Values for Writing-Attentive Courses

Writing-attentive courses accomplish these goals in five main areas: integration, scaffolding, revision, writing to learn, and writing to communicate. Writing is here construed broadly, to include multiple languages, modalities, and means of communication. While in many cases the criteria defined here may apply to written English academic prose, they apply as well to writing in non-English languages, oral communication, electronically mediated forms of writing, the visual presentation of information, or poetic/artistic means of written expression.

Notes:

In the prose below, regular text refers to all writing-attentive courses.

Text in italics refers specifically to courses satisfying the W2 designation.

Integration

The effective use of writing within a course means that writing isn’t simply a module or outcome within the course. Rather, it’s woven throughout the course, used in multiple ways and in the service of multiple outcomes. Growth as a writer takes practice. Through writing often and in varying formats, students develop both greater facility with writing and greater comfort with using writing as a means to explore, structure, and refine ideas.

+Examples & Outcomes

  • Learning outcomes for the course are clearly stated in the syllabus, with writing and the learning of disciplinary modes of communications explicitly addressed within them.
  • Writing occurs throughout the course, with assignments distributed throughout the semester.
  • Assignments occur at multiple levels of weight, with students having the opportunity to explore disciplinary ideas and concepts in low-stakes assignments before developing them more fully.
  • Writing comprises most of students’ overall course grade, and most of students’ time-on-task for the course occurs within the writing process.

+Things to Avoid

  • Learning outcomes are not articulated, or do not address writing.
  • Writing is concentrated at one or two points of the semester, often in a research paper due towards the end of the semester.
  • Writing is instantiated only in high-stakes assignments submitted for a large component of students’ course grade, and that place a high premium on a polished final product.
  • Writing comprises less than half of students’ overall course grade.

Scaffolding

In order for novice writers to develop a process for writing that will serve them in their subsequent studies and careers, it’s important that they be guided through the steps of an efficacious cycle of pre-writing, research, drafting, revision, and editing. In encouraging students to take advantage of support from peers, tutors, faculty, librarians, and others, we not only support students in their growth as writers, we increase their engagement with the college as a whole.

+Examples & Outcomes

  • For high-stakes assignments, students are supported throughout a process of prewriting, drafting, revision, and editing.
  • All writing, including that of second-language writers, is assessed using a broad range of criteria (topic development, clarity of argument, organization, grammar, word choice), and instructors make note of each text’s rhetorically effective features.
  • Students are made aware of and encouraged to use the resources available to them through the writing specialists, PWSAs, librarians, the writing center, and other units.
  • Students have the opportunity to reflect on their own writing, and on their own growth as writers.

+Things to Avoid

  • A process for writing is not made explicit, or students are expected to progress through a writing cycle without having the process facilitated for them.
  • The writing of second-language writers is assessed primarily on issues of surface correctness, and assessment focuses on rhetorical features that stand out as problematic.
  • Students are neither required nor encouraged to use the resources available to them through the writing specialists, PWSAs, librarians, and the Writing & Speaking Center.
  • The course provides little or no space for students to reflect critically on their writing, or on their growth as writers.

Revision

Revision is the very core of writing. In practicing revision, students learn a view of writing as an iterative process of drafting, critical reflection, feedback, and redrafting. Learning to accept and incorporate feedback is an essential skill for every writer, as is the development of a critical, reader-oriented eye for one’s own writing. Multiple opportunities to receive feedback and apply it apply through revision are important as well in helping second language writers to gain discursive, syntactic, and lexical competence.

+Examples & Outcomes

  • All writing assignments that constitute a significant portion of students’ course grade progress through multiple stages of revision before a final grade is assigned.
  • Students receive frequent feedback from their instructor, and/or peers, and/or tutors.
  • Students receive feedback that is formative, oriented towards helping them to make improvements and grow as writers within their disciplines.
  • Revision involves a substantive rethinking and reorganization of ideas, and feedback addresses these issues.

