Jill Gladstein Recognized for Work on National Writing Program Database

Jill Gladstein

Update (8/25/16): Associate Professor of English Literature Jill Gladstein has been awarded the National Council of Writing Program Administrators Extraordinary Service Award for her work on the National Census of Writing.

Original story from Inside Higher Ed (8/8/16): The National Census of Writing has released the results of its ambitious survey on writing centers and programs in the U.S., giving administrators, faculty members, and researchers an open-access view of the national landscape of how writing is taught.

The release is a culmination of a nearly three-year effort to survey every college and university in the U.S. on the state of their writing programs, how they identify and support underprepared students, the administrators in charge, and more. Writing program administrators have for years toyed with the idea of such a survey, but the daunting logistical challenges of the effort have served as a major deterrent.

The researchers behind the census say the survey is the most comprehensive of its kind conducted in more than three decades. In total, the census contains data from 900 colleges -- three-quarters of them four-year institutions, the rest two-year institutions -- that answered all or some of the 200-question, eight-section survey. Colleges had to complete at least one section for their responses to be collected.

The database is housed at Swarthmore College, but a full list of contributors can be found here. It includes the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which provided funding to hire a developer.

To build on the data, which was collected between March 2013 and October 2014, the researchers plan to redo the census every four years. They are not publishing an official summary of findings, choosing instead to treat the data as a resource.

“The idea was to create a space where we could gather data so it could be open access and sustainable so that researchers and administrators could come and use the data in whichever way they like,” said Jill Gladstein, associate professor of English literature and director of Swarthmore’s Writing Associates Program. She served as project leader for the census.

In other words, the census can serve as a starting point for an administrator who needs to make a case for his or her writing program or a researcher looking for a simple data point, Gladstein said. By visiting the census website, those and other users base their decisions on data, not anecdotes. With a few clicks, visitors can see how 39 percent of writing centers at four-year institutions are freestanding units, for example, or that 63 percent of two-year institutions allow students to place out of the first-semester first-year writing requirement.

Read the full article at Inside Higher Ed.

Gladstein directs Swarthmore's nationally recognized Writing Program, which coordinates the training of student Writer Associates, providing writing help through courses across the curriculum and via the Writing Center. She also teaches English 1A, Insights into Academic Writing, and works extensively with faculty on improving their teaching of writing. She has presented conference papers and published on the topics of English language learning in undergraduate education, administrating writing programs, what makes for effective peer tutoring in writing, and other topics. 

Read more about the the writing database's creation, which included collaboration from faculty, staff, and students.