|Q:What does writing intensive mean?
A: Any section can be writing intensive when a significant amount of the students' learning
and thinking in the course is accomplished through various types of writing. (See
below for suggestions on types of writing assignments.) The section's structure
emphasizes student writing and is often called student centered.
Q: How is a course section designated writing intensive?
A: When the section is scheduled by the department, the section is submitted as
writing intensive,and a W is added to the end of the section number. The
instructor and chairman agree that the section will follow the guidelines
established by the College Curriculum Committee and Academic Senate for these sections.
Q: How much writing is required in a writing intensive?
A: The actual amount of writing varies with the course and type of
writing. Student writing is a central activity and occurs in a variety of forms and
settings informal, formal, low-stakes, high-stakes, drafts, group, personal, and so
forth. Measuring the number of pages of student writing required does not adequately
describe the variety of teaching styles and writing activities in a writing
Q: Nonetheless, how many pages of student writing are required?
A: The Curriculum Committee Guidelines state: Students should be expected to
write approximately 15-20 pages of proofread, typed work, that is turned in to the
instructor for grading. However, this rarely means one paper, and never a research paper
due at the end of the semester that students write on their own. The page total goal
can be attempted in a number of ways: three six-page papers, three or four five-page
papers, five three- or four-page papers, or a any combination of a variety of typed pieces
prepared out of class.
Q: If the page total goal is so flexible, what then determines
whether a section is writing intensive?
A: The key is the instructor guidance of the writing process, whereby students
receive reactions, comments, feedback on their writing. Furthermore, writing as an
activity is not limited to the proofread, typed format, but also includes in-class
writing, journals, response pieces, letters, dialogue journals, and so forth. Oftentimes
more than the instructor can correct or evaluate in detail. Writing becomes a major
learning activity and a principal means by which students demonstrate their comprehension
and express their own ideas about what they are learning..
Q: So, this means an instructor of a writing intensive section
must become a writing instructor? Must the instructor also teach students how to
A: This depends on the instructor. Some instructors are trained to do
this; others are not and do not teach composition. More to the point, the instructor of a
writing intensive section is not a writing instructor, but is rather a responsive reader
who gives the students regular feedback on many (but not necessarily all) writing
Q: Oh, so that means the instructor will be overwhelmed by
student writing and must react to an avalanche of essays and research papers?
A: No, there is no avalanche. The principal advantage of teaching writing
intensive sections is that the enrollment is kept small: 22 students, and in no case more
than 25. This makes student centered teaching truly possible, and allows
the instructor a realistic opportunity to react thoughtfully to the written work assigned.
Q: OK, so what kind of written work should be assigned?
A: First of all, no more than the instructor can handle! Among the
possible written assignments there is the usual, formal writing prepared outside class,
sometimes over a period of several weeks. In addition there are a variety of
informal, low-stakes writing exercises. Some of these are relatively innovative
activities. Some of the informal or low-stakes writing can be in the form of drafts that
help the students get started on the more formal, graded assignments. Ultimately the
assigned writing depends on the type and level of the course. A good question to ask
is: what are they types of writing that will most enhance the major conceptual goals of
the course? What are the types of writing that will teach students how professionals
in this discipline express ideas?
Q: What is included in these informal writing assignments?
A: Informal writing-to-learn activities take place throughout the
semester. These may include logs, journals, freewrites, reflections often
written quickly at the beginning or end of class; they are ungraded and can be a quick way
for the instructor to see what students are beginning to understand, where confusion lies,
what needs to be addressed in upcoming classes. Or they can remain private, as a way
for students to 'think on paper' and to record their thoughts about classroom lectures and
conversations or about assigned readings. The audience for this writing is, in most
instances, the student writer. But the writing can also be used as a starting point
for discussions or for 'open notebook' exams.
Q: Does this mean that not all student writing needs to be
A: There are several types of writing that the instructor need not correct or
even evaluate. These are the low stakes, often informal writing tasks which it is
sufficient just to acknowledge.
Q: What is special about the way writing intensive sections
treat traditional formal writing assignments?
A: They assign a series of short writing assignments in lieu of one long
assignment so that writing is integrated into the course throughout the semester, or the
assignments are structured in such a way that some of the informal writing assignments
build to or serve as preliminary drafts of the formal, graded pieces. This may
include, for example, letters, notes, 1-2 page responses to readings, revising in
different genres, e-mail postings, written responses to other students, double-entry
and/or dialogue journals. This writing can be graded or ungraded; students can
complete several pieces and then choose one to revise for a grade. In this writing,
the student assumes an audience other than him or herself although the writing can
sometimes be informal or conversational in tone.
Q: What about the research paper that I usually assign in
A: This proofread, typed work can be incorporated into a writing intensive
course if it is structured in such a way to include opportunities for revision. Research
assignments include essays, articles, reports, proposals, memos, multi-media presentation,
web publications. These papers will usually be graded or collected in a portfolio
from which students choose papers to be revised and graded. The tone tends to be
informative or persuasive and is written not only for the professor but also for readers
the student does not necessarily know.
Q:Can I meet the 15-20 page goal by using any of these types of
A: Yes, indeed! The only requirement is typed and proofread writing which
is graded, and the 15-20 pages can include some of the formal types of writing noted
above, and may or may not include a traditional research paper, as the instructor
wishes. Truly, by mixing the various types of assignments, it is quite easy to meet
the page quantity goal (which is not among the chief goals of the course).
Q:Where can I get ideas and examples of how to do these new
kinds of writing exercises and how to revise my usual assignments?
A: Throughout the coming semesters, the College will offer a series of workshops
for faculty teaching writing intensive courses. At the workshop, typically, faculty
who have created writing intensive sections explain their techniques, discuss practical
issues of grading and the quality of writing, and all present share their concerns and
ideas about the role of writing in the teaching and learning process. The Writing
Across the Curriculum (WAC) program provides resources, sometimes including the assistance
of Writing Fellows, who can work with instructors to develop appropriate techniques.
The College has also developed a number of Writing Specialists in different disciplines
who would be willing to sit down and work with you on a one-on-one basis.
Q: How much do I need to change my teaching to do a
writing intensive course section?
A: Writing intensive does not necessarily reduce the scope of a
course, but (frequently) it increases the active participation of the student in mastering
the usual material, with the result that the quality of student performance often will
increase. As a student increases active? learning, the instructor' s role as teacher
changes into something more like a facilitator of learning (rather than just an knowledge
Q:1> It sounds like teaching a writing intensive section can
improve the way I teach. How does this happen?
A: Once a class becomes student centered, the role of the instructor changes,
the students become actively engaged in the learning process, and ultimately they take on
major responsibility for their own progress in mastering course material.
Q:What's the next step?
A: See your chairman about designating one of your courses or sections.