+Things to Avoid

  • All or most writing assignments carry the expectation that ideas are fully developed and presented in a polished final product before submission.
  • Students do not receive significant feedback on their writing to inform revision.
  • Students receive feedback that is summative, oriented to justifying a grade.
  • Revision does not occur, or is limited to surface-level issues such as word choice and grammar (editing).

Writing to Learn

Writing is a mode of learning, and is at its most effective within a course when it’s used to foster active, collaborative, exploratory approaches to mastering content. Writing to learn refers to the use of writing to help students to gain fluency in the skills and content of the course, even (and, perhaps, especially) when these are not explicitly writing-oriented. Through writing as a tool for learning, students explore the relevance of ideas to their own experience, challenge their pre-existing values, and integrate new ideas with existing knowledge structures.

+Examples & Outcomes

  • Students use writing to develop their understanding of course content, through assignments that align with authentic reasons for composing in the field.
  • Frequent, small, informal writing assignments are used both in and out-of class to explore and articulate ideas, and to engage with the types of questions, problems, evidence, and modes of thinking that are valued in the discipline.
  • Significant class time is devoted to various stages of the writing process, with involvement from the instructor.
  • Some writing for the course is accomplished collaboratively, with students negotiating ideas through writing.

+Things to Avoid

  • Writing is used mostly for assessment of students’ understanding of course content.
  • Students only use writing to explore ideas in the context of large, high-stakes assignments.
  • Little or no class time is devoted to writing, or discussion of writing is limited to stand-alone workshops.
  • All writing for the course is accomplished individually.

Writing to Communicate

An essential aspect of study within a major, discipline, or interdisciplinary program is gaining fluency in the vocabulary, style conventions, rhetorical strategies (ways of using compositional techniques and forms to persuade a specific audience), recurring genres, and reader expectations within the field. When learning writing as a tool for communication, students depend critically on faculty who serve as guides and mentors, making these expectations explicit and helping student writers to find a voice within their chosen field of study.

+Examples & Outcomes

  • In creating 10 to 12 (W2: 13 to 15) pages of revised, edited prose over the span of the course, students are exposed to the idea that expectations for writing (ranging from argumentation to sentence-level mechanics) vary across genres, professions, disciplines, and interdisciplinary fields. Writing assignments encompass a variety of genres and audiences. Students practice all of the skills (citation, organization, editing, research) needed to write a thesis/capstone in their chosen field of study. Students may complete a smaller, less formal version of a departmental thesis.
  • There is a unique, clearly articulated audience and purpose for each high-stakes assignment.
  • Criteria used for assessing writing are clearly articulated, in a medium that is easily accessible to students. These criteria reflect the specific conventions of the major/field/profession.
  • Students practice foundational research skills that will help them in writing for subsequent courses. These include (but are not limited to) evaluating sources, applying citation conventions systematically, and incorporating other authors’ ideas into their own through interpretation, synthesis, response, and critique.
  • Substantial class time is devoted to explicit instruction on and discussion of the conventions for writing in the discipline or area of study, including usage, specialized vocabulary, format, and citation systems (including how intellectual property is conceptualized in the field).
  • Students learn about the expectations of readers in the field, and practice writing within/for the recurring genres and audiences.

+Things to Avoid

  • Students create a single genre of academic writing (often a research paper).
  • No audience is articulated. Alternately, the audience may always be the instructor-as-evaluator, or articulated very broadly (‘other students,’ ‘an intelligent reader’).
  • Criteria used to evaluate writing are not made explicit for students.
  • Students do not have the opportunity to gain skills that can be transferred to subsequent coursework and to the thesis/capstone, or are expected to create original, polished works of scholarship without first learning about and practicing prerequisite skills.
  • Little or no course time is devoted to explicit instruction on or discussion of discipline-specific expectations of the field with respect to academic writing and/or professional communication.
  • Genre and audience are nor articulated, or do not reflect the recurring scenarios for writing that students will encounter in further study or employment within the field.