The WAC Program

What is Writing Across the Curriculum?

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is a pedagogical movement that gained strength in the 1980's. WAC asserts that students can best learn the conventions of academic writing by taking multiple writing courses across the disciplines. This model tends to replace the freshman composition model prevalent at most large institutions, and the presence of a WAC program can signal a faculty's willingness to share the responsibility for teaching writing across the disciplines. WAC draws a great deal from the "writing to learn" theories (WTL), which suggest that students can use writing to think through challenging material, internalize what they know, and express themselves more effectively and fluently. WRIT courses also contribute to students' critical thinking skills, inviting them to question the ways that fields of study emphasize specific genres, patterns of argument, and types of evidence.

How does Gustavus implement Writing Across the Curriculum?

Liberally educated students should write well and use writing both to discover and construct new knowledge and to communicate their ideas to others. Writing is a complex activity; it is a form of creative expression and critical engagement that serves practical and intellectual purposes. Since writing shapes the views of others, courses that focus on writing should help students understand the effects of their own written language. All courses that fulfill the writing requirement at Gustavus emphasize basic rhetorical principles, or the issues that guide our choices when we write to move or persuade others. Such issues include purpose, audience, context, style, and form.

Gustavus requires students to complete three designated writing requirement courses from at least two different departments in order to graduate. Students fulfill this writing requirement by taking two types of courses, Writing Intensive (WRITI) and Writing in the Disciplines (WRITD). One of these courses must be taken in the first year (normally in the First Term Seminar or Curriculum II). At least one designated writing course must be taken as part of a student's major, and at least one must be Level II or higher. While many Gustavus courses require written projects, not all courses are designated as WRIT courses. WRIT courses at Gustavus engage discussion of writing explicitly and treat the act of writing as integral to the subject matter.

For further information about the Gustavus Adolphus College Writing Program, contact Professor Jeanne Herman (x7614).

How can I teach a writing intensive (WRIT) course at Gustavus?

Faculty members who wish to offer a course for WRIT credit should submit a proposal to the curriculum committee. Proposals are accepted twice yearly, in early fall and early spring. Proposals are reviewed as they are received.

Isn't it more work for faculty to teach a writing intensive course?

Teaching a WRIT course does not mean requiring a "research paper" or lengthy, single assignment, and WRIT teachers certainly don't respond to or grade every piece of writing that students produce. Rather, assignments in WRIT courses invite students to produce a variety of genres, including lab reports, lesson plans, book reviews, annotated bibliographies, and short essays. The Math department, for example, regularly offers a WRIT course that requires students to maintain a portfolio of proofs. Moreover, WRIT teachers don't respond to or grade every piece of writing that students turn in. For instance, students in WRIT courses may do lots of informal writing: invention activities, response logs or journals, summaries or precis. Many faculty members do not respond to such informal writing at all; others devise a system of merely checking such activities for completeness. While some faculty members do elect to have their WRIT courses include a long seminar paper, such courses often break the research process down into small parts, highlighting the act of writing incrementally.

While many faculty assume that teaching a WRIT course is more labor intensive than teaching other courses, this really isn't the case. Rather, the teacher's time is invested earlier, rather than later, in the writing process. Since WRIT courses emphasize revision, teachers can devote time and energy to student writing when it has the greatest effect: before the final draft comes in. The act of grading itself becomes far less time-consuming.

Faculty members do not necessarily have to provide this feedback via written comments. Instead, they might require peer response in class, develop a system of group conferencing during office hours, or require that students visit the Writing Center with early drafts.

How should I spend time talking about writing in my class?

Just as students produce multiple genres in WRIT courses, teachers discuss writing during class in many ways. The WRIT course proposal form asks teachers to describe how they will devote "two hours or the equivalent" to the discussion of writing in their WRIT class; teachers interpret this question in a variety of ways. Some teachers spend ten minutes at the start of each class on an informal writing activity. Others devote one class period each month to peer response. Some teachers approach course readings from a rhetorical perspective; some teachers encourage students to respond to lectures in journal form at the end of each session. Some spend a great deal of time explaining writing assignments in class. Some allow students time in small groups to discuss assignments together. Still others schedule a regular series of conferences with students to focus exclusively on writing. The program allows for this flexibility.

I want to teach a WRIT course. What kind of support can I expect?

All WRIT courses are supported by the Gustavus Writing Center. The Writing Center is a peer tutoring facility that offers students one-on-one feedback by appointment and by walk-in hours. Tutors are experienced undergraduate writers from across the campus, and they attend pre-semester training sessions and weekly staff meetings. Peer tutors at the Writing Center can help facilitate revision, model self-editing skills, and assist students as they learn the conventions of citing and documenting sources in a variety of disciplines. The Writing Center features a Designated Tutor Program, which pairs selected faculty members and their students with individual writing center tutors. Consult the Writing Center for more information.

I want to know more about writing at Gustavus. Who do I contact?

Contact the WAC Director or Director of the Writing Center