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Writing Intensive courses play a significant role in the comprehensive approach to writing at Washington College, where students write across the curriculum and throughout four years of study. 


Writing Intensive courses in the sophomore and junior years provide students with a transition from the academic essentials of writing and research emphasized in the first-year seminars (Literature and Composition and GRW), and offer students an invitation to apply and deepen their writing skills in the context of a major or a discipline.

A Writing Intensive course emphasizes two principles: (1) Writing is a way to learn, not only a demonstration of mastery of material, and (2) Writing is a process that benefits from being made visible, i.e. the various stages of writing are recognized and supported in the classroom.

Recommendations for Developing a Writing Intensive Course

The seven requirements for a Writing Intensive course can be implemented in a variety of ways to fit best with the course and its discipline. Rather than transforming an existing course into a writing course, it is more appropriate and effective to conceive a WI course as foregrounding writing in the discipline or major in which the course is located. Effective WI courses will foreground ways that writing is approached in the discipline and perhaps already being done in the course. Below are some recommended ways to bring writing into the foreground of the course.

  • Types of “Formal Writing Assignments”
    • Formal writing assignments should be discipline-based and focus on process, not merely the product.
    • Possibilities: essay, research paper, lab report, book review, literature review, grant/research proposal, speech or other formal presentation, and other types of writing assignments appropriate to the discipline of the course.
  • Opportunities for Informal Writing beyond the formal writing assignments:
    • Journals, brief response papers, blogs, summaries of important material
  • Supporting the Writing Process:
    • Individual conferences regarding work in progress.
    • Discussion of revision/editing techniques in class.
    • Revision workshops in class facilitated by instructor, Writing Center consultant, and/or peer review.
    • Brief, written reports on work in progress and/or self-assessment at the conclusion of assignment.
    • Sharing/presentation of work in progress or final work to the class.
    • Submission and/or discussion of proposals, thesis statements, outlines, drafts.
    • Option to revise/re-submit a writing assignment after it is evaluated.
  • Prompts for each assignment:
    • Discuss the guidelines and purpose when introducing the assignment or thereafter to help students see its connection to the themes of the course.
    • Review/critique with student samples (theses, parts of essays) from the class or the field to highlight audience and purpose and other conventions of writing in the discipline.
    • Schedule a bibliographic session at the library in connection with assignment.
    • Connect with Writing Center for a session/workshop on getting started with writing, understanding an assignment, how to write a paper in the discipline.
  • Meaningful and significant evaluation of writing assignments:
    • Grading/final evaluation based on established criteria or rubric for the assignment/course/discipline.
    • Written response that comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the writing and offers suggestions for improvement (not just grammatical corrections):
      • Longer, formative comments on drafts or outlines.
      • Briefer, summative comments on final versions.
    • Portfolio of writing completed during the course, including assessment from the instructor and might include self-assessment from student.
      • An evaluation conference with the instructor.
      • Recommend a visit with the Writing Center, targeting issues that the instructor or student has identified.
    • Resources for Faculty developing and teaching a Writing Intensive course:
      • Writing Center: a professional resource for faculty, as well as for use by students.
      • Director of Writing: contact Sean Meehan and visit his writing pedagogy blog, The Crossing, for additional resources.