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Best Practices for Implementing
Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)
in Support of Student Learning and
Dr. Linda Best
Kean University, Union NJ
A Presentation for Innovative
Presentation Outline
Conceptual Framework for the Topic
WAC Program Features, Best Practices
• Structure and policy at the institutional and program levels
• Curriculum
• WAC elements at the course level
• Classroom instruction and activities
WAC Assessment
Faculty Development
Implementation Issues and Strategies
Institutional Readiness for a WAC Initiative
Initial Sketching for an Action Plan
Review basic concepts about Writing Across the
Consider WAC policy.
Examine WAC course structures for insights on workable
ideas and activities that can be infused into the curriculum.
Understand related topics: WTL (Writing to Learn) and
WID (Writing in the Discipline)
Consider how to integrate writing into the curriculum, with
references to students’ active roles in learning.
Review student feedback about WAC.
Review myths, misconceptions, testimonials.
Study specific WAC activities for the disciplines.
Shape ideas for WAC activities.
Consider implementation issues.
Consider the implications for academic support.
Introduction to a Worksheet for This
Session (Refer to Handout)
Comments on the Process for
Completing It – Self-Study Questions
at Intervals during the Presentation
Conceptual Framework
• What is WAC?
– A pedagogical movement that began in the 1980s.
– The intentional effort to weave writing assignments
into courses – writing experiences should occur across
the academic community and throughout a student’s
undergraduate education.
– A value for writing as a method of learning.
• What is an institutional rationale for
implementing WAC; how do students benefit
from WAC programs?
– “[F]requent informal writing opportunities along
with sequenced formal writing assignments play
an indispensable role in developing critical
thinking skills, learning discipline-specific content,
and building competence in the modes of inquiry
and communication specific to each discipline and
profession.” (from Georgia State University WAC)
The Relationship between WAC,
Writing to Learn (WTL), and Writing in
the Discipline (WID)
Writing Across
the Curriculum
Writing to
Writing in the
Writing is the responsibility of the entire academic community. It
promotes learning and should be continuous throughout the
academic years. Only by practicing the conventions of an academic
discipline will students begin to communicate effectively within
that discipline
Pedagogical approach; values writing as a method of learning that
aids comprehension/retention of information and helps students
work through concepts and apply what they learn. Increases
comfort with writing and supports skills development. Assignments
are short and informal and can be performed either in or out of
class. Examples include writing and reading journals, summaries,
response papers, learning logs, problem analysis, and more.
Recognizes the unique language conventions, format, and structure
of writing in each discipline and that the style, organization, and
format acceptable in one discipline may not appropriate in another.
Students should use these conventions to participate successfully in
the academic discourse of their community. Common assignments
—reports, literature reviews, project proposals, and lab reports—
can be combined with WTL activities to help students think through
key concepts and ideas, in their disciplines.
Self-Study Question # 1
What WAC,
activities take
place on your
• Consider whether these
are/are not organized
and assessed.
• Jot down your thoughts
on your planning
WAC Testimonials
• From the National Commission on Writing in
America’s Schools and Colleges (2003): an “impressive
positive correlation exists between the frequency of
informative writing assessments and academic
achievement in every subject area.” As a result, the
Commission endorses writing across the curriculum:
“Writing is not simply a way for students to
demonstrate what they know. It is a way to help them
understand what they know. At its best, writing is
• John Mayher, et. al., WAC Clearinghouse: “Language
is the most powerful learning tool we have. All students
have a right to discover—or, perhaps, rediscover—the
joys of learning and we should all recognize that
writing…is one of the best means of helping them to do
• James Britton, WAC Clearinghouse: “They [teachers]
use it [writing] to find out what students already know,
rather than as a way of encouraging them to find out.
The process of making the material their own—the
process of writing—is demonstrably a process of
What Students Say about WAC
• Feedback about writing is consistent from
course to course and less idiosyncratic to
instructors in a WAC environment.
• Writing in one course supports writing and
study in the course as well as other courses.
• Expectations are clear.
• Writing helps students understand and
organize content.
• The numerous opportunities – the
requirement – to write extensively over time
builds confidence.
• WAC prepares students for work in their area
Over time, students have a sense of their
improvement as writers.
• WAC engages students in course content,
giving them a role in the classroom.
Myths and Misconceptions
• Writing is a general skill that should be taught
independent of academic content.
• Writing instruction transfers easily to other
writing situations.
• Only faculty trained in writing instruction can
teach WAC courses.
• For the most part, WAC centers around the
teaching of grammar.
Self-Study Question # 2
about WAC
exist at your
• Explore the nature and
rationale of these as
well as possible steps
for addressing them.
• Jot down your ideas on
your planning
Exploring a Major WAC Resource
A Tour of the WAC
• “The WAC Clearinghouse, in partnership with
the International Network of Writing Across
the Curriculum Programs, publishes journals,
books, and other resources for teachers who
use writing in their courses.” (home page)
Best Practices in WAC Implementation
An Institution Adopts Core WAC Principles
• Writing is the responsibility of the entire academic
• Writing must be integrated across departmental
• Writing experiences must be continuous throughout
students’ undergraduate education.
• Writing promotes learning.
• Only by practicing the conventions of an academic
discipline will students begin to communicate
effectively within that discipline.
