Signature Writing

For SWE administrative guidance, see the Guide for Course Directors and Faculty or the Canvas Training Video

Signature Writing Assignments

Every course linked to the Writing Program includes one assignment that its course director explicitly designates as a "Signature Writing Event" (SWE). SWEs usually occur in the latter stages of a course, allowing time for cadets to develop as thinkers and writers in the discipline at hand. Moreover, such events are almost always prepared writing assignments, enabling cadets to engage in a full writing process. Whenever possible, these events build on the ideals of "Signature Work" as defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities: they provide opportunities for cadets to take greater ownership of their educations and demonstrate learning within a field by formulating original, innovative contributions to problems they themselves define.

Design Guidelines:

  1. The SWE represents a significant writing assignment in the course, as determined by the program or course director. 
  2. The basic assignment for the SWE is standardized across the course, though variation across sections is permitted in terms of specific prompts, datasets, or supporting materials.
  3. The SWE is individually authored and documented according to relevant guidance in the DAAW.
  4. In addition to whatever feedback and grades they render to cadets, faculty must complete a digital WPWP Assessment Rubric that separately assesses the writing proficiency of each cadet as demonstrated in the SWE.​ (downloadable rubric for reference)

Signature Writing Event Rubric

Faculty use a standard, WPWP rubric to evaluate all cadet SWEs. They rely on their knowledge of conventions and expectations appropriate to the assignment to complete this assessment, which is separate and independent from the grade and feedback they otherwise render cadets. (Cadets may fail assignments yet demonstrate writing proficiency and vice versa.) The purpose of the rubric is to enable the Academy to track the development of cadets as writers across the curriculum. 

  1. SUBSTANCE: Expresses ideas, arguments, or findings with insight, nuance, and precision. Enlists credible, relevant evidence; develops sound logic and convincing analysis.
  2. ORGANIZATION: Structures work according to appropriate disciplinary or generic expectations. Develops orderly, cohesive paragraphs or sections as well as a clear, logical flow guided by effective transitions.
  3. STYLE & PRESENTATION: Models style suitable to the genre or discipline, e.g. with regard to tone or diction. Adheres to conventions in formatting, layout, elements of visual rhetoric, etc.
  4. MECHANICS & CORRECTNESS: Uses language with clarity, accuracy, and concision. Errors or awkwardness that are present do not significantly impede understanding.
  5. DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is correct and complete according to the applicable standard.

Faculty also assess OVERALL PROFICIENCY: Communicates effectively on the whole. Responds adequately to the assignment, demonstrating understanding of its audience, context, and purpose.

In each category, cadets earn one of four possible marks: Exemplary, Satisfactory, Marginal, Not Proficient.

Best Practices for Signature Writing Assessment 

Cadets' SWEs should represent their best work; as such, they offer important measures of cadets' progress in specific genres and disciplines. Collectively, the SWEs that cadets complete across their coursework yield a sense of their development as writers in general. Cadets who repeatedly fail to demonstrate proficiency on Signature Writing Events, no matter the grades they receive in the events or courses themselves, may be directed by the WPWP to further learning opportunities (potentially including an additional course) that develop them as writers.

  1. Faculty are the experts. They evaluate the SWE based on their knowledge of effective writing in their discipline as well as of the standards appropriate for college students enrolled in a course like theirs. 
  2. Faculty consider only a cadet's final product. The SWE - not drafts or other assignments - should represent the best a cadet can produce. 
  3. Faculty judge "Overall Proficiency" holistically. A cadet's score of "Not Proficient" in one subcategory does not necessarily warrant an overall assessment of "Not Proficient."
  4. Remember: The grade and feedback faculty render to cadets for the purpose of their learning are distinct from how they score this rubric. Faculty can access additional information on providing effective feedback on the Faculty Resources page.


Cadets marked as "Not Proficient" on one SWE beyond First-Year Composition may receive a formal notice from the Writing Program on the importance for officership of writing effectively and on additional resources available to them. Failure to demonstrate overall proficiency on more than one SWE across WiC and WiP coursework may trigger a WPWP review of the cadet's written work, whereupon cadets may be directed to take on additional development (potentially including a course in developmental and professional writing). Consequences for failure to demonstrate proficiency in SWEs for WiM courses are determined by the relevant academic department. While demonstrated proficiency in writing is essential to graduates' Army careers, the WPWP does not impose graduation requirements beyond those already embedded in cadets' programs of study.