Workshop: Supporting the Writing Process

April 23, 2014, 4:30 pm in the Sophie Kerr room.

A workshop and discussion that will focus on a key principle and guideline for Writing Intensive courses: “support the writing process” (see the guidelines copied below). We will also discuss ideas and suggestions for the ongoing Task Force looking at the writing program, in particular the writing requirement beyond the first-year.

More details soon…

Writing Intensive Program: Overview and Requirements

Writing Intensive (WI) courses play a significant role in the comprehensive approach to writing at Washington College, where students write across the curriculum and throughout four years of study.  Writing Intensive courses in the sophomore and junior years provide students with a transition from the academic essentials of writing and research emphasized in the first-year seminars (Literature and Composition and GRW), and offer students an invitation to apply and deepen their writing skills in the context of a major and/or a discipline.


A WI course emphasizes two principles: (1) Writing is a way to learn, not only a demonstration of mastery of material, and (2) Writing is a process that benefits from being made visible, i.e. the various stages of writing are recognized and supported in the classroom.

Requirements for a Writing Intensive Course

Embracing these principles, courses designated as Writing Intensive will:


  1. Have at least three formal writing assignments (essay tests don’t fall into this category), spaced throughout the semester, that address issues raised by the course and encourage critical thinking.
  2. Offer students a written prompt for each assignment describing its audience, purpose, and discipline-specific requirements, e.g. documentation style.
  3. Provide opportunities to discuss the assignment when it’s distributed and periodically thereafter so that students understand the assignment’s expectations and see its connection to the themes of the course.
  4. Support the writing process.
  5. Include opportunities to write informally beyond the three major writing assignments.
  6. Evaluate formal assignments in a timely and meaningful way so that students can learn from the experience.
  7. Stipulate that grades on formal writing assignments constitute a significant percentage of the final course grade.



Recommendations for Developing a Writing Intensive Course

The seven requirements for a Writing Intensive course can be implemented in a variety of ways to fit best with the course and its discipline. Rather than transforming an existing course into a writing course, it is more effective to conceive a WI course as foregrounding writing in the discipline or major in which the course is located. Effective WI courses will foreground ways that writing is approached in the discipline and already being done in the course. The follow goals and suggestions are recommendations, not requirements, for faculty to consider. Whenever possible, a WI course should be capped at no more than 25 students in order to provide the support for the writing process that is expected.


Learning Goals of the Writing Intensive Course

Through WI courses students will develop as writers by becoming more aware of their writing, its role in the discipline, as well as in their learning and thinking.  An instructor may use the following goals to elaborate the principles of the WI course and to develop objectives and assignments specific to the course.

In a WI course, students will:


  • Understand writing as a process integral to their learning.
  • Gain an awareness of audience and purpose in writing and see themselves as part of a community of scholars and writers.
  • Recognize the conventions of writing in a particular discipline.
  • Develop strength and confidence in their writing.


Ways to Foreground Writing in the Course


  • Syllabus Statement: Put a brief statement in the course syllabus identifying the course as Writing Intensive. For example:
    • “This course fulfills Washington College’s Writing Intensive requirements, which means that in developing your strength and confidence in writing we will be focusing on the process of writing and revision, your awareness of audience and purpose in the writing you will do, as well as your grasp of basic conventions of writing in this discipline. These goals will be part of the following writing assignments counting for ____% of your overall course grade: [list at least three of the formal writing assignments in the course].”
  • Types of “Formal Writing Assignments”
    • Formal writing assignments should be discipline-based and focus on process, not merely the product.
    • Possibilities: essay, research paper, lab report, book review, literature review, grant/research proposal, speech or other formal presentation, and other types of writing assignments appropriate to the discipline of the course.
  • Opportunities for Informal or Exploratory Writing beyond the formal writing assignments:
    • Journals, brief response papers, blogs, summaries of important material
  • Supporting the Writing Process:
    • Individual conferences regarding work in progress.
    • Discussion of revision/editing techniques in class.

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