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Writing Across the Curriculum
Expressing oneself through the written word has long been recognized as a hallmark of an educated person, and university faculty across the country are increasingly alarmed at writing deficiencies among student populations. The faculty at Fontbonne share these concerns with their colleagues at other institutions. Among their concerns are developing assignments that meet learning outcomes, understanding how to elicit the appropriate written responses from students, and the appropriate role of the instructor in grading for both grammar and content. All of these issues are time-consuming and tempt the instructor to just give up.
There are many reasons why instructors should continue to ask students to write in a variety of courses, especially courses in their discipline. The practice of writing within their discipline introduces students to the specific languages of their discplines. While reading in the discipline is crucial to student development, writing allows them to practice the language in meaningful ways. The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse at Colorado State University encourages the use of written assignments across the campus because "students learn best and develop their critical thinking skills when they engage in writing about a topic. When your students engage in writing in your course they are not only developing control of the material but are also honing their writing techniques--a skill that will last their lifetime." According to the WAC Clearinghouse, writing across the curriculum has five basic principles:
- writing is the responsibility of the entire academic community,
- writing must be integrated across departmental boundaries,
- writing instruction must be continuous during all four years of undergraduate education,
- writing promotes learning,
- only by practicing the conventions of an academic discipline will students begin to effectively communicate within that discipline (WAC Clearinghouse, 2008)
Fontbonne University is committed to helping students write better. Some of the ways that Fontbonne is supporting classroom instructors in this shared goal are:
- Establishing and supporting a Writing Across the Curriculum Committee. This committee has developed a guide for students and faculty to use. The Writing at Fontbonne document articulates grading criteria for written work, and explains various kinds of academic writing. Consistent use of this guide across campus will help students understand the language and assessment of writing.
- The Kinkel Center for Academic Resources is available to help students better understand assignments for written work and can assist students at each step of the writing process. Instructors are encouraged to refer students to the Kinkel Center for writing assistance.
- All faculty received a copy of Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's book They Say, I Say. This book is used in Rhetoric I and II and helps students understand academic writing. Faculty can refer to this book or include it as a required text when they want students to produce a specific type of writing.
For more information about how the Center can assist you, please check out our schedule of workshops and seminars.
These Internet sites may also be of help to you when considering how to improve student writing in your courses:
- The University of Delaware Writing Center provides some tipsheets to faculty to make assigning and grading written work easier to manage.
- The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearing House offers many ideas and links to help college instructors assign and assess written work.
- Lists of ideas teachers should consider when developing a writing assignment by William Peirce
- Creating Writing Assignments by the MIT Online Writing and Communication Center
- Information from the University of Minnesota Center for Writing about designing good writing assignments
- The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University has been developed to assist students, but much of the information can assist faculty
- Suggestions for developing assignments that minimize the likelihood of plagiarism from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA
Recommended Books from the Center
Walvoord, B. E. (1986). Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.