New to Teaching WI
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If you’re teaching Writing Intensive courses at ECU for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, welcome! We created this set of introductory resources specifically to help you get your head around what WI@ECU looks like and what you’re expected to do as a faculty member teaching a writing intensive course.
First, we want to tell you something you probably already know: Effective writing skills are essential to being an effective student, citizen, worker, or scholar. We all need to communicate effectively through writing, both in school and out. We live in an increasingly connected and interconnected world where our written words represent who we are and what we do. While teaching writing is important in all classes, it is not always an easy thing to do. The good news is that the University Writing Program at ECU is here to support you and your students.
University Writing Program (UWP) offers a host of resources for you as a teacher and for your students as writers. On this page, you’ll find resources to explain Writing Intensive course outcomes and goals, as well as an explanation of what students have been taught in our Writing Foundations program and what sort of professional development opportunities we offer to all faculty at ECU. In addition to scheduled workshops and seminars, we are also more than happy to meet with you one-on-one to discuss your syllabus and writing assignments, grading and responding to writing, or designing effective writing assignments. We’re also happy to attend a department meeting to speak to you and your colleagues. Likewise, the University Writing Center can work with you to plan class visits to discuss writing strategies with students.
Students are often confused by what a “WI” course is. For them, any course in which they write a formal paper, whether five or fifteen pages, is probably “writing intensive.” Similarly, they see any course which has them write a lot of words as “writing intensive.” But at ECU, WI means something very specific: while faculty across the university may use writing in a number of ways to help students meet course goals, only courses which make a conscious effort to meet the University Writing Outcomes are listed as “WI.”
We hope that faculty around campus will engage student writers through lots of different strategies and activities in order to promote deep learning in their students. Studies have shown that students who write about what they’re learning tend to internalize material more fully and learn that material more deeply. Many faculty routinely use end-of-day reflections on course lectures as key metacognitive writing practices. Sometimes, they collect these as a type of formative assessment to see whether students are understanding major concepts from class or where they might alter their instruction. Other faculty achieve similar outcomes through informal journaling about ideas covered in class or stopping discussions at times to have students write and reflect silently on ideas/conversations in order to help students connect with course materials more effectively.
But “writing to learn” activities alone are not enough to help students meet the University Writing Outcomes, so while we hope faculty suffuse their classes with these activities, Writing Intensive courses should also provide space for students to meet those outcomes. While students may not master all of these outcomes in any one WI courses, the goal is that by the time students have completed their required 12 hours of WI coursework, they should be competent in these outcomes.
Faculty can make their own decisions about how many words/pages students are expected to write in WI courses, although meeting the outcomes naturally requires a significant writing component be present in the course. We revised the program several years ago to be less about counting individual words or pages and more about using writing to meet key learning outcomes. To that end, all WI courses should engage students in research-based writing projects that go through multiple drafts. Part of that drafting process should include opportunities for student writers to receive both peer and instructor feedback, and then to revise their work substantially based on that feedback. While student writers should be held accountable for carefully edited prose, simply “correcting” grammar or editing punctuation marks does not constitute significant revision. Students should also have opportunities to write reflectively/metacognitively about their own writing projects and practices. A Writing Intensive class that provides these opportunities for student writers will easily meet the required outcomes!
In addition to helping students meet the University Writing Outcomes, faculty teaching WI courses are also required to have students submit samples of at least one major writing project to their University Writing Portfolios (UPorts). We have provided both print and video instructions for you and your students on how to complete that upload, as well as information on to incentivize the required upload.
Your WI Course Syllabus
In addition to including information on the required University Writing Portfolio upload at the end of the semester, faculty teaching WI courses are also required to include a statement in their syllabi that was approved by the Faculty Senate and that identifies the course as officially Writing Intensive. The WI statement below should be copied and pasted into all WI syllabi and not edited except to put the correct course prefix, number, and section in the statement.
This step is required for two reasons: 1) students should know when they are enrolled in WI courses so they can themselves make distinctions between WI and non-WI courses, and 2) if there any errors in listing courses in Banner, students will always have back-up information to validate that they have, indeed, taken the required WI courses.
Writing Intensive (WI)
___________ [insert course prefix, number, and section] is a writing intensive course in the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at East Carolina University. This course will focus on the development of writing skills. Upon completion of the course students will:
- Use writing to investigate complex, relevant topics and address significant questions through engagement with and effective use of credible sources.
- Produce writing that reflects an awareness of context, purpose, and audience, particularly within the written genres (Including genres that integrate writing with visuals, audio or other multimodal components) of their major disciplines and/or career fields.
- Demonstrate that they understand writing as a process that can be made more effective though drafting revision.
- Proofread and edit their own writing, avoiding grammatical and mechanical errors.
- Assess and explain the major choices that they make in their writing.
This course contributes to the twelve-hour WI requirement for students at ECU. Additional information is available at the following site: http://writing.ecu.edu/.
While students come to ECU from hundreds of different schools and from many different regions both locally and globally, it’s impossible to know all the writing experiences they’ve had or what sort of writing instruction they had. What we do know, however, is what students should have learned and practices in their Writing Foundations courses if they took them at ECU.
English 1100 and English 2201, typically taken during students’ first and second years respectively, are meant to prepare them for the rhetorically demanding projects they will be assigned in upper-division WI courses. English 1100 helps students to develop more complex topics and projects and to use research to support their ideas, while English 2201 builds on that experience by having students turn their attention toward their prospective majors and exploring how different disciplines create and distribute knowledge through writing. Students who successfully complete these courses should know how to ask questions about writing assignments in your courses, as well as expectations you have as their teacher/evaluator. This does NOT mean that they can now write error-free and perfectly organized and researched prose for a discipline-specific, upper-division course; that’s what you will need to teach them as the content-area expert.
If you’re teaching a 3000- or 4000-level WI course, you want to spend some time helping students “transfer” what they learned about academic writing and research generally to the more specific context of your discipline and course. The following resources on Teaching for Transfer will be helpful as you begin to think about how you want to do that:
- What Is Transfer? (YouTube)
- Designing for Writing Transfer Across the University (YouTube)
I feel like I have a good idea of what WI at ECU is, so where do I go for more specific suggestions?
Now that you’ve got the basics, we happy to send you down the Writing Intensive Rabbit Hole! We have decades of empirical research on more and less effective ways to teach writing, particularly in Writing Across the Curriculum contexts. The University Writing Program works hard to turn research and best practices into digital and print-based resources that we can share with faculty at ECU. To learn more designing effective writing assignments, responding to student writing, grading/assessing student writing, supportive effective peer review, and many other topics, visit the University Writing Center Faculty Guidance.
In addition to those digital resources, we invite you to participate in any of our ongoing professional development workshops, seminars, or series. Here, you’ll meet other faculty from across campus, each working to improve as teachers of writing. For more information about the various professional development options the UWP provides, go to our Services for Faculty page.