Directed Self Placement (DSP)

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Directed Self Placement (DSP)

The first-year writing experience can be fulfilled by completing one of the following options below, which are chosen by students in a directed self-placement (DSP) step-by-step process (see explanation below) conducted in the summer before the student begins their study at UW Tacoma. The philosophy behind the DSP placement model is to provide students with agency and choice, knowing that with the right guidance and information on the program and course options, most students will make good placement choices (Royer & Gilles, 1998; 2003) for their needs. Students know best their own reading and writing capabilities and experiences, and will feel more confident going into whatever course option they choose (Reynolds, 2003). This placement model has also shown in research to improve classroom cultures in which students feel forced or placed there by high-stakes tests or test scores. Students in similar DSP programs across the U.S. have shown high levels of satisfaction with their course choices and development along course outcomes (Inoue, 2009; 2012; Royer & Gilles, 2003). The bottom line is that our DSP process at UW Tacoma is designed to give students guidance and control over their educational journey and help them accomplish the writing goals we understand they need for success in the future in school and beyond. 

Transfer Students: Students who transfer with credits from another college or university who still need to meet UW Tacoma's "C" requirement will have to take one of the options listed below. It's a good idea for such transfer students to review the information on this page and go through a step-by-step DSP process. This will help them figure out what writing course(s) will best help them succeed as well. 


The Process

In consultation with either writing center staff, University Writing Program faculty, or an academic advisor, each student uses the online materials to help them make a decision about their writing course placement. The 20-minute process usually takes place in the Writing Center or other designated place on campus during summer orientations, where each student will move through the following steps to help make a course placement decision:  

  • Review the course options and the successful student profiles for each course option
  • Read a few examples of typical student writing from each option 
  • Complete a 5-minute writing prompt
  • Make a course selection

This process will produce a course placement only, and that decision should be left to the student, but help in completing and thinking about the process and the FYW materials should be guided by Writing Center staff, faculty, and/or academic councilors. 

Placement Choices

First Decision: What first-year writing course should I take? 

  • Option 1: TWRT 120 and TWRT 121 (two consecutive quarters). This is the default choice for most students entering UW Tacoma, and the one that faculty tend to suggest to students who are unsure. Students who feel they need two 10-week quarters to meet proficient levels in all the goals of the program may choose this option. TWRT 120 is a C/NC course, so that students are not prematurely graded on their writing before they’ve been given all the time they have requested. TWRT 121 is graded. 
  • Option 2: TCORE 101 (Single quarter). Students who feel they can meet proficient levels in all the learning goals (see above) of the program within 10 weeks can choose this option.

Both options provide university credit and use the same course goals and curricula. The only difference is how much time students get to demonstrate proficiency. 

Second Decision: Do I want to add a 2-unit studio course in order to get more personalized instruction? 

Regardless of the option chosen, students may also choose to take TWRT 111, which is a concurrent 2-unit studio course that is taken with the writing course chosen by the student. Students choose this option if they feel they need extra help with English, particularly with fluency and sentence-level issues. The studio course offers more time within any quarter as well as more time in the academic year for completing the first-year writing requirement. TWRT 111 may be taken up to 8 times in a student's time at UW Tacoma.