An Institution Develops
a WAC Mission Statement
Sample: Southern CT State--“to create a curricular
structure and educational environment in which writing
can be encountered as a tool of discovery across the
curriculum for both faculty and students who
participate in writing-intensive courses. By providing
resources such as workshops for faculty on using
effective writing techniques and offering tutoring and
writing workshops for students, the program strives to
increase the successful participation of everyone
involved in writing-intensive courses.”
For additional examples, go to
An Institution Develops, Implements, and
Enforces WAC Policy
• A representative governing body at the
institution oversees program policy, to include
– Number/type/level of writing-intensive courses
– Percentage of writing in required writing-intensive
– Expectations for student writing in writingintensive courses;
– Guidelines for grading/appropriate rubrics;
– Protocols and interventions for students who are
passing the content of a given course but not its
writing components;
– Information about the variety of writing activities
and writing types acceptable for meeting WAC
– Procedures for enabling transfer students to meet
WAC requirements;
– Approved and uniform template for WAC courses;
– Mechanism/Process for approving WAC courses;
– Writing assessment intervals/contexts;
– The role GE plays in WAC requirements;
– Professional development requirements and
programs that address all relevant issues such as
participation of and compensation for adjunct
– Procedures for aligning assessment of student
outcomes in WAC courses, academic support, and
achievement in the major.
Self-Study Question # 3
• What can be done
to get an initiative
What challenges does underway? Who
your institution face
might lead a WAC
with WAC
effort? Jot down
your response and
ideas on the
The Institution Creates a Sustainable
Curricular Structure
• An institution-wide, vertical writing sequence
that depicts the timing and level of required
writing-intensive course work;
• Approved templates for writing-intensive
courses and syllabi in this sequence; [view
courses and syllabi]
• Rubrics adjusted for evaluating writing at
different levels and across disciplines; [view
sample rubrics]
• Curriculum maps by major that account for
writing-intensive courses and offer
appropriate options/suggestions;
• Information in print about the variety of
general and major-specific writing-intensive
courses available;
• Benchmarks for student performance through
the sequence of writing-intensive courses.
• Academic support mechanisms appropriate
for writing intervention across levels and
WAC Implementation: The Integration
of Writing into the Curriculum
• Course Design for Integrating Writing into the
– Incorporating Writing to Learn Activities (Informal
Reading Journals
Summaries and briefings
Response papers
Synthesis papers
Quick writes
One-minute papers
Mentor texts
Thinking maps
Double-entry explorations
Life book
Project notebook
Discussion starters
Learning log
Process analysis
Real-world problems
Case study
– Incorporating Formal Writing Activities Utilizing a
Process Approach
Research papers
Lab Reports
• WAC Impact on Instruction
– Faculty: Facilitators of Writing Activity—Lead
discussion, promote synthesis; First Reviewers for
Written Work.
– Students’ Role: Active, Responsive—generate
content for review and synthesis. Write to organize
and present information.
• Faculty Development
– Training in Writing across the Curriculum Pedagogy.
– Clarity about level of proficiency faculty will need to
demonstrate in order to teach writing-intensive courses.
– Strategies for designing effective writing assignments.
– Strategies for responding to student writing (using both
formative and summative assessment).
– Strategies for working with diverse populations of
student writers
– Methods of self-assessment and self-paced
growth (i.e. how to continue their own
development for a writing to learn environment).
– Multiple modes of support for faculty teaching
writing-intensive courses: workshops, mentoring,
libraries of support material.
– Resources on campus to draw from or partner
Self-Study Question # 4
To what extent are
faculty at your
• Jot down issues and
ideas on your
prepared to weave
writing into the
WAC Challenges
• Resource needs;
• Reaching consensus, campus-wide, on all
elements of WAC Programming – from
expectations for students to number of required
writing-intensive courses to variety and type of
writing activities, tools for evaluating writing, and
governing protocols for course approvals and
program administration;
• Coordination among departments;
Sustainable faculty development;
Faculty buy-in;
Support for faculty;
Institution-wide assessment of WAC
implementation and outcomes.
General Characteristics of WAC
• Assessment of multiple elements: curriculum,
student writing and student attitudes toward
writing, faculty pedagogy, and support
• Mechanisms for feeding campus-wide data into
the WAC Program;
• A committee structure for ongoing review and
reporting of assessment data;
• Common rubrics;
• Benchmarks;
• Methodology for using assessment data for
program improvement.
• Sample assessment plan for reference
WAC and Academic Support
In a WAC environment, the need exists to align
Academic Support with WAC principles and
practices. At the least, Academic Support will
value writing as a tool for learning and
incorporate it in learning activity for all
disciplines. As well, Academic Support
Services will focus on students’ active role in
learning and their writing activity to draw
parallels with the classroom environment.
Developing an Action Plan
Refer to your
worksheet to
identify an area
where action is
needed to get WAC
Identify your
expectations for the
two action steps
that will occur
before Fall 2011.
Identify two steps
that can be taken
between now and
Fall 2011 in this
area of need.
Additional Resources
• Georgia State University WAC,
• Southern Connecticut State College WAC,
• The WAC clearinghouse,
Dr. Linda Best
Kean University
[email protected]