September 20, 2010

College Writing Exam Wanaque Fall Test Dates

Students wishing to take the CWE at the Wanaque campus this semester should arrange for CWE assistance or to register for one of the test dates below with Kathy Coffey in room W128, 973-248-3019 or

Students from any campus may take the exam without prior registration on the Paterson campus Walk-In test dates. see 

Fall 2010 Dates and Start Times

Theme for September: Careers and the Workplace
Monday, September 27th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

Theme for October: Multiculturalism
Wednesday, October 20th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

Theme for November: Consumerism
Thursday, November 18th 11AM to 7PM Testing Room

September 14, 2010

Free Books

Most of us eventually seem to collect more books than we actually need or want. Donating books is a direct and cost-effective way to help students, schools, libraries, and literacy organizations.

The local library seems like a logical place to donate used or unwanted books.

While many organizations appreciate a donation to a used book sale or book drive, most libraries are very selective about how many and what kinds of books they will accept into their collections. It requires time (and therefore money) to process books into a library’s cataloging system, and each library has to balance its unique collection development needs with limited physical space.

One of the PCCC librarians, Joseph Petta, has actually created a guide to donating books. The PCCC Library regularly offers a cart full of books that have been weeded out of the collection and they are inevitably taken by students by the end of the day.

The PCCC Writing Center also has a free books effort  with several shelves of quality fiction and non-fiction books that students may take when they visit the Center.  Make the Reading - Writing connection and drop by to pick up a book!

September 13, 2010

Find Out About Taking The College Writing Exam

The College Writing Exam (CWE) is an important graduation requirement for all PCCC students.

For the CWE, students are asked to write a five paragraph essay of at least 450 words from a general topic or a topic from their major that is given at the start of the test. Students will be given the theme (but not the actual question) of the general question when they register so that they may prepare some ideas for their essay.

Students are expected to use a computer to type their essay, but the computer will not allow you to use the spell check, grammar check or the Internet. You should allow two hours for the exam.

The Writing Center is offering workshops on Preparing for the CWE. This workshop is intended for students who have never taken the CWE.

We will review the exam requirements, how to register, strategies for planning the essay and information on how to prepare and practice.

9/15   5:00 - 6:00 PM
9/20   5:00 - 6:00 PM
9/21   10:30 - 11:30 AM
9/23   1:10 - 2:10 PM

Students who want help preparing for the College Writing Exam can also make an appointment at the Writing Center to work with a writing consultant. Though we recommend making an appointment to make the best use of your time, walk-in sessions are available if a consultant is free.

Any student who has take the CWE but not passed should review their failed exam with a writing consultant. You must make an appointment as the Writing Center will need at least 24 hours to obtain a copy of your exam from the Testing department.

September 10, 2010

Find Us on Facebook

The Writing Center now has a fan page where people can see updates, Center hours, and general goings on within the Writing Center. It also contains links to our website and the Writing Initiative website.

The page has followers from both in and outside of PCCC, including connections to writing centers at other colleges around North America. To become a follower of the PCCC Writing Center on Facebook, click the "Like" button below.

We created a Facebook page for the Center to increase our network of both students and faculty who have an interest in Writing Center work and the Writing Initiative at PCCC. Most of our students are on Facebook regularly, as are our faculty! This is an easy way to reach a large number of people at the same time. It saves us from having to print and post flyers, saves time, and keeps us from cluttering up people's in-boxes.

Updates will be posted regularly, so be sure to stop by and see what's going on!

September 9, 2010

Writing Help at the Passaic Campus

Fall 2010 marks the first semester that the Writing Initiative will be present on the new Passaic campus.

The first Writing Intensive course to be taught at Passaic will be Introduction to Psychology, PS 101-P02. It meets Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11:45-1:00 and will be taught by Professor Thomas Page.

Writing support for this course and for preparing for the CWE will be available on the Passaic campus on Wednesdays, from 10:00AM-2:00PM, in room 113. The writing consultant for the Passaic campus this semester is Martha.

For more information about the Writing Center at Passaic, go to

September 8, 2010

The Writing Center at Wanaque

The Writing Center will have a presence on the Wanaque campus again this semester.

Students looking for help with their WI course assignments, WI students looking for writing help with writing in their other courses, and students preparing for the CWE are all welcome to come for assistance.

Traditionally, the Wanaque writing consultant can be found in the computer lab next to the library.

