware of the department’s goals for written, oral, and visual rhetoric. Knowing the department’s goals for instruction in rhetoric and how rhetorical assignments will be graded will help students understand the various course structures, assignments, and the commonalties in the department.  The CAS Rhetoric Program should be available on the department’s Web site, and new majors should be referred to the program.

  5. Assessment

    During the course of overall departmental assessment, CAS will routinely evaluate how instructors are teaching rhetorical skills and how students are acquiring this knowledge.

    The goal of assessment is to discover if our students are meeting the general and specialized learning goals outlined above. The basic goal uniting all CAS tracks is for our students to communicate clearly to a given audience. Therefore, our assessment will ascertain if our students know the basics of clear communication, audience assessment, and audience adaptation.

    General Tools for Assessment
    • CAS 101 coordinator who will lead discussions among 101 instructors to ensure compatible learning goals and fair grading across the sections.
    • Distribution of Grading Criteria for Speeches (developed by the National Communication Assocation).
    • Distribution of Grading Criteria for Essays; Posters
      -- These criteria must be distributed in all courses that assign speeches, essays, or
      posters; also should be placed on departmental web page.

    Qualitative Analysis of Student Learning

    • Semester speech contest: All 101 and 200 students will be required to attend and write a speech criticism paper on one of the speeches delivered. A selection of criticism papers (a random 15%) will be collected at the end of the semester to evaluate student learning in CAS 101 and 200. 

    • 15% of student work in the following courses:
      • Sample of critiques written in 140 and 141
        -- Students are usually asked to evaluate a communication text during the course of the semester.  These would be ideal for departmental assessment. (See attached assessment criteria.)
      • Sample of papers written in 352 and 399.

    • A committee of three CAS faculty—representing different divisions–will review the work. The department chair will select this committee; committee members will serve two years. This will be the sole departmental duty for these committee members.

    Quantitative Analysis of Student Learning

    • Alumni Reporting

  6. Current Needs

    The following is a list of current departmental needs regarding its rhetoric program. Each
    year, the department should review this list and update it when appropriate.
    • In order to enhance the department’s commitment to written, oral, and visual rhetoric, more formal discussions about learning goals, assignments, and best teaching practices need to occur. For example, periodic departmental colloquia about instruction in rhetoric or displays of students’ visual rhetoric/media projects are two possibilities.

    • The department needs to create and than utilize assessment tools, including ways to fully evaluate teaching effectiveness. What combination of methods should the department use?  Who should be evaluated? How can we use assessment to provide insight into our teaching without it assessment becoming a work overload?

    • The department will expand its assessment of their Rhetoric Program to account for various productions, including oral presentations (perhaps a random 15% collection of student portfolios).

    • Better communication between the department and the College Writing Program. For example, more communication to college program about what is taught in basic rhetoric courses. Also, department would like more on-line resources for teaching and evaluating rhetoric.

    • Clearly identified sequencing of courses and rhetorical knowledge and skills gained at each level.

    • CAS faculty may wish to contribute to college workshops on grading oral and visual presentations and group work.

    • The creation of a course for students with severe communication apprehension.