Criteria for Writing Intensive Courses

The original Writing Across the Curriculum Committee (2001) specified that courses designated as Writing Intensive must meet the following criteria:

  • They call for substantial writing.
  • They offer multiple writing assignments.
  • They expect revision of work.
  • They provide students with learning opportunities through critical feedback.

The criteria for Writing Intensive courses were deliberately left flexible by the original Writing Across the Curriculum Committee to provide maximum freedom for innovation and experiment by individual faculty members teaching Writing Intensive courses. Note, for example, that there is no fixed page count: the exact definition of “substantial writing” depends on the instructor and the conventions of the particular discipline. However, writing and writing instruction are expected to be major components of Writing Intensive courses offered by every department.

A Writing Intensive course should integrate writing throughout the course in meaningful and sustained ways, including many short writing assignments. The requirement of “multiple assignments” is central to the philosophy of writing-to-learn, in which writing assignments give students experiencie in writing as well as opportunities to develop understanding and increase learning of course material through writing. A number of writing assignments are sequenced to assist students in improving their writng.

The requirement for “revision of work” is meant to ensure that students engage in a process of writing that calls upon them to reflect upon and critically reconsider their writing. There is broad consensus among researchers and teachers of writing that the most effective writing instruction finds ways of incorporating critical reflection and revision during the incremental stages of students’ writing. Therefore, opportunities for revision should be provided during the writing process, particularly on drafts and longer projects.

The requirement for “critical feedback” is related both to the objective of improving students’ writing process and to the objective of using writing as a tool for learning the course material. To support students' writing development, instructors provide guidance and critical feedback during the stages of the writing process and on completed assignments.

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