WRITING CENTER at Wanaque Hours 
Tuesday   10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Wednesday  2:00 PM - 8:00 PM
By appointment only  - contact the Writing Center

WI courses have been offered on the Wanaque campus since Spring 2009. This semester, the following courses will be offered:

CT-101-WE1: Critical Thinking
HI-102-W02: Western Civilization II
PS-101-W03: Intro to Psychology

For more information about the Writing Center at Wanaque, go to

September 7, 2010

College Writing Exam Test Dates for September

This fall the testing department will continue the WALK-IN testing on the Paterson Campus that was piloted this past summer.

1) No Appointment is required, but a PHOTO-ID is required.
2) You may appear any time during the time ranges listed below.
3) If you have taken the exam previously, you MUST bring an approval letter from the Writing Center to be allowed to retest.
4) Some sessions times are LIMITED to ONLY 5 seats on a first come, first served basis.
5) ONLY 1 test session per person per month is allowed.

The topic theme for September is "careers and the workplace."

WALK-IN Testing Room E215, Paterson Campus

Sept 18th (Sat.)
9AM to 12PM

Sept 21st (Tue.)
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Sept 22nd (Wed.)
9AM to 2PM

Sept 23rd (Thu.)
9AM to 2PM
5PM to 6PM

Sept 25th (Sat.)
9AM to 12PM

Documenting Teaching Effectiveness

We often have a sense in education that something is working (or not working) but it's difficult for us to produce the evidence that some practice or piece of technology is the reason.

The Writing Initiative at PCCC is a five-year federal Title V grant and we have numerous requirements to assess our success at improving writing and the teaching of writing at the college. Producing evidence of effectiveness beyond the anecdotal information from teachers, students and our writing consultants one of our biggest challenges.

Right now, the Initiative team is working on our year 3 report for the outside evaluators who review the grant each October.

The Seeking Evidence of Impact Initiative that is part of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) is an ambitious new initiative intended to bring the teaching and learning community into a collective discussion about ways of gathering evidence of the impact of innovations and current practices.

They are trying to bring the latest research and commentary in the area of learning technology effectiveness together. This includes white papers, articles, websites, reports, and other resources.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (Jossey Bass Higher and Adult Education Series)

I have been looking back into books on assessment that I used in the past. One of those is Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo and Cross) which is a general handbook that offers teachers at all levels how-to advice on classroom assessment, including what classroom assessment entails and how it works, and also how to plan, implement, and analyze assessment projects.

If you are new to formal assessment, the case studies that detail the real-life classroom experiences of teachers carrying out successful classroom assessment projects are useful. Although the book focuses on K-12 settings, the information often applies to higher levels too.

What the Best College Teachers Do

For higher education, Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004) is also an interesting book to look to for some possible answers to what makes a great teacher great. The book was the result of a 15-year study of nearly a hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities.

One finding was that it's not what teachers do, it's what they understand. In general, lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the way those teachers comprehend their subject and how much they value the learning process itself.

Think back on your own best teachers - especially those in high school and college - and they probably impressed you with how well they knew their subject but also with the way they engaged you and challenged their students.

For me, that always included interaction beyond the classroom Q&A. I knew that the best teachers felt that teaching really matters and that students can learn.

Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching is a text more likely to be used by college faculty members in groups and in workshops. It covers topics like problem-based discussion and integrating teachers' experience with recent research and theory on learning. It also provides assessment and research projects that can be used in classes.

If you want or need to get more into the quantitative part of assessment, practitioners, Assessing Performance: Designing, Scoring, and Validating Performance Tasks has step-by-step guidance for developing, administering, scoring, and validating a range of performance tasks. Though I find developing scoring tools, training raters, reducing rater bias, reviewing scores and report results less interesting, it is a necessary part of the job for some people in any educational setting.

Part of our Writing Initiative at PCCC is to introduce students and faculty to technology. ePortfolios, eTutoring, lecture-capture technology, and supporting courses with Web materials like LibGuides are all part of our day-to-day work. Using Technology Evaluation to Enhance Student Learning, (Teachers College Press, 2004) is a look at the technologies that have real, long-term payoffs for student learning so that you can make research-based decisions concerning the use of educational technology.

September 3, 2010

Information Literacy

The Writing Initiative aims to increase achievement and program completion rates for PCCC students by integrating critical thinking, information literacy and technology into college-level writing intensive courses.

