To:                   Rensselaer Faculty


From:               Lee Odell


Re:                   Implementing the Communication Intensive Program


As a first step in implementing the new communication intensive program, the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee is inviting faculty to propose courses they would like to have designated “communication intensive.”  These proposals (see Proposing Communication Intensive Courses, below) will be reviewed by a committee appointed by FSCC and consisting of faculty from each of Rensselaer’s five schools.  FSCC anticipates that the program will be implemented in stages—perhaps involving 150-200 students in the fall of 2006 and 300 or so more students in the spring of 2007, with comparable increases in subsequent semesters.  The goal is to have the program fully implemented by the 2009-2010 academic year.


Support for the Program


To provide support for the communication intensive program during the 2006-2007 academic year, Rensselaer has hired one full-time clinical faculty member and one adjunct. In the fall of 2006, these Center staff will work directly with three or four communication intensive courses.  In the spring of 2007, they will work with three or four additional courses.  For these courses, the clinical faculty member and the adjunct will meet with students, help design evaluation procedures, and make presentations to classes.  They will also work with faculty to gather excellent examples of student work, identify the features that make this work excellent, and, if faculty and students wish, post these exemplars on a web site that will be available to all students.  Center staff, however, will not grade student work for “writing” while faculty teaching communication intensive courses grade students’ papers for “content.”  


It is likely, of course, that many faculty will have well-established procedures for working with students’ written and oral communication and, thus, may need little or no support for a communication intensive course.  Thus the number of communication intensive courses offered in any semester need not be limited to those courses for which Rensselaer can provide all the support mentioned above.   In any case, students in all communication intensive courses will have access to the Center for Communication Practices.  In addition, the clinical faculty member and adjunct will work with faculty to provide students with annotated examples of student work that illustrate qualities that are essential in a given communication intensive course.







Proposing Communication Intensive Courses


Faculty who want to have a course designated communication intensive should submit a proposal to any member of the committee listed below.  The proposal should include the following.  1) a brief memo giving the title of the course, the course description in the Catalog, and the first semester in which the course would be offered as a communication intensive course; and 2) a course syllabus containing the following information.

    The number of formal written/oral assignments students will complete.  Two formal assignments are the minimum; three or more are preferable.  Successive drafts of a longer assignment such as a design report or undergraduate thesis may count as separate assignments.


    The amount of written and/or oral work required for each formal assignment. Over the course of a semester, each student should be required to compose, at a minimum, the equivalent of 15 pages (typed, double-spaced) of writing done outside class. In determining the extent to which an oral presentation meets this requirement, one rule of thumb is that it can take speakers approximately two minutes to present the amount of information contained on one page of typed text. (This assumes that the lines of type are double-spaced.) 


    The means by which each student will be assessed on his or her ability to communicate orally and/or in writing.  For group projects, assessment of individual students might entail such strategies as the following:  assigning grades to each individual for his or her part in an oral presentation; basing individual grades for a lengthy report not only on the overall quality of the report but on each individual’s work on a section for which he or she is the principal author; asking students to write an explanation of how their portion of the group project displays communicative competencies listed below.


·         The percentage of the final grade accounted for by the formal written/oral assignments. These assignments should count for at least 25% of the final grade for the course.


    The extent to which students’ grades on the formal assignments will reflect their ability to communicate effectively.  Invariably, instructors will want to use formal assignments to assess students’ understanding of course content.  But a substantial portion of the grade for each final assignment should reflect students’ ability to display communicative competencies listed below.


Review Process


As mentioned earlier, all proposed courses will be reviewed by a committee that is appointed by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee and comprised of faculty from all five schools.  This committee will:


  Determine whether syllabi for proposed courses have the information indicated above;

  Make a recommendation to FSCC as to whether a proposed course should be designated communication intensive;

• Review all communication intensive courses at three-year intervals.

The review committee consists of the following faculty:


Architecture:  Ken Warriner

Engineering:  Bob Messler

Humanities and Social Sciences: John Gowdy and Lee Odell (Chair)

Management:  Chris McDermott

Science:  Bill Siegmann


Communicative Competencies


Rensselaer graduates must be able to communicate effectively in a variety of media (written, spoken, visual, electronic) and in a variety of genres (reports, proposals, etc.)  Whatever the medium and genre, Rensselaer students should be able to:


  1. Understand the context in which they are communicating,


a.  Identifying the goals of and audience for their communication


b.  Using their understanding of goals and audience to choose appropriate media, language, and content


2.  Organize their work,


a.  Establishing a clear structure or principle of organization


b.  Creating effective introductory and concluding passages in which they identify their main point and set their work in a larger context


  1. Develop content appropriately,


a.    Displaying a clear ethical sensibility (e.g., reporting data accurately, citing sources of information)


b.      Asserting and elaborating on claims using evidence and reasoning that are appropriate for their audience and their discipline/profession


c.       Addressing the questions and/or topics that are essential for success with a given assignment


d.  Understanding, and, as appropriate, applying principles of visual communication (graphs, charts, animations, pictures) in their written or spoken work


4. Edit their written work carefully,


a.  Observing the conventions of Standard English (e.g., correct usage, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation)


b.      Observing the conventions (e.g., terminology and page format) of a particular discipline or workplace