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Open Access Publications from the University of California

It Takes a Campus: Agility in the Development of Directed Self-Placement


Transitioning from a conventional placement model for first-year writing to a student self-placement (SSP) model requires many stakeholders to shift their perspectives on students, assessment, and the nature of the work of writing program administrators (WPAs). This article recounts the communicative and administrative agility involved in launching SSP while simultaneously researching its effects on student success. It also foregrounds the shifts in numerous roles--including those of instructors, students, and advisors, and even our own roles as WPA-researchers--that have been prompted by the transition to SSP. In particular, this article explores the connections between those roles and academic paternalism--an attitude that presumes to know what is best for students, that doubts students' abilities to make good placement decisions, and that treats conventional placement outcomes as the measure against which SSP should be judged. Adherence to academic paternalism and its investment in "expert" assessment of student writing ability emerges as an obstacle to realizing the full potential of SSP to support equitable placement practices.

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