Writing Intensive Courses

Writing intensive courses are more than simply courses in the discipline asking students to write. They are courses providing pedagogical support to help students acquire productive strategies for writing in disciplinary contexts. With sufficient support and instruction, students become able and flexible writers who can undertake a variety of disciplinary writing tasks. With appropriate support, students also gain familiarity with the various genres of their disciplines and with the written conventions for producing those genres.

Faculty who are Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) fellows have developed a particular expertise in disciplinary writing instruction and are well-prepared to teach WI courses. The WAC program offers support for those teaching WI courses, including workshops, individual consultations and Spring Institutes.

Vision Statement for WI Courses

As a vital part of Education for Participation in a Global Community (the general education program), the Writing Intensive courses are a critical aspect of EMU students' educational experiences. WI courses serve as a tangible bridge between the general education program and the specialized major experience. The WI outcomes both build on the outcomes of the earlier foundational courses and ask students to deepen their work with those outcomes within a particular discipline. These courses also provide a later-career experience common to all EMU students, yet focused within each major.

A high-quality WI experience at EMU is:

  • Embedded in and strengthened by a thriving WAC program;
  • Ideally taught by tenure-track faculty who are invested in and energized by teaching writing within their disciplines;
  • Ideally made up of small classes (20 students or fewer*), whose faculty have the time, energy and pedagogical support to teach writing in thoughtful ways;
  • Supported by a robust University Writing Center.

*The National Council of Teachers of English Statement on class size and teacher workload states in part, "No more than 20 students should be permitted in any writing class. Ideally, classes should be limited to 15. Students cannot learn to write without writing. In sections larger than 20, teachers cannot possibly give student writing the immediate and individual response necessary for growth and improvement."

Outcomes for WI Courses

In the upper-level writing intensive courses in the major, students will:

  • Learn and practice flexible strategies for reading and writing for different purposes in a discipline.
  • Write in ways that achieve the purposes for writing and address the expectations of audiences in disciplinary contexts.
  • Learn to engage in inquiry and develop processes for research applications to and acceptable within one's discipline.
  • Gain familiarity with and use discipline-specific genres and appropriate modalities to communicate information.
  • Understand and follow the conventions for communicating, disseminating, and interpreting information in a discipline.
  • Cultivate a reflective mindset for analyzing writing processes and constructing plans for subsequent writing through assigned meaningful reflection on writing practices and experiences.

Guidelines for WI Courses

The Writing Intensive Subcommittee is committed to honoring each discipline's approaches to the WI outcomes and is hesitant to list additional criteria other than the WI outcomes. WI courses will and should look very different for each major. The committee offers these general parameters in the spirit of helping faculty members see how existing or new courses might become WI. Please keep in mind that these are merely guidelines and not requirements:

  • Writing usually counts for 30% to 60% of a student's final grade in WI courses.
  • Students in WI courses usually complete one major writing assignment (any genre) or a series of shorter or smaller writing projects (e.g., three to five of these).
  • Larger writing projects are usually "staged," with student work supported through direct instruction and intermediate steps providing opportunities for feedback and revision.

Writing Intensive Course Configurations

Here are a few possibilities for how the WI courses might "look" in different majors. (The "CLAS" designation is fictional for the purposes of the example.)

Scenario One: Writing Intensive Course as the "Gateway" to the Major

  • General Education course work
  • CLAS 300 WI: "Introduction to Writing in (this discipline)"
  • CLAS 350 WI: "Special Topics in (this discipline)"
  • Major and minor classes
  • CLAS 400 WI: "Capstone Senior Writing Project"

In response to accreditation requirements and/or student needs, departments could build a sequence of WI courses beyond the one required. In this scenario, a major might include an introductory course that meets the WI outcomes and then subsequent courses that extend and deepen students' experiences with those outcomes. Since the WI requirement specifies only a minimal amount of writing instruction in the major, a more explicit and cohesive WI structure can strengthen students' communication expertise.

Scenario Three: A Menu of WI Courses

  • General Education course work
  • Major and minor classes with WI course or courses—in major course work, some 300- and/or 400-level course or courses meet the WI outcomes and have been vetted in this way
    For some majors, it may be appropriate to designate several upper-level courses as WI so that all students are ensured of taking at least one WI course in their degree work.

Relationship Between WI Courses, the Gen Ed Program and Majors

WI courses are related to the General Education program and to majors in the following ways:

  • Writing Intensive courses are University ("graduation") requirements. They grow out of the General Education program but are not technically part of it. As defined in the General Education input document, WI courses are upper-level (300 or 400-level) courses in the major. General Education courses, on the other hand, are all 100- and 200-level courses without prerequisites. WI courses, because they are upper-level and in the major, may have prerequisites.
  • Every major at EMU must have at least one WI-designated course.
  • ENGL 121, "Writing and Researching the Public Experience," may be listed as a prerequisite for a WI course.

Administrative Clarifications

The following are helpful administrative clarifications regarding WI courses:

  • Some departments may choose to designate one common WI course; others may decide to offer several different options.
  • Existing courses that are not substantially changed by the addition of the WI outcomes need not go through the college input systems. These courses can be submitted directly to the director of course and program development after they have been approved within the department.
  • New or significantly altered courses must go through the college input systems. After leaving the department and home college, these courses can be vetted for WI at the same time they are being reviewed by the other colleges.

Support for WI Courses

Faculty who are developing and teaching WI courses can benefit from several kinds of support:

  • The director of Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Fellows and members of the Writing Intensive Subcommittee can offer workshops within departments and/or serve as mentors to faculty who are developing WI courses. Please contact the WAC director to arrange departmental workshops or faculty mentoring: Ann Blakeslee, [email protected]; 487.0694.
  • The WAC program sponsors regular workshops, institutes, and seminars for faculty from across campus who are interested in using writing more effectively in their courses. Should departments not receive information on these events, please contact the WAC director, Ann Blakeslee, [email protected]; 487.0694.

The WAC program, the University Writing Center and the Academic Projects Center are committed to providing ongoing support for faculty and students in Writing Intensive courses. Faculty or student-based workshops and/or consultations may be scheduled with any of these resources.

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