For Faculty (Writing Intensive Course Support)
Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Writing in the Disciplines (WID)
The CMU Writing Center mission includes working with faculty to support writing across the curriculum (WAC) and in the disciplines (WID). WAC/WID programs are based on the idea that writing is both a tool for assessing learning as well as for enhancing and fostering learning, whether for a general education course in psychology or upper-level class in athletic training. Together, WAC/WID refers to creating and using writing assignments that will help students analyze, synthesize, and apply course content and information and to develop as writers in college and their chosen professions.
WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) refers primarily to writer-based, "writing to learn" assignments such as reading, logs, responses, entrance/exit responses, discussion boards, etc. These are usually relatively short pieces (paragraph to several pages) done in or out of class and focus on student's processing of information more than on the correctness of the writing per se. Given this focus, the pieces may or may not be letter-graded, although the writing should always "count" as some part of the grade (e.g., may be part of a participation grade or may have a "on-going writing" grade separate from grades for other exams). Studies show that writing in response to class information and readings helps students process and retain that information. In addition, writing to learn assignments give students continued practice in writing that helps them maintain and improve writing skills and makes writing an important and expected part of their college education. In short, writing to learn supports a university culture of writing as well as learning.
WID (Writing in the Disciplines) recognizes that disciplines (and professions) have differences in the way they use language, including written language. Beyond the obvious differences in terminology, disciplines use different conventions and styles, and students must learn what is expected in writing for a particular discipline. WID type assignments include reports, article reviews, and research papers, which provide examples of disciplinary thinking and writing, and give students practice in learning to do the same. WAC and WID assignments can be combined, with writer-based, writing to learn assignments leading into reader-based WID type papers. Such combinations create an assignment scaffold that helps students both learn and develop that learning into a fully-graded piece of writing. Studies show that such scaffolding increases learning and improves writing while also preparing students to function as professionals in a disciplinary area.
The CMU Writing Center provides faculty development activities focused on issues of writing and teaching writing. The Center coordinates with the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support staff to provide faculty workshops on teaching and learning with writing. For more individualized support, the Center works one-on-one with instructors to develop WAC/WID assignments that will fit their course goals and objectives and to address specific questions or concerns about writing and teaching writing. Center staff also offers some in-class workshops focused on particular areas of writing, e.g., research writing, style guidelines, etc.
While writing, as any language use, can create any number of questions, some usual topics include:
- Assignments: Which types and genres of writing fit with the objectives of my class? What disciplinary differences do students need to know for my class? Should I include peer-review; how/when will it help? How can I teach the style needed without spending a great deal of class time?
- Grading: What should I grade in the writing. How can I use/create a rubric for writing? How can I shorten the time spent dealing with writing/grading? When do I need to give feedback and about what?
- Grammar issues: What is/isn't generally accepted as conventional "grammar" and usage? When/how should I grade for grammar type problems? How can I "teach" grammar without teaching/knowing about grammar?