Broadly stated, we require WI courses to incorporate research requirements that exercise information literacy competencies in at least one of the writing assignments.

Information Literacy (IL), as defined by PCCC, consists of:
  1. Defining and articulating the need for information
  2. Information Retrieval
  3. Citation of Sources
  4. Evaluation of Sources
  5. Using information effectively in writing assignments

These competencies have been assessed in an ongoing fashion in The College Experience course via the Information Literacy Research Project, and will be assessed further in the Title V Writing Initiative.

In general, PCCC students have fared well in retrieving information and identifying citation information, but have struggled with information literacy competencies that require more critical thinking, such as formulating a thesis statement, critical evaluation of resources, and extraction of useful information from resources. In the Writing Initiative, special emphasis is placed on the latter two competencies especially.

Courses designated as WI should have an assignment or assignments that cover a minimum of three out of the five broadly defined IL competencies. Competencies 4 and 5 are required to be covered, in addition to one of the other three competencies.

The IL requirements need not be covered in one assignment; in fact, it is often beneficial to both instructor and student to break the research process down into steps.

Each student in a WI course also must create an electronic portfolio in which are archived selected assignments from the WI course. Minimally, students must include examples of any formal writing and particularly those that exhibit elements from the critical thinking rubric and the information literacy rubric.

PCCC Librarians have developed a master IL rubric that allows instructors to assess IL competencies on a four-point scale ranging from beginning, developing, competent to accomplished. In addition to the rubric, a list of performance indicators associated with each of the five major IL competencies can be used for ideas on how to incorporate the IL competencies into WI assignments. The rubrics and more information on how we are using information literacy in the Initiative is online.

September 2, 2010

The PCCC Writing Center Hours for Fall 2010

The Fall 2010 semester has started!

The Writing Center will open after Labor Day, on Sept. 7, and for the first time will be serving 3 campuses.

In previous semesters, Writing Intensive courses have been held on the Paterson and Wanaque campuses, but this semester we have expanded to the new Passaic campus, with a section of PS 101.

Writing Intensive students can come to the Writing Center on any campus for help with writing for their WI or any other courses. In addition, students preparing for the CWE on any campus can come for help and information about the exam.

The Writing Center will be open at different times on each campus. Days and times are listed below.


10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

10:00 AM - 8:00 PM

10:00 AM - 5:30

Appointments and walk-ins welcome


10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

2:00 PM - 8:00 PM

By appointment only


Room 113

Appointments and walk-ins welcome

For more information about the Writing Center, visit
For information about the Writing Initiative and Writing Intensive Courses, go to
For information about the CWE, check out

September 1, 2010

Math Science Faculty Institute

The Summer Writing Initiative Faculty Institute held in August was different in that all the participants are developing math or science writing intensive courses.

This two-day Institute is the first of two parts for faculty developing WI courses that will be piloted in 2011. The second 2-day Institute will be held during the January 2011 break.

The seminar style sessions address the goals and methodologies of the Initiative, the process of creating course materials and the tools and support available to students and instructors in these courses.

Professors Radha Sankaran, Fillmore Corpus and Kristina Oriente from the math department and Meg Sloan from science worked with the Initiative team on August 25 & 26 for full day (9-3 pm) sessions.

Professor Sankaran is developing Math 103 Statistics as a writing intensive course section. Professors Corpus and Oriente are co-developing Math 101 as WI. This is the first time we have had two faculty develop the initial section of a course. The hope is that while one of them will pilot the course, the other will be ready the following semester to offer a second section as WI.

Professor Sloan is redesigning Biology 101. The second half of that sequence (Bio 102) was developed this past year and is being piloted by Professor Griedanus this semester.

The following topics were covered during this first part of the Institute:

1. An introduction to the Writing Initiative and the WI Course Development Handbook
2. Defining Writing Intensive courses
3. Aligning course and department goals with WI goals
4. The WI course development process in detail
5. WI Course syllabi creation
6. Generating WI assignments - incorporating critical thinking & information literacy
7. Tools and support in brief (Writing Center use, LibGuides, eTutoring, WCOnline, media etc.)

The faculty now work during the semester to develop their syllabi and assignments and will meet twice with the team during the semester. In January, during part 2, we will all review the assignments and critique what was developed. The second part of the Institute also focuses on the technology elements of the WI courses - portfolios, LibGuides, eTutoring - and assessment of student work and of the WI course design during the pilot semester.