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what is wac?

Writing Across the Curriculum is a pedagogical movement that began in the 1980s in response to a perceived deficiency in literacy among college students. WAC is based on theories that support the relationship between thinking, learning and writing. The movement has evolved to refer to the effort to ensure that writing is included in the teaching of all disciplines and integrated so as to promote critical thinking. Research has shown that thinking, writing, and learning are inextricably related and that when writing is incorporated into subject areas across the curriculum, student learning increases. A large percentage of students at community colleges are university bound, and writing is required in university classes. Therefore, student success in community college classes that incorporate writing ensures a greater chance of success in university classes. Students who are in vocational education classes also need to develop writing skills to be able to fulfill the demands of the particular job for which they are training.


Premises of WAC

The following premises drive the methods and techniques for WAC:

  • WAC is a program of faculty development to promote pedagogical change;
  • WAC encourages writing as a way of critical thinking;
  • Writing is a process of making decisions and evaluating the effectiveness of those decisions through drafting, feedback and
  • revision opportunities;
  • Writing is a tool that can help students synthesize, analyze, and apply course content;
  • Writing is a performance-based skill;
  • Writing occurs in a context - when students learn the conventions of language use and style of a particular discipline, they can more successfully participate in the discourse of that discipline.



Objectives of WAC

With these considerations and with Partnership for Excellence goals in mind, the objectives of the program are as follows:

  • Increase student success in writing in all instructional areas;
  • Create a forum for dialogue about writing among instructors across the disciplines;
  • Investigate attitudes and anxieties about writing;
  • Encourage instructors in all disciplines to incorporate writing into their course curriculum as a tool of learning;
  • Promote interesting, effective, efficient methods for the integration of writing and instructional content;
  • Engage in problem-solving to address obstacles and challenges to the use of writing in the disciplines;
  • Generate a change in the culture of the institution to reflect the relationship between thinking, writing, and learning.



WAC Important Terms

1. Writing to Learn
This is a very basic approach to WAC which frequently makes use of journals, logs, microthemes, and other primarily informal writing assignments. Students write in their own words about and react to the information they have read about or heard in class, which increases their ability to comprehend and retain information. Also, because the emphasis is on the frequency of writing, students avoid the trend toward decreased writing ability throughout their education, and they either maintain or improve their skills.

2. Writing in the Disciplines (WID)
In this approach to WAC, there is a particular emphasis on preparing students to write in a specific discipline. This is based on the assumption that each discipline has its own conventions of language use and style and that students must learn these conventions, so that they might successfully participate in the discourse of that field.

3. Writing Intensive (WI)
This label is used for a class that incorporates writing on a regular basis to promote thinking and learning. The label can be used on an institutional basis to flag students to the type of class they are selecting. It can also be used as a label that characterizes the class as implementing the pedagogical approach of WAC.

4. Exploratory Writing
The writer explores ideas in a journal or research log, in the margins of texts, or on note cards(or on the backs of envelopes); analyzes, compares, puzzles, talks with others, writes to self; focuses intensely on problem. The writer also explores ideas by rapid drafting of potential pieces of the essay or by making notes, doodles, or tentative outlines.

5. Coaching
The instructor or the instructional aide is a "guide on the side" rather than a "sage on the stage." In this role the instructor or IA presents students with critical thinking problems, gives students supervised practice at solving them, and coaches their performance through encouragement, modeling, helpful intervention and advice, and critiquing of their performance.


Characteristics of Writing Intensive Classes

  1. The course uses 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 to improve writing skills. Multiple approaches to writing include writing to learn, writing to communicate, and writing to evaluate student progress.
  2. The course provides interaction between teacher 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, an instructor who requires the completion of one long essay may review sections of the essay, write comments on drafts, and be available for conferences. The instructor who requires several short papers may demonstrate techniques for drafting and revising in the classroom, give guidance during the composition of the papers, and consult with students after they complete their papers.
  3. For each student’s course grade, writing is significantly weighed, at least 30%.
  4. Students are required to do a substantial amount of writing in the course--a minimum of 4000 words, or about 16 pages. This may include informal writing. Relevant to the course content, students may write analytic essays, critical reviews, journals, lab reports, research reports, or reaction papers, etc.
  5. To ensure meaningful instructor-student communication about each student's writing, class size is restricted to 25 students.
  6. The class is one additional credit hour to compensate for the additional workload.

    Differences Between Writing Intensive Class and Conventional Class