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What is the End-of-Semester “U” Notation in Writing?
Is the "U" Notation in Writing the same as a "U" grade for a writing option?
What kinds of writing problems merit a "U" in Writing?
Is the "U" in Writing seen as "punishment"?
How do I submit a “U” along with my final grades?
When do I inform students who might or will receive a “U” in Writing?
How does the Writing Center "U" tutoring program work?
What is the Guided Tutorial in Writing?
Any instructor who finds that a student’s achievement is impeded by weak writing skills may submit a “U” (unsatisfactory writing) Notation along with the final grade in any course (including courses taken credit/no entry, even though credit may not have been earned and the course may not have been entered on the record--OWU Catalog).
Students who are given “U” notations are required to meet with an instructor in the Writing Center for weekly professional tutoring during the following semester. The "U" is noted in Degree Audit and remains on the student's transcript until he or she completes the intensive weekly writing tutorial. (See How does the Writing Center "U" tutoring program work? below)
The “U” notation does not alter the course grade or affect a student's GPA. The “U” notation does not indicate poor attitude, missing work, or low academic achievement; it indicates primarily that the professor believes the student’s writing skills need work. A student whose performance in a course is satisfactory, even exemplary, may still have problems with effective writing. In fact, a student may earn a B or an A in a course and still earn a “U” in writing.
The “U” notation does not indicate poor attitude, missing work, or low academic achievement. A “U” notation indicates primarily that the professor believes the student’s writing skills need work.
No, assigning a "U" grade for a writing option is not the same as giving an end-of-semester "U" in Writing. A "U" grade for a writing option does not refer a student to the Writing Center for ongoing attention to and instruction in writing. You may give a student an “S” for “R” credit and also assign a “U” Notation in Writing, and, similarly, you could assign a "U" for "R" credit, and also not assign a separate "U" Notation in Writing. We know these two kinds of "U"s are frequently confused, especially since they both have to do with writing, so please contact the Writing Center if you have questions or need support in assigning a "U" Notation in Writing.
The “U” program provides a unique opportunity for less experienced and struggling student writers to work one-on-one in a non-threatening pedagogical environment with a professionally trained tutor. Assigning a "U" allows instructors to address a student's need to work on writing skills without assigning a lower grade that might not reflect the student's overall learning or ability in the course or subject area. For example, a student may understands content and be engaged with the material, but need to work on some aspect of of their writing. So, an instructor might assign a grade--perhaps even an A or B--that reflects the student's learning in the class, and add the "U" writing to provide support and instruction in writings skills.
When problems persist throughout the semester for a student in one or more area of writing, whether organizational, developmental, syntactical, or mechanical, you might assign a “U” notation, particularly if you have worked individually with the student and believe additional instructional support will be necessary to ensure the student’s future academic success.
In some cases, writing problems on a single writing assignment assignment might warrant a “U,” particularly if the student’s writing does not fulfill expectations for college-level writing or for the level expected in a particular class. Some professors give a “U” when they see errors or inadequacies in a specific area of writing, such as organization, focus, thesis, grammar and mechanics, documentation, or paragraph development on a major end-of-semester written assignment or exam.
The "U" in Writing is in no way intended as a punishment for "bad" performance or for being a "bad" writer. It does not reflect overall performance, and is intended to give instructors the opportunity to provide support for writing skills without having to decrease the course grade of a student who might otherwise pass the class.
Though some students are initially unhappy to learn they have earned a "U" in Writing and may at first question the value of the “U” tutoring program, most students identify it as a valuable experience. Students report on their end-of-semester program evaluations that they have become more confident writers, have a better understanding of their writing strengths and areas that need improvement, and have developed transferable skills they can apply in their other courses and writing assignments.
Many of these students return to the Writing Center in the following semesters, often multiple times during a semester, when they are working on writing projects for their courses and for assistance with resumes, cover letters, personal statements, and other application materials.
If you plan to give one or more “U”s at the end of the semester, please follow these steps:
Though students would prefer not to receive an “Unsatisfactory” in writing, they appreciate learning about the “U” notation from their professor rather than learning about it when they receive notification form the Writing Center.
If you plan to give a student a “U” at the end of the semester, please talk to the student about your decision before the last day of classes or inform him or her in an email message at the time you submit your course grades.
You might also inform the student earlier in the semester about the possibility of getting a “U” if you have evidence—for example, an unsuccessful paper submitted at mid-term—the student would benefit from additional instructional support. In addition, you might encourage the student to attend one or more Writing Center consultations during the remaining weeks of the semester with the promise that you might not assign a “U” notation if his or her writing improves in revisions or in additional writing assignments. (Please see the section below about assigning a Guided Tutorial in Writing.)
Including a statement about the Writing Center and the “U” program in your class syllabus also can help you prepare students for the possibility they might receive a “U” at the end of the term. You might also inform students at the beginning of the semester, particularly in a writing-intensive course, about the Writing Center and the “U” policy and tutoring program—or, if you prefer, a Writing Center consultant can visit your class to talk to your students about these matters.
We focus on teaching transferable skills, not on correcting or “fixing” papers. We work with students on all aspects of writing, from organizing and drafting to revising and proofreading, as well as documenting and citing sources. We also provide regular support for students with English as a Second Language (ESL) difficulties and Learning Disabilities (LD).
Using writing samples and a student questionnaire, we identify two or three main areas on which to focus instruction. A typical program involves writing and revising several papers, or working on a few longer papers through all stages of the writing process, along with instruction and exercises.
Usually, students work on writing assignments in their current courses, but if they have little or no writing in the first half of the semester, they will be assigned writing projects by their Writing Center instructors. We notify you (for your information) and the Registrar when students have progressed sufficiently to have the “U” notation removed from their records. The Registrar erases all “U” notations from the students’ transcripts once the “U”s are cleared.
Most students complete the program to remove the “U” within eight weeks. If students fail to complete the tutoring program during the semester following the receipt of a “U,” the Committee on Academic Status will review their records, and those students may be academically dismissed. Students cannot graduate until all “U”s are cleared from their records.
To sum up, our “U” notation underscores OWU’s commitment to make sure all students graduate with effective writing skills. Even very able students profit from individually tailored assistance with the essential skill of effective written communication. For more information, please see our website or contact the Writing Center.
In addition to the current tutoring model for the End-of-Semester “U” program, you have the option of assigning a Guided Tutorial in Writing during the semester if students submit writing that does not meet the writing objectives of your course.
You might assign a Guided Tutorial, for example, if students need work in one or more major areas of writing, such as writing with sources, focusing a thesis, or developing sentence level writing skills. You might also assign a Guided Tutorial if a student has serious difficulty with a specific area of writing, such as, for example, embedding sources or identifying and correcting fused sentences. If you decide to assign a Guided Tutorial in Writing, please complete and send us this Guided Tutorial Referral Form.
Assigning a Guided Tutorial lets students know you are considering assigning an End-of-Semester “U” in writing along with the students’ final course grades unless they improve in one or more areas of writing. While the Guided Tutorial does not appear on the students’ transcripts, the “U” allows the professor to identify a set of specific writing goals and outcomes so students can develop the skills they need to succeed in this and other courses.
There are several potential benefits of assigning a Guided Tutorial in writing, such as:
Please Note: Even if students fulfill the Guided Tutorial obligations identified in the Guided Tutorial Referral Form—and even if their writing improves during the semester—an end-of-the semester “U” may still be warranted if students have not met the writing objectives of the course or demonstrated competency in writing equivalent to their peers or classmates.