Experience Based Learning: The Interdisciplinary Studies Assessment (ISA) Essay Submission Process
course serves many purposes. It has been
designed in part to give students the tools to express themselves appropriately
in an academic environment. Some of the
topics to be covered in this course include: how to write essays and construct
arguments using a variety of writing strategies; how to research a topic and
integrate that research into an essay; how to uncover and pursue a thesis for
papers on a variety of subjects; and how to properly format and document
research for a formal essay. Students
will address many writing issues, including grammar, structure, and editing,
and the use of voice as a rhetorical strategy.
In addition, this course will guide students through the creation of
their Interdisciplinary Studies Assessment (ISA). The ISA is a collection of formalized accounts
in essay form of experiences adult students have had throughout the course of
their lives that yield knowledge equivalent to college level course work.
The ISA Handbook contains learning outcomes for a variety of academic
disciplines. Students make selections based on past experience judged to be
substantial enough to meet the learning outcomes of assignments in this book
and to satisfy their individual degree requirements. Experience alone does not earn credits. The student must demonstrate the ability to
explain the experience in a research-based critical essay.
ISA essays are collections of formalized accounts in essay form of experiences
adult students have had throughout the course of their lives that yield
knowledge equivalent to college level course work. Experience -based essay credit (ISA)
comes from several components. The key elements include describing personal
experience with the subject and integrating scholarly, resource material
appropriate for college-level learning with that personal experience in an
analytical fashion. Essays that describe the student’s experiences but fail to
analyze them will not receive credit.
Nor will students receive credit for essays that relate theory but do
not apply it to the student’s own experiences.
The successful essay describes, then analyzes. An essay must do both–credits cannot be
awarded to an essay that does only one or the other.
The essays should both tell
the story of personal experience and analyze that experience based on the
chosen academic resources, in some cases exploring other options and opinions
to provide a balanced analysis. The personal experience and analysis need
to be integrated throughout the essay, with frequent reference to cited
material that supports the analysis. Essays that primarily relate
personal narratives without academic analysis, or that are weak in integrating
resources with the personal experience will not receive credit. Essays
with no substantial personal experience with the subject or those without
scholarly resources on the subject will receive no credit.
Essays may only be written in content areas identified in
the ISA Handbook. Students may have many profound experiences from their life
prior to being USF students but the ISA Handbook may not have course
equivalents for many of these experiences. The ISA Handbook is not intended to
be comprehensive of life experience, but representative of the kinds of
experiences that match curriculum offerings at USF.
A thoughtful and extended look at the handbook may reveal
surprising opportunities to write an essay. For example, a student who became a
patient advocate after watching his parent die from cancer cannot write an
essay that gives him biology or health science credit, but he can incorporate
his experience as shaped by the disease, into an essay for theology/religious
studies: Death and Dying. Part of the role of your instructor is to help
students creatively explore the options offered in the ISA Handbook, but with
the caveat that the experience must be authentic.
To possess sufficient experience to
write an ISA essay a student is not restricted to first hand experiences. We
believe that this may limit opportunities and also not be in the spirit of the
ISA process. For a wider interpretation of experience, we believe that if the
student has had a strong, personal, and engaged relationship with someone, then
he or she may write about that person as part of an experience-based essay
For example, if one had grandparents
whom one knew well and from whom one acquired stories of World War II, then that
would be acceptable experience for writing a History essay, even if the student
wasn't in the war him/herself. Reading about WW II without any personal
connection is not acceptable. Likewise, if one had an immediate family member,
partner, or close friend who suffered disease or addiction and can document
one's experience with that person's ordeal, then that is acceptable, too.
Students must document by some
description the depth and quality of the relationship as sufficient to make the
experience personal as opposed to personally having the experience. A close and personal relationship that influences
deeply the life of a student does qualify as personal experience to which a
student can apply his or her ability to explain the experience in a
research-based critical essay.
Writing instructors are responsible for
leading in-class writing workshops that prepare students to compose ISA essays.
In these workshops students will identify content areas likely for development,
build thesis statements that combine an observation about their experience with
a critical interpretation of that experience, research appropriate and helpful
sources, and outline their paper plans. Writing instructors evaluate student
work for their literary and stylistic content, including correct usage and
documentation of sources; writing instructors do not assess essays for ISA
credit. Assessing essays for their eventual success in earning credits through
the evaluation process is not the
purview of the writing instructor. The writing instructor is grading the essay for
its success as a composition; the evaluator is determining the student’s
knowledge and experience in the subject.
Furthermore, instructors are not responsible for suggesting essay
topics for students. Essay topic selection is the responsibility
of each individual student who alone is the best judge of his/her competence to
meet learning outcomes in a specific content area. Only the student has
the necessary knowledge to assess his/her experience. The responsibility to
demonstrate learning lies with the student, not the writing instructor or the
The university has provided
for the ongoing development of ISA essays (which may be submitted on a rolling
basis up to a year after entering the program—see below) by making available to
BSM students the services of a writing tutor. After the conclusion of INTD 310,
your instructor will provide information on how to contact the tutor and how to
best take advantage of this resource. The writing tutor will not advise you on
essay selection or on the evaluation process itself. Like your writing
instructor, the writing tutor cannot assess essays for their eventual success
in earning credits through the evaluation. Nor is the writing tutor a
proofreader or a copyeditor. The writing tutor can help with matters of style
and grammar to insure that students are communicating effectively and deploying
their prior learning experience to the best advantage to show its equivalency
to traditional classroom learning.
