Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing across the curriculum, or WAC, is an approach for teaching college composition that extends the focus of writing beyond the borders of the English Department, where it has been traditionally located, and into other disciplines. This allows students to reinforce the writing skills they learn in dedicated composition courses while studying other subjects. While instructors in other disciplines do not necessarily provide the same type of feedback on writing assignments that composition instructors do, research suggests that integrating writing assignments into curricula can improve student learning as well as overall course success. Furthermore, WAC helps students master discipline-specific writing conventions early in their college career, which can improve their engagement and performance in upper-level classes later on. Read more about the history of WAC and why it is important for today’s students What is WAC?

Integrating WAC theories and practices into your classroom can me relatively easy using the suggestions and ideas provided here: WAC Theory and Practice. Many resources are available online for both instructors and students: Online WAC Resources

WAC Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I already have SO much material to cover in my course. How can I add yet another assignment without causing other course work to suffer?

A: WAC assignments needn’t be complicated or labor-intensive, for students or instructors. WTL assignments can supplement or, in some cases, even substitute for short evaluations such as quizzes. Course material can usually be incorporated quite easily into a no- or low-stakes writing assignment that does not impose an extra grading burden or displace essential curricular elements. Look through the Sample Assignments section for inspiration as well.

Q: I’m not a writing expert – that’s the English Department’s job! How can I be expected to evaluate student writing skills?

A: WAC assignments don’t necessarily involve evaluation of or feedback on writing skills. Instead, many WTL assignments are used as a way for students to reinforce their own learning in a course. For upper-level courses, WTD assignments can be used to reinforce writing skills by making the students responsible for carefully revising and proofreading their own writing.

Q: My course focuses almost entirely on technical/scientific/mathematical content. Where does writing fit in here?

A: Writing well is a fundamental skill that all educated persons need to master; students who plan to go into a technical or scientific career will be expected to write reports, technical documents, and other sorts of texts that articulate something about their work. Including writing assignments on technical material can also help contextualize it within a broader frame for students.

Q: What WAC resources would be available to me if I wanted to start including writing assignments in my curriculum?

A: See the Online Resources tab here for links. There are many well-established WAC programs at excellent institutions across the country, and many of these programs make some materials available online. Look for professional development workshops on campus as well!

WAC Materials submitted by Trevor Kearns, GCC English Department