Explicit instruction in discipline-specific writing is a required component of an upper-division writing-intensive (WI) course. A WI course requires that instructors teach with writing, not merely assign and grade it. Assigning an end-of-term paper, offering copy-editing feedback, and asking students for corrections would NOT meet the WI requirement. Similarly, designating a "writing day" or creating a vague task like "discuss feedback" on a course schedule does not provide enough information about the specific activities of direct instruction used in the course to sufficiently answer Q5.
This document identifies opportunities for writing instruction and a variety of instructional activities to assist you in identifying opportunities for direct instruction and activities that will promote student learning. The best courses will incorporate multiple opportunities for students to learn with and through writing. Here are some suggestions for how instructors can teach and support writing in ways that reinforce other course goals and objectives, including the coverage of content.
Explicit writing instruction can include...
1. Providing opportunities in class for students to generate and develop writing topics and motivating students to think about what they write through brainstorming, freewriting, role-playing, discussion, or other prewriting activities.
2. Developing strategies for locating, honing in on, and developing compelling arguments and counterarguments. These discussions include teaching critical thinking skills and inquiry strategies relevant for specific writing tasks.
Activities an instructor might consider modeling search strategies and information gathering, familiarizing students with the best resources in your field, modeling active reading strategies involving claims and evidence, or brief workshops asking students to identify core claims and evidence.
3. Engaging students in a discussion of the design, rationale, and grading criteria you're using for current writing assignments.
Activities could include asking students to identify important grading considerations associated with a writing assignment, collectively reviewing or building a rubric for the assessment of written work, providing annotated examples of organizational patterns or expectations, or asking students to identify how particular criteria for evaluation might be accomplished or exemplified in written work.
4. Discussing and modeling effective commenting practices with students and then structuring opportunities in which they can comment on peers' drafts or sections of drafts and offer suggestions for improvement in style, format, and organization.
Activities can include modeling draft feedback on a sample document, designing a rubric for formative peer response, and incorporating a variety of peer review activities. The Teaching with Writing Program can offer additional assistance on peer response strategies.
5. Assigning analysis of discipline-specific texts to assist students in noticing organization, use of precedents, tone, level of analysis, address of target audience, etc.
Activities could include drawing comparisons among instances of specific features characteristic of disciplinary literature (introductions, methods sections, reporting results, illustrating impacts or significance) or asking questions related to tone and word choice across disciplinary writing for multiple audiences.
6. Eliciting students' views on the strengths and weaknesses found in past student papers (used with permission and without names).
This activity could involve students responding to a piece of writing on Moodle or face to face, or the instructor asking students to model a revision strategy to improve a draft.
7. Reviewing common and problematic patterns you're finding in the drafts students are turning in (wordiness, redundancy, lack of focus, lack of development...).
Activities could include examples of problematic patterns, opportunities to identify and revise common errors, or class discussion on the potential sources of common errors. Students will benefit from workshops on sentence level or paragraph level issues that ask them to engage with these topics in the context of their writing.
8. Modeling expected formats and sequences: for example, the structure of a scientific article; or tactics for effectively reducing content into an abstract or summary, or for writing fluid process descriptions, or for transforming a paper into a PowerPoint or poster presentation.
This modeling activity can be done in class or as a supplemental activity using Moodle, describing formal features or writing strategies and modeling the activities involved in the process.
9. Discussing ways to avoid inadvertent plagiarism, effectively paraphrasing, summarizing, and citing sources, determining what information needs to be cited and what information is considered common knowledge.
Exercises on this topic may be as simple as identifying the appropriate citation for commonly used materials (Academic articles, transcripts, government documents) or as complex as examining the purposes and organizational strategies for literature reviews.
10. Engaging students in discussions of usage norms expected by the discipline (and the rationales for these norms). Examples include the use of active and passive tenses, use of present and past tenses, citation and bibliographic formats, use of graphs and other visuals, and so forth.
Activities can include providing examples of specialized disciplinary writing, noting the formal features of writing in your field, and comparing differences in strategies for documents serving distinct purposes can highlight those sometimes unspoken norms of disciplinary writing.
11. Asking students to reflect on significant growth, or lack of it, in specific writing skills practiced in the course. Research has shown that when students reflect on their learning, they are more apt to carry forward and adopt successful practices.
Activities can include writing memos or cover letters that accompany revisions and reflective narratives asking students to identify moments of growth and struggle in their writing.
Depending on the subject matter, course size, and assignments, instructors can incorporate writing instruction in a variety of contexts. The course syllabi linked below have been identified by the CWB as effective examples for incorporating and documenting explicit writing instruction.
ABUS 4022W: Management in Organizations: An online introduction to management course that includes interviews and other writing assignments.
ADES 3224W: Apparel Design Studio IV: A studio course that incorporates a variety of design and professional genres accompanying physical prototypes.
ARTS 3206W: Art and Ecology: A multidisciplinary grand challenges course including case studies and reflective writing.
GLOS 3401W: International Human Rights Law: A social science course with a large term paper and paper proposal.
HORT 3005W: Introduction to Plant Physiology: A lab-based course with lab reports and group presentations.