Writing Across the Curriculum Committee Resources

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Program Goals

Through multiple Writing Intensive classes, students will:

  • Develop strategies for effective writing;
  • Learn to use and value writing as a tool for learning;
  • Learn to write in the primary genres of their chosen fields, following appropriate conventions.

The guidelines below that expand upon the basic WAC criteria (in bold) are not inflexible, but they give applicants a picture of the sort of course the WAC Committee envisages. Alternative means to the same end will certainly be considered.

A. The course must use writing to promote the learning of course materials. Instructors assign formal and informal writing, both in class and out, to increase students’ understanding of course material as well as improve writing skills.

The Carthage Writing Across the Curriculum Committee is looking for classes that use writing as a vehicle for learning, classes that require students to express, reformulate, or apply the concepts of an academic discipline. The emphasis on writing is not intended primarily to give students additional practice in basic composition skills but to encourage students to think more clearly and express their thoughts more precisely. The WAC Committee certifies as Writing Intensive courses that take a two-pronged approach to learning, with the students addressing the subject matter via written assignments and the professor attempting to improve the quality of students’ performance by giving feedback and requiring revision.

The success of a Writing Intensive course depends far more on the professor’s professional commitment to this style of teaching than it does on adherence to any particular formula. Because of the importance of this commitment, the WAC Committee prefers to certify courses that are voluntarily proposed by faculty participants, rather than courses that are selected for WI status by departments and then assigned to instructors.

B. The course provides interaction between the instructor and students while students do assigned writing; in effect, the instructor acts as an expert and the student as an apprentice in a community of writers. Types of interaction will vary. For example, a professor who requires the completion of one long essay may review sections of the essay, write comments on drafts, and be available for conferences. The professor who requires several short papers may demonstrate techniques for drafting and revising in the classroom, give students guidance on the composition of papers, and consult with students after the completion of their papers. Because such interaction takes time, and the effects are cumulative, writing should be distributed throughout the term.

Each course should include multiple assignments that are complex enough to require substantive revision for most students. Students should submit a draft or other preliminary writing, consider responses from the professor (and, whenever possible, from other students), revise, and finally edit. The final versions of these assignments and significant drafts should total at least 16 pages. Writing Intensive courses usually include some assignments so demanding that only a few students will do a completely satisfactory job in a single draft. The first draft or preliminary writing then becomes a testing ground for the student’s ideas and reasoning, and the professor’s or peers’ responses to the writing are an integral part of the instruction in the course. Clearly, the sort of revision the Committee has in mind involves rethinking and rewriting, not merely the correcting of grammatical and stylistic errors.

Writing for the course should be distributed through the semester rather than concentrated at the end. If writing is being used as a mode of instruction, then it is clearly not appropriate to have written assignments concentrated at the end of the semester. Some of the best WI courses tend to contain a series of short papers distributed through the semester rather than one or two major projects. Other successful courses use only two papers but take these papers through a multistage revision process.

C. Writing contributes significantly to each student’s course grade. Writing assignments must make up at least 30% of each student’s course grade.

Written assignments should be a major component of the course grade. In many WI courses, papers account for 70% or more of the semester grade. Papers must count at least 30% of the course grade.

D. The course requires students to do a substantial amount of writing—a minimum of 4,000 words or about 16 pages. This may include informal writing. Depending on the course content, students may write analytic essays, critical reviews, journals, lab reports, research reports or reaction papers, etc; drafts of papers may count toward the 16-page total if they:

1) receive serious feedback from the professor (or peer feedback guided by the professor) and

2) are subject to significant revision.

Writing for the entire course should total at least 16 pages. This writing may take many forms and includes the drafts or preliminary writing and final versions of the assignments. (See guidelines after Criterion B.)

In allowing preliminary drafts to count toward the 16-page total, the Committee assumes that revision of these drafts will mean substantial rewriting for most students. When the professor’s expectation is that the final draft will be merely a “cleaned-up” version of the preliminary draft, we ask that the pages in the preliminary draft not be counted as part of the 16-page total.

E. To allow for meaningful professor-student interaction about each student’s writing, the class size is restricted to 22 students.

The Committee prefers that WI courses be kept small and taught by Carthage full-time faculty. However, it is possible that an adjunct may teach a WI course after consultation involving the adjunct, the adjunct’s department chair, and the Committee.