The discipline of rhetoric and composition established the Writing Program Administrators Outcomes Statement (WPA OS) to fulfill a general expectation about the skills and knowledge students should be able to demonstrate by the end of first-year composition. Regardless of pedagogy used, academic preparation of the teacher, or preference of particular topics or types of assignments, the WPA OS is versatile. This dissertation employs a problem-solution argument showcasing methods to improve assignments through intentional use of the WPA OS for a fluid conversation throughout first-year composition and a more clear articulation of course goals. This dissertation includes summation, analysis, and synthesis of documents that inform first-year composition curriculum from foundational organizations within the field, including National Council of Teachers of English, Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Writing Project, and Conference on College Composition and Communication. This study uses the WPA OS as a lens to examine and revise writing assignments that aid in students' comprehension of the WPA OS with particular focus on the areas of rhetorical knowledge and critical thinking, reading, and writing. Framing assignment design with theoretically grounded content and the use of common topics throughout first-year composition is one way to operationalize the WPA OS. Using common topics throughout course content presents opportunities for teachers to include detailed scaffolding in assignments that expand students' literate practices and engage students as critical thinkers and writers. This study explores how using the topic of family, a common topic to all students, provides a rich bank of social, historical, and cultural elements for research and writing. The topic of family seamlessly employs multimodal composition, which presents students with opportunities for developing rhetorical knowledge and expanding students' literacies. This dissertation displays evidence of praxis of the WPA OS from assignment development to presentation of student samples. This study recommends the use of common topics and intentional application of the WPA OS to construct assignments that clearly articulate learning goals in first-year composition.
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