Also, all USF students may avail themselves of the USF Learning and Writing Center
for additional help. Contact the Center at:
essays submitted for ISA credit must be 8-12 pages, 12-point font, and 1”
margins. Papers should be composed and submitted in MS Word. Students should
number the pages and put their name in a header to appear on each page. When
citing sources, students should use either the MLA or APA style (both of which
will be covered in INTD 310). Which of
these a student should choose for a particular discipline is indicated in the
upper right hand corner of the page in question. Students are also advised to
submit their papers for analysis through Turnitin
to insure academic integrity. Any essay submission may be submitted to Turnitin at the discretion of an ISA
evaluator. (Please see Appendix B: University Honor Code on page 119 of this
handbook.) Students are required to draw on at least two substantive academic
sources and to meet all the learning outcomes to receive credit.
requiring help finding relevant source material should consult a USF reference
librarian. For all essays students are required to integrate at least two
academic sources from the relevant disciplinary field into the essay. Sources
may not be merely cosmetic. They must
come from and meaningfully engage relevant authorities in the field in which
the essay is written. Wikipedia, for example, is a helpful
place to start your research and may point you in the general direction of
appropriate academic sources to consult. But Wikipedia itself is not an acceptable source.
A rubric that evaluators use to assess your ISA essays is included in this
handbook. We encourage students to consult this rubric as a final checklist to
make sure they have met all the necessary requirements to receive prior
learning credit. Also provided are samples of ISA evaluation forms that you
will receive in the event that you did not receive credit for your essay. These
forms will explain why the evaluator did not award you credit for the essay.
who need few or no credits through the essay submission process need turn in
only the number of essays that address their individual needs and the class
University Advisor will advise you throughout the completion of your degree
program. This advisor will explain what options are available to you for
completing your degree requirements. The advisor for BSM students is Alyssa
Soboleski. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or
You may earn a maximum of twenty-one (21) credits. Students may write up to seven (7)
course equivalent essays that will earn three (3) credits each for meeting
course equivalent standards; otherwise students receive no credit. Essays are
worth three credits based on the number of credits students can earn through a
CLEP exam or transfer credit. If students write in a subject area that also
satisfies the U-core requirement, the subject area requirement will be
satisfied; but students still need to achieve the overall required U-core
credits for graduation. Please consult your academic advisor for additional
information on options to meet graduation requirements.
you may write essays on more than one topic in a given discipline but you may
not write on the same topic twice. For example, you may write several essays in
Theology or Communication. You may not, however, write more than one essay in a
given topic (only one Spiritual
Autobiography, for example).
are submitted electronically. You will receive instructions for how to submit
essays near the conclusion of INTD 310. Instructions also can be found on page
118 of this handbook (Appendix A: ISA Essay Submission Instructions).
Essays are submitted electronically. Please reference Appendix A of this handbook for ISA Essay Submission Instructions. Instructions also are included on the flash drive you received at Orientation, as well as emailed to you during your INTD 310 class.
Essays are evaluated by academics in relevant fields. The
credits earned through your essays are entered on your USF transcript. These
credits are un-graded and do not affect your USF grade point average. The
earned credits may satisfy some Core Curriculum requirements or elective
credits. Course Equivalents that
satisfy Core Curriculum will be indicated accordingly. Otherwise, they will
satisfy general electives. On average, BSM students experience an 85% success
rate at having their essays evaluated as meriting 3 credits for prior learning.
Students will receive an evaluation report when essays
receive no credit. The student may submit a new
essay on the same topic that satisfies the missing rubric standards as
identified by the evaluator’s report. A student may not resubmit an essay on the same topic if
the inadequacy identified by the evaluator was insufficient experience.
Then there can be no resubmission because there never should have been one in
the first place. Essays that receive no credit because the evaluator cited a
lack of personal experience cannot be revised on the same topic.
But if the evaluator indicates that an essay was awarded
no credit because of other rubric measures that were inadequately met (page
length, inadequate or insufficient sources), then the student may write an
essay on the same topic. It is assumed, however, that it is new essay
because it was written to meet all the rubric criteria that were absent in the
For example, Jane Doe loves the theatre and wants to
write an essay on Theatre Production and
Performance. The essay is returned by the evaluator with no credit because
Jane had never actually participated in the production of a theatre
performance. Jane, however, is a theatre aficionado and very much wants to
write about her experience. So she can use some of what she produced for her
original essay, describing aspects of theatre design and production and
possibly her research, but this time she is writing an essay for Theatre Arts Appreciation, where her
experience as a season ticket holder for 20 years at Berkeley Rep gives her the
experience to write authoritatively about her knowledge and love of the
theatre. This new essay, which may have elements used in the original essay,
may then earn 3 credits on evaluation. Or maybe the essay still has
deficiencies; Jane neglected to include two sources and wrote 20 pages instead
of 12. The essay would again be returned by the evaluator with no credit, but
in this case what needed to be corrected was not the valid documentation of
experience but an inattention to detail and essay requirements. Jane may
finally produce an essay that uses elements of the deficient essay but adds the
missing elements and eventually earn 3 credits.
Students who do not wish to develop an essay on the same
topic may write on another topic for course equivalent credit.
Generally this takes about twelve weeks.
Only the writing instructor and the evaluator read essays. Instructors do not discuss personal material from the essays with anyone. In rare cases, if an evaluator’s decision is appealed, the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies may read the essay. This only occurs at the student’s request.
You must receive a C- or higher to successfully complete INTD 310. Those who do not meet the minimum grade requirement must repeat the course and may be placed on academic probation.