Post-Doctoral Writing Assessment Pep Talk

hillaryAs manager of the Graduate Writing courses in the Center for Academic Excellence (CAEX), I often hear students’ reactions about being placed in these courses after the Doctoral Writing Assessment (DWA). Their reactions span from anger to disappointment to fear. I understand these emotions and the questions that accompany them—questions like:

  1. Why do I even need this writing course? I’ve gotten all A’s in my courses so far.
  2. How am I supposed to take this writing course when I already have a full load of core courses? I don’t have enough time as it is.
  3. Does this mean I’m a horrible writer?
  4. Am I going to get kicked out of my program?

Chances are, you’ve thought at least one of these after receiving your DWA score. It’s only natural. But if you want to get the most out of your experience in Graduate Writing I & II, you need to quash these thoughts before they echo in your mind the entire term. I’ve included my answers below as a means to move on from these initial emotions and approach the Graduate Writing courses strategically.

  1. Why do I even need this writing course? I’ve gotten all A’s in my courses so far.
    • Program faculty grade primarily on students’ content mastery, rather than looking in-depth at their writing. Therefore, it’s possible to earn A’s in your beginning program courses but still exhibit writing skills in need of improvement. Additionally, the DWA measures just a small sample of students’ writing. Your DWA essay might not have matched the level of quality shown in your courses. Even if you feel you don’t need writing assistance, the Graduate Writing courses will expose you to many tips, techniques, and Writing Center resources you can use throughout your time at Walden. You will have a writing professional as a guide and instructor, in a small class of 10 or fewer. Embrace the opportunity to work closely with this expert.
  2. How am I supposed to take this writing course when I already have a full load of core courses? I don’t have enough time as it is.Education concept
    • Graduate Writing I & II were designed to sit alongside students’ program courses. You will likely find the workload more manageable than other courses. Even so, juggling multiple courses, discussions, and assignments can prove difficult. Past students have recommended planning studying time into your schedule, using a calendar application for reminders, and reading the Academic Skills Center’s Time Management web page and self-paced module. If you find yourself falling behind, communicate with your instructor via the Contact Your Instructor page. Your instructor is there to support you.
  3. Does this mean I’m a horrible writer?
    • No! You are not a horrible writer. Your DWA essay was simply marked as one whose author may benefit from extra support, for one reason or another. For example, you may be transitioning into scholarly writing from a more informal style, writing in a language other than your native one, or returning to school after a hiatus. Writing skills—if they are not used regularly—tend to get rusty, just like any other skill. These courses are meant to get your writing machinery operating smoothly again.
  4. Am I going to get kicked out of my program?
    • You will not get kicked out of your program if you put in the effort required of students in Graduate Writing I & II. This effort includes submitting all discussions and assignments on time, reflecting on your writing abilities, and applying instructor feedback from week to week. (Students who earn an Unsatisfactory grade in Graduate Writing I or II twice are dismissed from the university—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!)

Time after time, at the end of a term, Graduate Writing students post evaluations like this:

“When I was directed to take this course, I felt humiliated. After the first week, I realized that it was the best decision someone ever made for me. It was worth my time and I recommend it as a foundation course for all students” (Graduate Writing II student).

This transformation—from a place of humiliation, resentment, or anxiety to one of acceptance and openness—is necessary in order to focus on what really matters: your writing journey, and how that journey leads to a degree. You can do it! Write on!

Hillary Wentworth has been mentoring Walden writers since 2010 in Walden’s Writing Center and Academic Skills Center. She holds a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

3 thoughts on “Post-Doctoral Writing Assessment Pep Talk

  1. The fear of unknown while doing this online learning is what many people and we need to be in custody of what we want before going into the program.
    But may looking at the program package and the people doing the program, it gives us courage to go ahead with our goal through online learning.
    What I have seen that is motivating me is the unity of purpose all that is doing the program have.
    I too believe i can do it.
    I will do it


    1. Thanks for your comment. We believe you can do it too! Reach out to your support network at Walden (like the Academic Skills Center and Writing Center) with any concerns or questions along the way.
      – Hillary


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