A Summary of the Writing Program Structure and Requirements
Approved by Vote of the Washington College Faculty
October 5, 2015
Writing Program Vision and Mission
In the course of their education at Washington College, all students will complete at least four deliberate writing experiences that comprise the requirements of our Writing Program. These experiences, sequenced over the four years of a typical Washington College education, will serve to develop in students the knowledge, skills, and habits essential to the clear thinking, sharp inquiry, careful analysis, and effective expression at the heart of the college’s tradition of liberal education. Writing has traditionally been a prominent feature of the Washington College curriculum, and across all disciplines it serves as an important means of helping students to discover the purpose and passion that guide their intellectual endeavors. The sequenced writing framework described in this document makes a clear statement of how writing will continue to be at the core of the College’s mission—and at the heart of our transformative student experience.
The four writing experiences of the Writing Program develop the fundamental elements of successful college-level writing, as identified by the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) in its Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing:
- Critical Thinking: the ability to raise questions and identify problems related to particular subjects or situations and to make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research;
- Writing Process: the ability to use appropriate strategies for generating, developing, composing, and revising writing and research;
- Rhetorical Knowledge: the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and disciplinary contexts in creating and comprehending texts;
- Knowledge of Conventions: an awareness of the formal guidelines, ranging from matters of grammar and style to conventions of research and documentation that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate to writing in a particular discipline or context.
These goals are deliberately general: they provide some names and shared language for what all of us do when we teach research and writing in our classes and departments. They constitute a flexible, conceptual framework that can be adapted to the varying purposes and methods of inquiry that exist across the disciplines. These goals are not presented as specific objectives that would be required in a course; rather, the language and principles of these goals should inform the distinct objectives for writing that faculty develop in their courses and majors.
W1. Critical Inquiry
The W1 introduces all students to the essential thinking activities of liberal arts education, including inquiry, critical thinking, discussion, writing, and argument. While mentoring students in specific strategies and skills that inform effective writing at the college level, the W1 introduces students to the integration of writing with learning and thinking that is valued across the disciplines and prominent in the academic culture of Washington College. In aligning the First Year Program’s focus on inquiry with an introduction to the writing program learning goals, the W1 gives particular emphasis to Critical Thinking: the ability to raise questions and identify problems related to particular subjects or situations and to make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research.
Each W1 will include the following core requirements:
- Have at least three distinct, formal writing experiences spaced throughout the course. In addition to essays, these experiences might be forms or genres of writing specific to a discipline or research process relevant to the seminar. Since the revision of writing is a key element of the W1, essay responses on tests should not count for these experiences.
- Offer opportunities for response and review of writing, through conferencing with the instructor and/or peer review sessions organized with students.
- Have no more than 15 students in the class (if advising is formally attached to this course, then we would recommend a cap of 12).
- Have a designated resource (print or electronic) to which students are referred for guidance with style and conventions.
W2. Process of Writing
W2 courses continue the development of rhetorical knowledge and critical thinking introduced in W1, while providing additional time and attention to the practice of all aspects of writing processes. While the content of W2 courses will vary depending on the departments in which they are offered, in all W2 courses students engage in the crucial aspects of writing processes that inform effective scholarship, including generating, composing, responding, revising, and editing.
All courses fulfilling the W2 experience share the following core requirements:
- Have at least three distinct, formal writing experiences spaced throughout the course. In addition to essays, these experiences might be forms or genres of writing specific to a discipline or research process. Since the practice of writing processes (including thoughtful revision) is a key element of the W2, essay responses on tests would not count for these experiences.
- Offer opportunities for response, review, and revision of writing, through conferencing with the instructor and/or peer review sessions organized with students, as well as formative feedback from the instructor.
- Have no more than 20 students enrolled in the course. Whenever possible, we highly recommend class sizes below 20 (see ‘Rationale and Recommendations’ below).
- Include a brief indication of how these core requirements will be met on the course approval form submitted to the Curriculum Committee. When planning or revising a W2 course with these requirements in mind, faculty are encouraged to consult with the Director of Writing and with the description of recommendations for developing and teaching a Writing Process (W2) course. Most courses serving the W2 will be 100- and 200-level courses; however, a department might offer a 300-level course that could meet these requirements and be effective in providing attention to aspects of writing processes. The determination of the appropriateness of the level of the course will be made by the Curriculum Committee in consultation with the Director of Writing.
The W2 requirement must be completed by the end of the second year at Washington College or the completion of 60 credits. A W2 course may not also serve for or towards the W3 requirement of a department or program.
W3. Writing in the Discipline
The W3 requirement advances the larger program goals of persuasive analysis, flexible thinking, responsible inquiry, and effective expression into each department and major, focusing attention on the methods and modes of writing and critical thinking specific to a discipline or major field of study. The W3 requirement helps students to build on the knowledge and skills learned in W1 and W2 and to transition to the culminating W4 Senior Capstone Experience. While continuing to work on all four elements of writing, the W3 advances student writing by developing the rhetorical knowledge and experience needed to write for audiences and purposes specific to disciplinary contexts.
- Each department or program will take responsibility for integrating the learning goals and requirements associated with the W3 at the most appropriate and effective place within the major: in a single course, a sequence of courses, or curricular assignments that might exist outside of a course. Given the focus of the W3 on more advanced levels of discipline-based writing that leads toward the SCE, the W3 must advance beyond the introductory level.
- The W3 (unlike the W2) does not necessarily require three distinct writing experiences; the discipline-based focus on research could well entail one larger project worked on during a seminar and/or semester. Nevertheless, the writing experience of the W3, however defined by the department or program, must engage all four elements of the Writing Program goals. Departments /programs are encouraged to consult with the Director of Writing as they adapt existing curriculum or develop new curriculum to serve the W3.
- An indication of how the W3 requirement is met by all students should be included in the department’s assessment plan.
- The assessment of the W3 requirement will be conducted by the department as part of its regular assessment of the major.
As noted above in the W2 section, a W2 course may not also serve for or towards the W3 requirement of a department or program.
W4. Senior Capstone Experience
W4 is the capstone of the writing experience at Washington College. All seniors complete discipline-specific writing as part of their Senior Capstone Experience, demonstrating at an advanced level the elements of critical thinking, writing processes, rhetorical knowledge, and knowledge of conventions that they have been developing in their previous writing experiences. In completing the SCE, students culminate their studies within a major and make public to the department and to the College the advanced levels of thinking, inquiry, and expression they have achieved.
- All SCEs must include a component of discipline-specific writing; though the types of writing experiences will vary by discipline, each SCE must integrate the four program learning goals at an appropriate and effective place within the course of the SCE. In some cases, this might be the final product (a thesis or paper); in other cases, this might be writing and research that leads up to or accompanies a final product that is not a thesis or paper: for example, a performance, an exhibition, a comprehensive exam, a presentation.
- Each department/program will assess the W4 as part of its assessment of the SCE.