Writing Across the Curriculum

  • University-Wide Undergraduate Curriculum Handbook

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    The University Senate defines a “writing intensive” course as one that has content as its primary focus but that also reinforces writing skills by using writing in a substantial way to enhance learning. Writing intensive courses are not created by merely tacking on more writing assignments. Writing is not an “extra;” rather, it becomes an integral part of the learning process. Writing is not added to content; it is a way of improving students’ understanding of content.

    The W-designation may be applied to a course or section only when authorized by the Liberal Studies Committee (LSC); attaching a /W/ indicates that the course or section is “writing-intensive” and meets the criteria established by the University Senate. All LSC actions either authorizing or denying authorization for a W-designation will be sent to the UWUCC for action and lastly to the Senate for approval.

    In most cases, a proposal for a W-designation course involves a change in how the instructor will use writing to achieve course goals; it does not involve a change of the goals, objectives or content of the course. For this reason, the change that occurs in the course is not considered a course revision. This designation will then be sent to the UWUCC and the Senate for approval as a W course.

    How Do We Get the Process Started?

    Step 1. Read the Senate-approved criteria for writing-intensive courses. Consider attending a writing workshop designed to help faculty develop writing-intensive proposals or talk with a colleague who has attended. Read the introduction and look at the sample proposals available from the Liberal Studies Office.

    Step 2. Complete the application form, get the necessary signatures, and send one (1) copy of the form and its attachments to the LSC.

    How Much Flexibility Do We Have Within the Department?

    You have a great deal of flexibility. Because the LSC knows that departments face different situations, it will authorize the use of a W-designation in any of three ways:

    1. Professor Makes a Commitment to Writing — A professor may make a commitment to IUP’s Writing Across the Curriculum program. The /W/ may then be attached to any course that she or he elects to teach in a writing-intensive way. (The professor need not emphasize writing in every course, every time; this method permits the use of the /W/, but does not demand it universally.) To make a commitment a professor must: (1) indicate his or her intention on the application cover sheet, (2) have completed an approved writing workshop, (3) submit an acceptable syllabus and summary of writing assignments for one course, and (4) agree to forward to the LSC, for its information, syllabus for subsequently offered /W/ courses or sections. Professors will be asked to indicate, every five years, if they want to continue the commitment.
    2. Department Identifies a Writing-Intensive Course — A department may indicate that one of its courses will be a writing-intensive course regardless of who teaches it. To receive authorization to use the /W/ for a department course, a department must: (1) submit an acceptable syllabus and summary of writing assignments, and (2) attach a supplementary statement explaining how the department will ensure that whoever teaches the course will abide by the syllabus, use the same or equivalent writing assignments, and be familiar with current theory and practice in writing-across-the-curriculum.
    3. Professor Makes Individual Course Application — A professor may apply to use a W-designation on a course-by-course basis. A small team of professors who regularly teach a course together may submit a jointly prepared proposal in this same manner. To receive authorization for a course, a professor or team must: submit an acceptable syllabus and summary of writing assignments. (Note: this form of authorization is both course-specific and professor(s)-specific. It cannot be carried by the professor(s) to other courses, nor can it be used for this course when other professors are teaching it, unless they submit their own applications.)

    How Long Will It Take to Get Approval?

    The LSC will make every effort to act promptly on applications. Assuming that the application contains no insufficiencies, a submission by November 1 will receive action in time for inclusion on the next summer or fall schedules; a submission by April 1 will receive action in time for inclusion on the next spring schedule.

    How Does a W-Designation Get on the Class Schedule?

    The department chairperson assigns the W designation to the section number when preparing the Final Class Schedule. The director of Liberal Studies will provide in a timely fashion a list of writing-intensive authorizations so that chairpersons can do this with assurance. As in the case of all scheduling decisions, it is assumed that the chairperson will have consulted appropriately with faculty and deans and considered the programmatic needs of students served by the department.

    In the case of a professor commitment, the chairperson may apply a /W/ to any course or section of a course any time this professor is the instructor (assuming, of course, that the professor agrees to teach this course in a writing-intensive manner). In the case of a departmental course, the /W/ may be applied any time that the department can fulfill its promise to insure the course is writing-intensive. In the case of a professor/individual course authorization, the chairperson may apply a /W/ only when the specific professor(s) and specific course are paired on the class schedule.

    The chairperson has a good deal of flexibility: The /W/ may be applied to some sections of a course without applying it to all. The /W/ may be applied to a course or section for some semesters without incurring an obligation to apply it every time the course is taught.

    Because there is flexibility, however, chairpersons have a responsibility, when scheduling a /W/ course or section, to communicate with involved faculty to be sure that they are willing and intending to teach in a writing-intensive manner on this occasion.

    In addition to the Liberal Studies proposal requirements, new or revised writing across the curriculum course proposals must include:

    1. One copy of the approval to use W designation cover sheet.
    2. Summary chart for writing assignments.
    3. "Writing Summary"--one or two pages explaining how writing is used in the course.
      1. Explain any distinctive characteristics of the content or students which would help the Liberal Studies Committee understand your summary.
      2. List and explain the types of writing activities and describe what each wrting activity is intended to accomplish and how it will be evaluated.

    Checklist for Writing-Intensive Proposals

    Format for Requesting—Designation

    Part I.

    Please Number All pages

    Procedures for Approval of a W-Designation Course

    (view flow chart)

    1. Department Approval
    2. College Dean Approval
    3. Liberal Studies Committee Approval
    4. UWUCC Approval
    5. Senate Approval

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