Report on Writing Across the Curriculum
Curriculum Research Team
One institution’s rationale for writing across the curriculum:
"Learning to write is a life-long task, one that begins in childhood, is enhanced by formal education, and is further refined through an individual’s personal, social, and professional experiences. At the University, writing is the principal means by which all scholars—from faculty researchers to undergraduate students—conduct inquiries and communicate their learning. Writing and learning are inseparable; learning to write effectively can be one of the most intellectually empowering components of a university education. The University regards the teaching of writing as a responsibility shared by all departments. Thus, the University has established a ‘writing across the curriculum’ program, which is based on several complementary objectives:
Good writers write a great deal; they practice on a continuing basis, so one of the goals of writing-intensive courses is to offer ongoing writing practice.
Good writers are able to write for a variety of audiences; they understand that effective writing depends on context—who is writing what to whom, in what settings, and for what purposes. For this reason, students should write in many different kinds of courses, to audiences ranging from their peers to senior scholars and scientists.
Good writers are also able to produce a range of different kinds of writing—from helpful personal notes and journals of their own work to public documents, memoranda, and correspondence. So the nature of the writing done in ‘writing-intensive’ courses should vary considerably.
Because no one course can meet all these goals, the collective goal of all these writing-intensive courses is to prepare students to communicate effectively in a variety of situations at the University, in their future employment, and in their roles as citizens." (from the University of Minnesota web site)
Issues for WAC programs
- Defining what is meant by "writing intensive" – a definition for UNCA writing intensive courses would have to be established. In surveying other institutions, one finds that some definitions are abstract, focussing on goals and principles; other definitions are specific and require a certain number of pages/assignments, revisions, and precise tasks.
- Faculty development – faculty in all disciplines must be given ongoing training opportunities in teaching and evaluating writing.
- Faculty incentives – incentives to encourage faculty participation should be provided. These may be intangible (consideration in rewards system) or tangible (smaller class size).
- Oversight – an infrastructure is needed to ensure that standards are met in a consistent way and that there is regular assessment of the program.
- Timing and remediation – students should have early feedback on deficiencies, and they must have the means of remediation. This may well involve expansion of Writing Center resources and perhaps creating a Student Writing Fellows Program whereby strong student writers are given course credit for assisting faculty in reading and responding to student essays.
- Class size – to provide effective instruction, ample practice and feedback, WI classes should be small, ideally 20 students and no more than 25.
1. The National Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs (http://www.gmu.edu/departments/wac/wacnet.htm)
The National Network is an informal community of some 600 teachers and institutions at all levels of education. Its purpose is to facilitate exchange of ideas and practices among member institutions. Meetings of the Network are held at the annual conventions of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. The meetings are issues-and-problems workshops, with the agenda set by the concerns of those present.
The Network has also co-sponsored three collections of essays for WAC program developers:, ed. Susan McLeod (Jossey-Bass, 1988).
Strengthening Programs for Writing Across the Curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum: A Guide to Developing Programs, eds. Susan McLeod and Margot Soven (Sage, 1992).
WAC for the New Millennium, eds. McLeod, Miraglia, Soven, and Thaiss (NCTE, 2000).
2. The Council of Writing Program Administrators (http://english.ilstu.edu/Hesse/wpawelcome.htm)
The Council is a national association of college and university faculty with professional responsibilities or interests as directors of writing programs. Members include directors of freshman composition or undergraduate writing, WAC coordinators, writing center directors, department chairs, deans, and so on. The Council sponsors a Consultant-Evaluator Service, through which teams of trained consultant-evaluators help colleges and universities develop and assess their writing programs. The Council holds an Annual Workshop and Conference. Twice each year the Council publishes a refereed journal, WPA: Writing Program Administration. Each year WPA awards Research Grants to support scholarship directly related to writing program administration. WPA sponsors two sessions each year at the MLA.
1. The University of Minnesota requires a composition course in the freshman year plus four writing intensive courses. Their Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing provides support for writing instruction. http://cisw.cla.umn.edu/faculty/index.html
2. George Mason University requires a composition course in the freshman year plus an advanced composition course offered in four versions: Business, Humanities, Natural Sciences/Technology, and Social Sciences. GMU also hosts the National WAC Network. http://wac.gmu.edu/index.html
3. Mary Washington College requires one freshman composition course and four writing intensive courses. The Writing Intensive Program provides support to faculty and students. http://www.mwc.edu/acaf/summer_memo/wirequire.htm
4. Vanderbilt University requires a freshman writing course plus two writing intensive courses; all writing courses must be completed by the end of the sophomore year. The College Writing Program provides support. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cwp