of Writing Intensive Classes
If there is no formal WAC
program at your school, you can take the initiative to teach a Writing
Intensive class. These are the characteristics of such a class:
course uses writing to promote the learning of course materials.
Instructors assign formal and informal writing, both in class and
out of class, to increase students' understanding of course material
as well as to improve writing skills.
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
each students course grade, writing is significantly weighed.
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 20 students.
Differences Between Writing Intensive Class and Conventional Class
Writing Intensive Class
is used as frequently as possible.
write as they read, write as they think, write before they discuss,
write after they discuss, etc.
write an exam after they read, think, and discuss.
-Students in WI classes learn by doing.
learn by reading, by listening, and by memorizing.
-Instructors use essay exams.
-Instructors use multiple choice exams.
-Learner centered activities are common (e.g. students write
answers to three questions and discuss answers in groups)
-Teacher centered activities are common (e.g. students listen
to a lecture on a topic)
-Writing assignments encourage students to discover new relationships
and to restructure the frames that shape their ways of understanding
the course content.
take in course content through rote learning.
How Students Benefit
From a Writing Intensive Class
- On a scale of 0 - 10,
student satisfaction with learning in a writing-intensive class
rates on the average about 8. (WAC Manoa)
- When the course syllabus
includes a variety of writing activities, the students consistently
engage in critical thinking.
- By including different
kinds of writing assignments in the course syllabus, students have
a possibility to respond to course content based on their learning
- Students have greater
participation in their own learning.
- Students develop skills
that support their learning in all classes.
- Learning occurs in
an interesting, motivating way.
How Instructors Benefit
From a Writing Intensive Class
- In WI classes, instructors
develop a better understanding of their students knowledge
- Students seem to learn
course content better which makes the extra effort required for
a WI class worthwhile for the instructor .
- Its rewarding
to see students develop proficiency with language as a result of
becoming more knowledgeable in the content you teach.
- WI classes are more
interesting and motivating to plan for and teach.
How to Handle the Workload
in a Writing Intensive Class
of the biggest obstacles which prevents instructors from incorporating
writing into their classes is the assumption that writing leads to
an unmanageable workload. However, the following points demonstrate
that the workload is not always increased by writing nor necessarily
- Students can be used
as co-teachers of writing through peer feedback groups.
- Students collaborate
to co-author a single text. This is also an effective method to
increase students awareness of different strategies that different
- All writing done in
class is not necessarily read by the instructor all of the time.
Much of the informal, in-class writing which students do is not
intended for feedback or evaluation.
- The instructor can
give varying degrees of feedback. Extended comments can be given
on every third draft. Or comments could be made on the first part
of a draft with recommendations for following up on the remaining
parts of the draft. If there has been extensive feedback on earlier
drafts, the final draft can simply receive a grade.
- Journal writing that
is read by the instructor can be weighted in the final grade (e.g.
10-15%), but not necessarily given a letter grade. A minus/check/plus
system can be used to indicate the level of effort and quality of
thinking. Often, instructors appreciate reading journals because
they can be very informative and rewarding.