Directed Self-Placement at SSU

What is Directed Self-Placement?

Directed Self-Placement (DSP) helps you choose the first-year English experience that is right for you!

It asks you to think about your English class writing experiences and your feelings about them. It will take approximately 1-2 hours in an online session on Canvas (SSU’s learning management system). In the DSP process, you will

  • Engage in a series of college-level reading and writing tasks
  • Reflect on your reading and writing skills and experiences
  • Learn about first-year reading and writing courses at SSU
  • Choose your first-year writing course. You already have been placed in one, but if you wish to change your placement because of this DSP experience, you may do so!

The Benefits of DSP

Once students have experienced a typical college-level reading and writing assignment and have reflected on their skills as readers and writers, they are ready to make an informed choice about their first-year reading and writing  course. Studies show that when students make their own course choice, they are more motivated, more engaged, and more satisfied with their work than when they are simply placed in a course according to the results of a one-shot test. [Source: research studies from the University of Michigan and our sister CSU campuses]

Here are some student testimonials, in quotes and in a video!

·        “I chose to take this class through the Direct Self-Placement and I’m glad that I did. Honestly, at the start of the year, I didn’t feel confident in my writing due to previous teachers giving me minimal feedback and encouragement but as the year progressed, I can confidently say that I feel proud of my work.”

·        “I am happy I chose this class though because I have always struggled with English class and this class was the right pace for me. If I chose the one semester option I think I would’ve been overly stressed and not have had a good grade in the class”

·       “I chose this class through the Direct Self-Placement process because I thought that it would be a lot slower paced than the other option based on their descriptions.  I do feel pretty happy that I chose this class.”

·      “I knew college came with writing many papers, so I chose this class to teach me how in a thorough manner. I am glad I chose this course.”

Who benefits from DSP?

All incoming first-time first-year students can benefit from DSP! Even if you think that you will receive AP credit, you should still log into DSP to confirm your AP status. (AP credit results from receiving a score of 3 or above on either the AP exam for English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition.)

What are the 5 steps of DSP?

  1. In Canvas, SSU’s online learning management system, students print out, read, and annotate a short piece of college-level reading.

  2. Students write an argument that responds to the reading and upload it to Canvas.

  3. Students reflect on the reading and writing they have just completed in this DSP process, as well as on their high school preparation for college-level work.

  4. Students then learn about first-year reading and writing courses at SSU & view testimonials from students.

  5. Students decide which first-year reading and writing course they wish to take (and they will have the option to add English 99T: Basic Composition—Tutoring). If you do not wish to change your existing placement, no further action is required. If you wish to switch from 101 to 100A, you may do so at any time during open registration. If you wish to switch from 100A to 101, you will need approval. Please email Dr. Anthony Rizzuto, the Director of the Writing Program:

How to access DSP

DSP is located online in Canvas, SSU’s online Learning Management System. You will also use Canvas to complete coursework for classes you are taking at SSU. To start the DSP activity, follow these steps:

  1. If you are a Hutchins Liberal Studies major, click here:

  2. All other majors and undeclared students should click here:

  3. Enter your SSU Seawolf ID and Password; then click on the Login button.
    Note: If you need password assistance, click on the Username & Password Assistance link located under the Username and Password fields; otherwise, contact the IT Help Desk at (707) 664-4357 or email

To complete DSP, you will need:

  • Connection to high-speed internet

  • Word processing software such as MS Word, Text Edit, or Notepad

  • Printer (recommended)

  • A space where you can work with minimal distractions.

First-Year Composition/Reading Courses and Tutorial Support at SSU

Students have a choice of two first-year writing courses at SSU, both of which satisfy the graduation reading and writing requirement (GE Area A2):

  • English 101: the faster-paced, more challenging first-year reading and writing course (one semester; 25 students per class) OR
  • English 100A-100B: the year-long course that “stretches” English 101 readings, skills, and assignments (25 students per class)

Please note: Students may also choose to add English 99T: Basic Composition—Tutoring, a Credit/NC one-on-one writing tutorial ideal for multilingual learners and those seeking extra writing support.

How Should Students Make Their Course Choice?

Students should consider what experiences they have reading and writing challenging texts, how confident they are in their reading and writing skills, and whether additional time and support from their writing professor might be useful to their development as readers and writers. College writing assignments often include locating and incorporating research into argument-based writing assignments, so if a student is not familiar with research-based writing, they might find ENGL 100A-B useful.


Please contact the English Department Analyst Kate Sims at