In the fall of 2010, Lehman College’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, with the support of Dean Timothy Alborn and Associate Provost Robert Whittaker, launched a new program focused on what many see as a pressing need at the College: the capacity of students to write well in upper-level courses, when they are writing in their chosen majors/professions.
One of the central aims of this initiative is to develop upper-level, writing-intensive courses in the majors that assist students in mastering the writing practices and techniques of a discipline. Toward that aim, the eleven Lehman faculty participants in this year’s program met together in WAC’s monthly seminar and worked with Writing Fellows to create or rework, pilot, and assess a writing- intensive course for majors in their discipline.
In this first year of the initiative, we focused on the following questions:
- Where does writing fit into the learning goals for an upper-level course?
- How can faculty define successful writing in a major?
- How can upper-division courses support students in becoming more successful writers in their chosen fields?
- How can students demonstrate the degree to which they have become “successful” writers?
One of the outcomes of this year’s work was this collection of draft guidelines for nine writing-intensive courses across a range of disciplines and departments. We look at these guidelines as a first attempt, a place for starting (or continuing) a conversation about writing expectations in your department and for your majors.
As you will see, each set of guidelines has been organized into three sections: disciplinary writing (the genres and types of writing students will encounter in this WI-course); expectations of students in the course; and expectations of faculty.
Across the sets of guidelines faculty have emphasized two core principles:
- Upper-division courses should provide opportunities for students to write both as students and as novice professionals. Thus the types of writing included in the guidelines range from traditional academic writing to the genres students might encounter as they enter professions or pursue graduate study.
- Both students and faculty have commitments in a writing-intensive course. Faculty commitments involve explicit information about assignments, assessment criteria, the forms and purposes of disciplinary genres, and support for student growth as writers. Student commitments involve attention to disciplinary form, vocabulary, and modes of analysis, as well as to surface error, organization, and revision.
The creation of draft guidelines, however, was only part of this year’s program. Faculty, in collaboration with their Writing Fellows, also created assignments, experimented with writing pedagogy, developed strategies for revision, and created assessment instruments suited to their assignments and their course goals. In order to document their piloted or redesigned WI-courses for majors, these eleven faculty are also preparing e-portfolios that collect assignments and student writing and reflect on the successes and challenges of teaching a WI-course focused on upper-level students in the discipline. In short, participating faculty have done an incredible amount of work in rethinking these courses and developing resources, including the guidelines that we are reviewing today. We are extremely grateful for their effort and for the committed energies of the Writing Fellows who collaborated and supported the work at every turn.