Writing Across the Curriculum by pengtt


									   Writing Across the
A presentation for Northeastern Conference Teachers
                  August 19, 2008
What is “Writing Across the Curriculum?”
•   In their “real life,” both personal and professional, people use writing every
    day for a variety of purposes:
    • to communicate information (memos, evaluations, letters of
        recommendation, e-mail, reminders to children, spouse…self)
    • to clarify thinking (when we work through an idea or problem on
    • to learn new concepts and information (taking notes on reading,
        research topics, and lectures)
•   Students need practice writing effectively to meet these same goals. One
    English class a year just can't provide enough daily practice.
•   “WAC” occurs when teachers in disciplines besides English include a
    variety of writing activities on a regular basis.
History and Philosophy of WAC
•   Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs emerged in
    the 1980s as a response to concern about the lack of writing
    in content areas. The philosophies supporting these programs
    underscore certain basic principles:
    •   that writing is the responsibility of the entire academic community,
    •   that writing must be integrated across departmental boundaries,
    •   that writing instruction must be continuous
    •   that writing promotes learning, and
    •   that only by practicing the conventions of an academic discipline will
        students begin to communicate effectively within that discipline.
    Why include WAC in your curriculum?
•   Most non-English-teaching teachers want to know “What's in it for
•   Including writing in courses has both short- and long-term benefits for
    •   In the short run, teachers are better able to gauge how well students grasp
        information and which key concepts need more attention.
    •   In the long run, as more teachers incorporate writing into more courses,
        students become more and more practiced at using writing as a
        communication and learning tool.
    •   Especially for more advanced or specialized work in the discipline, teachers
        reap the benefits of having students who are better grounded in the
        fundamentals and ready to engage in more sophisticated analysis of ideas.
        How do students benefit with WAC?
•   Students, too, will want to know “What’s in it for me?”
    •    Like all skills, writing skills atrophy when they aren't used. If not required, some
         students may never take down a single note, and may take only multiple-choice exams.
         Except for their English classes, writing could be avoided almost completely for
         months at a time. Assigned writing in all courses helps students keep their writing skills
    •    Moreover, faculty in all disciplines have discovered that writing in their classes helps
         students learn material and improve their thinking about ideas in the courses.
    •    Writing assigned across the curriculum also helps students prepare for the day-in and
         day-out communication tasks they'll face on the job, no matter what the job is.
    •    Equally important, students need to learn about how writing is used within a discipline,
         and many kinds of assignments give students practice with disciplinary forms and
What kind of writing works for WAC?
• Writing assignments generally fall into one of two
   •   Writing to Learn (WTL)
   •   Writing in the Disciplines (WID)

• Some teachers combine the two categories and
  assign writing that meets the goals of each, but many
  teachers choose to focus on one type or the other.
    Write to Learn Assignments
•   Generally, Write-to-Learn activities are short, impromptu or
    otherwise informal writing tasks that help students think through
    key concepts or ideas presented in a course.
•   Often, these writing tasks are limited to less than five minutes of
    class time or are assigned as brief, out-of-class assignments.
•   Toby Fulwiler and Art Young explain in their "Introduction" to
    Language Connections: Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum:
Fulwiler and Young on W.T.L.
•   Writing to communicate--or what James Britton calls
    "transactional writing"--means writing to accomplish
    something, to inform, instruct, or persuade. . . .Writing to
    learn is different. We write to ourselves as well as talk with
    others to objectify our perceptions of reality; the primary
    function of this "expressive" language is not to communicate,
    but to order and represent experience to our own
    understanding. In this sense language provides us with a
    unique way of knowing and becomes a tool for discovering,
    for shaping meaning, and for reaching understanding. (p. x)
    Write to Learn Assignments
•   The reading journal       discussion          •   Letters
•   Generic and focused •     The learning log    •   What counts as a
    summaries                                         fact?
                        •     Analyzing the
•   Annotations               process             •   Believing and
                                                      doubting game
•   Response papers       •   Problem statement
                                                  •   Analysis of events
•   Synthesis papers      •   Solving real
                              problems            •   Project notebooks
•   The discussion
    starter               •   Pre-test warm-ups   •   The writing journal
•   Focusing a            •   Using Cases
    Using Computers with WTL assignments
•   Summarize and respond to            •   Discover potential audiences
                                        •   Practice format for paper/projects
•   Summarize key points from prior
    class                           •       Record observations over time

