Proposed Revisions to the Writing Intensive (WAC) Program
Over the last two years, since the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Committee returned to the Faculty Senate as a standing committee, faculty members on the committee have worked hard to understand what "writing across the curriculum" means at ECU. More specifically, given recent assessments of areas where the WAC program has struggled, the committee began conversations to address those problem areas.
On April 11 and 12, 2013, the WAC Committee hosted two faculty forums to provide faculty at ECU with an overview of past assessments which occasioned the conversation at WAC Committee, as well as an opportunity to review several proposed changes to the WAC program that were developed over the past two years.
The key changes discussed at the meeting were the following:
- Align WI Courses with the Student Learning Outcomes from the ECU Quality Enhancement Plan
- Reconsider the "Writing Intensive by Section" Option
- Make the 25-student Cap on Writing Intensive Courses Required Rather Than Recommended
University Writing Goals
The Writing Intensive/WAC program been a part of student learning for over 20 years, but to date, the program has not been assessed in any comprehensive way, mostly because the program, as is, does not lend itself to large-scale assessment. Previously, UWP Directors have led the program with a vision to increase the number of WI courses so that as many students as possible might be engaged in meaningful writing experiences throughout their matriculation at ECU. This "additive" model foregrounded five course models that faculty could choose from; the goal was to increase the frequency and types of writing that students engaged in over their years at ECU. This model, however, is difficult to assess because the different models do not share any common outcomes. Likewise, a course that uses exclusively Model 3: Writing to Learn is vastly different in scope and production than a course that follows Model 2: Professional Writing. These models, likewise, do now allow for the different types of spaces in which WI courses happen: some WI courses are 1 credit hour, some 2, some 3, some 4, but the models and numbers of pages required do not change based on the number of credit hours the course awards to students.
The WAC Committee has proposed to move the WI/WAC program from an "additive" model to a more "intentional" model based on a new set of common University Writing Goals. These goals are based on the Student Learning Outcomes that will be assessed as part of ECU's Quality Enhancement Plan: Write Where You Belong. In the revised program, WI courses would not use pre-established "models" with required page limits; rather, the courses would be designed so that students could work toward the proposed University Writing Goals. The goals are as follows:
will learn to use writing to investigate complex, relevant topics and address
significant questions through engagement with and effective use of credible
will learn to produce writing that reflects an awareness of context, purpose,
will learn to understand writing as a process that can be made more effective
through drafting and revision;
will learn to proofread and edit their own writing, avoiding grammatical and
will learn to assess and explain the major choices that they make in their
The WAC Committee sees this as a move toward a more "intentional" model
because we believe faculty by department or program will want to
re-evaluate which upper-division courses are most appropriate to be WI
and may want to remove WI from several courses. If this change goes
into effect, the University Writing Program and the WAC Committee will
work with departments to audit their WI course offerings and plan a
strategy for any changes they wish to make. Given the size of the program, we envision this audit taking up to two years to finish.
Ultimately, students and faculty alike are uncertain what makes a WI course "writing intensive"; they assume that any course that has writing involved qualifies. Some syllabi suggest that a WI course is just "more work" than a non-WI course. Given no common outcomes or rationale for which courses are WI, it's hard to tell students what makes a course writing intensive. The WAC Committee believes this change will provide focus and guidance to the University Writing Program.
WI by Section
After questions about which courses transfer to ECU as "writing intensive," the biggest issue that students have with the WI program involves "WI by Section." Students, with the help of their advisers, sign up for courses that are WI by Section and assume that the course is being taught WI. Often it is not, and they come up for graduation short on Writing Intensive requirements. More problematic has been the numbers of courses that are listed in Banner as WI only for the instructor to decide, without changing the Banner listing, that the course won't be taught WI that semester. The WAC Committee has explored various solutions and noticed that the university does not provide a "Foundations by Section" option. As such, the committee modeled this revision on the Foundations program. As departments and programs work to revisit their WI course offerings, they can also look to see which courses should absolutely be part of the WAC program and which should not be so that students (and advisers) know what courses are "writing intensive."
Enrollment Cap on WI Courses
For nearly two years, faculty from around campus have been reading research on writing and the teaching of writing as part of their participation on the QEP Council and/or in the QEP Writing Liaisons group. That research, which informs recommendations from several national organizations, suggests that writing courses be capped at 25 students (fewer if the course is intended to be "developmental"). Given the fact that faculty around campus worry about the quality of student writing, and given the fact that student writing cannot improve in quality without substantive, meaningful feedback from instructors, the WAC Committee would like faculty input on establishing a 25-student cap for Writing Intensive courses. Currently, the WAC Committee recommends that cap and most departments/programs have chosen to follow that recommendation. Of course, where WI courses are significantly over 25, faculty have recognized a workload issue, as a recent discussion at Faculty Senate demonstrated. The WAC Committee seeks input from faculty around campus as to whether or not faculty believe that a cap of 25 students in WI courses would be advantageous to students and faculty alike. One possible outcome might be that departments/programs decrease the number of WI courses they offer and choose, instead, to make Writing Intensive only a few key courses that majors have to take to graduate.