John Carson-Department of English - Carnegie Mellon University

Writing Across the Business Disciplines at Robert Morris College: A Case Study

Author: John Carson
Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 1991

Scholars working in the writing-across-the-curriculum movement have created a powerful pedagogy. This dissertation examines one instance of that movement, Writing Across the Business Disciplines at Robert Morris College. The study poses two questions (What happened with the WABD program? and What can be learned from the RMC WABD experience that can be helpful to others beginning such programs elsewhere, especially at schools similar to Robert Morris?).

I use as the plot for the narrative of this historical case study the ends articulated in the original proposal to the funding agency and the means described in that proposal for achieving these ends. The information for elaborating this historical narrative comes from the documents generated in the project associated with the means and ends, from interviews, and from my own experience as a faculty member at Robert Morris and as a participant in the WABD program. This story reveals a successful writing-to-learn program that also is responsive to the two other major emphases of the present WAC movement, the improvement of student writing skills and writing in the disciplines. The evaluation was more elaborate than one normally finds in evaluations of education programs because the creators of WABD insisted that no single evaluation measure was likely to yield sufficient and reliable results. Hence they used multiple measures of evaluation. The evaluation shows that WABD met and sometimes exceeded its goals. The program has positively affected many faculty and students at Robert Morris. Despite some early wavering, the administration is taking steps to weave the program into the institutional fabric of the college.

The successes and failures of the RMC program can be helpful for others implementing similar programs. WABD generally succeeded because it was well planned, was based upon sound and consistent theoretical principles, made use of outside experts and faculty seminars, and was highly effective in communicating its goals and problems to the faculty, administration, and funding agency. One value to this study is that record keeping and histories of programs can remind administrators and faculty of their commitments, goals, and responsibilities as well as the possibilities available in WAC.