Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Study shows students often need explicit writing instruction for ILPs

SNL’s Independent Learning Pursuits (ILPs) are our way of doing prior learning assessment (PLA). In "Composing Knowledge: Writing, Rhetoric, and Reflection in Prior Learning Assessment," Cathy Leaker and Heather Ostman use their experience working with students on PLA submissions at Empire State College to argue that students need direct writing instruction to craft successful submissions:

. . . many of our students have a good deal of ‘subject matter knowledge,’ but they needed explicit direction in the particular conventions used to articulate such knowledge within “academia” . . . Similarly, the students could talk broadly about their knowledge, but they had little practice with the specific rhetorical strategies that might make that knowledge visible within a particularly challenging context of academic assessment. And finally, many students floundered in their efforts to articulate their learning within a loose genre that seemingly had no distinct features or explicit requirements beyond the expectation that it should represent learning and not experience. However, these problems suggested less a skill deficit that must be remedied than a misdirected pedagogy that could be redirected. We discovered that through explicit attention to writing process . . . and through the meta-learning afforded by guided reflection, our students not only crafted their prior learning portfolios with greater confidence and success, but also began to think more deeply about the role of writing as a less than neutral tool for asserting knowledge claims. (696-697)

Leaker and Ostman developed a course for students at Empire State to help students write their PLA submissions. At SNL, students have the option of working on ILPs as part of the Academic Writing for Adults and Writing Workshop courses. In addition, the Writing Center is planning to offer workshops on ILPs for SNL students each quarter. These two-hour workshops will take place in conjunction with one of the regular Saturday Suburban Campus Writing Groups on the Oak Forest, Naperville, and O'Hare campuses this fall. Plans are also in the works for Loop and Online ILP workshops. A workshop schedule will be sent to instructors after the start of the quarter.

Work Cited

Leaker, Cathy, and Heather Ostman. "Composing Knowledge: Writing, Rhetoric, and Reflection in Prior Learning Assessment." College Composition and Communication 61.4 (2010): 691-717. Print.


  1. As an online-only student I would very much appreciate an oniine ILP workshop!

  2. Thanks Lucy. The Writing Center hopes to offer online ILP workshops in coming quarters. -- Michelle (SNL Writing Coordinator)

  3. Hi Lucy--I'm Tom McNamara, and I coordinate the workshops that the blog entry above mentioned. We are hoping to offer online workshops in the future, but for now, I'd like to encourage you to take advantage of some of the Writing Center's online services. You can schedule an online appointment that allows you to discuss your project with a tutor via webcam or instant message. Also, you can submit essays for Feedback-by-Email.

    You don't even have to have a full essay to use these services--you could discuss an outline, your notes and brainstorms, or a full draft.

    Visit our website at depaul.edu/writing--and don't hesitate to contact me with any questions at tmcnamar@depaul.edu