•   Pose problems based on class    •       Define key terms
    material                            •   Record round-robin comments
•   Clarify unclear points in reading       for inductive learning
    or class                            •   Organize group-response sheets
•   Plan writing or speaking projects •     Capture peer review of papers in
What is Writing in the Disciplines?
•   T he second category of WAC is often called Writing in the
    Disciplines (WID).
•   Writing assignments of this sort are designed to introduce or
    give students practice with the language conventions of a
    discipline as well as with specific formats typical of a given
•   For example, the chemistry lab report includes much
    different information in a quite different format from the
    annual business report.
WID Assignments—defined
•   WID assignments are typically, but not exclusively, formal
    papers prepared over a few weeks or even months.
•   The final papers adhere to format and style guidelines typical
    of the professional papers they are helping students learn
•   Teachers comment primarily on the substance of these
    assignments, but teachers also expect students to meet
    professional standards of layout and proofreading (format
    and mechanical correctness).
WID Assignments—examples
•   Although the research paper    •   Project or lab notebook
    is the most common kind of     •   Progress report
    WID assignment, it's not the   •   Management plan
    only format that students      •   Position paper
    can use to learn about         •   Interpretive essay
    disciplinary writing           •   Review of literature
    conventions. Examples          •   Journal or professional article
    include:                       •   Project proposals
                                   •   Grant proposals
                                   •   Lab/field reports
    Combining WTL with WID
•   In addition to discipline-specific formats, other kinds of writing
    assignments can help students learn the language and ways of
    thinking of a discipline, even though they may not mimic its
    professional writing.
•   Any of these writing activities can provide the basis for a longer,
    more formal assignment, or can be used only to promote class
    discussion and/or thinking about course material:
    •   Reading journal                 Jargon journal
    •   Rhetorical analysis             Analyze an expert's revisions
    •   Popular article
    Who, me? An English teacher?!!!
•   Responding to students' writing involves far more than simply
    marking errors in punctuation and mechanics. Most grading time,
    by far, is devoted to commenting on focus, development and
    arrangement of ideas, the quality of arguments, and other larger
•   Tell students in advance specifically what your expectations are
    for high-level writing skills. Then focus your commenting on how
    well students meet those specific criteria.
•   Also consider developing a check-sheet or some other
    commenting guide to help you comment quickly but thoroughly
    on the points you decide are most important for a given paper.
    What if grammar is not my forté?
•   If you assign write-to-learn tasks, you won't want to mark any grammatical
    flaws because the writing is designed to be impromptu and informal.
•   If you assign more polished pieces, especially those that adhere to
    disciplinary conventions, put the burden of proofreading squarely where it
    belongs--on the writer.
•   If you feel compelled to mark grammatical and stylistic flaws, work out a
    shorthand for yourself and give students a handout explaining your marks.
    Most teachers can get by with one symbol for a sentence that gets derailed
    or confused, another for faulty punctuation of all sorts, and a third for
    inaccurate words (spelling or meaning). Save your time and energy for
    commenting on substance rather than form.
What makes a good writing assignment?
•   Surprisingly, teachers have been known to assign writing tasks without
    articulating to themselves what the task is supposed to do for
•   Good writing assignments always start with a clear goal that the
    teacher can express, usually on the assignment sheet, so that students
    understand the goal as well.
•   Good writing assignments often take shape by thinking backwards. In
    effect, teachers ask themselves, "What do I want to read at the end of
    this assignment?" This way, teachers can give students detailed
    guidelines about both the writing task and the final written product.
5 principles of a good assignment
• In making up writing assignments, use these
  five principles:
  • Tie the writing task to specific pedagogical goals.
  • Note rhetorical aspects of the task, i.e., audience,
    purpose, writing situation.
  • Make all elements of the task clear.
  • Include grading criteria on the assignment sheet.
  • Break down the task into manageable steps.
Writing should meet teaching goals
•   Asking questions like these about your assignment will help
    guarantee that writing tasks tie directly to your teaching goals
    in the class:
    •   What specific course objectives will the writing assignment
    •   Will informal or formal writing better meet your teaching
    •   Will students be writing to learn course material or writing
        conventions in your discipline or both?
    •   Does the assignment make sense to you?
Sample grading rubric
                 Score        Comments
                (out of 11)





