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One of the premises of this edited collection is that descriptions of writing matter, and matter deeply. Writing—for reasons articulated throughout this collection—is particularly vulnerable to uneven or problematic portrayals. In higher education, it has become common practice to characterize student learning about writing via identified learning outcomes that students are to meet by the end of a course or program; more recently, entire undergraduate degree experiences are described through an outcomes framework. For example, postsecondary educational reform efforts like the American Association of Colleges and Universities' Liberal Education, America's Promise (LEAP) Initiative structure the undergraduate degree experience around identified "essential learning outcomes," one of which is "written and oral communication" ("LEAP" 2013). Outcomes offer a way to articulate more clearly what shared values for learning might be and how courses support those values; further, they provide an entry point for meaningful assessment. As Jeremy Penn explains, educational outcomes, when employed within a university context and through extensive faculty and student engagement, can "exhibit learning and achievements that are unique to each of our institutions" and "[facilitate] a dialogue about what we expect students to learn in our institutions" (Penn 2011, 12) . Working to describe what students should learn as undergraduates is, of course, a worthy goal. The challenge is to ensure writing development is depicted in meaningful ways.

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This document was originally published in Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies by Utah State University Press. Copyright restrictions may apply.