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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

November 5, 2004

Senate to determine ISUComm fate

by Linda Charles

ISUComm, a new way to teach communication to students, could be fully implemented by 2007 if the Faculty Senate approves the curricular plan during the Nov. 9 meeting.

The senate also will be asked to approve ISUComm catalog copy. The plan is to phase in ISUComm during the 2005-2007 catalog period by offering both ISUComm foundation courses and the two traditional communication courses (English 104 and 105) that eventually would be eliminated. By 2007, only the ISUComm foundation courses would be offered.

ISUComm incorporates "WOVE" (written, oral, visual and electronic communications) into the curriculum through two semester-long foundation courses. The first, to be taken during the freshman year, focuses on written communication, although other forms of communication are used to enhance writing skills. The second, to be taken by most students in the sophomore year, involves greater integration of all four forms of communication. (English 104 and 105 often are taken during the same year, usually when a student is a freshman.)

In addition, ISUComm encourages departments to incorporate communication skills into upper-level curricula so students hone those skills through their entire university careers.

For example, Jess Comer, who teaches "Introduction to Mechanical Design," began requiring students to critique presentations by their classmates at the suggestion of ISUComm consultants. Traditionally, the students in the audience served as "warm bodies" during student presentations.

However, now they present team reviews of the presentations, which engages them in the learning experience, Comer said.

Michael Mendelson, an English professor who headed the ISUComm effort, said some of the challenges in developing ISUComm included determining the appropriate mix of the four communication skills in the foundation courses and making sure students could handle the curriculum.

Students in several pilot sections of ISUComm 105 were required to do more writing than those in English 105, along with their study and practice in the other kinds of communication. "We had to see if students could accommodate that increased load of WOVE," Mendelson said.

Preliminary research has revealed positive trends, he added. Students in four pilot ISUComm 105 classes last spring were tested in five areas (purpose, context and audience; orderly line of thought; use of materials; visual communication; and mechanics and grammar).

Comparison of their tests at the beginning and end of the course showed the 56 students in the test "had statistically higher mean post-test scores for all categories," according to an ISUComm report.

The senate meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, in the Memorial Union Sun Room.


Students in several pilot sections of ISUComm 105 were required to do more writing than those in English 105.