Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing is a complex cognitive skill that develops over time through repeated practice. Writing also takes place in many genres shaped by the practices of distinct disciplinary fields and professions. As a result, it is not realistic to expect students to develop a high level of competence in the kinds of writing they will use in the workforce solely through completion of their required General Education writing courses. Students will require multiple writing experiences (in the curriculum and/or “on the job” in their professional lives) in order to develop the kind of writing skills expected by employers.

The Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Group has developed this policy in order to increase student exposure to Writing in the Disciplines within the Excelsior curriculum. While other college policies focus on writing as part of the general education program (See Policy 005: General Education Curriculum Requirements and Policy 017: Written English Requirement), this policy is intentionally focused on classes that students take beyond the general education level, especially in their major degree field. The policy does not add any new course-taking requirement for students. Instead, it emphasizes ways that students can be exposed to additional writing opportunities within the classes they already take.

Policy Details

I. Every undergraduate degree program at Excelsior will have at least one student learning outcome that addresses written communication in a way that is meaningful for that discipline. This outcome may deal exclusively with writing or it may deal with writing as one facet of effective professional communication.

II. Every undergraduate degree program will identify at least one class to be designated with the Writing in the Disciplines (WID) label. FPDs are encouraged to develop additional WID classes as necessary to increase the exposure of the students in their program to disciplinary writing. For the purposes of this requirement, associate and bachelor's level classes in the same subject area will be considered separate degree programs. Each must include at least one WID class.

Since the intention of this policy is to provide students with additional exposure to writing beyond the General Education level, FPDs should select classes for the WID designation that do not already meet Part I or Part II of Excelsior's general education Written English Requirement. (For example, existing "Writing-Enriched" classes should not be selected for the WID designation unless they will no longer be used to meet the General Education requirement.) Since the purpose of this initiative is also to prepare students for writing in their capstone class, the capstone class should not be designated as the sole WID class in a program.

Although this policy does not introduce any new course-taking requirements for students, the goals is to expose as many students as possible to writing-in-the-disciplines experiences. When selecting classes for the WID designation, FPDs should choose classes that are likely to be taken by a large number of students. This may be a course that is required for all students or another high-enrollment class.

III. WID classes must meet the following requirements.

A. These classes should be capped at no more than 25 students, with the goal of having no more than 20 students at the end of the add/drop period.

B. WID classes emphasize exposure to high-quality writing assignments, rather than focusing on the quantity of writing completed by students in a course. WID classes will be developed/revised in consultation with the Writing Center Director and/or members of the WAC Group and will include the following elements:
• Instructional materials (such as instructions, templates, exemplars, etc.) tailored to the writing genres in the degree or disciplinary area;
• At least one multi-part or scaffolded writing assignment;
• An emphasis on high-quality formative feedback and revision.

“Scaffolded” is defined for the purposes of this requirement as an assignment in which students submit some portion of their work (either a rough draft or a preliminary document such as an annotated bibliography, outline, etc.), receive substantial formative feedback, and use that feedback to directly inform subsequent work.

C. Faculty designing or teaching WID classes are expected to complete a Writing in the Disciplines training, emphasizing best practices for assignment creation and formative feedback on student work. The WAC Group will maintain a list of qualified faculty for WID courses.

IV. FPDs will collaborate with the Writing Center Director or other members of the WAC Group to develop classes that meet the requirements for the WID designation. The WAC group will maintain a master list of WID designated classes.

The CCC will determine a timeline for the implementation of this policy, providing FPDs with adequate lead-time to modify program outcomes (as needed) and to develop or designate WID classes.

The WAC Group and Writing Center Director will work closely with FPDs and SMEs to support the development of these classes. In most cases, classes will need only minor changes to meet the WID-designation requirements.

Support will include the development of a WID best-practices reference document, a repository of sample assignments and sample student work on the Excelsior OWL, maintenance of the mandatory faculty/SME training course, and facilitation of additional optional training. The WAC Group will use the Brainier HR LMS to maintain a master list of faculty eligible to teach the WID courses.

The WAC Group will maintain a master list of approved WID courses.

In order to facilitate the assessment of student writing across levels, the WAC Group will work with FPDs and Outcomes Assessment staff to align elements of the rubrics used in WID classes with the rubrics used to assess writing at the General Education level.