Total (out of
Sample grading criteria—A
•   A (90-100):
    • Thesis is clearly presented in first paragraph.
    • Every subsequent paragraph contributes significantly to the
        development of the thesis.
    • Final paragraph "pulls together" the body of the essay and
        demonstrates how the essay as a whole has supported the thesis.
    • In terms of both style and content, the essay is a pleasure to read;
        ideas are brought forth with clarity and follow each other logically
        and effortlessly.
    • Essay is virtually free of misspellings, sentence fragments, fused
        sentences, comma splices, semicolon errors, wrong word choices,
        and paragraphing errors.
Sample grading criteria—B
•   B (80-89):
    • Thesis is clearly presented in first paragraph.
    • Every subsequent paragraph contributes significantly to the
        development of the thesis.
    • Final paragraph "pulls together" the body of the essay and
        demonstrates how the essay as a whole has supported the thesis.
    • In terms of style and content, the essay is still clear and progresses
        logically, but the essay is somewhat weaker due to awkward word
        choice, sentence structure, or organization.
    • Essay may have a few (approximately 3) instances of misspellings,
        sentence fragments, fused sentences, comma splices, semicolon
        errors, wrong word choices, and paragraphing errors.
    Sample grading criteria—C
•   C (70-79):
    • There is a thesis, but the reader may have to hunt for it a bit. All the
        paragraphs contribute to the thesis, but the organization of these paragraphs
        is less than clear.
    • Final paragraph simply summarizes essay without successfully integrating the
        ideas presented into a unified support for thesis.
    • In terms of style and content, the reader is able to discern the intent of the
        essay and the support for the thesis, but some amount of mental gymnastics
        and "reading between the lines" is necessary; the essay is not easy to read, but
        it still has said some important things.
    • Essay may have instances (approximately 6) of misspellings, sentence
        fragments, fused sentences, comma splices, semicolon errors, wrong word
        choices, and paragraphing errors.
Sample grading criteria—D
•   D (60-69):
    •   Thesis is not clear.
    •   Individual paragraphs may have interesting insights, but the
        paragraphs do not work together well in support of the thesis.
    •   In terms of style and content, the essay is difficult to read and
        to understand, but the reader can see there was a (less than
        successful) effort to engage a meaningful subject.
    •   Essay may have several instances (approximately 6) of
        misspellings, sentence fragments, fused sentences, comma
        splices, semicolon errors, wrong word choices, and
        paragraphing errors.
P.S. Creative WAC works, too!
•   A variation to the more “academic” writing assignments is
    creative writing across the curriculum. These often
    incorporate the more “artsy” forms of writing: poetry,
    drama, short story, music (lyrics), etc.
•   Again, every single discipline can make good use, literally, of
    the creative juice that flows through their students. Don’t be
    afraid to make the most of it.
•   Examples of activities are on the hand-out.
•   http://wac.colostate.edu/intro/index.cfm
•   http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/WAC/
•   http://mendota.english.wisc.edu/~WAC/category.jsp?id=2
•   http://712educators.about.com/cs/writingresources/a/writing.htm
•   Writing Across the Curriculum: Because All ... - by Shelley Peterson - 170
•   Reference Guide to Writing Across the Curriculum - by Charles Bazerman,
    Joseph Little, Lisa Bethel - 188 pages
•   Landmark Essays on Writing Across the Curriculum - by Bazerman,
    Charles Bazerman, David R. Russell - 272 pages

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