2014 WPA Outcomes Fact Sheet

Document created by Karita dos Santos Employee on Nov 6, 2015Last modified by Karita dos Santos Employee on Nov 9, 2015
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Changes to the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition


The WPA adopted an overhauled version of their Outcomes Statement for FYC on July 17, 2014. This fact sheet, created by Bedford/St. Martin’s, explains the WPA, their Outcomes, and the major changes they’ve made. Here is the WPA Revised Statement from wpa.org.


What is WPA?

WPA logoAbout the Council of Writing Program Adminstrators
"The Council of Writing Program Adminstrators is a national association of college and university faculty with professional responsibilities for (or interests in) directing writing programs. Members include directors of freshman composition, undergraduate writing, WAC/WID/CAC, and writing centers, as well as department chairs, division heads, deans, and so on.  WPA publishes a journal and newsletter, holds an annual workshop and conference, makes grants and awards, develops position statements, offers consulting and program evaluation, and fosters extensive discussions about college writing and writing programs. . . " --from wpacouncil.org


What are WPA Outcomes?
The WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition represents the council’s position on what students should learn in the course and how instructors can support that learning. While the WPA Outcomes are not a mandate, the student learning outcomes (SLOs) for many composition programs and courses reflect, and are often based on, the WPA Outcomes Statement. WPA Outcomes can be thought of as the gold standard for the discipline, or as suggested best practices.


What changes did the WPA make to their Outcomes?
The biggest change is the shift toward composing in various genres and modes. There is also a greater emphasis on composing in and across disciplines. Technology is no longer a separate category, but is woven in as an aspect of composing that affects the composers, audiences, and texts. Here are the details:
Changes to the introduction

Specifically, there is a change from the word “skills” in favor of “practices”; a move away from “writing” toward “composing” (though “writing” still used in some spots); a statement that “composing activities” are shaped by technologyand that technology changes composers’ relationships to texts and audiences; an emphasis on composing in and across disciplines; a call for instructors to help students build on what they learn in FYC (and transfer it to other courses, but the term “transfer” is not used); and a statement that composing has purposes in disciplines and professions—and has “civic” purposes as well.

Changes to the body of the document
Overall, there is a much more in-depth articulation of these 4 concepts:rhetorical knowledge; critical thinking, reading, & composing; composing processes; and conventions.


Rhetorical knowledge. Students gain this when they analyze contexts and audience and then use that analysis to understand and compose. Rhetorical knowledge deepens as they compose different kinds of texts in different situations. There is a greater focus on:
  • reading, analyizing, and composing a variety of texts--and genres;
  • responding to different situations and contexts (in terms of voice, tone, formality, design, medium);
  • understanding a variety of technologies and their impact on audiences; using different technologies and media depending on situation;
  • and, re: specific field/ discipline, understanding the purposes, audiences, and genres specific to that field/discipline.


Critical thinking. Students do this when they analyze, synthesize, interpret, and evaluate information, situations, and texts (data sets, visuals, videos, etc.). Students have to think critically about the materials they draw on to compose. They need to understand what is an assertion vs. what is evidence. They need to understand assumptions, make connections, evaluate chains of reasoning, and make sound claims. There is a greater focus on:
  • reading & composing in various contexts;
  • reading a range of texts (for various audiences and situations; differentiating between assertions and evidence and understanding organization and the relationship between verbal/nonverbal;
  • evaluating sources (primary and secondary) that are scholarly/professional;
  • integrating ideas of other writers/ appropriate sources through various strategies (interpretation, synthesis, response, critique, etc.);
  • note: cut from the document was the point on understanding “the relationships among language, knowledge, and power”;
  • re: specific field/discipline: understanding the critical thinking, questions, problems, and evidence, in specific discipline; emphasis on reading a range of texts in specific field/discipline


Composing processes are flexible, adaptable, and not linear.  Writers use multiple strategies.  They might research at multiple points in their processes. They need to adapt processes for different contexts. There is a greater focus on:
  • all aspects of composing; now more detailed to include  “reading, drafting, reviewing, collaborating, revising, rewriting, rereading, and editing”;
  • understanding that the composing process is a tool for discovery and reconsidering ideas;
  • “acting” on feedback from others; giving good feedback;
  • adapting processes according to different technologies and modalities;
  • reflecting on their processes and practices;
  • re: specific field/discipline: using  technologies and methods for research and communicating in specific discipline; characterizing processes; reviewing works in progress on a deep level; collaborating in their specific field/discipline.


Conventions, both formal and informal rules, shape mechanics—but also content, style, organization, visuals, design. Conventions vary across genres and disciplines; applying rhetorical knowledge helps. There is a greater focus on:
  • understanding that conventions come out of a “history of use” and present “common expectations” among readers and writers;
  • as a reader and composer, understanding conventions in terms of purpose, audience, and genres; also being aware that genresand their conventionsevolve in relation to context and technology;
  • gaining knowledge of language, structure (grammar, etc.), and organization through composing and revising;
  • practicing using various genres with various conventions—and learning the formats/design of different texts
  • understanding intellectual property (IP); practicing citation conventions;
  • re: specific field/discipline: understanding conventions of language, citation, etc., how to control conventions, what influences conventions; how to make decisions around IP related to the genres and modes of that specific field/discipline.