Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) refers to utilizing writing in various disciplines to facilitate student learning.  This page is a guide to general principles in WAC, as well as discipline specific guidelines.Writing typically falls into one of two categories:  (1) writing to learn and (2) writing in the disciplines. Click here for a more in-depth explanation of WAC terminology.

The main benefits of utilizing writing assignments:

  • Writing assignments provide students with a unique opportunity to conceptualize class material.  Such activities have the potential to enhance students’ understanding, while honing their ability to communicate.
  • Writing assignments inform instruction, as they provide a window to student comprehension.  Students benefit as lectures become focused and subsequently more productive.

Writing to Learn

Writing to Learn refers to writing activities that seek to improve student understanding.  It is often short and may be informal.  Examples include journal-like writing and responses to academic articles. Examples of Writing to Learn assignments may be one of the following:

  • Brief, in-class responses
  • Assigned reading summaries
  • Discussion prompts
  • Application writings (i.e., “write down an example of this concept and explain how it is illustrated.”)

Writing in the Disciplines

Writing in the Disciplines refers to assignments or writings that comply with discipline-specific style and format.  It is designed to teach and prepare students for subsequent writings in a specific field (e.g., psychology). Examples of Writing in the Discipline assignments may be one of the following:

  • Literature reviews
  • Research proposals
  • Lab/field reports

Creating an effective writing assignment

  • Determine whether formal or informal writing will be most appropriate
  • Tie elements of the assignment to specific teaching goals (e.g., course objectives) and make these elements clear to students (e.g., “Your goal is to persuade the reader, while providing relevant background information and presenting alternate viewpoints.”)
  • Identify the students’ audience
  • Delineate grading criteria clearly.  Consider comparing strong and weak drafts of the assignment.
  • When appropriate, divide the writing assignment into smaller pieces (i.e., making small chunks of the assignment due over the course of the semester).
  • Consult the following checklists

Further Reading (These are available for review at the CWC)

Writing in the Disciplines:  Advice and Models (Cullick & Zawacki, 2011)

Issues across the Curriculum:  Reading, Writing, & Research (laGuardia & Guth, 1997)

Writing in the Disciplines:  A Reader and Rhetoric for Academic Writers (Kennedy & Kennedy, 2008)

Writing and Reading across the Curriculum (Behrens & Rosen, 2011)



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