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the five

core values

what makes someone a successful writer?

It is common to assume that that successful writers are “just born with” superior writing skills, and that successful writing means doing a particular set of tasks well: we often associate successful writing with “smart-sounding” sentences, proper use of grammar, clear thesis statements, and writing that “flows” (whatever that means...)

However, in the First-Year Writing Program, we do not equate successful writing with a To Do list of tasks. Instead, our goal is to help students develop useful and productive ways of thinking about writing.







These "useful and productive ways of thinking about writing" can also be understood as habits of mind

habit is a behavior that has been expressed so often that it becomes routine or automatic. Something becomes a habit when you don’t need to be reminded to do it. “Habits of mind,” then, are ways of thinking that have become habitual, or automatic.

First-Year Writing Program courses are designed to present you with repeated opportunities to practice these ways of thinking, so that in the future, they will become habitual. You’ll approach future writing tasks with these understandings in mind, without even having to think about them.

What are these five “habits of mind,”

and where do they come from?

The Rowan First-Year Writing Program’s five Core Values are informed by extensive research in the field of composition and rhetoric, and they align with research outcomes and objectives for First-Year Writing Programs that have been established by the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the National Writing Project (NWP). These national organizations of scholars have agreed on a series of “habits of mind” that are associated with successful college and post-college writing (in other words, things that successful college writers know and are able to put into practice, regardless of their major or area of study). 


The five Core Values are consistent across all FYW courses. However, the learning objectives for each of the Core Values are distinct for each course. As you move through the First-Year Writing program sequence,  your understanding of the five Core Values will expand and develop. In CCII, for instance, you will be expected to demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of each Core Value than you demonstrated in CCI.

Use the dropdown menu below to learn more about each of the Core Values. You can access the learning objectives for each FYW course in the specific course sections. To see how the learning objectives for each Core Value evolve over time, view this printable chart.

  • CORE VALUE I. Writing is a practice that involves a multi-stage, recursive and social process."
    Writing is a process that involves multiple stages and that does not always follow a linear path. In other words, we don’t read, write, and revise once and in that exact order; rather, we engage in a variety of activities at multiple points as we compose a text. These activities include but are not limited to reading, generating and discussing ideas, researching, drafting, reviewing and sharing our work, reflecting, and revising, and they can take place through a variety of technologies and tools. Many of these activities require you to discuss your work with others—your peers, your instructor, and potentially people outside the class—to both give and receive feedback. In this way, writing is a social experience, one that depends on open-minded collaboration that respects identity and language differences and how these shape the way we write and read.
  • CORE VALUE II. Close and critical reading/analysis is necessary for listening to and questioning texts, arriving at a thoughtful understanding of those texts, and joining the academic and/or public conversations represented by those texts."
    Writers create texts to communicate ideas, and they make specific compositional choices in their writing to achieve their goals. These choices are in terms of language, materials/mediums (physical and/or digital), and other compositional elements, including typography, layout, design, images, sound, editing, and more. As readers, we must analyze these elements to determine the authors’ meanings, as well as the ideologies that have shaped the ideas and how they are expressed/presented through texts. Readers engage with texts not only to understand their meanings and listen to other authors but also to question them. By engaging with multiple authors during the reading and writing processes, and by constructing relationships among texts, you will discover and create “conversations” to join by working with and adding to those authors’ ideas.
  • CORE VALUE III. Writing is shaped by audience, purpose, genre, and context."
    Writing is an act of communication that involves an author writing for a purpose and using a genre to reach an audience in a specific context--these elements constitute the rhetorical situation. Taking the rhetorical situation into account helps you to analyze the choices and strategies of other authors, as well as to create effective texts of your own. Effective writers assess audience expectations and the textual conventions associated with a situation or genre as they create a text for a specific purpose; they then make strategic decisions about how they want to meet or challenge those expectations in terms of mode, content, structure, rhetorical appeals, presentation/design, language, and style. Thoughtful writers recognize the historical and political contexts of genre conventions and audience expectations, and how their own choices related to conventions/expectations have the power to uphold or challenge the status quo; this includes responses to the historical academic call for “standard written English” (white middle-class English), which has contributed to the language oppression of people of color and failed to recognize the rich linguistic resources that writers of all backgrounds bring to the table.
  • CORE VALUE IV. Information literacy is essential to the practice of writing.
    Academic and intellectual writing is informed writing, which means contextualizing our ideas within pre-existing conversations and providing evidence beyond our personal experiences or opinions. Conversely, it also means recognizing the limitations of existing conversations, including how dominant venues/platforms have privileged the voices of the powerful, failed to include and represent the lived experiences of the full spectrum of humanity, and undervalued personal experience as evidence. To produce informed writing, you will need to develop the skills necessary to locate information in a digital environment; to evaluate authorship, expertise, and quality, particularly toward including the underrepresented perspectives of people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people with disabilities, people who are neurodivergent, women, and people of all socioeconomic backgrounds; to determine which information to incorporate into your own writing depending on the rhetorical situation; and to document your sources appropriately.
  • CORE VALUE V. Writing has power and comes with ethical responsibilities.
    Because writing is not only personal but also public and social, there are ethical concerns that we must take into account. The most obvious component of ethical writing is crediting others for their ideas through proper citation, which is also an act of sharing research with others. Just as important, ethical writing involves conscientiously listening to other authors, doing the work of navigating linguistic differences, understanding their ideas and how they have arrived at their perspectives, and accurately representing them in your own writing. Through this process of critical and conscientious reading/listening, you will understand that there can be a variety of valid perspectives on an issue/topic and that ethical writing represents the complexity of an issue by respectfully acknowledging multiple perspectives.






Students present portfolios at the end of each semester. Every portfolio includes a Reflective Statement, a formal document in which you reflect on your development of the five Core Values over the course of the semester. Your instructor will evaluate your Reflective Statement and your portfolio writing projects, to determine how well you have met the learning objectives of each Core Value.


Upon completion of the First-Year Writing Program course sequence, you should fully understand the five Core Values.

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