Calderwood Institute

For ten years the Calderwood Institute helped to improve student writing by providing faculty with a workshop to become more effective teachers of writing. The Institute was deigned by Dr. Phyllis Benay, professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Director of the Center for Writing; Dr. Kirsti Sandy, associate professor of English; and Dr. Mark C. Long, professor of English and American Studies. The Institute was funded for the first five years with a grant from the Calderwood Foundation in Boston and in 2009 Keene State College began funding the project.

The Institute engaged seventy full-time tenure-track members of the faculty in disciplines across the college in meaningful and sustained dialogues about the teaching of writing. The faculty Institute alumni include twenty-two from Arts and Humanities, fifteen from Professional and Graduate Studies, thirty-one from the Sciences and Social Sciences and two from the Mason Library.

Each of the ten Calderwood Institutes since 2003 provided a unique opportunity for 7-8 Keene State faculty members to engage in reading, reflection and dialogue around more effective ways to teach, assign, and evaluate student writing. Drawing on readings about student writing and its relationship to learning, participants examined what we know about students as writers, and the relationship between writing and cognitive development. With mentoring from the facilitators, participants worked individually and collaboratively throughout the academic year to transform their own writing assignments and methods of evaluation and course design.

The outcomes of these institutes are many. The Calderwood faculty have taken ownership over the teaching of writing across the campus: energizing campus-wide and departmental curricular discussions about writing, including departments, like Health Sciences, that have created a writing committee to discuss writing in their major. Calderwood faculty feedback has underscored the value of working with diverse colleagues and sharing, in the words of Gary Bonitatibus from Psychology, “the basic goals and assumptions about the use and merit of writing at the college level.”

In addition, faculty members report that the Institute strengthened a sense of community and common purpose and renewed their sense of purpose educators. Marie Duggan, from Economics commented that “this experience more than any other has given me some of the tools I have long known I needed to become an excellent teacher.” Calderwood faculty note that they are now “more purposeful about why [they] want students to write,” in the words of Wanda Swiger from Athletic Training, and are more committed to the role they play, as Linda Baker from Psychology explains, “in the college’s efforts to teaching writing across the curriculum.” The Calderwood experience has also offered new faculty to build a sense of common purpose with their senior colleagues who in turn experience the rewards of working with more experienced members of the academic community.