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Best Practices for Implementing Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in Support of Student Learning and Achievement.

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Presentation on theme: "Best Practices for Implementing Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in Support of Student Learning and Achievement."— Presentation transcript:

1 Best Practices for Implementing Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in Support of Student Learning and Achievement

2 Dr. Linda Best Kean University, Union NJ A Presentation for Innovative Educators

3 Presentation Outline IntroductionConceptual Framework for the TopicWAC 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 AssessmentFaculty Development

4 Implementation Issues and StrategiesInstitutional Readiness for a WAC Initiative Initial Sketching for an Action Plan

5 Objectives Review basic concepts about Writing Across the Curriculum. 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)

6 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.

7 Shape ideas for WAC activities.Consider implementation issues.Consider the implications for academic support.

8 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

9 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.

10 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)

11 The Relationship between WAC, Writing to Learn (WTL), and Writing in the Discipline (WID)

12 Writing Across the Curriculum 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 Writing to Learn 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. Writing in the Discipline 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.

13 Self-Study Question # 1 Consider whether these are/are not organized and assessed. Jot down your thoughts on your planning worksheet. What WAC, WTL, or WID activities take place on your campus?

14 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 learning.”

15 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 so.” 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 learning.”

16 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.

17 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.

18 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.

19 Self-Study Question # 2 Explore the nature and rationale of these as well as possible steps for addressing them. Jot down your ideas on your planning worksheet. What misconceptions about WAC exist at your institution?

20 Exploring a Major WAC Resource “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) A Tour of the WAC Clearinghouse

21 Best Practices in WAC Implementation

22 An Institution Adopts Core WAC Principles Writing is the responsibility of the entire academic community. Writing must be integrated across departmental boundaries. 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.

23 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

24 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 required; – Percentage of writing in required writing-intensive courses; – Expectations for student writing in writing- intensive courses; – Guidelines for grading/appropriate rubrics;

25 – 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 requirements; – Procedures for enabling transfer students to meet WAC requirements; – Approved and uniform template for WAC courses; – Mechanism/Process for approving WAC courses;

26 – 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 faculty. – Procedures for aligning assessment of student outcomes in WAC courses, academic support, and achievement in the major.

27 Self-Study Question # 3 What can be done to get an initiative underway? Who might lead a WAC effort? Jot down your response and ideas on the worksheet. What challenges does your institution face with WAC implementation?

28 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]

29 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.

30 Academic support mechanisms appropriate for writing intervention across levels and disciplines.

31 WAC Implementation: The Integration of Writing into the Curriculum Course Design for Integrating Writing into the Curriculum – Incorporating Writing to Learn Activities (Informal Writing) Reading Journals Summaries and briefings Annotations Response papers Synthesis papers

32 Quick writes One-minute papers Mentor texts Thinking maps Inquiry Double-entry explorations Fact/opinion Life book Project notebook

33 Discussion starters Learning log Process analysis Real-world problems Case study Letters

34 – Incorporating Formal Writing Activities Utilizing a Process Approach Research papers Analysis Reviews Lab Reports WAC Impact on Instruction – Faculty: Facilitators of Writing Activity—Lead discussion, promote synthesis; First Reviewers for Written Work.

35 – 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).

36 – 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 with.

37 Self-Study Question # 4 Jot down issues and ideas on your worksheet. To what extent are faculty at your institution prepared to weave writing into the curriculum?

38 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;

39 Sustainable faculty development; Faculty buy-in; Support for faculty; Institution-wide assessment of WAC implementation and outcomes.

40 General Characteristics of WAC Assessment Assessment of multiple elements: curriculum, student writing and student attitudes toward writing, faculty pedagogy, and support mechanisms Mechanisms for feeding campus-wide data into the WAC Program; A committee structure for ongoing review and reporting of assessment data; Common rubrics;

41 Benchmarks; Methodology for using assessment data for program improvement.

42 Sample assessment plan for reference – port_2008.doc

43 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.

44 Developing an Action Plan Refer to your worksheet to identify an area where action is needed to get WAC underway. Identify two steps that can be taken between now and Fall 2011 in this area of need. Identify your expectations for the two action steps that will occur before Fall 2011.

45 Additional Resources Georgia State University WAC, Southern Connecticut State College WAC, The WAC clearinghouse,

46 Dr. Linda Best Kean University


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