Writing in General Education
In 2018 the Bok Center was awarded a grant of over $240,000 to enable the development and support of writing assignments in the new General Education curriculum set to debut in Fall 2019.
One of the most significant curricular initiatives underway at Harvard College is the launch of a thoroughly revised General Education curriculum in Fall 2019. In recognition of the many challenges and opportunities which this new curriculum represents for Harvard, the Bok Center has forged a partnership with the Program in General Education through which we are working closely with Program faculty as they design their assignments and syllabi and plan their in-class activities. Because the new curriculum is particularly interested in tracking affective change in its students, Bok is focusing on developing a culture of meaningful, metacognitively rich writing assignments—meaningful both in terms of their effectiveness in teaching students to think and communicate more cogently and persuasively, and in terms of their authentic connection to students’ interests and concerns.
Among the initiatives to be funded by the grant, received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc., are (1) the provision of bespoke writing support for individual faculty focused on assignment design, sequencing, and feedback; (2) a series of five intensive course design institutes for General Education faculty, which will feature a pronounced emphasis on creating a community of practice around effective writing pedagogy; and (3) the creation of durable online resources focused on trans-disciplinary writing pedagogy, which make the materials and methods developed by the Bok Center accessible to instructors throughout the Harvard community and beyond.
The Bok Center has partnered with the Harvard College Writing Program on the production of a family of web-based resources designed to render the process of assigning, completing, and grading writing assignments more transparent.
HarvardWrites aims to bridge the gap between Harvard's Expository Writing courses for first-year students ("Expos"), which focus on equipping students with a shared language around generally-applicable principles of argumentation, evidence, and structure in academic writing, and the kinds of disciplinary writing that students will do within their concentrations. While students can use the resources on HarvardWrites to refresh their memory of the principles of effective academic writing, instructors can use the site to learn the common language which students should know upon completing Expos, so that they can design disciplinary writing assignments (and calibrate their feedback on them) to connect with what students already know.
GovWrites and AnthroWrites, the first of what we hope will be many discipline-based sites, aim to convene a shared conversation among students and faculty around the disciplinary conventions of their respective fields. What are the common modes in which political scientists or cultural anthropologists write? What are the "moves" that archaeologists or political theorists perform to render objects or texts into evidence for a claim? How do writers in these fields acknowledge their relationship to their predecessors, intervene in field-specific debates, and cite their sources?
The Bok Center is happy to connect departments interested in developing their own entry in the Writes franchise with the Writing Program.